South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures
South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures

1.4.3 Legal Planning and Proof of Evidence Meetings

RELATED STATUTORY GUIDANCE

Statutory Guidance on Court Orders and Pre-proceedings

RELATED (NON STATUTORY) GUIDANCE

Working with Foreign Authorities: Child Protection Cases

AMENDMENT

This chapter was reviewed and updated in April 2016 when it was clarified in Section 1, Purpose of Legal Planning Meetings that where children are already Section 20 Accommodated there should be no delay in issuing proceedings where this is required.


Contents

  1. Purpose of Legal Planning Meetings
  2. Who can Convene Legal Planning Meetings
  3. Attendance at Legal Planning Meetings
  4. Timing and Duration of Legal Planning Meetings
  5. Recording of Legal Planning Meetings
  6. Review/Subsequent Legal Planning Meetings
  7. Proof of Evidence Meetings


1. Purpose of Legal Planning Meetings

When it is clear that the protection or welfare of a child cannot be achieved by agreement with the parents or the security of a legal order is necessary to ensure the viability of a plan for a child or the existing court order is not providing adequate protection for the child or is no longer required, a Legal Planning Meeting should be convened.

A Legal Planning Meeting may also be convened in circumstances where it is thought that a legal order may be required in order to assist in the permanence planning for children, whether that is a return to the family or to achieve permanence elsewhere.

A Legal Planning Meeting should be convened following an application for an Emergency Protection Order when consideration is being given to an application for an Interim Care Order.

A Legal Planning Meeting will be chaired by Head of Service or a Service manager (the service manager must not be from the service in which the case is allocated) and involve a legal adviser to the local authority on childcare matters. Consideration should also be given to whether it would be advisable to have a colleague from another agency or service that have an active involvement with the family and whose view would assist in making decisions about the child's legal status.

It is an opportunity to discuss a case fully, and to consult with colleagues to ensure that children are the subject of active case management and that appropriate legal action is taken when required to promote and safeguard the welfare of the child.

The role of the local authority legal adviser is to advise on Threshold and about the legal possibilities for achieving the desired aim and to give a view about the quality of the evidence available.

In order to enable a full discussion to take place, the following must be available:

  • Relevant assessment(s);
  • An up to date Chronology;
  • A Plan or a clear indication that options for a plan have been considered;
  • A Genogram;

The issues to be considered at the meeting will include the following:

  • The reasons for the concerns and the evidential basis for establishing Significant Harm and the Threshold Criteria;
  • Why Care Proceedings are necessary - what is their aim, objective and purpose?
  • The steps already taken to clarify the issues of concern - i.e. the Social Work Assessment, as well as medical and other expert involvement;
  • The action/decisions already taken and where the decisions were made e.g. Strategy Discussion/Meeting, Child Protection Conference, Core Group meeting;
  • The proposed Care Plan for the child, including the proposed placement and any cultural, language and ethnic issues, the need for a Twin Track Plan, consultation with parents and the wider family, whether any family members are available to care for the child on an interim or permanent basis, if so whether the required checks have been made, the proposals for contact;
  • Have there been previous Court proceedings in relation to the family? If so, what steps are required to obtain the papers in relation to the case from the Court? or another local authority?

If Care Proceedings are recommended, the Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure should be followed.

Note: Where children are already Section 20 Accommodated there should be no delay in issuing proceedings where this is required, (see Decision to Look After and Care Planning procedure, Section 20 Accommodation).


2. Who can Convene Legal Planning Meetings

The decision to convene a Legal Planning Meeting will be made by the social worker's line manager - the decision will usually be taken following a recommendation from a Child Protection Conference, as a result of a Child in Care Review, or on the request of a social worker, manager, local authority lawyer, or other agency.


3. Attendance at Legal Planning Meetings

The following can be invited to attend a Legal Planning Meeting: the child's social worker; the social worker's line manager; any other professional who has first-hand evidence and may be a potential witness; and those who may be involved in the provision of services integral to the order being sought. If the expectation is that the Child may move to another team following decisions at the Legal Planning meeting, then a Team Manager from the receiving team should attend the Legal Planning Meeting.


4. Timing and Duration of Legal Planning Meetings

The timing of a Legal Planning Meeting is likely to be determined by the urgency of court proceedings and the need to allow sufficient time for necessary preparation.


5. Recording of Legal Planning Meetings

Notes of Legal Planning Meetings should be circulated to all attendees. These are legally privileged and should not be made available to parents or other parties in any potential proceedings without the permission of the chairperson or Director.


6. Review/Subsequent Legal Planning Meetings

The meeting should consider whether further Legal Planning Meetings are necessary and if so, when. It may be that new information emerges which requires a change of plan for the child. In this event, the Legal Planning Meeting must be reconvened in order to consider the implications for the legal plan.


7. Proof of Evidence Meeting

A meeting will be convened within 5-7 days of the Legal Planning Meeting, chaired by the Service Manager and attended by the social Worker, Team Manager and Legal Advocate to check that all required evidence is available to proceed the application to the Court.

End