In case the Local Authority’s Social Services Department become involved with your family, we can help you through all stages of the investigations.
Sheena Donlon, Head of Care answers some frequently asked questions regarding care matters & social services
What type of court orders can be made regarding children?
If the Local Authority applies to the Court for an order due to concerns that your child is at risk of suffering significant harm the most likely type of orders applied for is either an interim care order or an interim supervision order.
What is the difference between an interim care order and an interim supervision order?
An interim care order will grant the Local Authority parental responsibility for your child and in some cases, the Local Authority will also seek to remove your child from your care and place with an alternative family member or in foster care. An interim supervision order provides the Local Authority with the duty to “advice, befriend and assist” the family during the course of the proceedings and does not give the Local Authority parental responsibility for your child.
How long will the proceedings last?
Proceedings are due to complete within 26 weeks, however, the Court can grant extensions in cases where there are high levels of complexity
If my child is removed from my care under an interim care order what are my rights to see them?
If the Court sanction removal under an interim care order the Local Authority has a duty to promote reasonable contact. In the event the Local Authority wish to suspend contact for more than 7 days an application would need to be made to the Court for this to be considered
What assessments are likely to be ordered within the proceedings?
The types of assessments ordered by the court will depend on the issues in your case. Assessments could include parenting assessments, psychological or psychiatric assessments. In some cases there may be a need for medical experts to be involved or for the children to also be assessed.
Can you refuse to engage in Court ordered assessments?
It is always beneficial to engage in the assessments as this will form part of the evidence that is considered by the Court when making long term decisions in respect of your children
What happens once all the assessment are completed?
Once all the assessments have been completed the Local Authority will prepare the final evidence setting out a care plan for the children. In the event, matters can be agreed a final order can be made by the Court, but if an agreement cannot be reached a contested final hearing will need to take place.
How long is a final hearing and what happens?
The length of a final hearing will depend on whether the matter is contested and the complexity of the case. Final hearings can range from half a day to several days or even weeks. Oral evidence will likely be heard from the professionals and experts involved in the case and having heard this the Court would balance the evidence and make a final decision.
What happens if I do not agree with the final order made?
If you do not agree with the final order you may have a right to appeal the decision but you would need to show that the Judge made a legal mistake or got the facts in the case wrong when making such a decision. You would need to apply for permission to appeal and if permission is granted a formal appeal can then be lodged.
Is legal aid available in these types of cases?
Care proceedings are non means and non merits tested and therefore public funding is available for all individuals with parental responsibility for the child/ren
With regards to appeal cases, it is more difficult to obtain funding as it is means and merits tested and therefore you have to be financially eligible as well as prove to the Legal Aid Agency there is merit in your application.
Social Services Solicitors
We are leading Legal Aid child care lawyers who can advise and liaise with Social Services on our clients’ behalf. Our social services solicitors fight in your corner to keep children at home with their family, if at all possible.
We find that the earlier our involvement in the matter, the better the results. It is crucial to seek legal advice from experienced social services solicitors at the earliest possible opportunity.
Legal Aid is available for dealing with social services provided you have parental responsibility.
To speak with one of our social services solicitors, call us on 020 3601 5051 or fill in our enquiry form online.