Care Proceedings: Local Authority Action to Protect a Child
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What are care proceedings?
If the Children’s Services department of a Local Authority believes that a child is suffering, or at risk of suffering significant harm, they may make the decision to start care proceedings. The child’s social worker will do this by making an application to the Family Court for a Care or Supervision Order to protect the child. Threshold for initiating Care Proceedings is contained under Section 31 of the Children Act 1989.
Initiating Care Proceedings
In exceptional circumstances where a child is believed to be in danger, an application must be made straight away, without warning. In most circumstances; however, extensive efforts should be made to ensure the child stays with their family members before initiating proceedings.
A Pre-Proceedings meeting is usually held as a final attempt to stop the matter from proceeding to Court. Those with parental responsibility for the child will receive an invite letter to the meeting, which must be held within seven days of receiving the invite. This letter will also outline the concerns regarding the child’s welfare and detail what has been done to mitigate the concerns. Parents should have a legal representative attend the meeting with them.
Parents will be made aware of what is expected from them; and if changes are not implemented effectively, and there are still concerns regarding the child’s welfare, Care Proceedings will proceed at this point.
Care Proceedings – FAQ’s
What circumstances give rise to care proceedings?
There are a number of circumstances which may cause sufficient concern for a local authority to apply to the Court for Care Proceedings, these may include physical neglect or physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, including a child witnessing domestic abuse.
The Court will only agree to make a Caro or Supervision Order if they agree that the child has already suffered significant harm, or if they are at risk of serious harm being suffered in the future.
What happens during Care Proceedings?
Care proceedings usually take around 26 weeks for a final decision to be made. There will be three hearings during these proceedings; a Case Management Hearing, an Issues Resolution Hearing and a Final Hearing. An Interim Care Order may be made before the final hearing if it is believed that the child needs to be taken from the care of parents before the final hearing. This is a temporary Court Order which will be provided at a separate hearing and means the local authority will share parental responsibility for your child.
A Case Management Hearing has the aim of resolving procedural matters to ensure the case is ready for a hearing in which a final decision can be made. This type of hearing identifies key issues and evidence necessary to resolve the aforementioned issues.
The Issues Resolution Hearing will attempt to conclude Care Proceedings early. If proceedings cannot be concluded at this point, the hearing will attempt to identify and narrow issues to be considered during the Final Hearing.
If a care plan cannot be agreed upon at the Issues Resolution Hearing, a Final Hearing will be required. In this Hearing, the Court may provide a Supervision Order, Care Order, Special Guardianship Order, or Placement Order to safeguard the child’s welfare.
Details on who the child will live with and contact arrangements will also be determined during the Final Hearing.
What is a Children's Guardian?
The role of a Children’s Guardian is to act in the best interest of the child, and to ensure they are safe during Care Proceedings. They ensure the Court hears the child’s wishes, feelings and experiences so that the best decision can be made.
What is a Care Order?
A Care Order gives the local authority parental responsibility for the child until they reach the age of 18. The child may be discharged from the care of the local authority before this point, however.
What is a Supervision Order?
If the Court hears a case and grants a Supervision Order, it means the child can stay in their family home under the supervision of the local authority.
What is a Special Guardianship Order?
This type of Order places the child with a guardian, i.e. someone that is not their parents, on a long term basis.
What should you do if Care Proceedings are made against you?
If you have been made aware that the local authority has concerns regarding the welfare of your child, you should seek legal advice straight away. In these circumstances, you will be entitled to legal aid to cover your legal costs.
You should ensure you speak to a solicitor with the experience and expertise required for these types of proceedings.
How can Expert Family Law assist?
Expert Family Law have a panel of experienced solicitors with the experience and expertise required to assist with Care Proceedings.
We understand that disputes involving children and their care can be incredibly complex and sensitive. The solicitors on our panel can provide you with the best advice and assistance on resolving care disputes.
As well as assisting with Care Proceedings, our panel of family law solicitors can also advise and assist on child arrangements, child custody, child contact and domestic abuse. We also assist those in the process of divorce and the division of assets following the breakdown of a marriage or civil partnership (ancillary relief).
We can assure you that your case will be dealt with in a compassionate and understanding manner.
Get in touch today using the form at the top of the page to find out if a solicitor from our panel could help on your case.
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