Q. I've had a letter from the council saying that they are going to start care proceedings against me to take my children into care. I want to hire a solicitor but I am on benefits. Can I get Legal Aid?
A. The simple answer is “Yes” provided that you are the biological parent or you are a person with Parental Responsibility for at least one of the children. The Legal Services Commission will give Legal Aid to any parent (or person with Parental Responsibility), whose child or children are subject to Care Proceedings irrespective of their income and provided the Local Authority do actually take the matter to Court.
This means that if you receive benefits, or even if you are employed, you would still be entitled to Legal Aid so that you can be represented in this type of matter. If you wish to receive advice before the Local Authority make an application to the Court then you would also be entitled to Legal Aid as a parent receiving benefits, such as Income Support, to receive advice before the matter goes to Court. I would suggest that you arrange a meeting with a solicitor before the matter goes to Court. This will enable them to take important information from you and also to write to the Local Authority to find out more should you wish them to do this.
Katherine Brown, Chartered Legal Executive
This article was previously published in the Stamford Mercury.