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Care: What Are Pre-Proceedings Meetings?

Having Social Services involved in your family can be a daunting time. But what...

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Care: What Are Pre-Proceedings Meetings?

17th October 2017

News : Divorce & Family

Having Social Services involved in your family can be a daunting time. But what happens when you receive a letter inviting you to attend a pre-proceedings meeting. What does this mean for you as a parent? Are you entitled to Legal Aid?  Will your child be taken off you?

Sarah Miller from the Care Team provides answers to some frequently asked questions and provides a basic guide to the pre-proceedings process.

When would a pre-proceedings meeting apply?

When the Local Authority (Social Services) become very concerned about the welfare of a child, they will consider taking the matter to Court to protect the child from any harm.  First of all they will need to give the parents an opportunity to address the Local Authorities concerns. Parents will be invited to attend a pre-proceedings meeting and the concerns will be formally explained to them. You are entitled to have a solicitor with you during this process.

If the Local Authority deem the immediate risk so high to the child, they may decide they need to bypass the pre-proceedings process. The matter is then taken straight to Court and Care proceedings are started.  If this happens call us immediately so we can help.

How do I know if pre-proceedings are being entered into?

Firstly the Local Authority must invite the parents to a meeting to discuss their concerns. This meeting is called a ‘pre-proceedings meeting’.

The invite takes form of a letter; this is a very important document and you should speak to us about this as soon as possible.

The letter will briefly set out the Social Workers concerns and any historical involvement the Social Worker has had with the family. It will also set out any future work they would like to complete with the family.

Ignoring this letter and failing to engage could result in the Local Authority taking the matter straight to care proceedings… therefore this is a letter not to be ignored.

The letter encloses a Contract of Expectations… what is this document?

In many cases an agreement is drafted; also known as, a ‘Contract of Expectations’. This sets out the expectations of the Local Authority, the expectations of the parents, (or anyone else with parental responsibility for the child) and the consequences of a breach. The aim here is to get the Local Authority and parents working together to avoid the need to go to court. All parties are required to sign this to show their commitment to the Contract.

How long does the pre-proceedings process last?

The pre-proceedings process should conclude within 12 weeks. By the 12th week a decision is made by the Local Authority on whether the matter will be taken to Court or downgraded from pre-proceedings.

During the 12 week process, you will usually have an Initial Meeting, a Review Meeting at  6 weeks and then a Final Meeting. You are entitled to have a solicitor with you at all of these meetings, and will be encouraged to do so.

How serious is the meeting?

Entering into the pre-proceedings process should be taken very seriously; it can often be your last chance to prove you can work with Social Services before the case is taken to Court.

Therefore, it is so important that you attend, even if the relationship between you and the Social Worker is difficult.

Am I entitled to Legal Aid?

Due to the importance of pre-proceedings, Legal Aid is provided for parents (or anyone else with parental responsibility for the child), regardless of your financial position. Therefore you do not need to worry about representing yourself.  You are entitled to representation during the whole pre-proceedings process at no cost to yourself.

Here at Poole Alcock we have a team of solicitors that specialise in Child Law. Dealing in particular with pre-proceedings and care proceedings. To find out how we can help you, please call now to speak to one of our expert solicitors.

We have family solicitors at all of our offices across Cheshire. Click here to book an appointment or call now on 01270 256665. Alternatively you can visit our Divorce and Family services page here or complete this form for a call back.

 

 

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