How will the court decide?
The Court will have information and will listen to points of view from all the people involved in the case.
The Local Authority
The Social Worker will prepare:
- A Parenting Assessment of each parent that wants to look after the child or children.
- A statement setting out what has happened and what the concerns are for the child or children. It should also say what the short and long term plans for the child or children are and what orders the Local Authority wants the court to make.
- A Care Plan setting out the details of the Local Authority’s plan for each child. This will include where they live and who they will see and how often.
- The Local Authority will also prepare a Threshold document which sets out the significant harm it says the child or children have suffered or are at risk of suffering and give examples of this harm.
- After the assessments are finished the Local Authority will prepare a Final statement and Care Plan setting out what it thinks the long term plan should be.
With the help of their lawyer parents will be able say what they think about what the Local Authority is saying in documents that their lawyer will prepare, these are:
- A Response to the Threshold Document setting out what is accepted and what is not agreed.
- A Position Statement setting out what they think the plans for the child or children should be in the short and the long-term. There may be more than one of these if different issues come up.
- At the end of the case, a Statement responding to the Local Authority Final Statement and Care Plan.
The Court may decide that it is necessary to have extra information or evidence. This could include:
- An Independent Social Work Assessment: This could be because there is an issue about the Local Authority’s Assessment of a parent, a parent lives in a different area or because a specialist Assessment is needed (for example if a parent has a learning difficulty or disability).
- A Cognitive Assessment: This would be to identify any learning difficulty or disability and to recommend ways in which the parent could be helped to join in the Court process and work with Professionals.
- A Capacity Assessment: To confirm if a parent with mental health problems was able to join in the Court process and instruct a Solicitor in their own right.
- A Psychiatric Assessment: To consider a parent’s mental health, including use of alcohol and/or drugs, and the impact of this on their ability to care for their child or children.
- A Child Psychiatric Assessment: To explore a child’s mental health problems and identify any particular needs which must be met by those caring for them.
- A Psychological Assessment: To consider the nature of the parents’ and family relationships and how the children’s emotional needs have been met and need to be met in the long term.
- A Paediatric Assessment: To consider any injuries or health conditions which a child may have and what the cause of those might be.
The Guardian who represents the child or children’s interests will give a view on what evidence is needed by the Court for it to be able to decide what the final plan for each child should be. This may be in the form of a Report called an Initial Analysis or in a Position Statement.
Once all the evidence has been completed the Guardian will consider this and file a Report called a Final Analysis setting out their recommendations for the long term care of each child.
The Court will pay particular attention to the views of the Guardian.
The Court’s decision
The Court has to decide what is in a child’s best interests. When deciding the child’s welfare is the most important factor.
If everyone involved in the case agrees what the plans for the child or children should be, the Court may be asked to approve those plans without having a full Hearing.
Where there are different views about the plans for children there may need to be a Hearing before a Judge when they will hear evidence and listen to the lawyers for the Local Authority, the parents, and the child or children before making the decision as to what the plans should be.