Pre-proceedings

Pre proceedings
Legally reviewed by: Jonathan Pollard

Pre-Proceeding Meetings are held by the Local Authority when social services have significant concerns about the care a child is receiving from their parents. Sometimes, these meetings are called “PLO” meetings, pursuant to the Public Law Outline. These meetings are usually the last attempt by the local authority to support a family to be able to look after a child safely, before issuing care proceedings. The local authority will send a letter to you inviting you to attend a PLO meeting and within that letter, you will be advised to arrange legal representation to assist you at the meeting. Should this be the case, you will be automatically entitled to legal aid if you hand that letter to your legal representative, for work undertaken before any court proceedings.

If you have been invited to a meeting or face issues in relation to the care of your child, it is in your best interests to acquire professional legal advice at your earliest convenience. At Cartwright King, we take a non-judgemental, professional approach to our client’s cases and acknowledge your right to legal representation. Our acclaimed Child Care solicitors are available to put your mind at ease by supporting you through the legal proceedings and represent you in court if the need arises.

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Everyone has the right to advice if they are dealing with child care issues and Pre Proceeding Meetings. Our experienced lawyers are available at any time of day or night to help you. Our highly skilled Child Care team are here to take the worry off your hands.

The local government will issue you a letter, extending an invitation to participate in a PLO (Public Law Outline) meeting. In this letter, you will also receive guidance to secure legal representation to support you during the meeting. If you choose to do so, by presenting this letter to your legal representative, you will automatically qualify for legal aid for any tasks performed prior to any court proceedings.

What are Pre Proceeding Meetings?

If a parent has been invited to a pre-proceedings meeting, then they will be at the final stage of the local authority’s intervention before Court proceedings are initiated. The local authority will have significant concerns about the care being given to a child and this could be following the Child In Need process or Child Protection process if the social worker feels that sufficient progress has not been made.

By this stage, the local authority would have already sought advice from their own solicitors as to whether or not they might be successful if they were to apply to Court for a care or supervision order. If they are thinking of applying for an order, they will send out a pre-proceedings letter which will say what the concerns are with an invitation to attend a meeting. Parents should ensure that they get a solicitor to attend with you – it is likely the social worker will have their solicitor present.

At the meeting, the social worker will set out the concerns and if there is anything that can be done to prevent the local authority applying to Court for a care or supervision order. The social worker has a duty to try to assist parents to look after their child safely, but if that cannot be done then they will apply to Court for an order. If support is going to be offered, social workers will specify this to a parent with what improvements they expect and by when. It will be made clear that if improvements are not made within that time, then Court proceedings will be started.

As part of the plan, parents may also be asked to sign and adhere to written or working agreement, which will set out what the local authority expects from them. After the meeting, parents should have a clear idea as to what the local authority expect from them in order to improve things, such as keeping the home clean, tidy and a safe space for the child or attending counselling to help address some of the issues parents may be facing whilst caring for their child. Any tasks outlined by the authority are aimed to solve the situation, improve the care for the child and avoid the local authority issuing care proceedings.

At the end of the meeting, the social worker will set a date for a review meeting to consider how things are going, but the social worker will also be monitoring the situation until the next meeting. If at any stage it looks as though things are not improving and the child is at immediate risk of significant harm, Court proceedings could be started and the social worker could ask the Court to agree to a child being removed from home.

How can we help you?

In this situation it is paramount to get legal advice on the matter. If you or somebody you know needs help with or information on a Prohibited Steps Order, our experienced Child Care solicitors are available to advise you throughout the entire process to adhere to the procedure and build a strong case for your defence. We promise to:

  • Advise you throughout the entire process
  • Treat your case in a non-judgemental, sensitive manner
  • Deal confidentially with any concerns you may have
  • Represent you in court where necessary
  • Prepare and collate any and all documentary evidence that may be required
  • Take the worry off your hands
  • Prepare an appeal if necessary

Our team are highly ranked in the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners guides. We have extensive experience in successfully defending child care matters, with our acclaimed Child Care solicitors who are renowned for their professional approach.

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