Section 20 agreements allow the local authority to remove a child and place them in foster care without the need for a court order. Whether or not to enter into a section 20 agreement is a voluntary decision made by the parents with the local authority....
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.
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 (also known as a pre-proceedings letter or a letter before action) 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.