Empowering Families to Succeed
Any involvement with Children’s services can be a confusing and overwhelming experience, which can often bring about challenging conversations and emotions. At Wannops, our team strives for a successful outcome for each client and, most importantly, the children involved.
We have an experienced and dedicated team of lawyers who specialise in Child Protection and Social Services, assisting families every step of the way, including representation at Court Hearings.
Children’s Services we help with:
Two team members have Children Panel Accreditation, allowing them to represent children through their Children’s Guardian (CAFCASS) and separately when deemed appropriate.
Child Protection Conferences and s47 investigations:
When concerns for a child have initially been raised, the local authority’s Children’s Services will make an assessment (s47) of the child and their family to consider the right level of intervention and support. This may progress to a Child Protection Conference whereby a Social Worker and relevant professionals will decide if a child needs a Child Protection Plan to bring about positive change.
PLO Process, Meeting before Proceedings and Meeting before Action:
When Children’s Services consider whether to start Court Proceedings, they invite the parents to a meeting, usually called a Meeting before Proceedings or Pre-Proceedings Meeting. Parents will receive a formal letter before the Proceedings explaining the worries for the child.
Parents are entitled to legal representation in this meeting to help them understand the local authority’s concerns and formulate a plan to avoid the need for court proceedings. This can include a written agreement for everyone to sign and assessments of the children.
These are Court proceedings started by Children’s Services (Social Services). They will ask the Court to make orders and decisions concerning a child’s future, including where they may live and who they will see.
Within this process, the Court can arrange assessments of the parents, children and extended family members. Final decisions regarding the long-term placement of the child aim to be made within 26 weeks of the commencement of the Court proceedings.
Emergency Protection Orders and Police Protection Orders:
Sometimes urgent and immediate action must be taken if a child is at significant risk. In this instance, the parents will not receive proper notice, and Pre-Proceedings will not be undertaken.
The local authority can apply for an Emergency Protection Order to obtain an Order for an initial 8 days to make decisions regarding a child’s immediate placement. This can be extended for seven days, and it’s usual for Care Proceedings to be issued following this.
The Police have the power to remove a child and provide them with a place of safety, usually with a family member or local authority foster placement. The Police can make a Police Protection Order (PPO). This lasts for 72 hours, and within that time, the local authority will usually submit their application to the Family Court to start proceedings.
Sadly, one of the outcomes of Care Proceedings can be a decision for the child to be placed permanently outside of their family by adoption. The local authority can apply for a Placement Order allowing them to place a child with an adoptive family following the conclusion of Care Proceedings.
There is a wide range of factors to consider when proposing a Final Care Plan of adoption. It is not a decision any Family Court makes lightly, and it means that there is no other option. Once a child has been placed with an adoptive family, the proposed adopters can apply for an Adoption Order, which the birth parents will be notified of once made.
Special Guardianship Orders:
Within proceedings, extended family members may be assessed as alternative carers for the child. These assessments are known as Special Guardianship Assessments or Kinship Assessments.
The person being assessed should obtain independent legal advice if their assessment is positive and they are being considered as long-term carers for a child. The legal advice will guide them through the implications of a Special Guardianship Order and the support offered to them by way of a Special Guardianship Support Plan.
How much does legal representation cost?
One of the worries for many clients is the cost of legal representation. Here is a breakdown of the charges, depending on your relationship with the child:
Costs for Biological Parents
If you are the biological parent of a child who is the subject of Care Proceedings or the Pre-Proceedings process, you are entitled to automatic free legal aid regardless of your financial circumstances.
Costs for Extended Family Members
Sometimes, extended family is invited to be involved in the Care Proceedings. Legal Aid is not automatically granted if you are not a biological parent. We need a means and merited assessment of your finances and the prospects of your case and submit it to the Legal Aid Agency to see if you’re eligible for Legal Aid. Contact a solicitor as soon as possible if this applies to you.
Costs for those with Parental Responsibility
In limited circumstances, a person with parental responsibility for a child (including those with a Child Arrangement Order or Special Guardianship Order) can be granted automatic free legal aid at the start of Care Proceedings. This is reviewed throughout the proceedings depending on the orders made.
Whatever your circumstance, we will assist you every step of the way.
If you would like to contact one of our Children’s Services team directly, please see their details below or click on the Contact Us button.
Leanna Ellis – [email protected]
Jane Elizabeth Smith – [email protected]
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Are you seeking help and advice?
Whatever your question, get in touch with us, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.