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. If the local authority is starting the pre-proceedings process, parents should receive a letter setting out very clearly what the concerns of the local authority are and inviting them to a PLO meeting/pre-proceedings meeting.
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. The PLO/pre-proceedings letter that you get entitles you to legal aid, no matter what your circumstances are. At Kundert LLP, we take a non-judgemental, professional approach to our client’s cases and acknowledge your right to legal representation. Our experienced 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.
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 supervisions 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. As legal aid is always available for this, 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.
For further advice please contact the Care department and speak to our experienced Solicitors on 02476684928.