Local Authority Intervention: When to Seek Legal Advice
The Local Authority is an organisation that is officially responsible for all the public services and facilities in a particular area. For example, Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Batley and more all come under the Local Authority Kirklees Council. Social Services in each district are the services provided by the local authority or government to help people who have serious family or financial problems.
Sometimes it can be hard to understand what each stage of Local Authority and Social Service involvement are, especially when you are trying to understand and come to terms with everything happening so quickly. Below is an explanation to each stage:
Public Law Outline:
Public Law Outline, also known as PLO Proceedings, is the procedure that is taken before the Local Authority issue Care Proceedings. You will receive a letter from Social Services stating why they are concerned about the child being in your care. They will include a date of a meeting in which they tell you to bring a solicitor for advice.
When instructing a solicitor, you do not necessarily have to pay for your solicitor’s services for PLO Proceedings. A solicitor will ask you to come into the office to sign a legal help form, therefore, if you are not using a local firm, and are unable to attend the office, you may have to pay for their services. It is always worth speaking to the firm about whether you will be able to get free legal advice or not.
The letter received from Social Services will need to be taken to your solicitor for them to copy for their records. A solicitor will take you through the letter Social Services sent to you and they will also attend the meeting with you.
At the meeting Social Services will lay out what they expect of you going forward. During the meeting, you will be given an opportunity to respond to the concerns raised, if you wish to do so. If you do not comply with the proposed plan of action, or show no improvement, the Local Authority may issue care proceedings. PLO meetings are generally held every 4 weeks with the Social Worker making announced and unannounced visits in the meantime.
Care Proceedings are when the Local Authority decide to make an application to Court for an Order for your child. This could be either an Interim Care Order or Interim Supervision Order.
If an Interim Care Order is granted, then the Local Authority share parental responsibility with the parents. The Interim Care Order would last until the proceedings finish, which is usually 26 weeks after the application has been made.
If an Interim Supervision Order is granted, then the Local Authority have a duty to befriend, advise and assist the child. An Interim Supervision Order does not give the Local Authority parental responsibility.
The Local Authority could ask that the child is removed from their parent’s care whilst care proceedings are ongoing. The proceedings will then be used to assess whether the child could return to their parent’s care, or whether they should live somewhere else.
Care Proceedings can be issued for a number of reasons which include:
- child/children have sustained an injury and been presented at hospital with no believable explanation;
- previous history of domestic violence within the family home;
- criminal behaviour;
- not following the PLO plan or not making the improvements suggested;
- risk of the child suffering neglect;
- previous Local Authority involvement and;
- allegations of sexual abuse.
During these proceedings anyone with parental responsibility of the child (for example, the mother or father) are entitled to legal aid which will cover the costs of their solicitor.
The proceedings will be over seen by a judge. Once all the necessary assessments have been completed, the Judge will then decide what the long term plan should be for the child. It could be one of the following:-
- the child is safe to return to their parent/parent’s care;
- the child can remain in a family/friend placement;
- the child will live-in long-term foster care;
- the child will be placed for adoption.
If you find yourself in a situation which relates to any of the above, we would urge you to seek legal advice as soon as possible. Ridley & Hall are happy to help with any queries you may have and to represent you in your time of need. We are a small firm with a large reach, and we aim to help everyone who comes through our door. So, if you are going through Local Authority intervention and want some advice, please don’t hesitate to contact Natalie Stephenson-Quayle on our freephone 0800 860 6265.