What are care proceedings?
If a Local Authority decides that they need to take action to keep a child safe, they will apply for a court order. This process is known as care proceedings.
What are pre-proceedings?
A Local Authority will enter into pre-proceedings if they have concerns about a child. The pre-proceedings procedure is designed to avoid going to court and is a last chance for parents to make a change before consideration is given to making a court application.
The Local Authority have sent me a letter about pre-proceedings – what should I do?
If you have received a letter from the Local Authority telling you that they have started pre-proceedings, you should seek legal advice and send a copy of the letter to your solicitor. You will be legally represented throughout the pre-proceedings process by your solicitor. Legal aid is available in these situations to parents whose children are subject to pre-proceedings so you will not need to fund this advice or representation yourself.
If you would like to speak to someone about a letter you have received or about pre-proceedings in general, please call 01392 256854.
How long do pre-proceedings take?
Pre-proceedings is a 12-week period where the Local Authority will look at your engagement with the process and support being offered and whether things are improving for your child.
What will happen during pre-proceedings?
During pre-proceedings, the Local Authority will set out clearly what it is they are concerned about, what you as the parent need to do to alleviate those concerns, and what support is going to be put in place to help you improve the situation for your child.
A parenting assessment is usually carried out. There will be a mid-way meeting at the halfway point (6 weeks into proceedings) in which the Local Authority will review any progress made. This is also an opportunity for you to say how you think things are going.
At the end of the 12 weeks the Local Authority will look at whether enough changes have been made or whether it needs to start care proceedings by making an application to the court. It can take up to 26 weeks for a court to decide what should happen to the child, while some complex cases can take longer.
During this time a social worker, an officer from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) and other people will be trying to understand the reasons why the child may be at risk. They will also look at what can be done to keep them safe.
The Local Authority have said it is going to start care proceedings in respect of my children – what should I do?
If you have been told by your social worker or the Local Authority that they intend on making an application to court in respect of your child you should seek legal advice as soon as possible. Legal aid is available to parents whose children are the subject of care proceedings, meaning you do not need to worry about funding this legal advice.
If you would like to speak to someone about care proceedings that have been started by the Local Authority, or care proceedings in general, please call 01392 256854.
What happens in care proceedings?
You or your solicitor will be sent a copy of the application that the Local Authority has made, which will set out what the Local Authority is asking the court to do. In most cases, the Local Authority will be asking the court to make an interim care order. An interim care order is an order which allows the Local Authority to share parental responsibility with the parents so that they can make decisions about the children in order to keep them safe.
The court will list a hearing which you will be invited to attend. Your solicitor will represent you at this hearing and they will voice your views to the court. During the course of the proceedings, there will be multiple hearings and assessments carried out, and information gathered to ensure that the court has all of the information available to make a final decision about your child.
At Cartridges Law we have a team of family lawyers who are experienced at representing parents in these sorts of proceedings and can support and guide you through the process, ensuring that you are fairly represented. If you would like to speak to one of our family lawyers, please call 01392 256854 or send us a message.
Local Authority – the local council which has responsibility for children’s social care
Legal Aid – funding that is available to help cover costs of legal proceedings
Parental responsibility – the legal term for the rights and responsibilities that parents have for their children