Updated 3 April 2020 at 2pm
There’s been a flurry of new guidance in response to the pandemic. We’ve gathered some useful links (with key definitions) to help families, advice workers and professionals find and use practical information more easily.
More guidance is being issued by the day if not the hour. We aim to update, where possible, but updates are being issued all the time.
THE MAIN ORIENTATION PAGES
The judicial office orientation page is here: Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice and guidance.
See also the main gov.uk orientation page: Coronavirus: What you need to do.
REMOTE (AND COURT BASED) HEARINGS
Courts generally (England and Wales)
Contingency planning – Courts and Tribunals, 27 March 2020, Lord Chief Justice:
- Signposts to a new joint MOJ & HMCTS press release (below) confirming that (certain) essential courts will remain open (from Monday 30th March 2020) for in person hearings since not everything can be dealt with remotely and we need to maintain functioning courts. These temporary adjustments to how we use the court estate will help ensure that we can continue to deal with work appropriately in all jurisdictions whilst safeguarding the well-being of all those who work in and visit the courts
MOJ & HMCTS Press Release, 27 March 2020:
- The MOJ/HMCTS announced that as of Monday 30 March 2020, courts will be divided into those suspended; those not open for hearings but staffed to enable remote hearings etc; and those that are open for essential hearings that can’t be heard remotely, in order to ensure the justice system continues to operate effectively. Urgent or essential hearings that must be held in person, as decided by a judge, can be heard in these priority buildings
- The press release links to a list of what courts fall into what category (the tracker)
- It also references and links to the Lord Chief Justice’s 19 March 2020 civil and family courts guidance (below) that continues to make clear that the default position is remote hearings wherever possible.
Guidance on how HMCTS will use telephone and video technology during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, HMCTS, updated 27 March 2020:
- Up to date guidance on arrangements from Monday 30th March 2020 including on:
- how the decision as to whether to use telephone or video hearings should be taken;
- platforms of choice;
- key information for court users such as how to join a remote hearing (and a link to a new more detailed HMCTS Guide on Joining Court Hearings by Video Call or Phone); what to do if you can’t use access remotely for any reason; what to expect from the court by way of being in touch; a link to search for the appropriate court
- the new Coronavirus Act court measures in summary;
- new open justice and media access arrangements
- To be read with the remote hearings protocol for civil courts including family (below) and the new HMCTS Guide to Joining Court Hearings by Video Call or Phone and the Find the Right Court or Tribunal Guide
HMCTS Guide on Joining Court Hearings by Video Call or Phone, HMCTS, 27 March 2020
Find the right court or tribunal, HMCTS, 27 March 2020
- Short updating guidance saying that since the spread of COVID-19 has continued to accelerate, and the clear message from Government is to take all precautions to avoid unnecessary contact, hearings in the civil and family courts requiring the physical presence of parties and their representatives and others should only take place IF a remote hearing is not possible AND suitable arrangements can be made to ensure safety
- (It otherwise relates largely to criminal law eg. jury trials are now on hold until safe arrangements have been established)
Civil (including family) courts
CIVIL JUSTICE IN ENGLAND and WALES PROTOCOL REGARDING REMOTE HEARINGS, 22 March 2020: The Master of the Rolls; The President of the Queen’s Bench Division; The Chancellor of the High Court; The Senior Presiding Judge:
- This remains the most updated general civil guidance on how to conduct remote hearings for all types of hearings in all civil courts including family.
- The original general guidance from the LCJ that said that as of 19 March 2020, the default position for all the civil courts (including the family courts and the Court of Protection) was remote hearings where possible, with sensible precautions if attending a court based hearing.
The Family Court specifically
The Remote Access Family Court (Verison 3), 3 April 2020, Mr Justice MacDonald:
- Lots of new information and guidance in accessible format. (Updates old versions with what is new in red so earlier versions need not be cross-referenced; indexed and paginated; links to most if not all key guidance operating in the family courts during the pandemic). Updates include:
- Detailed IT operational progress update;
- Reminder that whilst the (updated) Remote Courts Protocol (below and also annexed to this guidance) still sets out a national procedure for remote hearings, until the MOJ introduces the intended centralised remote access system (the ‘Cloud Video Platform’ or CVP) it’s still not possible to agree a single software platform of choice for all remote hearings.
- Practical steps for litigants in person & work underway (5.19.3).
- New guidance on ‘solemnity and fairness’ plus accompanying new updates flagged in the Protocol for Remote Hearings (para 30) that is annexed
- What’s outstanding, what’s in progress, suggested priorities
- Continues to recommend this ‘how to‘ guide on video hearings
- Continues to re-iterate that court based hearings should be confined to exceptional circumstances where remote hearings are not possible and the matter is urgent and should only be held if suitable, safe arrangements can be made
- Reaffirmed the default position as remote hearings (email, phone, video, skpe etc). With court based hearings only if required in the interests of fairness and justice, and safe to do so.
- Sets out arrangements. (The available technology; who takes the lead in setting up remote hearings; what types of hearing will be suitable for remote hearings (subject to the above) etc).
- Provides a specimen directions order for remote hearing at Annex A.
- Sets out Mostyn J’s Guidance on arrangements for the Financial Remedies Court, 17 March 2010, at Annex B.
Family courts: making C100 applications, HMCTS 3 April 2020:
- Guidance on how to make child arrangments order applications during tbe pandemic
Applications to adjourn civil and family hearings because of coronavirus (COVID-19), HMCTS, 20 March 2020:
- In certain situations fees may be set aside (waived) for applications to adjourn civil and family hearings.
Message from the President of the Family Division: how to submit an appeal during the COVID-19 crisis, the President, 31March 2020
Coronavirus Crisis: Guidance on Compliance with Family Court Child Arrangement Orders, 24 March 2020, the President
The Court of Protection
Guidance on remote access to the Court of Protection, Hayden J, 31 March 2020:
- New detailed guidance replacing former guidance, and including a protocol and specimen order for remote hearings (which remain the default to further notice).
Visits to P by Judges and Legal Advisors, Hayden J, Vice President, 13 March 2020: https://www.mentalcapacitylawandpolicy.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/CoP_HaydenJ_13032020.pdf
More on the technology
TELEPHONE APPLICATIONS: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE, 19 March, Civil Litigation Brief: . This is a detailed practical and procedural guide to telephone hearings with links to court forms, and with family lawyers in mind.
Open Justice & access to remote hearings in the family courts for reporters (accredited journalists and legal bloggers), and the public in the CoP
Guidance on remote access to the Court of Protection, Hayden J, 31 March 2020: https://www.mentalcapacitylawandpolicy.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Remote-Hearings-COP-31-March-2020.pdf
- Paragraphs 54-64 provided detailed guidance on ‘transparency’ issues.
Guidance on how HMCTS will use telephone and video technology during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, HMCTS, updated 27 March 2020 – See specific sections on open justice and media access
Covid-19, the UK’s Coronavirus Bill and emergency ‘remote’ court hearings: what does it mean for open justice?, 24 March 2020 – blog post at the Transparency Project site by Judith Townend
CIVIL JUSTICE IN ENGLAND and WALES PROTOCOL REGARDING REMOTE HEARINGS, 22 March 2020: The Master of the Rolls; The President of the Queen’s Bench Division; The Chancellor of the High Court; The Senior Presiding Judge
- See paras 6-9 and 21 and 22 in particular for how civil courts including family courts should manage open justice principles in light of the pandemic
The Corona Virus Act 2020 (in force from 25th March 2020)
Briefing: Coronavirus Bill, Courts and the Rule of Law, 18 March 2020, Natalie Byrom, The Legal Education Foundation:
- Implications of the Bill for the rule of law and Access to Justice and proposals for safeguards to open justice.
Coronavirus (COVID-19): safeguarding in schools, colleges and other providers, DfE, 27 March 2020:
- More detailed child protection arrangements for schools
SCHOOL PLACES FOR ‘VULNERABLE’ CHILDREN & CHILDREN OF ‘KEY WORKERS’
The original 19 March guidance below should now be read in light of this updating guidance on who is a ‘vulnerable’* child or young person for an educational place. Essentially:
- children or young people with an allocated social worker;
- looked after children;
- those up to 25 on EHCP’s subject to a risk assessment of their need for a school place by the educator (in conjunction with parents and the local authority)
- any other child the local authority considers sufficiently on the edge of social work support so as to warrant one
- The government has asked parents to keep their children at home, wherever possible, and asked schools to remain open only for those children who absolutely need to attend.
- School places are still available for:
- Children who are vulnerable;*(see above) and
- Children whose parents are critical to the Covid-19 response and cannot be safely cared for at home
- Vulnerable was originally defined here as including:
- Children who are supported by social care; and
- Children with safeguarding and welfare needs, including child in need plans, on child protection plans, ‘looked after’ children, young carers, disabled children and those with education, health and care (EHC) plans. [The definition has now been tightened up in new guidance (above) dated 22 March 2020].
- Cannot be safely cared for at home is not defined and is left to the discretion of those key workers and their schools since it will plainly vary based on the circumstances of households. Various professional bodies have attempted to clarify eg. the Family Law Bar Association
- The guidance also asks schools to help other children facing social difficulties. [That isn’t defined either but left to the discretion of the parents and schools. Those eligible for free school meals are provided for under new guidance on free school meals (see below)].
- Key workers (whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response), who are entitled to school places for their children if they can’t safely care for them are defined to include:
- Those who work in health and social care, including but not limited to doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributers of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment. And
- Other [listed] key sectors including those essential to the running of the justice system
- Those essential to the running of the justice system are not defined in any published guidance we’ve seen as yet. But a message from the Lord Chancellor late on Friday 20 March relayed apparent MOJ confirmation that this includes advocates required to appear before a court or tribunal including prosecutors; other professionals required to support the administration of justice including solicitors and paralegals; as well as members of the public acting as jurors and witnesses.
Closure of Educational Settings: Information for parents and carers about the closure of schools and other educational settings following the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), 19th March 2020: – Lots of practical information including what to do if your school is shut or you don’t feel it’s safe for your child to go in etc.
FREE SCHOOL MEALS
- Children eligible for free school meals will be offered meals or vouchers as an alternative if they can no longer attend school due to coronavirus measures:
CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES / ON EDUCATION HEALTH AND CARE PLANS
See also Care in a time of Coronavirus: Using direct payments to pay family members for care, 23 March 2020: Steve Broach at Special Needs Jungle on ideas fo coping creatively
And Coronavirus: Information for families with disabled children, Contact: For Families of Disabled Children:
- Includes advice on the virus and on children with health needs, education, welfare benefits and money, the new Coronavirus Act 2020 in force from 25th March, and coping at home
CHILD ARRANGEMENTS ORDERS / SHARED CARE
Family courts: making C100 applications, HMCTS, 3 April 2020:
- Guidance on how to make child arrangments order applications during tbe pandemic
Full guidance on staying at home and away from others, Cabinet Office, 23 March 2020:
- The new ‘stay at home’ guidance of 24 March 2020 and exemption where parents do not live in the same household, and need to move children under 18 between their parents’ homes
Coronavirus Crisis: Guidance on Compliance with Family Court Child Arrangement Orders, 24 March 2020, the President
New Service: Co-parenting through the coronavirus crisis, 17 March 2020, National Family Mediation:
- NFM are offering an online video consultation with an expert family mediator to help those struggling to communicate during the coronavirus crisis forge new or changed plans to get through the next few months.
Relate: Talk To Someone service:
- Relate are also offering enhanced online services aimed at helping people cope in their relationships through the coronavirus crisis here
Coronavirus and child contact arrangements guidance, Rights of Women
Child arrangements and shared care during the corona outbreak, 24 March 2020, Lucy Reed (Chair of Transparency Project) at Pink Tape:
- Explains the new stay at home guidance and exemption. Links to earlier posts with practical ideas for managing contact and shared care arrangements in light of the new measures
Corona Virus and separated parents – what to do? Lucy Reed (Chair of the Transparency Project) at Pink Tape:
- Blog post offering ideas and strategies for parents wondering what to do about their contact and ‘live with’ arrangements in light of the virus.
- Includes a link to Co-parenting and child arrangements in a global pandemic – advice for families
Staying safe during COVID-19 -A guide for victims and survivors of domestic abuse, Safe Lives, with other links
- Temporary amendments to the operation of the Practice Guidance on Case Management and Mediation of International Child Abduction Proceedings
CONTACT WITH CHILDREN IN CARE
Advice for parents and families with a child in the care system: Ways you can support your child during the Coronavirus outbreak, Family Rights Group, 26 March 2020
Managing family contact during the coronavirus crisis, Nuffield Observatory, undated:
- The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory are supporting professionals to maintain children’s contact with family members during the crisis including through:
- bringing together children’s social care, legal professionals, members of the judiciary, digital experts, foster carers, kinship carers, families and others to explore ways to ensure that contact arrangements are safe and practical during this time;
- sharing innovative examples of how individuals and organisations are responding to this challenge from around the country
- a research review on contact
7 questions to ask when using digital technology to help maintain family contact, Nuffield FJO, 27 March 2020
Top tips for kinship carers to help children to maintain relationships during the coronavirus outbreak, Family Rights Group, 24 March 2020
THE ADOPTION SUPPORT FUND
Coronavirus Adoption Support Fund Guidance (FAQ’s), Coram
Staying Home Advice: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-advice/
- This is the government advice on when and how to self-isolate as an individual
Guidance for households with possible infection: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance
- This is the government advice on when and how households should self isolate
Guidance on social distancing and for vulnerable people: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-social-distancing-and-for-vulnerable-people
- This is the government advice on why and how to socially distance more generally and measures to otherwise protect older people and other vulnerable adults
LEGAL AID CHANGES
- Advice and guidance for legal aid providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak which the LAA say will be updated when new advice is available
Responding to Covid-19: The Ethical Framework, 19 March 2020
Coronavirus (COVID-19) action plan, Department of Health and Social Care 3 March 2020
Coronavirus Act Amendments to the Care Act now in force & Guidance on published adult social care duties, Kings Chambers, 31 March 2020):
Hospital Discharge Guidance, 19 March 2020
Social care provider resilience during COVID-19: guidance to commissioners: Shared guidance to local authority commissioners from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Care Provider Alliance (CPA)
Routine inspections suspended in response to coronavirus outbreak, Ofsted, 16 March 2020: https://www.cqc.org.uk/news/stories/routine-inspections-suspended-response-coronavirus-outbreak
Supporting adult social care through COVID-19, Care Quality Commission, 19 March 2020: https://medium.com/@CareQualityComm/supporting-adult-social-care-through-covid-19-bb6c10a9dcea
Closure of educational settings: information for parents and carers, 19 March 2020: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/closure-of-educational-settings-information-for-parents-and-carers/closure-of-educational-settings-information-for-parents-and-carers
Coronavirus support for employees, benefit claimants and businesses, updated 19 March 2020: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-support-for-employees-benefit-claimants-and-businesses
Regulating in light of novel coronavirus: Joint statement from chief executives of statutory regulators of health and care professionals: https://www.socialworkengland.org.uk/news/regulating-in-light-of-novel-coronavirus
Coronavirus (COVID-19): maintaining educational provision Guidance about maintaining educational provision for schools, childcare providers, colleges and local authorities in England 19 March 2020: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision
Coronavirus (COVID-19) and prisons, Guidance about visiting prisons during the coronavirus pandemic, 13 March, updated 18 March 2020: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-and-prisons
Coronavirus (COVID-19): victim and witness services Information on accessing victim and witness support services, 20 March 2020: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-victim-and-witness-services
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