Before a Local Authority (Social Services) can consider intervening with family life and applying to the court in respect of children, it must go through a process known as the Public Law Outline process (PLO) . Care proceedings, as they are often referred to, are court proceedings when the Local Authority is significantly concerned about the care children are receiving to the extent that they are suffering or at risk of suffering significant harm.
The pre-proceedings process aims to divert cases from care proceedings, to ensure applications are better prepared and issues narrowed so that care proceedings can be completed more efficiently. Where a Local Authority has decided to bring care proceedings, the process requires it to send the parents a ‘letter before proceedings’, inviting them to a meeting known as a PLO meeting to discuss its concerns. The letter entitles parents and other adults with Parental Responsibility to legal aid automatically so they can attend the meeting with a lawyer.
Given the gravity of the situation and the risk that the local authority will be considering an application that might be to remove children from the parents’ care, legal advice to the parents is essential at this point. In accordance with the Children and Families Act 2014 that requires care proceedings at court to be concluded in a maximum of 26 weeks, it is vital as a parent that you seek advice from a specialist solicitor who is a member of the Children Panel. Seeking help early is often critical so that you can understand the options available and how best to proceed.
Our family law team have a wealth of experience in dealing with cases involving Local Authority intervention. We continue to offer Legal Aid and represent parents at pre-proceedings, Public Law Outline process meetings and in any court proceedings issued following this process. We recognise how stressful and daunting it can be if children’s services become involved with your family and it’s important to seek advice as early as possible. For cases when legal aid is not automatically available we can also look at how we can help, satisfying the new legal aid criteria for Private Law family matters and issues involving child protection. We represent parents, children ,their Guardians and have experience of representing the Local Authority in court.
Our family law team advises families across the South West on the best solutions for them. If you would like to get in touch with the team about divorce or any other issue you can telephone 0345 450 5558 or email firstname.lastname@example.org