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

1.4.2 Court Proceedings

NOTE

For applications for Emergency Protection Orders, see Applications for Emergency Protection Orders Procedure.

For guidance on the payment of “Top up fees” please consult the Top Up Fees Policy.

NB Any changes in a child's legal status as a result of court proceedings must be recorded on the electronic database.

This chapter should be read in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice Guidance: Preparing for Care and Supervision Proceedings.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in July 2016 when the link to the top up policy was added.


Contents

  1. Starting Care Proceedings
  2. After the Issue of Care Proceedings
  3. Format of Care Plans filed in Care Proceedings
  4. Correspondence During Court Proceedings


1. Starting Care Proceedings

Before a decision can be made to initiate Care Proceedings, a Legal Planning Meeting should be held - See Legal Planning Meetings Procedure and the approval of the Designated Manager (Care Proceedings) obtained.

NB Any decision to commence Care Proceedings should have regard to the requirements of the Public Law Outline - see Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure.

Where a child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, Significant Harm in the future it is the local authority’s duty to consider the evidence and decide what, if any, legal action to take. The information presented to the Child Protection Conference should inform that decision-making process but it is for the local authority to consider whether it should initiate for example Care Proceedings.

Where Care Proceedings are recommended, the social worker or his/her manager will seek the authority of the Designated Manager (Care Proceedings).

If authorised, the child's social worker will advise the child and the relevant family members of the decision.

The social worker and local authority solicitor will then prepare the documents that are required to be produced for Court. The local authority solicitor will advise the court of the name of the Independent Reviewing Officer and their contact details.

The issues set out in the Public Law Outline checklist need to be addressed before the first Court hearing and dates by which any outstanding assessments can be completed must be ascertained.


2. After the Issue of Care Proceedings

It is essential that the social worker and the local authority solicitor have regular contact during the course of the proceedings, and that the progress of the case is kept under constant review.

This will include discussion of any disclosure issues, which may need to be the subject of directions by the Court.

The Public Law Outline checklist will become a running document and completion of the Checklist will require regular liaison between the social worker, local authority solicitor and barrister (if instructed) during the course of the proceedings.

In addition the social worker must keep the local authority solicitor and Children's Guardian up to date with any changes in relation to the child during the proceedings, for example, placement, contact, school/education, health.

Arrangements must not be made for any change to the child's placement without prior consultation with the Children's Guardian.


3. Format of Care Plans Filed in Care Proceedings

The format of the Interim Care Plan and Final Care Plan, which must be exhibited to the social worker's Statement in Care Proceedings, should follow these headings:

  • Overall aim;
  • Child's needs including contact;
  • Views of others;
  • Placement details and timetable;
  • Management and support by local authority.

There must be a separate Care Plan for each child.

Where adoption is part of the Care Plan either as the preferred or contingency plan, legal advice should be sought as to the need for and timing of a Placement Order application. See Placement for Adoption Procedure as to the steps that are required prior to the filing of a Placement Order application.

The social worker and his/her manager must sign the Interim Care Plan. In addition the Designated Manager (Care Plans) must sign the Final Care Plan.


4. Correspondence During Court Proceedings

All correspondence received from solicitors for other parties during court proceedings must be passed to the local authority solicitor to deal with.

Where the local authority solicitor receives correspondence during court proceedings and requires the social worker's instructions for the reply, the letter will be copied to the social worker immediately upon its receipt and the social worker must give clear instructions to the solicitors as to the reply as soon as practicable.

In relation to any other contentious correspondence, including letters received from an expert received during court proceedings, the social worker must send the letter to the local authority solicitor as soon as possible, together with detailed instructions for the reply.

End