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Are you looking for a solicitor in Leicester or Hounslow? why not drop us a call an see how we can help you,  we provide the following services:-

Family & Matrimonial

Property law

Wills and Probate

Personal Immigration

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Business Law

call us on 0116 243 8852 for Leicester Legal Services and 020 3621 4545 for Hounslow Legal Services

Coronavirus: What powers do police have if people break Covid rules?

The police's role in the coronavirus pandemic is simple: to ensure we follow the new restrictions on our lives.

But in practice, that is a huge challenge for police who are being asked to monitor behaviour that, until March, was perfectly legal.

How do police enforce Covid rules?

Since March, police chiefs have followed a system called "The Four Es". Before fines are issued to rule-breakers, police will first:

  • Engage with people to ask why they appear to be breaking the rules
  • Explain the law, stressing the risks to public health and the NHS
  • Encourage them to change their behaviour
  • Enforce by issuing penalty notices, only as a last resort

Why can you be fined for breaking Covid rules?

The police have a legal duty to make sure the rules are enforced, alongside council environmental health and trading standards officers. And enforcement only works in law if there are fines.

If you break the new England lockdown rules, you could get a fixed penalty notice (FPN), the Covid equivalent of a parking ticket. Since March, almost 20,0000 have been issued.

These now start at £200, rising to £6,400.

Large parties can be shut down by the police - with fines of up to £10,000.

In extreme circumstances, you could be prosecuted and face an even greater fine imposed by a court. Similar rules apply in all parts of the UK.

Can police fine me for being in the street?

Yes. During the England lockdown, you must stay at home unless you have a reasonable excuse to be outside. Your home includes any property associated to it - such as a garden or shed - and also access to it.

The lockdown law sets out in full examples of reasonable excuses.

Police won't fine you for going shopping for essential goods, or to obtain a service from a business that can remain open.

And you're not breaking the law if you go shopping for someone else in your household, or a vulnerable person.

Will police arrest me for exercising?

No. There was enormous confusion in March over how long people could exercise for - and where - leading to Cabinet Minister Michael Gove pronouncing that he thought half an hour was enough.

There are no restrictions in England on how you exercise and for how long - other than you cannot do it in groups.

So you can run or a wander with someone else from your household or, critically, one person you don't live with.

Sitting on park benches is definitely NOT banned. But don't form a gathering if you do because...

Will the police fine me for mingling?

They might. This refers to the ban on "gatherings".

The last version of the restrictions made it a potential crime to "mingle". That language has now gone from the law - but the rules are far, far stricter.

You can no longer meet anyone indoors - other than those in your family, support bubble, people you care for, or for other specific purposes, such as an emergency, or to carry out work.

So, the rules ban social visits - but they do leave wriggle room for lots of the necessities of daily life.

Outside, two people can meet - the law can't really criminalise bumping into someone in the street. Groups larger than that are a no-no for the same social reasons. Again, there are exceptions.

Even if break the rules, how likely am I to be fined?

The Home Office has given the police an extra £30m to pay for specific Covid patrols in England and Wales. Home Secretary Priti Patel met police chiefs on the eve of the new English lockdown - and told them that they now need to "strengthen enforcement" to save lives.

The National Police Chiefs Council hasn't abandoned the Four Es - but expect more fines and more officers asking people what they are doing.

What about the rest of the UK?

The rules differ across the UK - but all forces follow the general principle of the Four Es.

Police will be expected to continue enforcing new rules:

  • Scotland has introduced a five-tier system and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is considering a wider travel ban
  • Wales will leave its so-called "firebreak" lockdown on 9 November - and it is introducing a new system including a general ban on travelling to England, other than for work
  • orthern Ireland might extend its own version of a national lockdown by keeping hospitality closed
  • Can police make me cover my face?

    Yes, and, again, you could face a fixed penalty notice.

    In all parts of the UK you must now wear one in shops. You must also wear them when out in a pub, cafe or restaurant when not sitting at your table.

    Staff and security guards have no formal powers to enforce the wearing of masks. However, they can stop you from entering or demand that you leave their property.

    You must wear a face covering on public transport in all parts of the UK, although some people are exempt. In London, transport officials can issue you with a penalty ticket.

    • What are the rles for face masks or face coverings?
    • Can police check whether I'm isolating?

      If you have returned from an overseas Covid hotspot, or have been told by the NHS Test and Trace system to stay at home, you must quarantine for 14 days.

      The police can now check the NHS Test and Trace database to investigate a tip-off about a quarantine-breaker. Police won't get to see your personal health records.

Renters: Eviction cases resume after six-month ban

Eviction hearings will now resume in courts in England and Wales - but the most serious cases will be given priority.

A backlog has built up during a six-month ban on proceedings in place during the coronavirus outbreak.

Cases involving domestic violence or anti-social behaviour will be heard first. Restrictions also exist in local lockdown areas and over Christmas.

But Labour and campaigners have called for the ban to be extended.

There have been warnings from charities and health bodies about the dangers during the pandemic of people being made homeless and living in overcrowded conditions.

A recent survey by homelessness charity Shelter suggested that more than 170,000 private tenants had been threatened with eviction by their landlord or letting agent, while 230,000 in England have fallen into arrears since the pandemic started.

However, the government and landlord groups do not expect a wave of eviction notices.


'Future in the balance'

Ian Forest Image captionIan Forest says finances are stretched

Wedding DJ Ian Forest has seen his income "killed for a year" as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

His letting agent allowed him to pay 50% of his rent for a few months, but he now faces demands for full rent again, as well as £3,000 of arrears.

He has claimed all the financial support available, but is concerned that it is insufficient to cover his bills and his tenancy is at risk.

"I feel for the landlord as well, but my future here is in the balance. Who knows what will happen," he said.

Presentational grey line

In England, Wales and Scotland, landlords must now give six months' notice of eviction compared to two months before the pandemic in many areas. In Northern Ireland, it is 12 weeks, but the authorities said notices should not be issued unless "absolutely unavoidable".

Courts in England and Wales will prioritise serious cases, and historic ones where the rent has not been paid for more than a year.

Chris Norris, of the National Residential Landlords Association, said that a switch would not be turned on leading to a sudden spate of evictions.

But he said the last six months had seen "real restrictions" on landlords trying to deal with "nuisance neighbours".

Eviction notice and maskImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said that evictions would not be enforced by bailiffs if a local area was in a lockdown that included restrictions on gathering in homes.

Bailiffs have also be told not to enforce possession orders over Christmas, other than in "the most serious circumstances", such as cases involving domestic abuse or anti-social behaviour.

But Labour said there were still unnecessary risks created by the government's policy.

Shadow housing secretary Thangam Debbonaire said: "The government needs to come forward with a credible plan to keep their promise that no renter will lose their home because of coronavirus."


Advice for tenants

  • Anyone under threat of eviction should start gathering evidence, such as receipts for rent paid or any communications with your landlord
  • Landlords have to give you notice before they can apply to court for a possession order. For most tenancy types, this notice must now be at least six months in England, Wales and Scotland, but lodgers may get less notice
  • If a possession order had already been made against you before 27 March 2020, then your landlord may apply for this to be enforced now the ban is at an end. You should receive 14 days' notice of the eviction date
  • Anyone now struggling to pay rent should speak to their landlord and organise a repayment plan to pay off arrears
  • Those receiving housing benefit or Universal Credit and unable to pay rent might be able to get a discretionary housing payment from the local council

Source: Citizens Advice

Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-54203447

Coronavirus: Who are the Covid marshals and what powers will they have?
Covid-secure marshals will be introduced in towns and city centres in England to help ensure social distancing rules are followed, Prime Minister Boris Johnson says. However, there are questions over who will pay for them and those already working in some areas have no power to enforce rules.

What's the aim?

Mr Johnson said the government and the public want to see "stronger enforcement of the rules". In order to do this, he said marshals would be introduced and a register of environmental health officers - who councils could use for support - would be set up. He added that:
  • Hospitality venues will be legally required to record the contact details of everyone visiting and to hold them for 21 days
  • Hospitality venues which fail to follow Covid-secure guidelines will be fined
  • Local authorities will be supported to make greater use of existing powers to close venues which break the rules
  • The police will have new powers from 14 September to break up, and fine, groups of more than six people
However, the plans have been criticised. Conservative MP Steve Baker, for example, said it would "turn every public space in Britain into the equivalent of going through airport security".

Who will the marshals be?

The government said marshals can either be volunteers or existing members of council staff. The Local Government Association (LGA) said "any new responsibilities for councils in this area will have to be fully funded", but there has been no funding announced by government. The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government told the BBC that some areas of the country had already introduced marshals - including Leeds and Cornwall - and it would see where else they were needed. Leeds City Council told the BBC it had introduced six night marshals "who were in place over four weeks and who did not have any enforcement powers". It said these marshals "were positively welcomed by our businesses as necessary and effective in supporting the evening and night-time economy to reopen safely". In Cornwall, street marshals were introduced in Camborne, Helston, Newquay, Redruth, St Austell, St Ives and Truro in July. The council said they would be present during the busiest times of the day to "give friendly help and guidance to those visiting and working" in the area. Banner image reading 'more about coronavirus' Banner

What powers will they have?

The government has still to set out details of what marshals will do, and says those decisions will be a matter for local authorities. In areas where marshals have already been introduced, they have done things like giving out hand sanitiser and face coverings, answered questions and explained social distancing guidelines to members of the public. Marshals do not have the power to enforce social distancing or to issue fines to anyone who breaks the rules. But the government says they can call the police if enforcement action is needed.

Who will enforce the rules for hospitality venues?

Mr Johnson spoke about the need for stricter enforcement of the rules for hospitality venues like pubs and restaurants. Regulation of these premises is a role for local authorities and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), but there have been concerns about a lack of resources. Data provided by the HSE shows that between the beginning of the pandemic in March and 6 September:
  • 14,934 spot checks have been carried out
  • Formal action has been taken in 2,541 cases
  • 2,034 have received verbal advice - and 432 written correspondence and 75 enforcement notices have been issued
To bolster this work, the government announced it would set up a register of environmental health officers that councils could call upon - but it is yet to release further details. The LGA said "given the shortage of environmental health officers, it is positive that the government has committed to a register".
When does the stamp duty holiday end?

The chancellor's policy of suspending of stamp duty on the first £500,000 of all property sales in England and Northern Ireland has helped boost house prices.

August saw the highest monthly price rise in more than 16 years, says the Nationwide. It describes the housing market recovery as "unexpectedly rapid".

So what has Chancellor Rishi Sunak done to try to help homebuyers?

What is stamp duty?

Stamp duty is a tax paid by people buying properties, although it varies slightly across the UK.

In England and Northern Ireland buyers pay Stamp Duty Land Tax.

In Scotland it is Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, while in Wales buyers pay Land Transaction Tax.

The amount handed to the government depends on where you are in the UK, and the price of the property.

The changes to stamp duty only apply to buyers in England and Northern Ireland.

What has changed?

The government has temporarily increased the stamp duty threshold to £500,000 for property sales in England and Northern Ireland, until 31 March 2021,

Anyone completing on a main residence costing up to £500,000 before then will not pay any stamp duty, and more expensive properties will only be taxed on their value above that amount.

This will save buyers as much as £15,000, if they are buying a property of £500,000 or more.

The move was aimed at helping buyers who have taken a financial hit because of the coronavirus crisis.

It was also intended to boost a property market hit by lockdown, which - according to the Halifax - saw house prices fall for four months in a row.

The average stamp duty bill will drop by £4,500, Mr Sunak has suggested, with nearly nine out of 10 people buying a main home this year paying no stamp duty at all.

However, critics worry it could encourage people who were planning to buy next year to accelerate their plans to take advantage of the tax break. This could lead to a slump in demand when the tax break ends.

woman looking at houses for saleImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

How much stamp duty will I pay now?

If the property purchased is your main home, you won't pay any stamp duty on it at all if it costs £500,000 or less.

The next portion of the property's price (£500,001 to £925,000) will be taxed at 5%, and the £575,000 after that (£925,001 to £1.5m) at 10%.

The remaining amount (over £1.5 million) will be taxed at 12%. You can calculate how much you are liable to pay here.

Before the announcement, stamp duty in England and Northern Ireland was paid on land or property sold for £125,000 or more, while first-time buyers did not pay any stamp duty up to £300,000. But this stamp duty holiday replaces the first-time buyer discount.

Landlords and second home buyers are also eligible for the tax cut but will still have to pay the extra 3% of stamp duty they were charged under the previous rules.

Table of stamp duty rates

What about Scotland and Wales?

In Scotland, the rates on Land and Buildings Transaction Tax are 2% on £145,001-£250,000, 5% on £250,001-£325,000, 10% on £325,001-£750,000, and 12% on any value above £750,000.

Scottish landlords pay an extra 4% Land and Buildings Transaction Tax on top of standard rates.

In Wales, the rates on Land Transaction Tax are 3.5% on £180,001-£250,000, 5% on £250,001-£400,000, 7.5% on £400,001-£750,000, 10% on £750,001-£1.5m, and 12% on any value above £1.5m.

Welsh landlords pay an extra 3% Land Transaction Tax on top of standard rates.

Family being shown around a houseImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

How much does stamp duty raise?

The government's annual take from stamp duty is around £12bn, according to the latest figures released by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

That's roughly equivalent to 2% of the Treasury's total tax take.

The nine-month stamp duty holiday in England and Northern Ireland - from July 2020 to March 2021 - will cost the Treasury an estimated £3.8bn.

Innovator visa

Overview

You can apply for an Innovator visa if:

Funds you’ll need

You must have at least £50,000 in investment funds if you want to set up a new business. You do not need funds if either:

  • your business is already established and has been endorsed for an earlier visa 

  • you’ve changed your business and already agreed it with your endorsing body

Getting endorsed

You must be able to show that your business idea is:

  • new - you cannot join or invest in a business that is already trading
  • innovative - you must have an original business idea which is different from anything else on the market
  • viable, with potential for growth

Read the endorsing bodies list - you should only approach ones that are suitable for your business idea.

How long it takes to get a visa

The earliest you can apply is 3 months before you travel.

ExampleYou can apply from 16 March if you plan to travel on 15 June.

You should get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks when you apply from outside the UK.

Find out about paying for a faster decision.

Fees

How much you pay for an Innovator visa depends on your situation and where you apply from.

Who you’re applying for Apply (outside the UK) Extend or switch (in the UK) You £1,021 £1,277 You (if you’re from Turkey or Macedonia) £966 £1,222 All dependants £1,021 each person £1,277 each person

Healthcare surcharge

You’ll also have to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of your application. Check how much you’ll have to pay before you apply.

If you’re applying to extend or switch in the UK

You’ll need to pay £19.20 to have your biometric information (fingerprints and a photo) taken.

How long you can stay

You can stay for 3 years if you:

You can apply to extend for another 3 years when your visa is due to expire. There’s no limit on the number of times you can extend.

You may be able to apply for settlement (known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’) once you’ve been in the UK for 3 years.

If your endorsement is withdrawn

Your visa may be cut short if your endorsement is withdrawn. If you want to stay longer, you must re-apply with a new endorsement before your current visa expires.

What you can and cannot do

You can:

  • set up a business or several businesses
  • work for your business - this includes being employed as a director, or self-employed as a member of a business partnership
  • bring family members with you

#Solicitors #Leicester #Hounslow #Immigration #Wills&Probate #LegalAdvice #FamilyLaw #PropertyLaw #Matrimonial #SaifeeSolicitors

source:https://www.gov.uk/innovator-visa

You cannot:

  • do any work outside your business, for example work where you’re employed by another business
  • work as a doctor or dentist in training
  • work as a professional sportsperson, for example a sports coach
  • get public funds
Coronavirus: Wills witnessed by video link to be made legal

Wills witnessed remotely via video link will become legal in England and Wales to make it easier for people to record their final wishes during the pandemic.

The change to the law will be backdated to 31 January, the date of the first confirmed coronavirus case in the UK, the government said.

It means any will witnessed remotely from that date onwards will be legally accepted.

This measure will remain in place until January 2022.

The time period could be shortened or extended if deemed necessary, the Ministry of Justice said.

Under the current law, a will must be made in the physical presence of at least two witnesses but social distancing measures have made this difficult.


For a will to be legally valid, as the law stands you must:

  • Be 18 or over
  • Make it voluntarily
  • Be of sound mind
  • Make it in writing
  • Sign it in the presence of two witnesses who are both over 18
  • Have it signed by your two witnesses, in your presence
  • You cannot leave your witnesses (or their married partners) anything in your will

During lockdown, lots of people have turned to video conferencing software as a communication solution, using platforms such as Zoom or FaceTime.

Ministers said wills witnessed using this sort of technology would be deemed legal, as long as the quality of the sound and video was sufficient to see and hear what was happening at the time.

The change to the legislation to include video-witnessing of wills will be made in September.

Two witnesses - who are not beneficiaries - will still be required, helping to protect people against undue influence and fraud, the government said. Electronic signatures will not be permitted.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said: "We know that the pandemic has made this process more difficult, which is why we are changing law to ensure that wills witnessed via video technology are legally recognised.

"Our measures will give peace of mind to many that their last wishes can still be recorded during this challenging time, while continuing to protect the elderly and vulnerable."

However, the government said the use of video technology should remain a last resort and people must continue to arrange physical witnessing of wills where it was safe to do so.

Wills witnessed through windows are already considered legitimate, provided there is clear sight of the person signing it.

Emily Deane, technical counsel at Step, a professional body comprising lawyers and accountants, said: "We are delighted that the government has responded to the industry's calls to allow will witnessing over video conference.

"By removing the need for any physical witnesses, wills can continue to be drawn up efficiently, effectively and safely by those isolating."

She also welcomed the move to apply the change retrospectively, saying it would provide reassurance to anyone who had had no choice but to execute a will in this manner prior to this legislation being enacted.

source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-53530228

#Solicitors #Leicester #Hounslow #Immigration #Wills&Probate #LegalAdvice #FamilyLaw #PropertyLaw #Matrimonial #SaifeeSolicitors

Stamp Duty Land Tax: temporary reduced rates

Reduced rates of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) will apply for residential properties purchased from 8 July 2020 until 31 March 2021 inclusive.

 

Published 8 July 2020 From:  

Contents

  1. Residential Rates on purchases from 8 July 2020 to 31 March 2021
  2. Higher rates for additional properties
  3. New leasehold sales and transfers

Residential Rates on purchases from 8 July 2020 to 31 March 2021

If you purchase a residential property between 8 July 2020 to 31 March 2021, you only start to pay SDLT on the amount that you pay for the property above £500,000. These rates apply whether you are buying your first home or have owned property before.

You can use the table to work out the SDLT due:

Property or lease premium or transfer value SDLT rate Up to £500,000 Zero The next £425,000 (the portion from £500,001 to £925,000) 5% The next £575,000 (the portion from £925,001 to £1.5 million) 10% The remaining amount (the portion above £1.5 million) 12%

From 8 July 2020 to 31 March 2021 the special rules for first time buyers are replaced by the reduced rates set out above.

Use the SDLT calculator to work out how much tax you’ll pay.

Higher rates for additional properties

The 3% higher rate for purchases of additional dwellings applies on top of revised standard rates above for the period 8 July 2020 to 31 March 2021.

The following rates apply:

Property or lease premium or transfer value SDLT rate Up to £500,000 3% The next £425,000 (the portion from £500,001 to £925,000) 8% The next £575,000 (the portion from £925,001 to £1.5 million) 13% The remaining amount (the portion above £1.5 million) 15%

New leasehold sales and transfers

The nil rate band which applies to the ‘net present value’ of any rents payable for residential property is also increased to £500,000 from 8 July 2020 until 31 March 2021.

The following rates will apply:

Net Present Value of any Rent SDLT rate Up to £500,000 Zero Over £500,000 1%

Companies as well as individuals buying residential property worth less than £500,000 will also benefit from these changes, as will companies that buy residential property of any value where they meet the relief conditions from the corporate 15% SDLT charge.

On the 1 April 2021 the reduced rates shown in the above tables will revert to the rates of SDLT that were in place prior to 8 July 2020.

Published 8 July 2020
Home Office does not know how many people are in UK illegally, National Audit Office report finds

An estimate of the number of illegal immigrants in the UK has not been produced for 15 years, the National Audit Office says.

An up-to-date estimate of the number of illegal immigrants in the United Kingdom has not been produced for 15 years, according to a report.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said the last estimate in 2005 suggested there were around 430,000 people in the country with no right to remain.

 

But independent research since has put the figure at more than one million, Whitehall's spending watchdog said.

Priti Patel says over eight million people are economically inactive           February: Priti Patel on immigration overhaul

The NAO's report into the Home Office's immigration enforcement directorate said the department had estimated demand for immigration enforcement activity.

This was put at between 240,000 and 320,000 cases a year.

 

But the report said there was no baseline given against which progress can be measured or to demonstrate whether demand is rising or falling.

The watchdog concluded that despite collecting information around its mission and objectives, the Home Office often cannot demonstrate whether its measures are working.

source: https://news.sky.com/story/home-office-does-not-know-how-many-people-are-in-uk-illegally-national-audit-office-report-finds-12008373

Coronavirus Q&A: Family law

Common questions answered around family and children’s law during the Covid-19 outbreak

Q. How is the outbreak affecting domestic abuse victims and their ability to access the help they need?

A. The Covid-19 lockdown has had a devastating effect on domestic abuse victims and their ability to seek help.

 

Refuge has reported a 25% increase in calls to the national domestic abuse helpline. A high number of deaths have also been reported and it is likely this will increase as isolation measures continue.

 

The government’s ‘You Are Not Alone’ campaign – to raise public awareness of domestic abuse and signpost resources – and investment in domestic abuse helplines is welcome but there is still much more to be done.

 

It is encouraging to see government guidance for emergency injunctions – which stop abusers harming or threatening victims – now acknowledges that victims may not be able to get time and space away from their abuser to fill in an application, provide a witness statements and attend a telephone hearing.

 

However, strict legal aid criteria leave many victims navigating the process unrepresented. Making non-means tested legal aid available for domestic abuse cases would allow all victims access to legal support.

 

The government should further relax the usual ’gateway’ evidence requirements during the pandemic so that solicitors – as well as doctors and other professionals – can certify an individual has experienced domestic abuse, allowing them access to legal aid. Doctors and other frontline professionals are simply too busy to provide evidence at this time.

 

The Covid-19 lockdown is an incredibly dangerous time for domestic abuse victims and now more than ever, they must be able to access the help and support they need.

 

Every effort must be made to put the necessary funding into refuges and accommodation – giving victims and their children a space they can feel safe in during this pandemic.

 

The national domestic abuse helpline number is 0808 2000 247.

 

Q. If I have a shared custody agreement, can I still take my child to see their other parent?

A. Yes, the government has announced that children under 18 who have separated parents are free to go between households.

 

However, this becomes more complicated if the child has to go into isolation because they or someone in their home are displaying Covid-19 symptoms, or if one parent is in an ‘at risk’ category.

 

Family Courts still encourage parents with contact orders to stick to those orders as far as they can, including by finding creative alternatives. For example, using FaceTime or other forms of remote contact if face-to-face interactions are not possible.

 

In all circumstances, parents should consider the welfare interests of their child and work together to find the best solution in line with the government’s isolation guidelines.

 

Q. How will the Covid-19 pandemic affect those going through the divorce process?

A. Divorces can still be issued online in the usual way. They can - in principle - proceed online all the way to decree absolute and if the couple has no children or money issues (not forgetting property and pensions) this may suit them very well; divorce itself is an administrative process, after all.

 

If the separating couple needs to ask the court to consider any aspect of their divorce, they could encounter delay. Courts are currently having to prioritise their work and some categories are deemed ‘essential’ while others are not. If the court can deal with a case it is likely to do so remotely – as long as this will not prejudice a fair hearing.

 

Divorce and separation are stressful processes and being forced by public health restrictions to live together with your soon-to-be ‘ex’ may not be easy. If separating couples need advice on any aspect of their relationship breakdown, they should contact a solicitor. Most solicitors firms are providing a full range of legal services, albeit remotely for now.

 

 

Q. How is the Covid-19 lockdown affecting children’s care proceedings?

A. The protection of vulnerable children is a continuing, critical concern for professionals working in the field. Local authorities have adopted protocols to protect the health of their staff as well as the families they work with – allowing social workers’ visits and checks to continue as safely as they can.

 

The ‘lockdown’ undoubtedly places extra pressures on families already under strain. Schools stayed open for children who are under child protection, but only a minority of eligible children have been turning up. This means that, worryingly, an important layer of safeguarding for these children has been removed.

 

In short, local authorities remain busy with all aspects of child protection work, including public law proceedings, which are still going ahead via remote hearings.

 

As a necessary alternative during the pandemic, this can be a little unsatisfactory: parents often need extra help with the court process and with everyone ‘dialling in’ separately from their own home or laptop, this might not be available.

 

If someone’s child is being removed from their care, or even adopted, they may feel understandably let down if they cannot participate to their fullest within the court process. The family courts are alive to these problems and research is underway which should quickly lead to clear guidance about which cases may be conducted remotely, and which cannot.

 

For other types of events, such as Public Law Outline (PLO) meetings, local authorities and solicitors continue to work together to make it possible for parents to participate, with support.

 

Where a parent should be having contact with their child in care, and face-to-face contact is impossible because of Covid-19, social workers will work with parents and carers to find alternatives, such as Zoom or WhatsApp.

 

All those who work in this area understand that, for a parent, this type of case is one the hardest things they’ll ever have encountered, as the stakes could not be higher.

 

If you are the parent of a child subject to the PLO process or a court application brought by a local authority, you are automatically entitled to legal aid. Contact a solicitor on the Law Society’s children’s panel to access expert legal help.

 

source: https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/practice-points/coronavirus-qanda-family-law/5104009.article

 

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