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Entries in family therapy (1)

Wednesday
Jul062016

SLAB streamlining could speed up action on contact

From June 2016 the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) have introduced changes which are intended to "streamline" various parts of the financial support they offer.  Three are of particular interest in relation to legal action to regain contact with children.

SLAB are amending their approach to granting special urgency cover in cases where contact had previously been operating satisfactorily but the parent with care suddenly ends this contact for, on the face of it, no good reason. 

In those situations SLAB will now grant special urgency cover to allow an immediate court action to be raised to reduce the possibility of various delays to resuming contact, such as the need for a child welfare report, the need for several child welfare hearings and the need to introduce supervised or supported contact. 

SLAB comments that: "Long delays are not beneficial to the child or children who were previously enjoying contact with their non-resident parent and it could cost the public purse more."

Where contact was not operating just before the request for special urgency cover is made SLAB will continue to view this as a matter that can wait until the legal aid application is decided.

The second change relates to the availability of funding for supervised and supported contact to advice and assistance. SLAB have been meeting the costs of supervised and supported contact under civil legal aid since 2012. Since then the number of requests for funding has increased steadily. 

SLAB comments that: "... we want to encourage parties to resolve contact disputes without going to court.  Reducing conflict in relationship breakdowns where there are children involved and offering less contentious ways of settling such disputes will benefit the children involved."

The third change is making funds available for family therapy. The courts are increasingly referring cases to family therapy as a possible means of resolving difficult family disputes.  It can be used to resolve the tensions between parties rather than increasing this tension through the court process. 

SLAB now views family therapy as a useful option to try to resolve disputes between parties without excessive intervention by the court.   Where a request for funding for family therapy is made they will require to be given information about the issues to be considered by the family therapist,  clarification on the likely cost of the therapy and its duration and details of the potential prospects for successfully undertaking therapy.  

The other streamlining changes include removing the need for separate legal aid applications for each child and changes to stage reporting. 

FNF Scotland welcomes these changes as we know that long delays can often make it more difficult to resume contact.  We agree that providing early support through therapy could be a lot more cost effective than a drawn-out adversarial court process and we know that although such services are not yet available throughout Scotland there is now a steady build up in provision.

We would be very interested to hear from parents and family lawyers about how these new procedures are working and welcome any other suggestions about how legal aid could be made more effective.