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1.5.3 Legal Planning Meetings

AMENDMENT

In September 2018, this chapter was substantially updated and should be re-read.


Contents

  1. When Should A Legal Planning Meeting Take Place
  2. Purpose of 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


1. When Should a Legal Planning Meeting Take Place

Prior to a legal Planning Meeting taking place if a Social Worker and Team Manager consider that the presenting concerns about a child are such that they require legal advice, the child’s Social Worker will prepare a legal consultation form and forward it to the Children’s legal department.

Once the Social Worker is in receipt of the legal advice the Social Worker and the advice is either Pre Proceedings or to Issue Care Proceedings the Social Worker prepares a Case Decision form. The Case Decision form should include a brief history, the impact on the child of the adult’s behaviours and the proposed plan for the child through pre proceedings or care proceedings.

A Legal Planning Meeting takes place following a Case Decision form being authorised by the Strategic Head of Social Care that agrees either the commencement of Pre Proceedings or agreement to Issue Care Proceedings If this is a proportionate response to the presenting concerns.

The Legal Planning Meeting is chaired by a Service Manager with the Team Manager and Social Worker also present. Other attendees are the Children’s Services Legal Department, Early Years and fostering and adoption colleagues.


2. Purpose of Legal Planning Meetings

A Legal Planning Meeting should be convened in the following circumstances:

  1. When it is clear that the protection or welfare of a child cannot be achieved by agreement with the parents;
  2. The security of a legal order is necessary to ensure the viability of a plan for a child;
  3. The existing court order is not providing adequate protection for the child or is no longer required;
  4. 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;
  5. 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 the Service Manager and involve a legal representative for the local authority on childcare matters. Colleagues from other parts of the service that have an active involvement with the family and whose view would assist in making decisions about the child's legal status are invited. This includes representatives from Fostering the Regional Adoption Agency and Early Help.

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 Department is to advise 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;
  • Whether Care Proceedings are necessary - what is their aim, objective and purpose?
  • The steps already taken to clarify the issues of concern - i.e. Child and Family Assessment, as well as other medical and other expert involvement;
  • In the case of Pre Proceedings the detail of the Schedule Of Expectation that is shared with parents will be considered and agreed;
  • Whether the requirements of the Pre-Proceedings Checklist set out in the Public Law Outline have been met, including a written notification to the parents about the areas of concern and their right to seek legal advice. See Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure;
  • When the Child and Family Assessment and other supporting documentation will be available, if not already;
  • 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 and in the case of a decision to issue care proceedings - the proposed placement and any cultural, language and ethnic issues, the need for a Parallel 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 viability assessment has been or is to be completed and the proposals for contact;
  • How the proposed Care Plan is to be achieved, including where appropriate arranging a date for the case to be presented to the Adoption Panel;
  • Whether it may be appropriate to instruct any further expert assessment before the commencement of court proceedings - if so, what are the proposed remit of the instructions and the areas to be addressed, who should the assessment be done by and what are the likely timescales?
  • 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?
  • Timescales for the Social Work Evidence Template if the decision is to issue care proceedings.

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).


3. Attendance at Legal Planning Meetings

The following can be invited to attend a Legal Planning Meeting:

  • The child's social worker;
  • The Social Workers Line Manager;
  • The meeting is chaired by a Service Manager;
  • Representatives from Early Years, Fostering, Regional Adoption Agency;
  • 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 if an order being sought.


4. Timing and Duration of Legal Planning Meetings

Legal Planning Meetings take place every Tuesday afternoon.

The first legal planning meeting takes place the first Tuesday after the Case Decision form is authorised.

There is always opportunity if circumstances require a more immediate response to arrange a meeting prior to this.


5. Recording of Legal Planning Meetings

Notes of the Planning meeting are to be recorded on Protocol. 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

Review Care Planning Meetings will be diarised into calendars and take place every 6 weeks.

The Pre Proceedings process runs for 12 weeks in total and a decision will be made to escalate or deescalate at the second review meeting. There are occasions that the timeframe will need to be extended and a case note by the Team Manager that includes the Strategic Head of Social Care will be raised outlining the reason for the proposed extension and new timeframe and review dates.

End