The Family Procedure Rules (FPR) 2010 set out the overriding objective (rule 1.1 (1)): the court must deal with cases ‘justly, having regard to any welfare issues involved’. This includes the requirement for courts to take reasonable steps to ensure the effective participation of vulnerable witnesses.


I also work as an intermediary in the family courts. I work with both adults and children who are parties in the family court. I take instruction from solicitors and will meet the client to carry out an assessment of their communication. I will then produce a report for the court detailing any participation instructions and advice on communication.




One study profiling the lives of 30 birth mothers who had had children removed found that many of the mothers had ‘major issues’ around their capacity to exercise choice, long-standing mental health issues and learning disability (Broadhurst 2012). In another study it was reported that that 12.5% of parents involved in care proceedings had learning difficulties (Masson et al 2008) and, in another, it was found that, in one local authority, one- ©2019 – The Advocate’s Gateway 9 sixth of care proceedings involved at least one parent with learning disabilities (Booth and Booth 2004).

There is evidence which indicates that parents with learning disabilities are often unsupported in their involvement with child protection agencies or courts (Swift et al 2013)