Advocate required for vulnerable mother – 2020vol2#24

There were significant delays in securing an advocate for a vulnerable mother where an interim care order was being extended in a provincial town. A social worker who was not allocated to the case stood in for the purposes of extending the interim care order and was not in a position to answer questions about the case.

The solicitor for the mother inquired about urinalysis in respect of the mother. The solicitor for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) said the social worker was only standing in and could not answer the question.

The solicitor for the mother said: “I am not in a position to put questions to the social worker. There are issues with the provision of an advocate and urinalysis and I require sight of the report on what is required.”

The solicitor for the CFA said: “I can follow up with the social worker and the mother is entitled to see the report. I spoke to the social worker and it was her position that she made an application to the national advocacy service and that is [being] considered. The social worker has outlined that the access support worker is in a position to act as an advocate to assist the mother.”

The solicitor for the mother said: “We agreed for the access worker to facilitate one access so she [the mother] would have a supportive element.” The mother had been due to have access outside but cancelled it due to bad weather. The solicitor for the mother said the mother had discussed that with the social worker but the cancellation was now being held against her. She said the mother had cooperated with the CFA and required someone to be present and in a position to protect her.

The judge asked: “When was the application [for the advocate] made?”

The solicitor for the CFA said: “I do not know.”

The judge asked: “Can we appoint one [an advocate]?”

The solicitor for the CFA said: “There is a positive relationship between the mother and the access support worker. The access support worker will support the mother [at the] appointment with the psychologist. The access support worker is available now.”

The solicitor for the GAL said: “This has been going on a long time.  There is a comprehension deficit on [the part] of the mother.”

The judge asked the solicitor for the CFA to inquire about the delay in the mother’s application for an advocate.

Later in the morning the CFA solicitor said he spoke to the social worker and it was suggested that an advocate would provide advocacy services for the mother for four hours over the next two months. The social worker would follow up with the national advocacy service regarding the delay in the mother’s application.

The interim care order was extended for a period of 28 days.