LEGAL EAGLE: Council’s concerns about my son’s care

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I have recently received a letter from the Local Authority which says that they have serious concerns about my son’s care.

They have asked me to attend a meeting with them and said that they will be going to court unless their concerns are reduced. What will this meeting involve?

The Local Authority has a duty to protect children in their area who are suffering, or are at risk of suffering harm. If they have serious enough concerns, the Local Authority will invite parents to a meeting where they will attempt to put a plan in place to protect the child at risk and prevent the need for court proceedings. This is called a PLO (Public Law Outline) or letter before proceedings meeting.

There will normally be a social worker, a team manager and a legal advisor for the Local Authority at this meeting. The Local Authority will talk through their concerns and advise you of the action they may take if the situation does not improve.

They will tell you what needs to be done to avoid court proceedings and what help they can offer.

The Local Authority will require your full co-operation to protect your son from any current or future risk of harm.

They will normally agree a period of time in which they will want to see improvements made and they will often set a date for the situation to be reviewed.

The Local Authority will normally want to carry out a parenting assessment to ensure you are able to properly care for your son, or they may ask you to attend a suitable course to help you make improvements, such as the Nurturing Parenting Programme.

It is important that you try to work with the Local Authority throughout this process.

If the Local Authority remain concerned for your son’s welfare, they may still apply to the Court for a Care Order. It would then be for the Court to decide whether your son should continue to live with you or be placed elsewhere.

It is very important that you speak to a solicitor about this meeting as soon as possible and you should take the letter with you to a first appointment.

Your solicitor will be able to advise you further and will attend the meeting with you. As a parent you will be entitled to legal aid for this advice regardless of your income.