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There is no doubt that these are testing times for family lawyers. From April 2013 access to legal advice in family cases was drastically limited. Many firms undertaking legal aid made plans to adapt their businesses to survive the changes; sadly some did not survive at all. But what of clients? Why would they prepare for the reduction in availability of legal aid? The simple answer is that they would not. Anecdotally there are reports of overwhelmed law centres and Citizens Advice Bureaux (who have also been affected by the cuts) and of queues of people seeking much needed advice. Despite press reports of ‘self interest’ by family lawyers, the reality is most are concerned that those in need of help may no longer have somewhere to go for advice. Turning away people in need goes against the grain. The launch of the Resolution scheme ‘Family Matters’ provides another option.
In July 2012 the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) launched an innovation fund to provide funding to organisations looking to offer advice and information to separated parents in new ways. The purpose was to fund pilot schemes to support parental collaboration and encourage independent agreements without the need for statutory intervention or court proceedings. The overall aim was to reduce costs on the state and to minimise conflict for the benefit of the family and any children.
Resolution has always been active in dispute resolution and developments within family law and as such was ideally suited to develop a pilot scheme to support separated parents. Because of their expertise in this area, and the creativity of their approach, their bid to run the service Family Matters was successful and Resolution was awarded £650,000 to offer the scheme, which would be hosted within three law firms based in Newcastle, Oxford and Crewe. The service is provided free of charge to those whoare eligible.
Conflict and conciliation
Resolution has long advocated that parental collaboration is the key to reducing
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