Warwickshire County Council’s Young People Legal Service team (YPLS) has won the Law Society’s 2019 Excellence In-house award. The team was selected for the award for its outstanding contribution to society in the service that it provides.
Among the initiatives that impressed judges was the ‘Adolescent Project’. This is a collaboration with Coventry City Council, Cafcass and the local courts, that ensures that young people’s voices are heard throughout the judicial processes involved when seeking a care order and that the young person is able to engage directly with the judge. Young people have spoken positively about the project, highlighting how they feel included. It has helped address young people’s feelings that adult professionals were advocating for an outcome that they considered in the best interests of the young person without engaging with them.
Quality of evidence before a court is critical to the outcomes of the cases when a child is brought into care. Warwickshire’s YPLS has devised training programmes, tailored to improve the quality of evidence and the speed of the legal proceedings. The team has been able to slash the cost to the council of external legal fees by bringing almost all of the court advocacy back in house; some solicitors have covered hearings that lasted 5, 6 or 7 days.
YPLS has extended its work by taking on child protection cases for an increasing number of councils across the region, including representing them at court. This has helped these local authorities to meet their own statutory obligations in relation to child protection and has allowed them to respond quickly to pressures in workloads. This work has also generated income for the council of around £410,000 in the last twelve months with a slightly greater figure anticipated for the next year.
Cllr Kam Kaur, portfolio holder for Customer and Transformation, said:
“This award is richly deserved. Among all the outstanding work that the team does, the Adolescent Project allows everyone involved in the process of protecting children to provide the best service to some of the most vulnerable young people in our communities.
“As well as creating income which increases the resilience of the team, it also allows other local authorities to save money on external law firms while ensuring they can still react quickly when they need to. In short, public bodies can offer a more resilient service at a reduced cost. It is a win all round.”
More information about legal services in Warwickshire is available on the Warwickshire Web: https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/wls