CARE PROCEEDINGS SOLICITORS

If you have been contacted by the local authority regarding care proceedings it is natural to feel anxious and overwhelmed with questions about the next steps in the process. We are here to assist and represent you whether you are a parent, family member or Children’s Guardian.

We have considerable experience in this area of law. Our Family Solicitor is on the Law Society’s Children Panel and regularly acts for parents and children when a local authority takes proceedings to remove children into care. Our Family Solicitor is also an accredited specialist member of Resolution in areas of Children Law and domestic violence.

 

Free Initial Telephone Discussion

 

For a free initial telephone discussion, please call us on 020 7404 3004 or email shanthib@ikpsolicitors.com and we'll be in touch shortly.

How and why are Care Proceedings initiated?

 

Care Proceedings, also known as a “public law” case, are court proceedings which are issued by the children’s services department of the local authority who believe that a child (or children) has suffered or may be at risk of suffering significant harm. This particular threshold is contained in Section 31 of the Children Act 1989.

Usually care proceedings are only initiated after attempts to keep the child with their family. These attempts usually take the form of a pre-proceedings meeting which is vital element to children’s services ‘Public Law Outline’ duties. Parents will receive a pre-proceedings letter which will invite them to attend a meeting known as ‘Public Law Outline Meeting’. The letter will also outline the concerns of the local authority and the purpose of the meeting will be to address these concerns as well as what is expected of the parents in order to mitigate these concerns. If the local authority remains concerned and changes are not implemented effectively, care proceedings will be initiated.

To initiate care proceedings the children services department of the local authority must make an application and send it to the Family Court. This application will include information such as the child they are worried about, the parents of the child, why they are making the application, what court orders they believe are needed. Once the court has received and checked the application it will process the application. This is known as issuing. A notice will be sent out to all parties once the court has issued the application.

Care Proceedings timeline

Interim Care Order

 

If the local authority believe that the child should be removed from the care of the parents before the final hearing, the social worker will request the court to make an interim care order which is a temporary court order. If the court agrees and grants this request, children’s services can remove the child from the care of the parents on a temporary basis for up to 8 weeks at first. The court will decide who the child should live with until the final hearing and who will have contact with the child until the final hearing.

Case Management Hearing

This is an important hearing and it is vital that you closely work with a solicitor as this hearing will shape what happens in the proceedings and when. This is usually the first court hearing that takes place and is generally a short hearing. It is where directions will be set as to how the case will progress. The court will not make any final decisions at this hearing but will review the application, identify the key issues and set a timetable for the case.

Generally, the court will want to complete care proceedings in 26 weeks however they can allow for more time if it needed. An extension can only be for eight weeks but more than extension can be applied for.

Issues Resolution Hearing

This hearing is used to see if the care proceedings can be concluded early and whether the parties can reach agreement on long-term plans for the child i.e. where the child should live and arrangements regarding contact.

If the parties cannot agree on the plan for the child, the hearing will be used identify and narrow the issues for determination at the final hearing.

Final Hearing

If a plan regarding the child is not agreed at the issues resolution hearing, a final hearing will take place. At this hearing the court will make a final decision about whether a court order is needed to safeguard the welfare of the child. If it is decided that a court order is necessary, final decisions will be made regarding the long-term care arrangements for the child, who the child will live with and contact arrangements.

Types of Court Orders

There are 4 possible final orders the court can make:

  • Care Order- this order gives the Local Authority overriding parental responsibility for the child until the age of 18 (unless discharged before). Under a care order, the Local Authority becomes responsible for the child’s education, welfare, accommodation and maintenance. The children will usually live with foster carers, however in some cases they may remain at home or with a family member. This type of order will normally be considered as a last resort.

  • Placement Order- this order authorises the local authority to put a child up for adoption even if the child’s parents do not provide consent.

  • Supervision Order- this order does not give parental responsibility to the Local Authority but imposes a duty on the local authority to befriend and assist the family. This order requires a child to be supervised by social services while still living in the family home or placed with a relative.

  • Special Guardianship Order- this order places a child to live with someone other than their parents on a long term basis.

 

How do I pay for my legal fees?    

Public funding in care proceedings is provided for parties by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA). Full public funding is usually granted to all parents and children involved in public law cases. Others who are connected to the child may also be eligible for public funding in care proceedings providing they can satisfy a means and merits test set out by the LAA.

How to get in contact

If you need a specialist solicitor who is well versed in Care Proceedings please contact Shanthi Balakrishnan at shanthib@ikpsolicitors.com or call 020740403004