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Care Proceedings and Problems with Social Services

At Banner Jones we work on Care Proceedings brought by Social Services in Chesterfield, Mansfield and Sheffield.

We are here to help you with Care Proceedings advice at this challenging time

Legal Aid Available

If you receive a PLO Letter (Letter Before Proceedings) in relation to your child or a child for whom you have parental responsibility you are eligible for Legal Aid to pay for the full the cost of a solicitor advising you before a meeting and also to attend the meeting with you.

This form of Legal Aid is available regardless of your financial means and you will not have to contribute anything towards the cost.

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If you’ve been contacted by Social Services because they have concerns about your child, it is essential that you seek advice straight away.

Unfortunately, some parents or guardians may be investigated by social services if there are concerns about how they are looking after their children.

If you’ve been contacted by Social Services, you may be worried and upset. You may want to know what your rights are and what you should do next.

It is vitally important to seek urgent advice from specialist family lawyers who have experience, even if you believe you can handle the situation. Circumstances can change quickly, and the local authorities and social services can apply to the court to overrule you as a carer for your child. Do not take the risk, our specialist team would be able to represent you at short notice and support you through this process.

Our expert Solicitors based at offices in Chesterfield, Sheffield, and Mansfield deal with care proceedings and investigations brought by social services across Derbyshire, South Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire

Frequently asked questions

What does Parental Responsibility mean?

Parental Responsibility is the law’s way of defining the responsibility and rights that parents have to their child. Both married mums and dads have Parental Responsibility. Effectively, parental responsibility provides the holder the right to be involved in the day-to-day management of the child’s life, including education and welfare.

 It doesn't mean you have a right to spend time with your children (if you don't live with them), but the other parent must include you when making important decisions about their lives.

What are care proceedings?

Care proceedings are court proceedings initiated by the local authority's children's services department in which an application for a care order or supervision order in relation to a child is made.

The Social Services may tell you that they are going to start care proceedings. If they don’t, you will find out when you receive a notice from the court telling you when your first care proceeding is and where it will be held.

How do care proceedings work?

Generally, we represent parents in care proceedings but sometimes we represent grandparents or foster parents. Our approach is to focus on the welfare of the child and to help you understand how the courts make decisions in these types of cases.

Even if you believe you can handle the situation, we cannot stress how important it is to seek advice from specialist family lawyers. Circumstances can change quickly and the local authorities and Social Services can apply to the court to overrule you as a carer for your child. This would only happen on the grounds that they believe the child is at risk of harm in their current home; however, the family courts do not take risks and may give power to the local authority even if it is a provisional basis.

What is a PLO meeting?

If the Local Authority are considering taking you to court due to concerns for your child the Social Worker should consider sending a letter to you to explain why Social Services are worried to discuss how you can avoid court proceedings. This is also known as a "pre-proceedings" meeting.

What happens at a PLO meeting?

This meeting considers what needs to be done to protect the child from harm, and how an agreement can be reached to ensure this. The aim is to try and fix any problems without needing to go to Court.

What happens after a PLO Meeting?

If the local authority are satisfied at the meeting that you can work with them and enact positive changes for your children then you will stay in the PLO process until the final review meeting. The PLO process is complete when you have made the changes expected of you.

The alternative outcome is that the local authority will issue court proceedings. This will happen if you have been either unwilling or unable to make the changes required for your child(ren)’s safety.

How long does a PLO meeting last?

A PLO meeting will usually last 1-2 hours. Some meetings may take longer if there are many parties involved, or if there are complex issues that need to be addressed. 

Who attends a PLO meeting?

A PLO meeting will include the parents or a person with parental responsibility, social workers and a solicitor. 

What is a Child Protection conference?

It is a formal meeting held by social services and includes other relevant professionals to assess and manage concerns about the safety and welfare of a child.

Can the parent or guardian of the child attend a Child Protection Conference?

Usually the child’s parents or caregivers will be invited to the meeting. However, in cases where this may affect the child’s safety or prevent an open discussion, they may not be invited.

What happens at a Child Protection Conference?

The main purpose of the conference is to conduct a thorough assessment of the child's welfare and determine whether the child is at risk of significant harm. It also aims to develop a Child Protection Plan if necessary, outlining actions to safeguard the child's well-being.

What is a Child Protection Plan?

This is a plan developed during the Child Protection Conference which outlines actions by the parent/caregiver and other professionals to safeguard the child’s wellbeing.

What happens after the Child Protection Conference?

After the Child Protection Conference, a core group will be set up which will include the social worker, parent/caregiver and 1 or 2 other professionals. They will meet usually every 4-6 weeks to see whether the plan is being adhered to. The Child Protection Conference usually reconvenes around 6 months after the first one.

Can the parent or caregiver get legal support for a Child Protection Conference?

Legal Aid funding is not available for Child Protection Conference and a legal representative is not allowed to speak at the conference. They would be there to support the parent/caregiver if they want it.

Is Legal Aid funding available for a Child Protection Conference?

At this stage, Legal Aid funding is not available. “Legal Help” is provided by the Legal Aid Agency in some circumstances, subject to a means test. We are happy to have an initial discussion with you free of charge to discuss how we may able to help.

Expert Care Proceedings Solicitors

Several of our care solicitors are on the Law Society's Children Panel. Only solicitors who meet the Law Society’s exacting accreditation requirements are permitted to join the Children Panel and represent children in public law care proceedings.

Our experts in public law care proceedings can provide you with support and guidance throughout the care proceeding's process. We are specialists in cases involving non-accidental injury and child neglect. 

Legal 500 - Recommend Lawyer 2024

Legal 500 - Recommended Lawyer 2024Our Care team have been included in the prestigious Legal 500 for many years with Vince Beckworth and Jason Burnett named “Recommended Lawyers” for their continued commitment to providing high quality, customer- focused legal services to clients.


“Vince Beckworth leads the busy care proceedings team where he is highly regarded for his representation of parents, family members and interveners in children’s care proceedings”

“Vince Beckworth, is exceptional in his commitment to his clients and to ensuring that they have the best advice and support available.”

“Jason Burnett is approachable and very client-focused”

“Jason Burnett who is a very safe pair of hands”

 

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