Social work expert witnesses seek council top-up fee

Local authorities should split the cost of employing independent social workers with the Legal Services Commission (LSC), according to the Confederation of Independent Social Work Agencies (Ciswa).

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Local authorities should split the cost of employing independent social workers with the Legal Services Commission (LSC), according to the Confederation of Independent Social Work Agencies (Ciswa).

Ciswa says independent social workers should not provide expert social work opinion within child and family proceedings for less than a minimum professional rate of £65 per hour, £35 above the current fee cap imposed by the legal services commission (LSC). However, the group has proposed that where a local authority is involved the LSC should pay the capped rate of £30 per hour plus travel expenses and the council should “make up the professional shortfall” of £35 per hour.

To back its claims Ciswa has commissioned research into the value independent social workers bring to care proceedings.

An open letter to lawyers from Ciswa directors said: “Only by applying an imaginative yet fair approach to such matters can those who instruct us continue to secure the expert services that children and their families deserve within the court arena.”

Last year, the Ministry of Justice and LSC decided the fees of ISWs who provide reports and evidence in court should be capped at £30 per hour from October 2010. Other expert witnesses, such as doctors and psychologists, are still paid £70-£100.

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