As schools in the Oswestry area prepare to cope with the return of pupils after the three-month break enforced by COVID-19, solicitors in the town are getting ready for an anticipated ‘spike’ in enquiries relating to care proceedings.
GHP Legal, which has one of the largest family and child law departments in the region, believes an increase in the number of social services referrals is inevitable as the return to school will highlight changes in the behaviour and health of children that may cause concern.
“Already social services departments across the country are reporting an increase in referral rates”, says GHP Legal Partner, Nathan Wright, “and an increase in demand for child social care.
“Coming out of lockdown is happening very quickly after a long period where families have effectively been behind closed doors for a quarter of a year. This has been a very difficult time for both parents and children, who in many cases have been living without their usual support networks.
“If parents suddenly find themselves confronted with a visit from social services, or if their child becomes the subject of a care application, they may not know what to do or where to go for help. This is especially so during the coronavirus pandemic, with so many businesses closed and so many people working from home.
“As head of a specialist team that has many years’ experience of acting for parents in respect of care proceedings and social services, I also know that parents can be wary of seeking the legal advice they need, because they think it will be at a cost they cannot afford.
“It is crucial that parents are made aware they will automatically qualify for legal aid if they are involved in care proceedings, irrespective of their financial situation. And that family lawyers like us are not only still working to provide the help they need, but that we are ready and willing to act quickly if they find themselves the subject of a social services investigation.