By Christina Blacklaws and Sally Dowding, Solicitors. The authors are, respectively, Chairs of the Law Society's Family Law Committee and Children Law Sub Committee. The views expressed are their own.
The Department for Constitutional Affairs/ Legal Services Commission (DCA/LSC) consultation paper Legal Aid: a sustainable future was published on the same day as Lord Carter's review. The authors state that the consultation's foreword recognises the pressure placed on civil and family legal aid by the growth of criminal legal aid but nowhere prepares the reader for the annihilation of the representation of children lurking within its pages. Solicitor advocates are to be paid considerably less than counsel for exactly the same work. The solicitor will receive the one advocacy fee no matter how many interim hearings or whether a final hearing lasts 2 hours or 10 days. The authors ponder whether those responsible for devising the consultation expect to pay more at Sainsburys for ten chickens than for two, or perhaps the assumption is that practitioners' collective dedication enables them to survive on the oxygen of goodwill and job satisfaction without regard to mundane matters of salary bills and mortgages.
Unless the LSC takes a more realistic approach the very specialist market for children representatives will be quite literally facing extinction, which flies in the face of every stated intention of Lord Carter and the government. Moreover, it will leave the most vulnerable children without proper representation. See September  Fam Law 777 for the full article.