Concept for The Public Law Outline process - what is it?

In this article, I am going to shed some light on the Public Law Outline process and what it really means.

What is a Public Law Outline Meeting?

The term ‘PLO’ stands for ‘Public Law Outline’ but is also sometimes referred to as a ‘Pre-Proceedings Meeting’. Essentially a PLO meeting is arranged by the Local Authority for them to discuss their concerns about the welfare of a child with the parents and their legal representatives. If the Local Authority believe a child may be harmed or at risk of harm, they have a duty to take action to protect them.

The Local Authority would be expected to send a letter to the parent/s setting out in detail their concerns, which I will cover in a later article.

There are 4 main stages to Local Authority involvement (from least serious to most serious):

  1. Child in Need
  2. Child Protection
  3. Public Law Outline Process (PLO)
  4. Care proceedings

What will happen at the first Public Law Outline Meeting?

One of the main discussion points at the first PLO meeting is to discuss the steps that the Local Authority have taken, and whether or not they should apply to the court for a care order (to confirm with whom the child should live) or if they feel that they can work with you further. In effect, there are 2 possible outcomes of the first PLO meeting:

  1. A Written Agreement will be made that is agreeable to both parents and the Local Authority. It is expected by the Local Authority that the parents will follow this Written Agreement and if it is not followed, it is possible the Local Authority will instigate care proceedings. The agreement will include actions that need to be undertaken by the parents in order to avoid care proceedings, but also points that the Local Authority will need to follow. You should receive advice from a solicitor on a written agreement before signing it.
  2. The Local Authority consider it is necessary to instigate care proceedings due to the level of concern they have for the children.
    If the Local Authority decide to draft a Written Agreement detailing the actions they would like the parents to undertake at the first PLO Meeting, they will schedule a Review PLO Meeting which is usually held approximately 6 weeks after the first meeting.

What will happen at a Review Public Law Outline Meeting?

The purpose of a Review PLO Meeting is for the local authority to confirm any further updates, and for the parties to discuss any improvements and/or progress that has been made. Essentially, there are 3 possible outcomes of the Review PLO Meeting:

  1. The Local Authority are content that their concerns have been addressed and improved to a point that they are satisfied the PLO process is no longer necessary and can move back down to the ‘Child Protection level’. This removes the risk of immediate court applications being made unless something serious happens.
  2. It will be determined whether the Written Agreement should be continued or amended in light of any updates since the first PLO Meeting, and a further Review PLO Meeting will be listed.
  3. The Local Authority do not consider the situation has improved enough over the PLO process and will therefore look to take the matter to court for care proceedings to remove the children from the parents.

Who will attend a PLO Meeting?

Since the coronavirus pandemic, many PLO meetings now take place remotely via Microsoft TEAMS, and attended meetings seem to be less common.

Generally, the social worker will attend the meeting and be accompanied by their team manager. The parents and their legal representatives will also attend the meeting to hear the Local Authority’s concerns.


The recipient of the PLO letter from the Local Authority will be eligible for non-means non-merits tested legal aid, meaning you would not be required to pay your legal fees yourself as the legal aid is automatic in PLO cases.

It is vital that once you receive a ‘PLO Letter’ from social services, you obtain advice from a solicitor immediately who will be able to represent you throughout this process.

If you would like help and support with the PLO process or have any other questions with regards to family law, please contact our Family team email: