Cases of child protection and domestic violence have spiked since the lockdown, meaning key workers in the legal sector need to go above and beyond to meet the demand, according to Redcar law firm, Cygnet Law.
The firm has seen a significant increase in child protection and domestic violence applications, some of which have been triggered by the stresses caused by the lockdown. There has also been an increase in enquiries relating to relationship breakdown.
When social interactions were restricted on 23 March, courts and solicitors had to respond quickly to ensure that cases could still be heard, and fundamental rights protected. New working practices have had to be implemented quickly to ensure services and access to justice could be provided whilst implementing the government’s guidance on lockdown.
This has meant solicitors, legal assistants and clerks in the region have been working long hours in order to prepare cases for court to ensure these cases take place in a timely manner.
New working practices has meant that hearings have had to be dealt with remotely courts with judges and the parties and their legal representatives having to engage with different technologies to guarantee that all parties are able to attend.
The ability to conduct hearings is essential, and although solicitors and judges are often able to work from home, many assistants and clerks and secretaries preparing the files need to do so from the office, due to the confidential nature of the files. Cygnet would like to acknowledge the work of the support staff both in solicitor’s practices and in the court buildings who have continued to work on the frontline in this epidemic.
Janet Ford, head of private family law at Cygnet Law, said: “Although it was a little quiet at first while people got used to what was happening, after a week or so, the workload started to increase.
“We raised concerns from day one about the domestic violence issues, and sadly, we’ve seen a steep rise in people needing protective orders for this very reason. There have also been many concerned parents, making sure any contact arrangements continue and couples who have found the strain of living together in lockdown too much.
“I think it’s important to acknowledge the back-office staff who are coming every day, working behind the scenes and making sure all these remote hearings run smoothly. “They’re essential key workers, and without them, many people would be severely disadvantaged. It’s such a tough job but they’re coping exceptionally well.”