News

Child Protection Plans and the Public Law Outline Process

Posted: 15 September 2020

I read article this weekend on BBC news about a parent who had her 10th child and was involved with Social Services. The first 9 children were removed from her care as she struggled to cope after a number of issues including a relationship that was abusive and arguments fuelled by excessive alcohol use. It made me think that there is little information available to parents about what they can do in the early days where solicitors are not involved but Social Services are.

The reality is that early intervention is important for families who may be finding parenting difficult. A child can be exposed to a number of problems including domestic abuse, drug misuse, alcohol misuse, and neglect. Neglect can be both physical and emotional. Sometimes parents find it difficult to understand the reason for Social Services involvement with their family and what they can do to stop children being removed from their care.

If Social Services are looking to commence a Child Protection Plan, early advice is extremely important. This is an opportunity to work with the Local Authority to demonstrate that changes can be made. Parents are well advised to do any reasonable work requested under a Child Protection Plan as this gives them the time to make changes in their circumstances to improve their children’s experiences. A Child Protection Plan starts when a child is likely to suffer significant harm in their parent’s care. Solicitors are not invited to a Child Protection Conference as they are not allowed to speak at these meetings. That does not mean a parent cannot speak to a solicitor about a Child Protection Plan but it is solely up to the parents to co-operate with Social Services as much as they can.

If matters do not improve, then Social Services can also start the Public Law Outline plan. This is a pre-proceedings meeting that means it is a parent or carer’s last chance to work with the Local Authority to show that things can change. A letter is usually sent outlining the issues and a meeting date, and a parent is asked to seek help from a Solicitor. Parents are again well advised to engage in the support offered from Social Services to their families if the work suggested is justified. A solicitor can help you decide whether the work is justified, and support you to raise concerns that you have about the work offered.

At Taylor Haldane Barlex LLP, we can help you with this. We offer free legal advice under the Legal Aid scheme for parents who are subject to the PLO process. It is important to speak with a solicitor as early as possible, and engage in that process to avoid further action being taken against you and your family.

If matters escalate or the plan is not working, Social Services think about taking parents to Court. A number of orders can be applied for in respect of children. We can advise you on the different types of Orders available, which include Emergency Protection Orders, Interim Care Orders and Care Orders, Interim Supervision Orders and Supervision Orders, Child Arrangements Orders and Special Guardianship Orders.

Free legal advice is available for all biological parents and persons with Parental Responsibility for a child, regardless of your financial circumstances. This means a solicitor can represent you for free throughout the proceedings. We can guide you through the legal process, and advise you on what you can do to avoid children being removed from your care permanently.

Just like in the story on BBC News, engaging in the process early and completing recommended work means you can avoid a situation where your child is not raised in your care.

If are not sure what to do, or you would like to speak with a member of our team about your family’s circumstances and whether you qualify for free legal advice, please contact our children’s team on 01245 349696 or make an enquiry through our website.

For the BBC Article by Andrew Bomford – Will Emily be able to keep her baby? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-54117562

By Sarah Courts, Taylor Haldane Barlex LLP

 

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