When the local authority is worried about children, and the way they are cared for they will ask the parent(s) or guardians to attend a meeting to discuss these concerns. This invite takes the form of a Letter Before Proceedings and will provide a date and venue for a pre-proceedings meeting or a Public Law Outline Meeting (PLO). The letter should set out the local authority’s concerns and request that you see a solicitor urgently. There should also be a list of solicitors attached.
A pre-proceedings meeting is a formal meeting which will take place between the parent(s)/guardians, the social worker, his or her manager and a member of the local authority legal team.
The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the care of the children and to explain to you the concerns the local authority have. It is an opportunity to see what further support the local authority can offer you in terms of caring for your children, and to set out what is expected of you to protect the children from harm. To receive an invite to a meeting of this nature is an indication that as far as the local authority is concerned, the problem has reached a critical stage, it is therefore imperative that you do not ignore this correspondence.
The aim of the Public Law Outline process is to avoid the local authority applying to the Court for an order to protect the children. It is the final opportunity for the parent(s)/guardians to make the necessary changes to avoid the local authority issuing care proceedings and for the children to remain in the family home. Only in exceptional circumstances where the risk to the children is considered to be so high would the local authority bypass a PLO meeting and apply straight to the Court.
If you have parental responsibility for the children, you will be entitled to legal aid for the PLO meetings regardless of your financial circumstances. You are also entitled to have a legal representative with you at these meetings. We will attend all PLO meetings with you, we will ensure you fully understand what is expected of you; we will also help you negotiate a plan of action with the local authority and to explain any points on your behalf that you do not agree with.
If you do receive correspondence entitled ‘Letter before Proceedings’ you must act immediately. Failure to attend a meeting could result in the local authority taking the matter to Court. It is important that you do not ignore it, contact our experienced Farleys family law team as a matter of urgency for assistance on 0845 287 0939 or complete our online enquiry form and one of our experienced solicitors will get in touch with you.