COVID-19

Communicourt Update – Covid-19

Last reviewed 19th June 2020

  • We are reviewing our practices regularly and consulting with practitioners and stakeholders to provide the most effective and appropriate service.
  • We are meeting regularly (at least weekly) with key individuals at HMCTS to review and update the intermediary service we are providing in the courts at this difficult time.
  • We have written our reflections, findings and guidance on communicating effectively – Articles are available in the News section of our website.

Assessments

  • Following a successful pilot study of remote assessments, we are now able to offer remote assessments more widely to those solicitors who have funding in place and have requested a remote assessment.
  • Access to technology and a distraction free environment are key to the success or otherwise of a remote assessment. We realise that some solicitors may be able to facilitate an effective environment at their offices.
  • We have now contacted all solicitors who have funding in place and are able to offer appointments for face to face assessments. If you do not think you have heard from us, and you have funding in place for assessment, please get in touch to arrange an assessment for your client.
  • We have a backlog of around 200 assessments to complete due to the Covid-19 crisis and therefore we appreciate your understanding and patience whilst we address this workload safely.
  • We are currently offering assessments in the next few weeks and have slots available. We envisage that as more solicitors offices and courts open, our waiting times will increase dramatically as we tackle our backlog. If you need an urgent assessment, and you have a venue available, please get in touch urgently to arrange an appointment.
  • We continue to process assessment referrals and provide documentation for obtaining funding. You can make a referral through our portal at https://communicourt.odooplus.uk/

Hearings and Trials (Remote)

  • We have trained our staff how best to support vulnerable people remotely.
  • We have written guidance about things such as discussions to have at a Ground Rules Hearing. We are discussing and reflecting on our practice, and constantly developing our skills as a team of intermediaries.
  • We believe that every hearing should start with a Ground Rules Hearing, but this is even more important when the hearing is remote or hybrid. Access to technology and the effectiveness of its use will vary greatly from hearing to hearing, and from person to person, according to their communication needs.  It is therefore imperative that the rules and guidance around effective communication with that person are discussed at the start of each hearing.
  • Being able to assist communication in hearings held remotely requires intermediary skills above and beyond those ordinarily required and we are developing our training accordingly.

Hearings and Trials (Face to Face)

  • Where the only fair option is to conduct a face to face or hybrid hearing, Communicourt will provide intermediaries to work with vulnerable people face to face – providing that the court can guarantee that social distancing practices will be followed.
  • This presents its own challenges because much of the role of an intermediary needs to be done in ‘close quarters’ with the vulnerable person: whispering in live court proceedings, sharing and pointing to visual aids, supporting counsel in small and unventilated conference rooms etc.
  • Communicourt has 40 intermediaries working across England and Wales, who travel long distances to work with vulnerable people, usually on public transport. When an intermediary is required to attend a face to face hearing, wherever possible we will assign the work to the closest intermediary. This may be a different professional to the intermediary the vulnerable person has met or worked with in the past.
  • If a court books an intermediary for a face to face hearing, they should consider the social distancing practices required by the intermediary,  and discuss these with the intermediary at a GRH before any work is undertaken.

Commitment to staff

  • We are implementing ways of supporting our staff’s wellbeing and professional skills during this period and are keeping them regularly updated as the situation unfolds.
  • Our staff have always had access to an independent counselling service and this is still available to them throughout this period.
  • We are regularly updating our staff through remote meetings on the key decisions the organisation is making

Support team

  • Our head office is now open and the support team are mostly working from our offices. They will be able to answer any queries you may have and can be reached, as usual, on 0121 663 0931 or on admin@communicourt.co.uk
  • Queries may take longer due to the complex nature of the current situation, and we thank you for your patience during this difficult time.