The Local Authority and Children

Children in Need
There is a duty on every Local Authority (LA) to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need and so far as is consistent with that duty, to promote the upbringing of such children by their families. Where parents experience difficulty in meeting their child or children’s needs, they may be able to get some support to help them.
A Child in Need (CIN) Plan can be produced for a child who has need of extra support for their safety, health and/or development, for example a child who has a disability or who has challenging behaviour.

A CIN Plan is drawn up at a meeting attended by parents and the social work team and this should identify what services or input they and other professionals will be providing, such as visits or making referrals. The CIN Plan is reviewed periodically at further meetings for as long as it remains in place.

The acceptance of a CIN Plan is not compulsory but it is recommended that parents who are thinking about declining the support offered or think that they do not need that support should discuss the matter with the social work team first, as they might be concerned about the consequences of the support being refused and the potential for this to increase the risk of harm to the child or children.

Child Protection Plans
If the LA is concerned that a child (including an unborn child) or children may be at risk of significant harm due to the parenting or lack of parenting a child or children are receiving it may need to consider whether or not they need to be the subject of a Child Protection (CP) Plan due to issues such as risk of physical, emotional or sexual harm, or neglect.

The social work team will convene an initial child protection conference to which parents and professionals working with the family are invited, for example: the Police, GP’s, health visitors and teachers.

If the professionals present are satisfied at that the child or children is at risk of significant harm, a CP Plan will be drawn up which will include identifying the child’s needs and how the LA can help to meet them, any needs that the parents have and who needs to do what (ie professionals or parents) to reduce the concerns for the child.

The CP Plan will be reviewed periodically and between those review meetings there will be core group meetings when a smaller group, including the parents and the social worker will meet to check on progress.

It is important that parents cooperate with the social worker and the other professionals and that they attend all the meetings.

If the CP Plan is not complied with by the parents, the LA will consider whether or not they need to make an Application to the Court in relation to the child or children.

Public Law Outline Meetings
The LA will convene a Public Law Outline (PLO) Meeting (sometimes called a Pre-Proceedings Meeting) if it believes that a child has suffered has suffered or is at risk of suffering significant harm and that harm is attributable to the parenting or lack of parenting the child has been receiving not being reasonable, or that the child is beyond parental control, (known as ‘threshold’), and it is thinking about making an Application to the Court for an Order to protect or remove them.

Parents are sent a letter inviting them to the PLO Meeting, setting out the LA’s concerns and what steps have been taken by the social work team and other professionals to address them.

Parents are encouraged to bring a legal representative to the Meeting and the social worker’s legal representative will also be present.

The Meeting will be an opportunity to discuss what if any action parents can take to prevent the LA making an Application and if a way forward can be agreed which would avoid an application to the Court being made. The parents may be asked to sign a Plan to record what they have agreed to do or not do and the Plan will be reviewed at a subsequent Meeting. If everything goes well and the concerns have been addressed, the LA may bring the PLO process to an end.

If the parents are unable to address the Local Authority’s concerns, there are further incidents, or a Plan is not adhered to at a later date, the Local Authority may proceed with an Application to the Court.

In cases where it is necessary to make an urgent application to protect or remove a child the PLO process will be dispensed with.