Seek help. That’s our advice if social services are accusing you of harming your children, whether emotionally or physically.
It can be the start of a daunting legal process – but we can help you with this and legal aid is usually available where a local authority issues care proceedings or holds a Public Law Outline meeting.
Public Law Outline meeting
If the local authority consider the case to be sufficiently serious to consider taking court action, then they may convene a Public Law Outline (or PLO) meeting. You will qualify for automatic legal aid at this point and, when the local authority issues a PLO letter, you should take it directly to a solicitor.
The social worker, you, any other person with parental responsibility and your respective legal representatives will be asked to attend the meeting.
The concerns of the local authority will be discussed and any possible solutions explored. The authority will then decide whether their concerns can be managed by an agreement between you and them, or whether they should commence care proceedings at court.
The authority may issue care proceedings if they remain concerned that a child has or might suffer significant harm, which could be emotional, physical, sexual or neglect. The authority will seek to protect any child they are concerned about, which could include asking a judge to remove the child (or children) from a parent’s care.
These court proceedings are often complex and lengthy. It is vital that each parent instructs a solicitor to put their case. This will include looking at issues such as where the child should live whilst the proceedings are ongoing, what contact a parent should have with the child during that time and the evidence that should be gathered to enable the court to make a decision.
Our child protection team is highly experienced in representing parents and carers who find themselves subject to care proceedings. Three of our solicitors are members of the Law Society’s Children Panel.