Preston law firm calls on government to scrap court fee proposals. Lleading Preston law firm is calling on the government to scrap proposed increases in court fees that it claims could threaten the interests of vulnerable children. Marsden Rawsthorn has warned that plans to increase court fees in childcare proceedings by up to 2500% could deny vulnerable children access to justice and expose them to serious risk.
The increase in costs could mean that financial considerations end up playing more of a significant role in child cases than the interest of the children themselves.
In a recent consultation paper, Public Law Family Fees, the government has proposed a dramatic hike in court fees for care proceedings from £150 to £4000, a move that could deter local authorities from issuing care proceedings in order to save money.
Although the government plans to set aside £40m for local authorities to take account of the increase, the funding will not be ring-fenced, meaning the plight of many children might be dictated by financial considerations.
Libby Daultrey, Head of Family Law at Marsden Rawsthorn said, “The implication of the fee change is that the entire cost of referring such cases to the court will be transferred to local authorities. This raises serious concerns that the decision to bring cases involving vulnerable children to court may become a financial issue rather than a child protection one. In fact, borderline cases may slip through the net, potentially putting children’s lives and safety in jeopardy.”
Whilst there are many other avenues a Local Authority can explore to protect children such as family group conferences and working closely with the families, the concern must be that if court proceedings will be avoided due to cost, there will be insufficient incentive to families to bring about what are often difficult changes, and children will be placed at risk.
Libby continued: "The interests of children are in danger of being made a secondary factor under these plans, when they should be absolutely central. We want to encourage government to understand this consequence when reviewing the outcomes of the consultation process."
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