LEGAL EAGLE: Local authority's duty to protect children
The local authority have told me they have concerns about my child. What can I do, I have never been involved with the local authority before and I am afraid that they are now wanting to meet with me?
It is important to understand that the local authority have a duty to all children that live in their area to keep them safe and well. The local authority can become involved with families in different ways. Usually families are made known to the local authority from a referral being made to them.
If a referral is made to them the local authority have a duty to investigate this. It is depending on their investigations and what they find or don’t find that means that they can become involved with your family in different ways. A couple are discussed below.
The local authority can become involved with a family under a child protection category. If the local authority are going to be involved with your family in this way, they will have spoken to you and or written to you. There will be a meeting called an initial child protection conference whereby other professional people will be there and the concerns will be discussed. You are entitled to legal advice and assistance during this process and legal aid is still available to you. This legal aid is based on a financial assessment. You can have a legal representative attend this meeting with you.
The local authority may decide that a child protection conference is not the right arena for them to be involved in and may then write to you about a public law outline meeting or a letter before proceedings meeting. This is a meeting that the local authority hold which will be between them and you. Legal Aid is available for this and there is no financial assessment needed for this kind of involvement. At your meeting it is important that you have a legal representative there with you. When this kind of meeting takes place it means that the local authority have serious concerns that your child is at risk or may suffer significant harm if changes are not made. It is therefore really important that you seek legal assistance if you do have one of these meetings pending.
It is advisable that you obtain some legal advice sooner rather than later and take any paper work that you have with you to your legal meeting.
Ben Hoare Bell LLP has several specialist Solicitors with experience in family issues and childcare law. If you have been referred to the local authority or received notification of a meeting please act soon and contact our Solicitors on 0191 565 3112 or email [email protected] Visit www.benhoarebell.co.uk for more information.