Lawyers attack government over review of child care proceedings
Family lawyers claim the government is putting children at risk by
rushing through a “crude, cost-cutting” review of child care
The Association of Lawyers for Children (ALC) and Resolution
have written to the lord chancellor, Lord Falconer, expressing
their concerns over the speed of the review, which started in July
and is due to report back in January.
In a strongly worded letter, the groups, which represent more
than 6,200 lawyers, said the review’s proposals contained worrying
presumptions on the faults in the current system that amounted to a
“pre-judgment” of any final findings.
The cross-government review is assessing whether family lawyers’
current level of involvement is
The groups have taken issue with terms of reference, set out in
the Department for Constitutional Affairs paper A Fairer Deal for
Legal Aid, which state that the review will consider whether the
current system “ensures all resources are used in the most
effective, efficient and proportionate way”.
Referring to the “over-represented approach within the courts”,
it is considering formally separating the two stages of care
proceedings – establishing the facts and determining a care
It is examining the value of a “more inquisitorial system”, with
“early, low-level judicial interventions” to try to avoid the need
for full court proceedings wherever possible.
But ALC chair Liz Goldthorpe said the use of such “pejorative,
prejudicial” terms, together with the pace of the review, indicated
that the government’s only motivation in carrying out the review
“Clearly, the implication in the way this is being conducted and
set up is that money is more important than safeguarding children,”
She claimed that the Department for Constitutional Affairs had
been inconsistent in its pledge to set up an advisory group so that
stakeholders could feed into the review, with interested parties
left unclear whether a group was to be formed or not.
Although it now appears that a group will be set up, she said it
was unlikely it would meet before November, leaving little time for
any effective feedback.