The legal representation of children of parents in child care proceedings: problems and strategies


The research examined the task of legal representation and client management, in a study focused on the representation of parents in child care proceedings. Care proceedings, brought where there are serious child protection concerns, have been subject to extensive review, and reforms to procedures and the funding regime impacting on legal representatives. This qualitative research was prompted by a study based on an examination of court files and commissioned by the DCA . This raised questions about the way parents are represented, and the role of parental representation in affecting the process and outcome of proceedings. Underlying legal representation of parents are issues of access to justice for one of the most vulnerable and needy groups in our society. This research will examine the task of legal representation and client management, focusing on the representation of parents in child care proceedings. Care proceedings have been subject to extensive review and changes in procedure recently and the research is prompted also by the Care Profiling Study conducted by the applicants for the Ministry of Justice. New procedures emphasise the importance of good legal representation not simply for the benefit of the parents, but also for the smooth operation of the system. Faced with problems of cost and delay, legal representatives are being identified as a key part of the solution. It is particularly relevant now to provide clear understandings of how the legal representatives of parents conceive and operate their role. The research will use qualitative methods. A preliminary phase involves observations of interim court hearings to obtain an overview of the process in practice. A second element will comprise a set of contemporaneous case studies. A third element will comprise interviews with legal representatives and other key personnel involved in the process, to explore wider conceptions of the role, adding breadth to the case studies.

We explored the experiences of and difficulties faced by legal representatives in their dealings with their parent clients, other lawyers involved in the proceedings and the court process in 4 geograpical areas of England and Wales. The design incorporated observation and interview techniques in three elements: a preliminary phase involving observations of interim court hearings dealing with procedural elements of the litigation, in order to obtain an overview of the process in practice and also to recruit a sample of cases. The second element involved a series of 16 case studies, tracking the selected cases from an early stage through to their conclusion, interviewing the parents' legal representatives and observing their meetings with their clients, with legal representatives of other parties and court hearings. The third element added breadth to the second by interviews with legal representatives in which specific cases were discussed anonymously. These interviews, and others with key practitioners involved in the process, also explored wider conceptions of the role and concerns regarding court process and funding. Data collection consists of 109 observations, 61 interviews and 1 focus group.

Metadata Access
Creator Pearce, J, University of Bristol
Publisher UK Data Service
Publication Year 2014
Funding Reference ESRC
Rights Julia Pearce, University of Bristol. Judith Masson, University of Bristol. Law School University of Bristol,; The Data Collection is available for download to users registered with the UK Data Service.
OpenAccess true
Language English
Resource Type Text
Discipline Jurisprudence; Law; Social and Behavioural Sciences
Spatial Coverage England; Wales; United Kingdom