Local Authority involvement – Pre Proceedings
Letter before proceedings
What is this ?
- A formal letter setting out the local authority’s concerns about your child
- Letter will give date of meeting with local authority
- You must attend the meeting
- You must see a solicitor as soon as you receive the letter – Free Advice available
- Solicitor can attend meeting with you – Free Advice available
- Failure to attend meeting could result in the local authority starting court proceedings to remove your child
- Your chance to try and resolve the issues the local authority have about your family without going to court
There is a legal duty imposed on local authorities to “safeguard, protect and promote the welfare of children” in their area. A local authority has to take action if they think that a child is at risk of harm or neglect. If the local authority feels you are not making changes in the way you look after your child, they will send a letter before proceedings
You will receive a letter before proceedings from the local authority if they are worried about how your child is being looked after and are now thinking of going to court. Social services send this letter as a final step to see if they can resolve their concerns before making a decision of going to court.
The letter will outline the concerns the local authority have about the care given to your child and that they wish to meet with you formally to discuss their concerns. A solicitor can assist and accompany you through the process as well as negotiate with the local authority to avoid court proceedings being issued.
The letter before proceedings will ask you to attend a pre-proceedings meeting and a date for this would be set out in the letter. You should take a solicitor to the meeting with you and your solicitor can speak on your behalf. People present at the meeting for the local authority will include the child’s social worker, team manager and a solicitor from the local authority.
The meeting will address what changes are expected from you including how the local authority can support you to make the changes. The meeting also gives you the opportunity to speak out about anything you are not happy with. It is normal for a formal agreement to be drawn up if you agree to changes being made and you would be expected to follow the terms of the agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached, then the local authority will consider starting care proceedings at court.
Any agreement that is reached at the pre-proceedings meeting must be complied with by you and the local authority. The local authority will check if you are complying with the agreement and review meetings will be held which again, your solicitor can attend with you. The meetings will also give you the opportunity to voice any concerns you have about the local authority not keeping to their side of the agreement.
If the agreement made with the local authority is not kept or there are still serious or new concerns, the local authority will apply to a court to start care proceedings. When applying to the court the local authority will be seeking to share parental responsibility for your child so that they have legal authority to make decisions concerning your child such as where they should live, medical treatment, or schooling. The local authority when seeking to take your child into care may be asking for the child to live with a third party such as a foster carer for a few weeks or until the court can make a final decision which could take a few months.
Free Legal Representation
It is important that you obtain advice from an experienced child care solicitor as soon as you receive a letter before proceedings from the local authority, this advice is free.
The solicitor will :
- Go through the letter with you
- Listen to what you say
- Help explain to you what the concerns are
- Communicate on your behalf with the local authority and explain your position
- Advise you about the law and whether the local authority is following it correctly
- Attend the pre-proceedings meeting with you
- Continue to represent you through the process with the local authority
- Be at hand to advise and represent you should the local authority decide to start care proceedings
If you are a parent or have parental responsibility for the child, you can obtain free legal advice from your solicitor to help you with the above steps.