Extra £6 million to support up to 2,000 more people in complex family cases.

  • legal aid extended for friends and family seeking guardianship of vulnerable children
  • new measure part of wider government drive to bolster legal aid investment

Extended family members seeking to provide long-term, stable care for vulnerable children will be able to access free legal advice, thanks to new government investment announced today (30 April 2023).

Under the move, legal aid funding will be extended to more people applying for Special Guardianship Orders through the courts – a form of care which sees a child in need of a loving home placed with extended family, friends or foster parents until they reach the age of 18.

These cases are often complicated, emotionally charged and challenging for families looking for the best outcome for vulnerable children.

Now, people making such applications in private law hearings will have access to legal aid funding for advice and representation on their cases, removing one more burden for families.

The funding will also provide free legal representation to parents opposing Special Guardianship Orders in private law proceedings to ensure they have the right support and advice.

Justice Minister, Lord Bellamy, said:

Providing a stable, loving home for a vulnerable child in need is an utterly selfless act and it is right we provide families with the vital support they need – particularly in the most complex and emotive of cases.

We are investing millions of pounds every year to make sure criminal and civil legal aid support can reach those who need it most.

Previously, legal aid was only available for Special Guardianship cases where the local authority was involved in submitting an application to remove a child from their birth parents.

The change to extend eligibility to private law cases comes as part of a wider investment in civil and criminal legal aid. Additional measures include:

  • standardising the means and merit testing requirements for birth parents in proceedings where a local authority is authorised to place a child for adoption
  • an extra £10 million a year in housing legal aid so that thousands more people can access legal advice when they fall into difficult times and face the risk of eviction
Published 1 May 2023