The law places all local authorities under a duty to identify children in need in the area. If the local authority believes that a child is at risk of harm they may decide that it is necessary for the child to be taken into care to keep them safe.
Have you been invited to a PLO meeting?
PLO stands for Public Law Outline and it is a set of rules for the social workers to apply when they come to a conclusion the children do not receive good enough care.
If the social workers think that the situation is so bad that they may have to consider going to court they should invite parents to a PLO meeting to discuss what should be done to protect the child from harm. This meeting may be called a pre-proceedings meeting as it is the last stage before going to court. At the meeting parents are expected to agree to a plan, which will ensure the children are safe and it may include everything from what can be said or done in front of the children to attending parenting classes or a therapy (depending on risks identified).
Important: You can ask a solicitor to attend the PLO meeting with you. A solicitor will help you during discussions and will advise you. The Legal Aid Agency will fund representation at the meeting and advice so you do not have to worry about costs.
What will happen if I don’t come to the meeting? If you ignore the meeting or f if you are unable to reach the agreement it is very likely that the local authority will quickly make an application to court to protect the child.
Sometimes, when the local authority believes that a child is at significant risk of harm they may decide to apply to court for a Care Order straight away without inviting parents to a PLO meeting.
Important: Legal advice and representation is funded by the Legal Aid Agency to parents whose children are subject to care proceedings regardless of their income.
When the local authority makes an application for your child to be taken into care you need to seek legal advice from a solicitor who can explain the process.
Care proceedings should conclude within six months of the application and at the end the court will make a final order which will define who the child will live with and who will have parental responsibility. We understand that the court process can be particularly difficult for our clients as it usually follows lengthy involvement of the children services in our clients’ lives. We know however that six months is a very short period and we help our clients to remain focused on issues and explain every stage of the process so they can make the best decisions.
More information about care proceedings can be found on CAFCASS website: https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/care-proceedings.aspx