Fees cut sees independent social workers refuse court cases
Independent social workers have been refusing to take new family court cases sincer the Legal Services Commission (LSC) capped their fees, Community Care has learned.
Alison Paddle, an independent social worker (ISW) and former chair of Nagalro, which represents Guardians and ISWs, said the reduced fees - capped at £33 per hour in London and £30 outside the capital - made it "scarcely affordable" for them to provide expert advice in court.
"Ive had double the number of requests I normally would from solicitors since the fees cap came into force on 9 May," Paddle said.
"They are really struggling to find ISWs willing to work at the new rates and it's causing a lot of anxiety."
District Judge Nicholas Crichton echoed Paddle's concerns, saying thst Judges were also worried. "ISWs plug gaps so I am very concerned by what the LSC has done. Paying ISWs just £30 or £33 can't be right," he told Community Care Live's session on Family Justice Review.
Paddle warned that a lack of ISWs could lead to miscarriages of justice. "If families feel that a local authority's assessment of their case is flawed they have the right to an independent expert assessment.
Without that there is no basis for them to challenge and it ties judges' hands if they cannot have an independent perspective," she said. "It risks a miscarriage of justice. It is a major concern."
One ISW, who did not wish to be named, branded the fees cap "an insult to social workers", adding: "I can't afford to work at those rates. The LSC is basically saying that social work experts are not as valuable as other expert witnesses. Many local authority reports and assessments are very good, but there are also some that are not."