Parliament puts spotlight on impact of family legal aid cuts on vulnerable children

PARLIAMENT played host to a high-level meeting on the impact of the Legal Services Commission’s proposed cuts to family legal aid on vulnerable children on 12 May 2009.

Chaired by Baroness Butler-Sloss and Baroness Walmsley, the meeting gathered together Parliamentarians, family barristers and children’s charities, and examined the way in which some of the most vulnerable children and families will be put at risk by the cuts to the legal aid budget for family cases, which are due to be implemented later this year.

The meeting was being held against a background of a sudden surge in applications by local authorities to take children into care in the wake of the Baby P case, with the result that the services of specialist family law advocates are in demand as never before. Commenting on the eve of the Parliamentary meeting, Lucy Theis QC, the Chair of the Family Law Bar Association, said:

‘As the recommendations and implications of the Laming Report and the Government response to it are absorbed, the close attention to children’s services will result in a huge increase in child protection orders, as Local Authorities err on the side of caution to avoid another Baby P tragedy. In this environment, the expertise of the family Bar is vital.

Experienced advocates who are committed to the interests of the families they represent are needed to ensure that the right balance is struck. The children involved in the family justice system must be represented by those with the experience and ability to present what are often complex arguments, set against a backdrop of what is often an extremely emotive issue.’