The Law Gazette reported yesterday that since the cuts to family legal aid, more separated parents are self-referring themselves to contact centres without instructing solicitors.
Statistics from the National Association of Child Contact Centres show that self-referrals from parents have risen sharply from 3.7% in 2009/10 to 35.8% in 2018/19. In contrast, solicitor referrals drastically fell within the same period, from 67.8% to 21.9%.
In 2012, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 significantly reduced the availability of legal aid within private family proceedings. Those who are eligible must demonstrate evidence that they are both on a low income and are also victims of domestic violence. Funding for parents who are involved with public law care proceedings is still widely available.
Those who don’t fit into the above categories must fund the costs of legal representation for private children matters themselves. This is leading to parents who are unable to afford the costs of legal representation self-referring to contact centres in a bid to decrease the amount of stress and anxiety.
However, the downside to this is that parents do not have the benefit of advice as to the role of contact centres or a management of their expectations of the service available. We would always recommend that for disputes between parents, a contact centre alone is no substitute for clear and independent legal advice from a family solicitor.
If you require legal advice or support, give our team of family law specialists here at Lund Bennett a call on 0161 924 0079.