Pre-Proceedings (Public Law Outline)

When social workers are concerned about the welfare of a child to the extent that they are considering taking the case to court, this is known as the ‘pre-proceedings’ or ‘Public Law Outline’ (PLO) process. It is often an escalation of child protection procedures.

The social services department should send a letter sometimes known as a ‘PLO letter’, ‘pre-proceedings letter’ or ‘letter before proceedings’. This should set out the concerns of the social services department. It should also set out what the expectations of the social services department are, if proceedings are to be avoided.

The letter will invite you to a meeting known as a ‘PLO meeting’ or ‘pre-proceedings meeting’. You are able to have a solicitor present at such meetings who can advise and support you before, during and after the meeting and help negotiate an agreement to try to avoid the need to go to court. The hope is that the parents can recognise the concerns and take steps to address them.

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Assessments

During this process assessments may be undertaken by the social services department or they may arrange for assessments to be undertaken by other professionals such as psychologists. Drug and/or alcohol testing may be arranged or paternity testing where appropriate.

If the concerns cannot be addressed then the social services department may make an application to court for an interim care order and consideration may be given to the child being placed in foster care.

There may be some cases where the social workers feel that the risk of harm to a child is so great, or the case is so urgent, that the case should go straight to court.

If you have been asked to go to a PLO or pre-proceedings meeting it is important that you seek urgent legal advice. If you have been sent a PLO letter and are a parent or person with parental responsibility you will be entitled to legal aid and you will not have to pay for legal advice.

Stephensons’ family law team has a strong reputation for achieving positive outcomes for its clients. The department was voted the Family Law Firm of the Year in 2014 and is accredited in the Legal 500 and the Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession as ‘leaders in the field of child care’.

For a free, no obligation initial chat with one of our legal advisors call us on 0203 816 0548.

 

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