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The Guardian’s Tale

June 9, 2010

When the Children’s Guardian system started in 1985 in England and Wales the ratio of practitioners to administrators was probably about 20:1. The service at that time quickly came to be regarded as 1st class – a “Rolls Royce” service it was termed, meaning for some, too good for poor children. In 1991 the Children’s Act came in and soon afterwards it was decreed that the Guardians must become a “managed service” and the old “ramshackle” arrangements must end. From then, and accelerating with the creation of Cafcass in 2001, the numbers of managers and other non-productive staff have increased very fast indeed bring with them a veritable explosion of paperwork. Now, to manage the reducing and disparagingly termed “aging workforce” of experienced practitioners we have serried ranks of managers, human resources people, board members, training facilitators, researchers, quality assessors, lawyers, press officers, business managers, finance officers, IT managers and many others all supported and assisted by numerous minions. I don’t think the point has yet been reached that the proportion of practitioners to administrators has been reversed to 1:20 but the tipping point must have been reached long ago. As the service has become more and more managed, and in consequence more and more expensive, the quality and productivity has fallen in direct proportion so that now all we hear of is the crisis in Cafcass and in the Family Courts. There is a very obvious message in this sorry story but will it be heeded?

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