The Government is to put into effect plans to increase by over three thousand percent the cost of issuing court proceedings to protect vulnerable children, the Association of Lawyers for Children have said.
From 1 May, the fee paid by a local authority to go to court to protect a child at risk from abuse will rise from £150 to £5,225 for a fully contested court case. Local authorities can make some savings if they can persuade parents to agree to the Authority's plans at an early stage of the case but even then the fee will be £2,225.
Commenting on this massive increase Alistair MacDonald, Co-Chair of the Association of Lawyers for Children said:
"The CPS and the Police do not have to pay a fee to bring criminals to justice, but under the Brown Government local authorities will have to pay over £5000 to be able to go to Court to protect a child from abuse. Heather Mills paid £210 to issue proceedings to recover £24 million. From 1 May a local authority will have to pay twenty five times that fee to protect a child from harm.
"It doesn't take a genius to see that this ill thought out reform will result in some cash strapped local authorities being more reluctant to issue court proceedings to protect children. When they do issue court proceedings, some authorities may be eager to persuade parents to settle on unfavourable terms for the parents or the child in order to save costs. There is no doubt that vulnerable children will be at even greater risk of harm.
"The Government claim that these reforms will make care proceedings pay for themselves but the money given to local authorities to pay the fees has been taken from the courts' budget. The idea of taking money from one budget and placing it in a second budget so that it can be paid back into the first budget is ludicrous." He went on, "In any event the money given to Local Authorities to pay for proceedings is neither adequate nor is it protected from being used for other purposes such as highway repairs and rubbish collection."