View the Pan Lancashire SCB Manual
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1.5.3 Legal Planning Meetings

AMENDMENT

In February 2017, this chapter was updated and should be read throughout.


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


1. 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 a Interim Care Order.

A Legal Planning Meeting will be chaired by the social worker's line manager / Service Leader 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 should be invited. This should include representatives from Fostering and Adoption 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;
  • Whether a letter needs to be issued before proceedings under PLO;
  • 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, including 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 worker's Statement of Evidence.

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 Looked After Review, a Planning Meeting, legal consultation meeting or on the request of a social worker, manager, local authority lawyer, or other agency. The decision must be recorded on a Case Decision Form and authorised by a Head of Service as decision will be for PLO / care proceedings.


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 and / or Service Leader;
  • 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.


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 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

The meeting should consider whether further Legal (Care) 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.

End