A Public Law Outline (also known as a PLO) process is initiated by the local authority when there are concerns relating to a child’s safety. This can be an unnerving time for parents. Sophie Rew, a Paralegal within the Family Team here at Wollens explains how our experienced lawyers can guide you through the process and ensure that you are fully supported along the way.
What is a PLO?
PLO meetings are always linked to children matters and are set up in a bid to allow parents or carers to make any changes necessary to keep the matter out of court proceedings.
How serious is a PLO?
Where concerns are raised in relation to the safety of a child the Local Authority have a legal obligation to investigate this matter further. There are several steps the Local Authority may choose to take prior to initiating PLO meetings. The Local Authority may assign a social worker to undertake assessments of a family or parents may have attended Child Protection Conferences. Where concerns are not resolved or are sufficiently serious a ‘letter before proceedings’ may be received, more commonly known as a PLO letter. Essentially the PLO process is a last chance for parents to prove to the Local Authority that they are capable of providing adequate care to the child and that court proceedings are not necessary to ensure safeguarding concerns are reduced.
What happens at a PLO meeting and who will be present?
All individuals who have Parental Responsibility for the child concerned will receive a PLO letter and will be expected to attend the meetings. Both your Social Worker and the Team Manager will be present. All parties involved within the PLO process have access to legal representation and therefore, often lawyers for the Local Authority and those with Parental Responsibility will be present.
The meeting is a chance for the Local Authority to discuss their concerns with the parents and to enable all parties to come up with a plan in order to prevent further escalation to court proceedings. It is likely that the Local Authority will request that parents participate in a parenting assessment to understand their abilities in recognising and meeting their children’s needs.
Often the Local Authority will expect parents to sign a ‘Written Agreement’; this is a document setting out any expectations of the parents and the work the Local Authority have agreed to undertake. Although, a Written Agreement is not a legally binding document, where the agreement is breached this will often lead to the Local Authority starting care proceedings.
Although parties may feel comfortable agreeing to certain requirements asked by the Local Authority within the PLO meeting, parents are entitled to discuss the agreement in confidence with their legal representative prior to the meeting, before signing anything.
At the end of the meeting all future meeting dates and deadlines are agreed to. The PLO process is usually made up of three meetings: an initial PLO meeting, a review and the final PLO.
Do I have to pay for my legal representation?
Any parent or individual with Parental Responsibility for the child is automatically entitled to free legal aid. For legal aid to be put in place the legal representative would need a copy of the PLO letter and a signed legal aid form. A legal representative will guide a parent through this.
What happens after a PLO process?
The best-case scenario is that the Local Authority decides to step out of PLO and continue to work closely alongside the family to ensure the standard of care is maintained. In circumstances where the Local Authority continues to have serious concerns in relation to a child’s welfare, the matter will be taken to court.
Where proceedings are initiated any individual with parental responsibility will continue to be entitled to legal aid. The legal aid will cover any costs incurred throughout the entirety of proceedings.
Our role within the PLO process?
At Wollens, we have experienced lawyers who are able to provide representation at each meeting. Parents will be entitled to advice prior to the meeting and we will ensure that any concerns raised by our clients are raised in the meetings.
If you have received a PLO letter and require confidential advice, we are on hand to discuss this matter with you further by using our ‘chat with us’ button on our website or contacting us on, 01803 213251.