In this article, we’ll be discussing the difference between a PLO and care proceedings, what the purpose of care proceedings is, and how long these proceedings can take.
What is PLO?
The Public Law Outline process is a process in which the local authority works with the parent in order to reduce the risks posed to the child.
This is in the form of meetings with the social work team, solicitors (for both the local authority and parent) and the parent themselves.
The goal of the PLO process is to avoid court proceedings and to conduct the assessments as early as possible, in order to identify how exactly a parent can be assisted. There will be review meetings to review the progress made.
Ultimately, the PLO process will end either by being closed, (with the child either being on a Child Protection Plan or Child in Need), or if the concerns remain, the local authority may decide to issue proceedings.
What is the purpose of care proceedings?
Care proceedings is a set of court proceedings in which the court will ultimately decide where/with whom a child should live. The court will always have the welfare and safety of the child as a paramount concern.
The proceedings are designed to assess all safe options for a child and to give the opportunity to the parent of resolving those concerns that have led the local authority to issuing proceedings and seeking a care order or a supervision order.
How long do care proceedings take?
Care proceedings must be concluded within 26 weeks. However, in practice, this is not often achieved and proceedings can be significantly longer.
What is the threshold criteria for care proceedings?
In order to be able to make a care or supervision order, the court has to be satisfied that the threshold criteria has been met.
This means they have to prove to the courts that there are reasonable grounds to believe that a child is suffering, or likely to suffer significant harm as a result of the care they are receiving.
How to prevent a PLO from turning into care proceedings
During the PLO process, the meetings will outline the following:
- The social worker’s concerns.
- Any support that you’ve been given.
- What you need to do to prevent care proceedings from taking place.
- A timeframe for when you need to take action.
You will have a good idea of what needs to be done and when you need to demonstrate that you’ve made these changes – which will be different depending on the nature of the case.
If you’re able to demonstrate suitable changes in the agreed time period, you will be able to prevent a PLO from turning into care proceedings.
It is important to carefully reflect on any concerns that the local authority raises and to proactively and openly engage with both the local authority and also support services that are being provided (whether to yourself or for your child).
The most important factor is to obtain expert legal advice as early as possible in the process. Early legal advice can make a significant difference in terms of the outcome of the PLO process.