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Childcare & Social Services – Your questions answered

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

Above. Alison Humphrys & Sian Bishop: Leicester.

The Childcare (Social Services) Team at Wilson Browne Solicitors is one of the largest in the Midlands.

The team has recently expanded and is renowned locally for the excellent work it has done over the years.

In addition to the Northampton based team (above), we also have an expert team in Leicester, utilising the skills of Alison Humphrys and Sian Bishop (inset).

This well-established team has been looking after the needs of our clients for many years

What exactly is the Childcare Team and what does it do?

We act on behalf of children, their parents and grandparents, and will help them to understand the legal process, the steps taken, and the timescales involved. To find out more information about the team, how they can help, and more about Childcare in general, read on…

Who are the main clients?

We can act for anybody who finds themselves being taken to court in relation to care proceedings. That could be a parent, a grandparent a child who is usually represented by a children’s guardian, an extended family member or a connected person.

We do not act for the local authority as they have their own solicitors.

Each person within care proceedings is entitled to have their own solicitors and our team are able to offer help and support to anyone involved in proceedings.

How they come to us.

Are they referred/recommended?

Many of our clients know about the excellent service we provide because other people have told them about us or have experience working with us before.

But, often, people have undertaken a web search or taken our details from a solicitors list issued by the local authority when they initiate care proceedings.

Is it as simple as a web search?

Our details are easily found by searching for Wilson Browne online. Our website easily explains what we can offer and lets you see and read about the people who are here to help you.

Are you ever appointed on their behalf by, for example, the Courts or other parties and if so, who?

When care proceedings are issued, the Court appoints a Children’s Guardian to represent the children. The guardian will then instruct a solicitor to act for the children. Acting for a child is a specialist role, and a solicitor must be a member of the Law Society Children panel to do that.

All five of our solicitors can represent children as members of the Law Society children panel. So, we are instructed to act for children differently from how other parties instruct us.

Sometimes a Child’s view differs from that of the guardian, and in some cases, an individual child can then instruct their own solicitor.

In our child care team, all of our solicitors can represent separately represented children.

What are the main reasons that social services have become involved?

The local authority will become involved with a family if it has concerns about the safety of a child.

There are a number of steps that can be taken before the matter goes to Court and so it is really important to contact us for help as soon as the local authority becomes involved.

We can help guide you through what is a very stressful and worrying time.

It must be very distressing for any parent to have social services involved – how do we help you deal with that?

Our children are the most important things in our lives and so when something goes wrong it can be very upsetting and distressing.

We can offer guidance and support from the local authority initial involvement through to Court proceedings. The team is experienced and understand that this will be one of the most stressful and upsetting times of your life.

Having someone to listen and offer sensible practical advice can be invaluable.

Our five solicitors specialise in this area of law and so aware of the issues that you will be facing.

In addition, the team has 5 dedicated paralegals who work with the solicitors to ensure that every client has consistent and expert service.

Talking through what we actually do when it comes to representing your clients. Eg, what does a ‘day in the life of’ look like?

No two days are the same for the care team.

Each case is unique and so are our clients.

Care proceedings can be fast-paced and each solicitor and paralegal expects to work hard to ensure that all deadlines are met and our clients have impeccable service.

The care team treat each file individually ensuring all directions made by the Court are complied with. We will obviously explain the law to our clients in the most appropriate way and give simple and honest advice.

We are however instructed by our clients and our role is to represent their wishes and feelings either to the local authority or in Court.

Our days can involve reading the case papers, attending meetings, arranging appointments for our clients with experts such as psychologists or doctors and of course we are attending Court hearings on a daily basis.

What about the children – how are their needs, emotional and otherwise, considered?

Children are paramount in care proceedings.

They will all have a guardian appointed to represent their wishes and feelings within any care proceedings that go to court.

This term is often misunderstood. People often think that a guardian is someone that the child goes to live with and this is not correct in care proceedings.

In care proceedings, the guardian will speak to the children to understand what they want and then advise the court on what is in the Childs best interest.

A guardian will instruct a Children Panel member solicitor to act for the children in Court.

The solicitor advises the guardian and children on the legal aspects of a case and stands up in court to explain to the judge what the child and guardian think is important and what they want.

Because the role of representing a child is so specialised and important, each Children Panel member has to be reaccredited every 3 years.

Our team of five solicitors are all members of that coveted panel so children so all of our clients are in good hands when they choose us to represent them.

Who else do we have dealings with – the Courts, Social Services, Grandparents, Guardians?

In care proceedings, we have involvement with all of these people.

A big part of our role is working with other individuals to try and make sure that our clients’ needs are met.

It isn’t all about court hearings! So much can be achieved from skilful negotiation and timely discussions.

Do you act purely for the Parents/Guardian or, do you also act ‘for the other side’ ie on behalf of social services?

We can act for all parties. We do not act for the local authority. It has its own solicitors who act for it

Have we seen any noticeable increase in cases as a result of lockdown?

Sadly yes.

Lockdown has brought with it problems that can lead to children suffering significant harm. This is where having a large care team is truly helpful.

Even if a solicitor is engaged on another matter or on annual leave we have other team members that are able to seamlessly step in to ensure our clients still have the same level of service and help.

What if anything do you attribute that to?

Families have been under increasing stress in recent months.

The pandemic has had a huge impact on everyone and sadly that sometimes means that families struggle and can’t cope as well as they had been previously.

The Wilson Browne Solicitors team in Northampton, now has 4 children panel member solicitors recognised by the Law Society…what does that mean?

To be able to represent children in care proceedings a solicitor must be an accredited member of the Law Society Children Panel.

This means that all solicitors on the panel have passed accreditation and interviews and must show their competency every 3 years to retain the position.

This means that our clients know that when they instruct us they are working with someone who is acknowledged to have exceptional skills in this area of law.

What do we do it? What is so rewarding about the job?

This is a job like no other. It is so varied and keeps you on your toes.

We deal with different people all day every day and no two cases are the same.

We have the privilege of helping others, often at times when they are at a really low point in their lives. It can be very rewarding.

Dealing with these cases must, I imagine, be quite emotionally challenging – how do you deal with that?

Of course, when you deal with children and with families who are struggling it can be very emotionally challenging and sometimes very upsetting.

We are all specialists in this area of work and we are used to dealing with these cases. It certainly is not for everyone.

Being empathetic and being able to put yourself into someone else’s shoes and recognise what they are feeling and explaining to you is a key skill for childcare solicitors and paralegals.

We are a big and supportive team and are always there to support each other and our clients when times are tough.

The firm is extremely supportive of its staff too and there is always support, advice and assistance if it is needed.

What else would you like to say about the childcare team?

We not only have a large team in Northampton but also a team in Leicester so we are able to cover a wide geographic area.

Alison and Sian in Leicester are able to offer a full range of childcare services and Alison is also a member of the Law Society Children Panel.

So with 5 Law Society Panel Member solicitors, 5 paralegals and a trainee solicitor this dedicated and skilled team are able to accept instructions in relation to all areas of childcare work.

When you contact the Childcare team, you’ll be drawing on the experience and expertise of one of the most established teams in the area which offers the convenience of meeting you at one of our offices across Northamptonshire and Leicestershire in Northampton, Kettering, Corby, Higham Ferrers, Wellingborough and Leicester.