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

Researchers: Penelope Welbourne | Philip Bates

Project overview

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 to 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.

Latest on this project


  • Penelope Welbourne
    Plymouth University
  • Philip Bates
    Plymouth University

  • Imogen Parker
    Nuffield Foundation
  • Director, Justice
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

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