Are social services involved in your family circumstances?
- AuthorKate Machon
Having social workers involved in family matters can be confusing and distressing so it’s important to get expert legal advice from the get-go. Our experienced solicitors will be able to guide you through the process and ensure you have the best possible chance of a positive outcome.
Here’s a guide to some of the terminology you may come across.
What is a PLO?
If social services believe that your child is suffering - or likely to suffer - significant harm then they may decide to start care proceedings. However, unless the degree of risk requires the court to get involved immediately, care proceedings will only begin after all efforts to keep your child within the family have been considered.
If these efforts fail, each parent is invited to a PLO (Public Law Outline) meeting; this is a final attempt to avoid going to court and involves a Local Authority and parents meeting to discuss what must be done to prevent the case going to court.
If you receive a letter inviting you to a PLO meeting, get in touch with us immediately – we can attend the meeting with you. Legal advice in this instance is funded by the Legal Aid Agency.
What are care proceedings?
If social services believe a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm, they can apply for a ‘care order’ which means the local council will have parental responsibility for a child and can make overriding decisions in the interests of a child’s welfare.
Care proceedings not only include applications for interim care orders but also for interim supervision orders. Interim supervision orders place a duty on the Local Authority to advise, befriend and assist a child throughout care proceedings.
Care proceedings do not always mean that a child will be removed from the care of their parents but in some cases a child can be taken into Local Authority care on a temporary basis.
It can take up to six months for a court to decide what should happen in the longer term, and in some cases longer than this; during this time a social worker and an officer from CAFCASS will assess the case and make recommendations around what can be done to keep a child safe. Parents usually undergo a Parenting Assessment carried out by the Social Worker to determine whether or not they can properly and safely parent their child(ren). The process is overseen by the family courts.
If, at the conclusion of the proceedings, the Local Authority believe a child should be adopted, they can apply for a ‘placement order’ to place a child with suitable adopters.
What is CAFCASS?
The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service looks after the interests of children who are involved in family proceedings. CAFCASS is independent of social services and the courts, operating under the rules of the Family Court and family legislation to advise courts on what they consider to be in the best interests of a child/children.
Help with legal costs
If you can't afford legal advice or representation, you might be able to get help including:
- legal aid for a serious problem
- help paying court fees – find out more at https://www.gov.uk/get-help-with-court-fees
How Wilkinson Woodward Solicitors can help you with care proceedings
We provide advice and representation to parents, grandparents, other relatives and carers of children when social services are investigating and when care proceedings are issued. We can help with all aspects including:
- Care orders
- Supervision orders
- Placement orders and adoption proceedings
- Emergency Protection Orders and Police Protection Orders
- Special Guardianship Orders
- Public Law Outline (PLO) meetings
- Child Protection Conferences
- Contact with children in care
- Applications to discharge care orders or placement orders
In most cases legal aid is available for parents; we can also provide a free legal aid assessment for other family members.For more information or to discuss your case, contact our Children and Care Proceedings solicitors in Brighouse, Halifax or Huddersfield.