Flexible working options
Associate Family Court Adviser (Associate FCA)
Associate Family Court Advisers (self-employed social workers contracted by Cafcass – formerly known as Self-employed Contractors, SECs) are an important branch of the Cafcass working community. They are commissioned by local Cafcass teams across England to help manage case demand and complement the work of our employed practitioners. Contracting Associate FCAs enables us to retain talented, passionate people who were previously employed by us, as well as attract new skilled individuals to engage with us.
We currently contract over 130 Associate FCAs and with case demand increasing we foresee this number continuing to grow. Cafcass Associates, comprised of a dedicated management and Business Services team, provides contract management support to ensure an effective service to the local Cafcass commissioning teams and Associate FCAs alike.
Whether you already work independently and are interested in being commissioned by Cafcass, or this is something you wish to explore, you can find further information on this page. We hope this will help you determine if this is the right opportunity for you before completing our short application process.
Why become an Associate FCA?
There is no single reason why people become an Associate FCA.
Some are attracted by the feeling of independence it offers. For others the primary motivator is the flexibility and ability to manage their own workload, scaling this to meet their financial needs and to suit personal circumstances.
“I enjoy court work, but wanted something that allows me to be flexible with my working hours, and taking control of what work I took on.” – Harby, Associate FCA
We operate case thresholds to ensure our Associate FCAs carry a manageable caseload and to enable you to undertake other work in line with Inland Revenue expectations. We assess that the work undertaken by Associate FCAs is not covered by IR35 legislation so you will be responsible for ensuring appropriate arrangements for paying tax and other contributions. Thresholds are 15 public law cases, 21 private law cases and where individuals have a mixed caseload – which can be a further attraction – the threshold is 18 cases.
The opportunity to continue a variety of work appeals to many, with Associate FCAs often taking on work as Independent Social Workers (ISWs) or Independent Reporting Officers (IROs). Others are lecturers, trainers or are able to keep up business interests unrelated to social work.
However, all feedback that they value the challenging and rewarding nature of the work at Cafcass in supporting some of the most vulnerable children in England. Drawing on their skills and experience to understand what each individual child needs, wants and feels, and then advising the family courts on the best course of action for each child.
“I believe that the best things about being an Associate FCA are being able to feel in control of my workload (not being overwhelmed) and having the opportunity to work in different areas. I feel this improves my practice as well as my knowledge.” – Heloise, Associate FCA
As one of our Associate FCAs you will not be seen any differently to our employed staff in the court arena, where your integrity and professionalism is valued and respected. Similarly, while we respect Associate FCAs are not employees this does not dilute our responsibility to provide both practical and practice support when it comes to our contract management and case management and oversight. So, we offer support and guidance throughout your initial engagement to help you get set-up with us and then throughout your relationship with us, both at regular intervals but also adhoc as required.
Who can become an Associate FCA?
There a few key criteria that prospective Associate FCAs must meet:
- Social work qualified
- 3+ years post qualifying experience
- HCPC registered to work in England.
We also think for you to succeed and truly make a difference you should be someone who:
- is an expert in safeguarding, child engagement, inter-agency working, case analysis, planning and recording
- can work independently
- is committed to their continuous professional development
- has experience working with highly vulnerable children and families
- is resilient and organised
- has strong, intuitive IT skills
- is an effective verbal and written communicator.
If you meet these requirements then we look forward to receiving your application. As part of the process there will be a few basic questions to answer and then we’ll ask you to provide us with your current CV showing how you fulfil these requirements.
If having reviewed your CV we agree that you could be a great addition, we will progress your interest. Our process includes the option of telephone interviews, online assessment and panel interviews. As we recruit nationally, panel interviews may not be local to you and may require travel, but you will be entitled to claim your travel expenses.
If you’d like to apply, click here and then search for ‘Family Court Adviser’ roles where you will see opportunities for Associate FCAs – National.
Pay and expenses
We offer Associate FCAs a fair, competitive financial remuneration structure determined by whether you are working in private or public law.
We operate a fixed fee structure dependent on the work required; this can range from £130 for a safeguarding letter (formerly known as schedule 2 letter) to £500 for a section 7 report. Also, if ordered to attend court, your time can be invoiced at £33 per hour.
Within public law we estimate it may take up to 70 hours to complete a case and you will be entitled to claim £33 per hour.
Some travel costs may also be reclaimed, as can your travel time in certain circumstances. Usually these allowances will be agreed before each case is allocated to you.
How will I get started?
We will provide you with as much advice and support as we can to get you ready to take on casework. There will be a few practical things to consider and undertake first.
If not already set-up as a Sole Trader or Limited Company then you may want to consult a Professional Accountant to help you determine which is best for you. You should also consider appropriate insurance.
We will also provide information on a range of other things to consider, including:
- equipment/software requirements
- data security/protection
- personal security.
While taking on casework with us, Associate FCAs must adhere to Cafcass’ procedures and policies, which we will provide alongside a handbook that signposts a range of template forms and reports. You will also have access to our eLearning platform, in-house Library and quarterly briefings (which count towards your HCPC renewals).
Associate FCAs can also provide a lot of support to one another. Therefore, if helpful to you, we can introduce you to an existing Associate FCA to act as a peer mentor.
“I have always made sure I know other Associate FCAs so I have someone to talk to rather than be isolated, as at times you just need someone to talk to about your day. It sort of becomes peer supervision.” – Jane, Associate FCA
Once set-up and accredited, prior to being commissioned for your first case, you will meet with your designated contract manager to reaffirm key processes and mutual requirements. Your contract manager will meet with you again three months later for a review, and then annually thereafter.
What ongoing support will I have?
We are mindful and respectful of your independence and that you also have other professional commitments away from Cafcass. However, the local commissioning team has a responsibility to review quality, value and effectiveness and will support with practice queries.
You can also always expect to have an annual contract review meeting with your contract manager, where a number of things will be discussed, including:
- quality of work
- availability and type/area of work required
- professional development.
Your contract manager is also available to you as required on an adhoc basis. There is a Business Services Team who will oversee the allocation of work to you and support with any queries or questions you may have.
“There is a good support network with Cafcass, and I do feel you are valued as an Associate FCA with the work that you do. There are good online resources to help with not only your direct work with children and their families, but also access to learning resources.” – Harby, Associate FCA
“I have always found my relationship with Cafcass to be extremely positive. I feel valued by the Service Managers in the areas in which I have worked and found them always willing to respond if I have had queries or needed particular advice and support with something. I have felt that I have been respected for the role that I play for the organisation. With other organisations for which I have undertaken independent work the situation has been different as I have generally worked individually and in isolation.” – Heloise, Associate FCA