LEGAL EAGLE: Legal help is automatic when called by the local authority for a meeting to discuss a child’s care
I have received a letter in the post from the Local Authority. It says that I must take this letter to a solicitor now. I have been invited to a meeting at a specified date and time which I must attend. I have been asked to take a solicitor with me. The letter highlights concerns about the care I am providing my child and states that I may be taken to court if things do not get better. I am very worried about this and unsure if I can even afford a solicitor. Can you help?
The Local Authority can send an individual with parental responsibility an invite to a Letter Before Proceedings Meeting also known as a PLO Meeting. This can take place either when they are seriously considering issuing Care Proceedings or when they have already decided to issue proceedings. The Local Authority must have grounds to believe that your child is at risk of suffering and/or is suffering from significant harm in order to initiate the PLO process.
The letter you have received highlights that you may be taken to court. Therefore, the Local Authority are inviting you to attend the meeting and give you a chance to undertake any work or assessments that they require. You would need to be proactive in undertaking action to alleviate the concerns that the Local Authority may have. The usual process is that at the meeting they will discuss the concerns that they have and the assessments they would like you to undertake. A review meeting is normally held around 12 weeks after the initial meeting and progress will be discussed. There are a few possible outcomes. The PLO process may continue, in which case you will be invited to a further review meeting. They may decide to issue Care Proceedings if their concerns are not alleviated. Alternatively, the PLO process may be stepped down. This could be the end of their involvement entirely or your child may be placed on a Child Protection or Child in Need Plan.
You are entitled to have a legal representative with you at the meeting. You will automatically be eligible for Legal Help with this matter as long as you can provide a copy of the letter addressed to you and a signed legal help form which your solicitor will provide.
For more information or to obtain legal representation please contact Ben Hoare Bell LLP solicitors on 0191 565 3112 or email [email protected]. Visit www.benhoarebell.co.uk for further information.