Parliamentary inquiry to examine access to legal support for kinship carers
Published: 24th January 2022
2 minute read
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Kinship Care has launched an inquiry into access to legal aid for kinship carers and potential kinship carers.
Currently, many grandparents, brothers, sisters and other relatives or friends are not able to access free, independent legal advice and representation when considering taking on the care of a child who cannot safely remain with their parents.
Research published in 2020 by the Parliamentary Taskforce on Kinship Care found that:
- Three quarters of kinship carers feel they don’t have enough information about legal options to make an informed decision when taking on care of their kinship child
- Nearly one in three kinship carers (30%) felt that their kinship child was not subject to the right legal order for their needs
- 58% incurred legal costs and 4 in 10 of those received no financial help with this
- Many carers accrue substantial private debt in order to secure a legal order for a child and give them a safe home
The Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 removed virtually all private family law issues from the scope of legal aid.
In public law care proceedings, if a kinship carer is joined as a party to proceedings, they can apply for legal aid to be represented in the proceedings. However, many kinship carers are not parties to the proceedings, or do not have access to early legal advice to know that this is an option. Children’s services departments may make some funding available for prospective kinship carers to obtain legal advice but this varies and is most often very limited, ‘one-off’ advice.
In February 2019, the Ministry of Justice committed to extend the scope of legal aid to cover special guardianship orders (SGOs) in private law – by Autumn 2019. Almost three years have now passed and this commitment is yet to be delivered.
The pandemic has since had a huge impact and pressure on the Family Court has never been greater. The average time for a care proceedings case to conclude is currently 45 weeks – the highest since 2012, and far beyond the 26-week time limit. As well as the impact of Covid-19, the scenario of an unrepresented carer arising late in the day is also a common reason for delays.
The inquiry will be seeking oral and written evidence from kinship carers, legal practitioners and others.
To find out more visit the APPG’s website: https://frg.org.uk/policy-and-campaigns/kinship-care/appg-on-kinship-care/
Notes to editors:
Family Rights Group provide the secretariat to the APPG on Kinship Care. For more information about the group and its work please contact Jordan Hall email@example.com.