If these concerns are not addressed by parents or caregivers, the Local Authority instigate what’s called a Public Law Outline (‘PLO’) process. It is at this stage where legal representation is required and our solicitors represent parents, caregivers and other parties throughout the PLO process.
This PLO process is where the Local Authority hold regular meetings with parents and caregivers to address the concerns and how to help the child(ren) and support the parents and caregivers going forward. During the PLO process, the Local Authority can carry out assessments, request that caregivers attend courses and can make proposals for caregivers to undertake testing, such as drug and alcohol. If it is deemed that progress during the PLO process is insufficient and the Local Authority continue to have serious concerns about a child or children, they can start a process referred to as 'care proceedings'.
During care proceedings, the Local Authority can apply for a 'Care Order' A Local Authority will issue an application to the Family Court for an Interim Care Order or an Interim Supervision Order. They will rely on concerns raised by professionals such as a social worker, health visitor and school teachers. During the proceedings the child/ren would be represented by a Children’s Guardian appointed by the Court from CAFCASS. An Interim Care Order means that the Local Authority will share parental responsibility for the child(ren) which the Order relates to and can determine where the child may live. Interim Orders last for 26 weeks and will normally end when a Final Hearing is held in Court to determine who will care for the children on a long-term basis.
During proceedings, we will deal with a number of issues on behalf of our clients as follows;
- Assist clients in obtaining funding through making an application to the Legal Aid Agency.
- Arranging for DNA tests to be undertaken to confirm if a parent is the biological parent of the child subject to proceedings.
- Arranging for drug and alcohol tests to be undertaken to report on what substances are being used by a parent/s.
- Preparing and drafting statements for Court proceedings.
- Reviewing professional reports from psychologists, psychiatrists and paediatricians etc and preparing questions to experts.
- Representing clients at all types of court hearings including contested hearings when a Court lists a hearing to hear evidence from a Social Worker, parent and Children’s Guardian etc.