Pre-Proceedings

Child In Need Plan

Under the Children Act 1989, Section 17, the Local Authority are under a duty to promote and safeguard children who are "in need". In order to exercise this duty the Local Authority provide a range and level of services appropriate to that child's needs.

In order to assess what the child's specific needs are, the Local Authority will undertake an assessment. If an assessment finds that a the child is in need of social work services, a child in need plan, involving other agencies involved with the family, should be developed and agreed with the child's parents at a child in need planning meeting. This plan will clearly set out what is working well for the family and child and what concerns the Local Authority and other professionals have. The plan will set out what outcomes are expected and who is responsible for ensuring the outcomes are achieved.

 

Child Protection Plan

In some cases, it may be deemed that the child is at risk, and is made subject to a child protection plan. A Child Protection Plan is drawn up by professionals, in consultation with parents, setting out a written record of what needs to be done by the parents to reduce the concern and risk. The plan sets out the child's needs and how this can be addressed. It also addresses what services and support the Local Authority can provide to assist parents. A clear timeframe should be provided for the objectives and the plan should set out who is responsible for each action.

If a child is made the subject of a child protection plan, it means that the professionals and agencies consider a child to be at risk of significant harm. A child can be placed under a Child Protection Plan in one or more of the following categories- Physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse or neglect.

 

Family Placements

The are often situations whereby it is not safe or appropriate for child re to live, or remain living, with their birth parents. In these circumstances, the Local Authority should explore whether a child can live with their extended family members. In order to assess whether this is safe and appropriate, and in the child's best interests, various assessments have to be undertaken to assess the family members suitability.

There are a range of different orders that allow a child to be safely placed with their extended family members. Determining which order is the most appropriate, will depend on the very specific facts of the case. Each order has its advantages and disadvantages and it is a matter of assessing the circumstances to identify the most appropriate order, for the child.

The Orders available to the court include Care Orders, Supervision Orders, Special Guardianship Orders, Child Arrangement Orders. Combinations of the above Orders can be granted, in order to ensure the best placement for the child.

 

s.47 Investigation

A s.47 Investigation refers to s47 Children Act 1989. The Local Authority has a duty to investigate if there is a child in their area who there are concerns about. This normally comes about where a referral has been made about the concerns of a Child via another professional, the police or by a member of the public. They will not investigate fully every referral, however if they have reasonable cause to suspect that the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm then they shall investigate.

The local authority will come out and visit you and do the investigation. It is important to engage with the Local Authority as it is something they must do. As such, it is important to work with them during their assessment. If you do not, then the Local Authority may take you to Court in regards to the children. The investigation may look at all aspects of your parenting but should be completed as quickly as possible.

They may complete their assessment and conclude that nothing is wrong and close their case. They may recommend that you might need some support and recommend that the children are placed on a Child Assessment Framework or a Child in Need Plan.

If after the investigation the local authority are concerned then they may recommend that the Children are placed on a Child Protection Plan or if they are really worried, they could issue proceedings to share Parental Responsibility. If say to you that they are taking the matter to Court and seeking a Care Order it is important that you speak to a Solicitor immediately.

 

Police Protection

Under the Children Act 1989, Section 46, the Police have the power to remove a child/children from the care of their parents/carers in order to protect them. The Police will exercise this power when they have reasonable cause to believe that the child would otherwise be likely to suffer significant harm.

In these circumstances, the Police have the power to remove the child and place them in suitable alternative accommodation. This is usually Local Authority foster care. If the child is in hospital, or in a place of safety, the powers given to the Police allow them to take reasonable steps to ensure that the child’s removal from hospital, or place of safety, is prevented.

A child cannot be kept in police protection for more than 72 hours. The Police do not need to go to Court before exercising these powers, as it is not an order.

Upon exercising this power, the Police shall inform the local authority. Before the 72 hours have expired, the Police will either return the child or consider whether an Emergency Protection Order (see above/below for more details) or an Interim Care Order (see above/below) is required.

 

Section 20 agreement 

A Section 20 arrangement allows a child to be temporarily accommodated by the local authority, but it must be agreed to by those with parental responsibility (see above/below for more details). Those agreeing to the Section 20 accommodation must have capacity (see above/ below for more details). There are various reasons why a parent may agree to the child's temporary accommodation. However, it is very important that you seek legal advice before agreeing to such accommodation. It is important to note that Section 20 agreements are short term agreements. They should not be used in order to accommodate a child for long periods of time.

A parent can withdraw their Section 20 consent at any time. Following this the children should be returned to the parents’ care, if there are safety or welfare concerns the local authority may issue proceedings.

 

Letter Before Proceedings

local authority send a letter before Court Proceedings when they are worried about how a child is being looked after; it is often sent after the local authority has drawn up a plan for your child to be kept safe and well cared for but they may still have concerns. The letter will be a final notice to the child’s parents and you should follow the instructions in the letter otherwise you may have to go to Court and your child could be taken into care.

 

Pre-Proceedings Meeting

The letter asks you to come to a Pre-Proceedings Meeting where you will be asked to talk about the situation. At the meeting you will talk about how to change the way you will look after your child and how the local authority can support you to do this. If you agree some changes these would be written down in a formal agreement you and the Local Authority have to follow. If you do not agree your Local Authority will probably ask the Court to take your child into care. In certain cases we can attend a Pre-Proceedings Meeting with you and guide you through the process.

 

Keeping to the Agreement 

You must keep to any agreement you make at the Pre-Proceedings Meeting and the local authority should keep to any agreements that they make too. You will probably be asked to go to Review Meetings so that the situation can be monitored.

 

Going to Court

It you do not keep to the agreement or there are still serious or new concerns your local authority will apply to the Court to start Care Proceedings. You will have to go to Court possibly several times until the Court makes its decision about your child’s future.

You will need specialist advice during these proceedings.