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Legal Aid Scheme

Justice written question – answered on 18th July 2013.

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Photo of Meg Munn Meg Munn Labour, Sheffield, Heeley

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if he will take steps to ensure that solicitors working with children are adequately trained in communicating with children in his proposals for legal aid.

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

Between 9 April and 4 June 2013 the Government consulted on a number of proposals to reform legal aid via the “Transforming Legal Aid: delivering a more credible and efficient system” consultation.

Children in family cases are appointed a guardian and it is that guardian who usually instructs the solicitor on behalf of the child. The main control in this area is exercised by the Law Society which requires that any solicitor representing a child is a member of the Law Society Children Panel. The Law Society sets the applicable standards and the accreditation process. The proposals on which we consulted would not affect this process.

The current crime contract includes provisions for accepting applications for crime contract work on behalf of a child or protected party and accepting instructions directly from a child (paragraphs 4.24-4.29 of spec: part A). However, any specific skills and competence of a solicitor dealing with a child are not covered by the crime contract. We have asked for views from respondents on the factors they feel we should consider when designing the criteria for any future procurement process, which could include the skills and experience necessary for dealing with children. We are carefully considering all responses to the consultation on these issues.

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