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Changes needed on exceptional funding, say Chairs of Resolution and FLBA

Jo Edwards and Susan Jacklin QC assess impact of recent family justice changes

In an interview published on the Resolution website, Jo Edwards, Chair, Resolution and Susan Jacklin QC, Chair, Family Law Bar Association, have given their assessments of the impact on their members arising from the 22 April changes.

Both chairs agreed that their needs to be change in respect of exceptional funding of litigants under s10 of LASPO.

In Q v Q [2014] EWFC 31 the President said this week:

"If the [exceptional funding] scheme is indeed working effectively [as stated by the Minister of State for Justice, Lord Faulks] then it might be thought that the scheme is inadequate, for the proper demand is surely at a level very significantly greater than 8 or 9 cases a year."

In the interview, Susan Jacklin QC said:

"There needs to be a change in the guidance in respect of s10 of LASPO, so that it is in line with the European Convention on Human Rights. On a daily basis we are seeing cases which ought to attract exceptional funding under s10. The task of dealing with litigants in person who have not received any legal advice is difficult enough for judges. But dealing with cases involving serious allegations against unrepresented respondents or litigants with mental health difficulties but no funding to provide medical advice, for example, is making their task almost impossible in terms of concluding cases justly and with minimum delay."

Jo Edwards agreed:

"Resolution endorses all of that. Section 10 is not providing the safety valve that it should be doing. We are working tirelessly to collate evidence of injustice – to put flesh on the bones of our concerns when we see people being denied access to justice."

The chairs agreed that the establishment of the single Family Court had been a positive development. Ms Jacklin said that the introduction of a 26 week time limit for all but exceptional care cases seemed to be working well and Ms Edwards agreed that most local authorities are working hard to comply.

Both agreed that the increase in litigants in person was presenting real challenges for judges.

The interview in full can be read here.