In response to the current situation, the Court has had to consider what happens with court hearings for Care Proceedings. We have had guidance from the judiciary and, wherever possible, hearings are to be conducted remotely – by telephone conference, Skype, Zoom or even FaceTime.
Different courts in different areas have created their own guidance for how this will work practically. The Court is letting solicitors know about each hearing and whether it is to be a telephone hearing or conducted using Skype.
Please be aware that due to the volume of work that the Court has, information regarding hearings is being provided by the Court 1 or 2 days before a hearing takes place. The Court hopes that in the longer term information about the method and time of hearings will be provided on a weekly basis.
However, given the development of Covid19 and how quickly the country has been put on lockdown, the Court is having to prioritise the hearings listed in the court diary for that week only.
We understand that this is a very worrying time for parents involved in care proceedings, and that there is the extra stress of the Covid19 situation and what that means for your case and your children.
Normally, care cases last 26 weeks except in exceptional circumstances. Due to the current situation the 26 week timeframe will undoubtedly have to be extended.
Due to the Covid19 restrictions, some expert reports will be delayed. Sometimes this is as a result of experts being unable to meet face to face with clients which means that a report cannot be completed on time.
We have also found that some doctors are changing their work to assist the NHS at this time of national crisis. Please be assured that if experts can complete some part, if not all, of the assessment by other methods, they will endeavour to do so. They may need extra time to complete their report which will then impact on any timetable set in care proceedings.
In our local Court in Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire, many “non-urgent hearings” have been adjourned until the situation calms – for example where there is an application for discharge of a care order and a child is felt to be safe in the interim. The Court has to prioritise those cases that are most urgent.
This is an ever changing situation and, as such, the Court is having to adapt and develop new procedures on a near daily basis.
Alison Collier 01782 339072
Claire Morrey 01782 339073
Stoke Care Team Secretary 01782 339076
Please note, all advice and opinion offered in this article are subject to change in line with the latest government advice.