Court ordered to Fund Lay Advocates in Care Proceedings

by Charlotte Wilson

Mr Justice Keehan has recently ordered HM Courts and Tribunals Service to pay for lay advocates for parents in care proceedings who lacked capacity, following the Legal Aid Agency’s refusal to do so.

Both parents were found to lack capacity to conduct proceedings following an assessment which recommended that Lay Advocates be appointed to support them throughout the proceedings, however neither HMCTS or the Legal Aid Agency would agree to fund the cost of this. Mr Justice Keehan in his Judgement said that “HMCTS routinely pay for interpreters and intermediaries” and could not see any reason “why it should also not pay for lay advocates in the appropriate case”.

The judge also stated that it was “too much” to expect the client’s solicitor to do this and also was concerned that solicitors were not necessarily trained to do this as effectively and efficiently as a skilled professional. He questioned whether the parents would have a chance of a “fair hearing” were Lay Advocates not appointed.

Having had experience of lay advocates who assist clients who need it here at Greens, we feel they offer an invaluable service in explaining and reinforcing understanding for those clients. They are also a source of support to those who are representing the client in that they can be reassured that their client is being supported and assisted in the most appropriate way, so Mr Justice Keehan’s decision is greatly welcomed.