APPG Legal Aid Inquiry
6 minute read
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Kinship Care held an inquiry into access to legal aid for kinship carers and potential kinship carers.
The inquiry, launched in January 2022, heard from hundreds of kinship carers across England and Wales. It also took evidence from leading legal practitioners and organisations in child and family law, and from non-for-profit advice services.
In May 2022 the APPG published its findings and recommendations in a new report: ‘Lost in the legal labyrinth: How a lack of legal aid and advice is undermining kinship care’.
The report shines a spotlight on, and sets out proposals for addressing, the challenges carers and prospective carers face in stepping forward and navigating the family justice system, in England and Wales, to support the children they are raising to thrive.
Summary of key findings:
- The majority of current and prospective kinship carers do not have access to the legal advice they need.
- The child welfare and family justice systems fail to involve, inform and support family and friends who wish to put themselves forward to care.
- Kinship carers are unable to make informed decisions about their legal arrangement – something which has lasting consequences for their entitlement to support and who can make key decisions about the child.
Key messages from kinship carers:
- 82% of kinship carers did not feel they knew enough about their legal options to make an in-formed decision about the best options for their kinship child.
- A third (35%) said they were not satisfied with their current legal arrangement for their kin-ship child
- Almost 4 in 10 (38%) kinship carers had NOT received any legal advice about their rights and options for their kinship child.
- For those who had experience of court proceedings in relation to their kinship children, al-most a third (30%) had to represent themselves at least for some of the time.
- Over a third (37%) of kinship carers had made personal contributions to the costs of legal advice, court fees and legal representation. Of those carers: 47% had costs up to £1000; 27% between £1001 and £5000; 16% between £5001 and £10,000; and 9% in excess of £10,000.
Proposals for change:
- Legal aid and the wider child welfare and family justice systems need to support family and friends to step forward.
- Kinship carers need access to early, specialist and independent legal information, advice and advocacy services.
- Access to free legal advice should not be dependent on the policies of individual local authorities or solicitors providing support pro bono.
Supporting kinship care will ensure better outcomes for children and reduce strains on the care system and the Family Court.
The aims of this inquiry were:
- To bring a renewed focus on the issues kinship carers and potential kinship carers face in accessing legal advice and representation when navigating the family justice system, and the wider impact this has on the child welfare and family justice system
- Update the evidence base on access to legal aid from kinship carers and practitioners working in the system
- Inform the Ministry of Justice in their Covid recovery work
The inquiry’s full terms of reference are set out here.
Oral Evidence Session 1
Members heard evidence from kinship carers with lived experience of the family justice system and from an experienced family legal practitioner. A written note from the session can be read here.
The APPG heard from:
- Clare Walsh, kinship carer, Chichester
- Lorna King, kinship carer, Lambeth
- Shanayd Warren, kinship carer, Brent
- Stuart Black, kinship carer, Surrey
- Rosie Turner, Ridley & Hall Solicitors
Family Rights Group launch a survey for kinship carers to help inform the APPG’s work.
The group has begun to accept written evidence requests. If you wish to contribute, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for submissions is 4th April 2022.
Oral Evidence Session 2
Members heard evidence from legal organisations working across children’s law. A written note from the session can be read here.
The APPG heard from:
- Cris McCurley, on behalf of the Law Society
- Samantha Little, on behalf of Resolution
- Sarah Whitworth and Helen McGrath, on behalf of Lawyers in Local Government
The APPG received the following written evidence submissions:
- The Law Society
- Lawyers in Local Government
- Association of Lawyers for Children
- Nicola Jones-King (Individual Submission)
- Briefing paper on legal aid reform for special guardians (FRG, Law Society, Resolution, ALC)
The APPG published its final inquiry report: ‘Lost in the legal labyrinth: How a lack of legal aid and advice is undermining kinship care’. The report shines a spotlight on, and sets out proposals for addressing, the challenges carers and prospective carers face in stepping forward and navigating the family justice system, in England and Wales, to support the children they are raising to thrive.
For more information or to sign up for the APPG’s mailing list, please contact Jordan Hall email@example.com.