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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). 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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Legal aid

Legal aid is the use of government money to pay for people to get legal advice, and help with mediation. The Legal Aid Agency is the government body responsible for providing legal aid in England and Wales. If you receive legal aid, you will be able to get free legal advice from a solicitor.

The type of legal aid that will be available to you will depend on:

  • The type of case that you are seeking legal aid for.
  • Your financial situation. In some cases, you will need to have a ‘means test’, to demonstrate that you are unable to pay for legal advice yourself.
  • The strength of your case. This is referred to as a ‘merits test’.

Legal aid for care proceedings:

  • All parents whose children are subject to care proceedings automatically get legal aid to cover the cost of a solicitor advising and representing them. Any other person with parental responsibility for a child subject to care proceedings is entitled to free legal aid. This legal aid can also be used to instruct a barrister to advise and represent them at court. It does not matter what the parent earns, or what savings they have. The strength of their case is also irrelevant for the purposes of legal aid. This type of legal aid is referred to as ‘non-means and non-merits tested’ legal aid.

Legal aid for pre-proceedings:

Parents and those with parental responsibility also get legal aid for the pre-proceedings process. If children’s services give a parent a public law outline letter, they can at that point go to a solicitor to receive legal aid. This letter will cover the the cost of a solicitor attending children’s services meetings with them and helping to negotiate with children’s services. If children’s services issue care proceedings, then their solicitor will apply for a legal aid certificate, and can then represent the parent in the care proceedings.

Legal aid is also available in some other situations. For example, if a relative wants to apply for an order for a child to live with them because they do not think that the child has been properly cared for by their parents, or if there is domestic abuse in the home. However, in this situation legal aid will be means tested (i.e. it depends on how much money the person wanting legal aid earns or what savings they have). The person wanting legal aid will have to prove they have a good case (they must meet the ‘merits’ test). There are also strict evidential criteria as to what demonstrates child abuse or domestic abuse (this is known as ‘gateway evidence’).

A specialist children law solicitor will be able to advise as to whether someone is eligible for legal aid.

For more information, including how to find a solicitor who specialises in children law see:

Solicitor.

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