Changes to Legal Aid: Responding to a Special Guardianship Order & Parental Responsibility

Posted on: May 23rd, 2023

Following changes to family legal aid which took effect on the 1st May 2023, the scope of legal aid in respect of Special Guardianship Order Proceedings has been widened so that funding is now available to individuals with parent responsibility.

What is a Special Guardianship Order?

A Special Guardianship Order is an order from the court whereby one or more individuals are appointed to be a child’s guardian until the age of 18. This often happens in circumstances where the child is unable to live with their birth parents.

What is parental responsibility?

As per the Children Act 1989, parental responsibility means all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities, and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property. In essence, an individual with parental responsibility of a child is responsible for making decisions on their behalf.

What changes have been made?

Previously, legal aid was not available for those with parental responsibility of a child acting as a respondent to a Special Guardianship Order. Parents and other individuals with parental responsibility were often left to struggle through these proceedings with no legal advice or support.

The government have pledged an extra £6 million to support up to 2,000 more people in complex family cases such as these.  Justice Minister, Lord Bellamy stated that the government are “investing millions of pounds every year to make sure criminal and civil legal aid support can reach those who need it most.”

Under the new legal aid rules, anyone with parental responsibility can apply for legal aid within Special Guardianship proceedings.

These are very welcome changes to the scope of legal aid. Ultimately the changes will help many parents and guardians of children access to legal representation, which will in turn assist the court greatly in making the best decisions for the children and their families.

Contact our family team today on or 01642 777680, we can advise whether or not these changes are applicable in your circumstances, if you are eligible for funding and if not, what alternative options are available for you and your family. Further should you have any queries in respect of parental responsibility, or how to obtain it, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Please note that the above funding is available for matters currently before the court. If you have previously been assessed for legal aid, you are entitled to a reassessment which our team is able to offer.


James Jeffels

Blog prepared by James Jeffels.

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