Childcare FAQ’s

What is a “child in need” plan?

If your child is subject to a “Child in Need Plan”, this means that the Local Authority believe that the child is in need of Local Authority services and support to sustain a reasonable level of health and development, or require Local Authority support to prevent further harm to their health and development.

A child who is disabled is also a “Child in Need”.

What is a “Child Protection Plan”?

A Child Protection Plan is a plan put together by a Local Authority if they consider that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm. The Child Protection Plan sets out ways in which a child can be kept safe and how families can be supported and helped in making changes to ensure the child’s safety and welfare is met.

Parents should be notified of the Local Authority’s reasons for the plan.

These “plans” will be discussed at Child Protection Conferences which will involve a number of professionals who are involved with the family, for example; Health Visitors, Social Worker, Schools etc. All of these professionals will contribute towards the plan and help support the family to make the necessary changes.

What is the Public Law Outline (PLO)?

The Public Law Outline is the final stage before proceedings are issued with the Court. This is normally issued when the Local Authority has serious concerns in respect of the safety and welfare of a child. This can be following an incident or after months of involvement with a family under a Child Protection Plan where no progress has been made.

A meeting is normally held by Social Services following the issuing of a letter to parents advising them to seek legal advice. The PLO letter automatically entitles a parent or someone with parental responsibility to legal aid.

Parents are advised to attend the meeting with a solicitor to see if an agreement can be reached to prevent the matter being taken to Court.

We can advise you and attend these meetings with you.

What is an Interim Care Order (ICO)?

An Interim Care Order is an Order made by the Court following an application made by a Local Authority to where there are concerns that a child may suffer or has suffered significant harm.

An Interim Care Order made in favour of the Local Authority and gives the Local Authority parental responsibility over a child. A Local Authority’s parental responsibility overrides that of any other party with parental responsibility.

What is a “Children’s Guardian” and what is their role?

A Children’s Guardian is independent from the Local Authority. The Role of a Guardian is to act as a voice for a child, to make sure that a child is safe, and to make sure that any decisions made are made in the best interests of a child.

In Care Proceedings, the Guardian will consider the Local Authority’s care plans to ensure that the care plan is viable for a child. The Guardian will also share their views as to what they feel should happen to a child in respect of their placement.

Who are CAFCASS and what is their role?

CAFCASS stands for Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. Their role is to ensure that a child’s views are considered and that any decisions that are made in respect of a child are made in the best interests of the child.

What in an Emergency Protection Order and what does it mean?

An Emergency Protection Order is an Order made by the Court allowing a Local Authority to remove a child immediately from its primary carer.

These orders are usually made on an urgent application to the Court by the Local Authority following an incident so serious that it is deemed necessary to immediately remove the child for the child’s safety and welfare.

Almost all applications are made by the Local Authority, but the Police can issue an application themselves.

An EPO can last for up to 8 days however this can be extended by a further 7 days provided the matter is brought back to Court. In most cases, the Local Authority would issue an application for an Interim Care Order within the initial 8 days.

Who has parental responsibility?

A Mother, A Father provided he is married to the Mother at the time that the child was born or, if unmarried, attends the registration of the child’s birth with the mother after 1st December 2003.

If a father’s name was put on a child’s birth certificate before 1st December 2003, he will not have parental responsibility unless he has either been married to the child’s mother or he has obtained it by court order or agreement

If a child is adopted outside of the birth family, the adoptive parents will obtain parental responsibility at the expense of the birth parents.

How can I get parental responsibility?

A Mother automatically has parental responsibility and will only ever lose it if the child is placed for adoption.

A Father who attends the registration of the birth with the Mother and who is named on the birth certificate.

A Father who is married to the mother at the time of the birth.

A father who was not married to the mother prior to the change in the law on 1st December 2003 and whom did not attend the registration of the birth can obtain parental responsibility by (the same applies to a Step-Parent);

  • Making a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the Child’s Mother,
  • By obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order under Section 4(1) of the Children Act 1989
  • By obtaining a Child Arrangements Order which specifies living with or spending time with and with the latter the Court decides to grant PR to the father as well
  • By marrying the mother

I am a grandparent, can I be involved in the care proceedings?

Yes. A Grandparent can apply to the Court to be joined as a party.

Do I have to pay to have representation in care proceedings?

No. This is non-means, non-merits tested. Anyone who has parental responsibility of a child subject to PLO and Care Proceedings is entitled to free legal aid.

How long do care proceedings last?

Proceedings are timetabled to last up to 26 weeks. In some cases the matter can be extended beyond the 26 weeks, but this is up to the Court. 
This is set out in Section 14 of the Children and Families Act 2014.

How often can I see my children if they are placed in Local Authority foster care?

Contact arrangements will be set out in the Local Authority’s care plan taking into account the views of professionals involved and the best interests of the child. This can range from indirect contact to direct contact. The frequency of contact will be decided on a case-by-case basis taking into account what is best for the children. Contact may be supervised or unsupervised, within or outside on a Local Authority contact centre, depending on the level of risk.

What is an Initial Child Protection Conference?

A Initial Child Protection Conference is the first conference following the Local Authority notifying the parents of a child of concerns It about the child’s welfare. In this conference, the measures that need to be put in place to prevent the children suffering or being likely to suffer from any potential harm are discussed.

What is a Placement Order?

This is an order without which a Local Authority cannot place a child for adoption.

What is a Child Arrangements Order? (Priv)

An order which states who a child should live (formerly Residence / Contact Orders).

What is a Special Guardianship Order (SGO)?

An Order granting, usually a family member, but not a parent, parental responsibility of a child.