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Social workers protest over 'draconian cuts' to experts' fees

23 December 2010

Independent social workers who act as expert witnesses in legally aided family cases have written to justice secretary Ken Clarke to protest over cuts of up to 50 per cent in fees.

A spokeswoman for the union Nagalro, which represents social workers and guardians, said reducing fees from around £50 to £60 per hour to only £30 outside London and £33 inside amounted to a “draconian cut”.

She said, given the financial situation, social workers would not object to a modest cut in fees, alongside other expert witnesses.

However, she said the MoJ’s review group on expert witness fees excluded social workers, who were angry at the “very discriminatory way they were being singled out”.

The spokeswoman said the reason that the cut in fees, which was proposed by the previous government, had not been carried out was because the measure was linked to the new family legal aid contracts, which the MoJ was forced to ditch following the Law Society’s successful judicial review this autumn.

However, she said the MoJ had said they would bring in separate regulations to impose the cut next year.

“If social workers stop doing this work, it is likely that courts will not be able to make good decisions and this will rebound on children,” she said.

Unions Nagalro and BASW told the justice secretary that the decision was taken without any evidence of the number of cases where independent social workers were used or any assessment of the impact on children.

The unions have been joined by 200 experienced social workers who recently wrote to Clarke to complain about the cuts.

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