Care proceedings and families from Eastern Europe
Families from Eastern Europe often arrive in the UK with little or no understanding of the way our society operates.
There is significant poverty in many of the countries in Eastern Europe including the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Slovenia, Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria and Romania. The poverty levels are particularly prevalent amongst the Roma community.
Those families with children arriving in the UK are presented with a bewildering array of infrastructure. This is exacerbated by language difficulties. Indeed with some Roma families Roma is their first language and not the language of their country of birth. The Roma language also differs between regions in Eastern Europe and consequently great care needs to be taken in order to identify the correct dialect.
All these issues present great difficulties for the care lawyer acting for such families in proceedings.
It is important to remember fundamental principles. These are best identified by Lord Templeman in re KD (a minor) (1998) AC 806 2 FLR 139:
“The best person to bring up a child is the natural parents. It matters not whether the parent is wise or foolish, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, provided the child’s moral and physical health are not endangered. Public Authorities cannot improve on nature”.
Consequently it is the care lawyers’ duty to point out this principle, amongst others, at the early stages of any Local Authority involvement with families from Eastern Europe.
Practical issues such as obtaining the requisite interpreter are fraught with difficulties. It is important to spend some time focusing upon language requirements in order that an appropriate interpreter can be obtained.
We are all too aware of the strictures of Legal Aid prescribed rates. Should an interpreter need to travel or be so niche that prescribed rates are inappropriate then an application to the Legal Aid Agency in order to show exceptionality should be made at the outset in order that prior authority can be obtained.
It is important to identify a tranche of interpreting requirements in order that prior authority can be obtained for a block of work rather than a single incident which may well fall outside the prior authority parameters.
Recent Case Law does raise the spectre of jurisdictional issues and each case will be dealt with on its own facts and merits.
These are extremely complex cases and care lawyers do accept that historic geographical restraints with regard to acting in care proceedings will not be as important in the future.
Bhatia Best Solicitors
18th February 2014