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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). For Textphone dial 18001 followed by the advice line number. Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

Discuss on our forums

Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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An intermediary is someone who helps parents, children or other family members to understand information and to communicate. They are sometimes referred to as ‘communication specialists.’ An intermediary can become involved to help someone understand court proceedings and help them fully take part.

Intermediaries in the Family Court

An intermediary often becomes involved when the Family Court has reason to think a party or witness is vulnerable. This is because someone’s vulnerability can affect their ability to understand information. And whether they can clearly share their own thoughts, feelings and information. The court may view someone as vulnerable for different reasons. Examples include where someone is the victim of domestic abuse. Or where they have a learning disability.

Whether someone needs an intermediary will depend on the precise situation. The views of different people will be relevant to deciding if an intermediary is needed. This includes the views of the person who may need the intermediary. But also, the practitioners involved and the court.

Examples of how an intermediary may help someone in a Family Court hearing include:

  • Making sure they understand any questions put to them in court
  • Helping them to communicate their reply to those questions
  • Helping others in court to understand what they are saying
  • Ensuring they understand what is said by others in court. For example, another witness or party, or by a lawyer or a judge.

Examples of how an intermediary can help someone prepare for court are:

  • Help the person to understand and communicate in meetings between the person and their lawyer
  • Helping someone understand documents and share their thoughts and feelings on what the documents say
  • Ensure they understand what further court hearings there are and what the court will be deciding at them.

The court can pay for an intermediary to help someone at court. And pay for an intermediary to help someone prepare for court. But before that can happen, there must be an assessment. This needs to show that the person needs an intermediary. And that they will not be able to fully take part in the proceedings without one.

Sometimes, a person might benefit from having the help of an intermediary where there are no court proceedings. For example, when they are having meetings with children’s services. They can help the person to understand and communicate during meetings. They can also help with understanding any documents.

If there are no court proceedings, the costs of an intermediary will need to be met in another way. For example, children’s services can be asked if they will agree to pay for an intermediary to help.

Finding an intermediary

If you have a solicitor, you can ask them to help find an intermediary. If there are court proceedings but a solicitor is not involved, the court may be able to share information about how to find an intermediary.

Children’s services or other practitioners working with you, or your child might also be able to help you find an intermediary.

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