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PASSuk parents advice on social care.

Public Law Outline (PLO).

31 May 2019

Pre-Proceedings Explained. 

There are a set of stages the Local Authorities must follow .....

• Pre-Proceedings.

• Public Law Outline Meeting.

• Review Panel Meeting.

Before any proceedings for Public Law Outline can begin you will be invited to attend a meeting called a Pre-Proceedings meeting.
This meeting is held for you, your social worker and any other parties who are involved in your case to sit down formally to discuss and consider what can be done to address all the concerns and issues in order to protect your child from any future possibility of harm and to see if an agreement can be met and reached without the need to go to Court.

31 May 2019

Public Law Outline Meeting Explained. 

A Public Law Outline meeting is different from the Pre-Proceedings meeting. This is different because with the Pre-Proceedings meeting it will usually just you and your social worker who attend.
The differences are as follows......
• If you don't attend the Public Law Outline meeting or discuss the concerns over your child with your social worker then there is a very real and high risk that your social worker will decide to take your case to Court.
• Also a lawyer from the Social Care's legal team will be at this meeting to advise your social worker.
• You are also entitled to have your own lawyer present to attend the meeting I strongly advice that you do. Go and get a solicitor from outside of your County and one that is renowned for fighting for parents not a slack one that doesn't bother and just goes along with what Children Services wants.
• Remember if you are the childs parents or you hold parental responsibility for the child then you are entitled to free legal aid to cover the costs to have free legal representation.
Ok so you should have received a called "Letter Before Proceedings" inviting you to a Public Law Outline meeting. This letter should set out exactly what your social worker's concerns are, what their worried about, what they have done in the past to try to help you and what they would like you to do in the future.
PLO meeting is usually a sign that, as far as the social worker is concerned, things have reached a critical stage. This is usually the last chance that parents have to work with the social worker and Children's Services before your case is taken to Family Court. Because of this, it is really important that you attend this meeting at all costs, even if you have had difficulties talking and working with your social worker in the past.

If you are at the point of a PLO meeting, there has probably been a long history of social worker's involvement with your family. Relationships between parents and social workers is never easy and can be very difficult, parents can feel under attack and victimised and quite understandably be angry or upset. I advise you to put these understandable emotions aside when you go to the PLO meeting, get a solicitor to attend your solicitor should support you and help you to stay focused and keep your mind on the issues and concerns at hand.

If you haven't been invited to A PLO meeting then this will be because your social worker feels that there is an immediate great risk of harm to your child, or that your case is urgent and needs to be done as an emergency case, In these cases they may not hold a PLO meeting. In this situation your case will go straight to Court and your social worker will apply for an Interim Care Order better known is an ICO, an Interim Supervision Order better known as an ISO, or perhaps an Emergency Protection Order better known as an EPO. 

This should only be done if your child is actually suffering, or is likely to suffer real significant harm. If you have been told that Children Service's are going straight to Court about the concerns over your children, you should get legal advice immediately. If you are the parents (or person with parental responsibility) you will still be entitled to legal aid, regardless of your financial position.
31 May 2019

Review Panel Meeting Explained. 

The Review Panel must decide if your case has met something called the threshold criteria of significant harm to be able to proceed and to take your case to Family Court in order to be granted a care order.
14 Jan 2019

Public Law Outline Explained.

PLO proceedings are set out into stages.

• Stage 1- Issue and Allocation

• Stage 2- Case Management Hearing

• Stage 3- Issues Resolution Hearing

• Stage 4- If matters are not concluded at the Issues Resolution Hearing, then the Court will list a Final Hearing to resolve any outstanding issues in the case.

Although the Public Law Outline is set out in a set of stages, it is also flexible by the judge at any point of stages of the proceedings. Steps, which the court would ordinarily take at various stages may be altered if the circumstances of the case changes.

The flexible powers of the court include the ability for the judge to cancel or repeat a hearing twice, this is down to the discretion of the judge.

Children Services are not like Judges they work on the balance of probability although there allegations may not be true they will see the concerns and issues as fact regardless.

A Public Law Outline is a court order that gives Children Services shared Parental Responsibilty along with yourself. The Local Authorities will make to the Court because they feel there is enough evidence to support that your children are at risk of significant harm or are likely to suffer significant harm in the future.

Public Law Outline or plo is a series of court hearings where a judge will decide after all the evidence and assessments have been collected whether or not your child will remain in the care of the Local authorities or to remain in the care of the parents.

Judge may grant a PLO hearing and Children Services will give you a number of steps that you will have to take. They will usually insist that you do a parenting assessment aswell as a psychological assessment, they may ask you to attend parenting classes (refer to the step by step tab get yourself signed up to the Webster Stratton parenting course also known as the early years parenting program in your area). They will also set out what the situation is with your partner aswell. They may also carry out spot checks on you at your home. If you don't comply with the rules set out at this point then they will start care proceedings. In some cases your child may initially get removed from your care and go straight in to a foster placement with a probably view to adopt your child at the end of the proceedings.

PLO proceedings can last no more than 26 weeks in total from start to finish the Judge can grant an extra 8 weeks but only in extreme situations and cases.

There is a legal structure which a Local Authorities must follow when they are considering removing a child from there parent's. This is the point at which everything else they’ve tried has failed. What the Local Authorities do is build up evidence against you.

Usually because the parent's won’t work with the Local Authorities. Sometimes the issues and concerns are much more complex like when there are difficulties getting parents to engage and to do everything that is needed to be done to address the concerns and issues. It may be a case that you will have to choose between your child or your partner especially when there is domestic violence or when a relation is causing emotional harm due to arguments and its at best chaotic.

The good thing is the local authorities plan's for your children are not automatically accepted by the Judge.

• Before the court can remove your children a threshold level of harm must be proved.

• It will depend on the progress of your case.

• What the best interests of your children are.

• If there is an alternative dispute resolution procedure can be met.

• Agreement in relation to part of the case.

• For a contract of expectations to be drawn up.

• Monitoring directions.

• Directing advocates.

• To plan a step agreement and justify.

• The impact of any decisions to the children concerned.

• Parties to co-parent amicably together.

• Parents to co-operate with the local authorities.

• Parents willingness to accept change.

• Identifying facts and issues and to address them with a plan of action.

A plo requires procedural fairness by the Local authorities by ensuring that all parties are on an equal balance and treated equally on an equal footing. The court should encourage all parties to use a non-court dispute resolution procedure if the court is willing to consider that appropriate, and can facilitate the use of such procedures by overriding objectives to deal with cases justly, ensuring that all cases are dealt with expeditiously and fairly. The court should recognise and respect the diversity in all manner of people entering the court and to treat everyone fairly without fear, favouritism, affection or ill-will.

They must recognise....

• That all families are unique with shared tendencies and idiosyncrasies.

• That all families are the cornerstone of most communities and a key source of the children's personal identities.

• Differences in the outlook of all families and to remember its a diverse society.

• That families do not conform to the traditional model and are an increasingly common social reality.

• For the courts to encourage parents questions that they need to ask.

• For the courts to explain clearly to the parents exactly what steps they need to take.

• To take in to consideration the thoughts and feelings of the childrens wishes and views and to envolve and encourage all children over the age of 10 years old to take an active participation in court.

• To recognise and to challenge any discriminating remarks and comments also any unfair assumptions and to involve everyone equally.

• To ensure fairness and equality of opportunity.

• That the courts maintain and preserve the status quo while the reports are obtained and all the assessments are completed.

You can ask for the alternative dispute resolution.

You can ask for a family assistance order.

You can ask for an independent social worker to be assigned to your case.

You can ask for an independent psychological assessment to be carried out for fairness.

You can ask for an independent childrens advocate to be called in to work with your children so there views and thoughts are heard and known to the judge.

31 May 2019

Stage one Issue and Allocation.

On Day 1
The Local Authority submit their application together with a full Annex and all their evidence and documents supporting their application in to the Family Courts. The Court will consider their application and ensure that the Local Authority has filed all the correct documents. They then issue the application and send it to the gatekeeping team in the Court to consider which level of Judge the case should be allocated to, depending on the complexity of the case.
The allocated Judge will then send out an Order called the ‘standard directions on issue’ which will list the first hearing and make court directions for certain documents to be prepared and sent to the Court in time for the first hearing. The directions will include that the Local Authorities should prepare all outstanding documents and they will allocate the Children a Guardian sent from CAFCASS so they can prepare a position statement or report. This Order should be prepared and sent out by the end of Day 2 to allow the parties sufficient time to prepare any documents required by the Court.

Stage two Case Management Hearing.

This is the first Court hearing and should take place before Day 12 in the PLO process. Before any hearing, an Advocates’ Meeting will have taken place, no more than 2 days before, between all the legal representatives to discuss each party’s position in respect of the Local Authority’s application to the Court. Each party’s legal representative will also need to prepare a short statement, no longer than two sides of A4, which sets out their position so that the Court is aware of this prior to the hearing commencing.
In readiness for the first hearing, each party is also able to make an application for an expert to complete an assessment within the proceedings if they consider this to be necessary. Examples of expert assessments include parenting assessments or a psychiatric or psychological assessment of a parent or the child/ren. These applications will be considered by the Judge at the Case Management Hearing.
At this hearing, the Court will:
• Identify the key issues in the case
• Consider if there are any additional parties to the proceedings
• Analyse the care plan
• Create a timetable the proceedings
• Consider whether any expert evidence is required
• Determine whether a fact-finding hearing is required
• List the Issues Resolution Hearing and any Final Hearing
The Court may also consider making an interim Care or Supervision Order at the Case Management Hearing which will last for the duration of the proceedings and will consider making a Final Order at the Final Hearing.
The Court could consider that a fact-finding hearing is necessary. A fact-finding may be required, for example, in a case where there is more than one possible perpetrator who caused significant harm to a child and therefore the Court will need to determine who was the most likely perpetrator. This hearing would be heard just before any Final Hearing to determine the relevant factual history. This will help the Court in making long term plans for the child/ren’s care.
If all the issues cannot be addressed at this first hearing for any reason, the Court may consider listing a Further Case Management Hearing which must be heard by the Court by no later than Day 20 in the PLO process.
31 May 2019

Stage three Issues Resolution Hearing.

This is a hearing that is listed before any Final Hearing and is used to make final case management directions. If all the issues can be resolved at this stage, the Court may decide to use this hearing as an early Final Hearing.
At this hearing, the Court will:
• Identify any outstanding issues and try to narrow these down
• Review the timetable
• Give directions up to the Final Hearing including filing any final evidence and agreeing the time estimate of the Final Hearing.

Stage four Final Hearing.

If the case cannot be resolved at the Issues Resolution stage, the case will proceed to a Final Hearing. At the Final Hearing, all the parties, including the parents, social worker and Children’s Guardian, together with any instructed experts in the case, will give oral evidence at Court allowing each party to be heard and challenged.

At the conclusion of a Final Hearing, the Judge will give a Judgment which sets out the Court’s decision. This must occur within 26 weeks of the Local Authority making their application and this deadline will only be extended in appropriate circumstances. An initial extension of time can be for 8 weeks and thereafter will be in blocks of 8 weeks.
The Court’s will follow this step-by-step procedure in care proceedings to ensure that the application is dealt with effectively and expeditiously.