If social services have concerns about children, they can start a pre-proceedings process “public law outline”. This process is actioned outside of the Court arena to allow parents and social services to work together to try and reduce the concerns they have, with the aim of avoiding going to Court altogether. Parents or caregivers will be able to instruct a solicitor to assist them with this process.
The parent or caregiver will be invited to a meeting to discuss the concerns they have and to discuss the next steps. The case will be reviewed at the end of the pre-proceedings process and the decision will either be to continue the process, conclude the process, or initiate care proceedings. The Local Authority may decide to progress the matter to Court for a number of reasons, such as their concerns in relation to emotional or physical harm have escalated, or the assessments they have completed within the process have a resulted in a negative outcome.
Legal Aid is available to all who are involved in this process
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FAQ for PLO Process
What happens during the PLO process?
The Local Authority will inform you of any work they expect you to complete, for example they may seek a parenting assessment or a pre-birth assessment if your child has not yet been born. At the end of any assessments, the Local Authority will confirm if the outcomes are positive or negative. If positive they may seek to end the process, if negative, the Local Authority may seek to issue Care Proceedings or ask you complete further work, in which case the process will be extended.
Who attends the meetings?
The Local Authority social worker will attend, with their legal representative. You will also attend with your solicitor, and someone will be present from the Local Authority to take a note.
How long does the process last?
Usually around 3 months but it can be extended if there is any outstanding work or further tests that need to be completed.
What is a written agreement or schedule of expectations?
A written agreement (schedule of expectations) is a document setting out what is expected of you. If you do not agree with the document or cannot adhere the agreement, the Local Authority may escalate to court proceedings. We can advise you upon any such agreement before your sign.
What will is cost?
The Legal Aid Agency will fund your legal representation.