The involvement of social services with your family can be a frightening and stressful experience. We are here to help and guide you from when a social worker first gets in touch with you.
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.
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What is a Section 47 investigation, and what does it mean?
A Section 47 investigation is carried when Social Services are informed that a child might be suffering, or likely to suffer significant harm. Such referrals arise from the police, school or even an anonymous referral.
Once a Section 47 investigation commences, Social Services will conduct wide enquiries with professionals involved with the child such as doctors, school and police. They will also need to interview the parents of the child as well speaking to the child directly.
The outcome of the investigation will either be that the concerns are substantiated or unsubstantiated. If concerns are substantiated then further action is required. Social Services may make the decision to initiate Court proceedings by making an application for an Interim Care Order or an Interim Supervision Order. If Social Services do not deem it necessary to make an application to Court but still have concerns regarding the safeguarding of the child and their welfare, they may offer support through a Child in Need Plan or Pre-proceedings process.
If concerns are unsubstantiated then Social Services will consider that there is no further action needed and the child is sufficiently safeguarded.
If you or your family are subject to an investigation by Social Services it is important you obtain legal advice at the earliest available opportunity.
If Social Services have sufficient concerns about a child and the way they are cared for, they may send a ‘pre-proceedings letter’ or otherwise known as a PLO letter which stands for ‘Public Law Outline.’ This letter is sent to the parents and/or others with parental responsibility of the child.
This letter will outline the concerns held by Social Services and changes they would like to see, including a timescale of when such changes should be made. The letter will also invite parents and/or others with parental responsibility for the child to a meeting.
Once parents and/or others with parental responsibility have received a pre-proceedings letter, they are automatically entitled to non-means tested Legal Aid and should urgently consult a solicitor for advice.
If you have received a pre-proceedings letter it is very important that you act immediately obtain independent legal advice. Failure to do so could result in Social Services taking the matter to court. Please contact our experienced Family Solicitors as a matter of urgency for assistance.
At the meeting there will be several people present including the social worker, their team manager and a solicitor on behalf of Social Services. You can either attend the meeting alone or with the support of a solicitor. At the meeting Social Services will discuss their concerns and you will have the opportunity to respond to those concerns.
The main aim of this meeting is to draw up a plan to stop Social Service’s concerns from escalating further. This plan will detail steps that will need to be taken by both Social Services and yourself in order to address these concerns. Such steps may include parenting assessments, psychological or psychiatric assessment, alcohol and/or drug testing, and work around domestic abuse. Social Services may ask you to sign a written agreement after the meeting which reflects what actions are to be taken.
Usually, Social Services will arrange for a review meeting around 6-8 weeks after the initial case. It is difficult to say how long the process will last as each case is different. The review meetings will continue until Social Services’ concerns are fully addressed. If, however, their concerns are not addressed, Social Services may make an application to court for an Interim Care Order or an Interim Supervision Order.
We will assist you throughout the whole process by attending all PLO meetings with you and helping you negotiate a plan of action with Social Services.
If Social Services have sent you a pre-proceedings letter inviting you to a meeting then you are entitled to Legal Aid regardless of your financial circumstances. You are also entitled to have a legal representative with you at the pre-proceedings meetings. We can advise and support you from the moment you receive the pre-proceedings letter and ensure that you understand what is expected of you.
We can assist you on a Legal Aid or private basis, and you should contact us to discuss your needs as soon as possible.
How to get in contact
If you need a specialist solicitor who is well versed in all child matters please contact Shanthi Balakrishnan at email@example.com or call 020740403004.