What happens when the local authority becomes involved with you child
When the Local Authority receive a referral from somebody who is concerned about the care that your child is receiving it will decide whether to allocate the case to a Social Worker and whether it is necessary to undertake an initial assessment of you and your family.
There are potentially four outcomes of that initial assessment:
- No further action.
- If the Local Authority consider that your child is a ‘child in need’ there may be a further core assessment and the preparation of a child in need plan which will be reviewed regularly at child in need review meetings.
- If the Local Authority have safeguarding concerns it could arrange a strategy discussion, undertake a section 47 enquiry and convene a child protection conference. The conference will decide whether the child needs to be placed upon a child protection plan. If your child is placed on such a plan the Local Authority should undertake a core assessment which will be reviewed at child protection review conferences. A core group of family members’ and professionals will also be set up which will meet regularly between the review conferences
- If the Local Authority’s concerns are at a level where it appears that Section 31 threshold is met the Local Authority will take legal advice with a view to issuing care proceedings.
If the Local Authority remain involved with your child under a child in need plan or a child protection plan and their safeguarding concerns increase to the extent that they feel that a Care or Supervision Order is necessary they will consult with their Solicitors and hold what is known as a ‘legal planning meeting’. The legal planning meeting will advise whether Public Law proceedings are to be applied for immediately.
If the legal planning meeting decides that in principle there should be an application for a Care or a Supervision Order but that the concerns are not of such an urgency to require an immediate application the Local Authority will issue a ‘letter before proceedings’. This letter will invite you to a meeting with the Social Worker and manager. It is important that your solicitor attends this meeting with you.
The pre proceedings meeting will discuss whether it is possible to prepare a new plan for the child setting out what you and the Local Authority need to do to safeguard the child and also what action will be taken by the Local Authority to safeguard the child if the plan is not followed.
The Plan will be reviewed at subsequent pre-proceedings meetings. If the pre-proceedings plan is successful, the Local Authority may continue to be involved either on a child in need plan or a child protection plan and if everything continues to go well close your case and cease to be involved with your family.
If the pre-proceedings plan is not effective and the safeguarding concerns remain the Local Authority will most likely issue care proceedings.
It is also possible that the pre planning review meeting decides that your child remains on the pre proceedings plan for a further period until a final outcome is determined.
HOW WE CAN HELP
If you are a parent and the Local Authority have issued care proceedings you will be entitled to non-means tested Legal Aid which is free of charge
If you are a parent and have received a ‘pre-proceedings letter’ you will be entitled to non-means tested advice and assistance which is free of charge.
If your child is the subject of a ‘child in need plan’ or ‘child protection plan’ or you require initial advice about the Local Authority’s involvement with your child or children it may be possible to provide assistance free of charge subject to an assessment of your financial means.
If you are a relative wanting to care for a child who is the subject of care proceedings, or you are a person who has been asked to become involved in the proceedings as an intervenor, it may be possible to obtain Legal Aid subject to an assessment of your means.
We appreciate that the above is quite complicated and would ask that you contact us as soon as possible to find out what we can offer you.