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Legal Representation Grant Scheme: a review

Scales of justice
Researchers: Louise Marryat
Published: July 2009

Aim

We are reviewing the operation of the Legal Representation Grant Scheme. This review will help inform its future development.

What is the Legal Representation Grant Scheme?

The Legal Representation Grant Scheme allows children's hearings to appoint legally qualified safeguarders or curators ad litem to represent children. This is done when required to allow the child to effectively participate at the hearing, or because it may be necessary to make a secure supervision requirement (or a review of such a requirement).

Findings

Participants identified four potential roles for legal representatives in hearings:

  • a legal/procedural role,
  • an explanatory/advisory role,
  • a facilitation role
  • and a challenging/arguing role.

Different local authorities made different levels of use of the scheme. There were also variations in the ways many administrative aspects of the scheme were handled by local authorities.

Key barriers to solicitors taking on Grant Scheme cases included:

  • short notice,
  • high existing workloads,
  • long distances to travel to hearings,
  • and a perception that the fees were inadequate.

Young people with little or no contact with their legal representative in advance of the hearing appeared to be particularly dissatisfied with the experience of having a lawyer.

Young people identified both advantages to having a lawyer speak for them at hearings and reasons for sometimes speaking for themselves. However, young people were dissatisfied when they felt their lawyer 'just sat there' and did not represent their views adequately.

Professionals identified both positive and negative impacts on the hearing itself from legal representatives' involvement. For example, they could help hearings focus on important legal issues, but equally they could get bogged down in legal jargon.

Method

The study involved 51 in-depth telephone interviews with professionals including local authority clerks, reporters, legal representatives and panel members. There were 23 face-to-face interviews with young people in secure units who had experience of attending a hearing with a lawyer or legal representative. The data was systematically analysed using Framework.

Read the report