Getting it right in time: parents who lack litigation capacity in public law

This exploratory study will provide the basis for the first research into the issue of parents who lack litigation capacity in child care proceedings. Most parents who lack litigation capacity have learning disability or mental health problems, and robust processes are needed to support them. This research will follow the care proceedings process from identification of a lack of litigation capacity/ referral to the Official Solicitor, through to pre-proceedings and care proceedings.

It aims to explore the feasibility of carrying out an in-depth study that would look at the way courts and key professionals manage conflicting pressures in cases where parents lack capacity in care proceedings, and identify how these parents can be best supported through care proceedings while meeting other priorities, such as those relating to child welfare. This feasibility study will involve:

  • A literature review
  • A review of 20 case files
  • Interviews with case workers within the Office of the Official Solicitor, judges, parent advocates, local authority legal advisers and Cafcass guardians
  • Observations of 10 court hearings
Project details



Penelope Welbourne, School of Health Professions, Plymouth University

Philip Bates, School of Law, Plymouth University

Grant amount and duration


March 2015 - August 2016