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4.15 Legal Aid Applications – Domestic Abuse

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

Legal aid may be available to victims of domestic abuse if they are able to provide evidence that they or their children have been victims of domestic abuse or violence and they cannot afford to pay legal costs. Evidence may be sought from the courts, police, medical, specialist support services and social care services. This procedure sets out how children’s services may provide that evidence.

This chapter was added to the manual in March 2022.


Contents

  1. Context
  2. Requests for Evidence
  3. Evidence
  4. Response


1. Context

Legal aid may be available to victims of domestic abuse if they are able to provide evidence that they or their children have been victims of domestic abuse or violence and they cannot afford to pay legal costs. Evidence may be sought from the courts, police, medical, specialist support services and social care services.

Providing evidence in support of an application for legal aid is not a statutory requirement. It is, however, good practice to provide support to victims of domestic abuse when they are acting to protect themselves and / or their children. Applicants will already be aware that domestic abuse or violence has been identified as a risk and will have received a copy of the assessment report that identified that risk or the child protection plan that seeks to address the risk. Furthermore, they would be entitled to that information through a Subject Access Request in any event, which is a much longer and more complicated process, both for the applicant and for the local authority.


2. Requests for Evidence

There is no requirement on the applicant to use a specific format when requesting evidence of abuse relating to themselves or their children; however, the Ministry of Justice have provided an exemplar for applicants requesting evidence in respect of their children: Get a copy of a child abuse assessment of child protection plan. The request should be made in writing and provide the names and addresses of the adult and / or their child / children and that of the (alleged) perpetrator of the abuse.

Requests for evidence that an adult or their children have been victims of domestic abuse or violence are most likely to be received by the allocated social worker (open cases) or MASH (closed cases). In responding to that request, it is not necessary to provide supporting information. Requests should therefore normally be dealt with within 5 working days of receipt.

Where a request for evidence is received from a person that is currently working with a social worker / early help practitioner and therefore known to them, there is no requirement for the applicant to provide proof of identity. If there is no current involvement with the applicant, then they should be required to provide proof of identity, ideally photographic identification and / or copies of at least two utility bills. Applicants may well have had to relocate at short notice so the recipient of the request may need to be flexible in accepting other means of verifying identity, e.g. a statement from a support worker or from a former allocated worker. If in doubt, consult with your manager.


3. Evidence

Evidence that an adult has been the subject of domestic abuse or violence should be found with the case record and specifically be a factor identified during the course of the assessment.

Evidence that a child or children have been the subject of domestic abuse or violence should be found within the case record and specifically and a factor identified during the course of an assessment or a reason for the child / children became the subject of a Child Protection Plan.


4. Response

Where there is evidence in the case record that the adult and / or their children have been victims of domestic abuse or violence:

For an adult, the response should say:

I can confirm that [Name of applicant], a person with whom [Name of perpetrator] is or was in a family relationship with, was assessed as being, or at risk of being, a victim of domestic violence by [Name of perpetrator].
See Children’s Services Response - Adult

In respect of a child / children, the response should say:

I confirm that on [date] the child was assessed by the children’s services department as being, or at risk of being, a victim of child abuse by the perpetrator

OR

I confirm that on [date] a child protection plan was put in place to protect the child from abuse or risk of abuse by the perpetrator,
See Children’s Services Response – Child / Children

Where there is no evidence within case records of domestic abuse or the evidence is unclear, then the response to the request should say:

For an adult – that they have not been assessed as being, or at risk of being, a victim of domestic abuse;

For a children / children – that they have not been assessed as being, or at risk of being, a victim of child abuse by the (alleged) perpetrator nor subject to a protection plan to protect them from abuse or risk of abuse from the perpetrator.

The proposed response to a request for evidence should always be authorised by a line manager or supervisor before being sent to the requestor. In the event that the evidence is unclear, then legal advice may be sought by the authorising manager before the response is sent.

A response should always be provided to such requests within 5 working days of the receipt of the request unless legal advice is being sought in which case the applicant should be advised within 5 days that legal advice is being sought and that they will receive a response within the next 10 days.

End