The Public Law Outline process
The Public Law Outline sets out the process when local authorities issue care proceedings in relation to a child. Unless the local authority considers that the level of risk requires an immediate application to court, the local authority should send a Letter before proceedings to parents which should set out a summary of the local authority’s concerns and what support has already been provided to the parents. Importantly it should set out what parents need to do and what support will be provided for them, to avoid proceedings, including timescales. The letter should make clear how important it is for the parent to seek legal representation. The letter will invite parents to a meeting, known as a PLO or pre-proceedings meeting.
What happens at a Public Law Outline meeting?
At the PLO meeting, the social worker will attend, along with the Team Manager and a solicitor representing the local authority. Parents are asked to attend and can bring legal representation with them too.
During the PLO meeting, it will be explained why the Public Law Outline process has been started and the support offered will be outlined. The concerns will be reviewed, and the parents will have an opportunity to respond and discuss throughout the meeting.
There will usually be an agreement prepared by the social care team which will outline what is expected from the parents in order for the concerns to be alleviated, and overview the support that can be provided to help this to happen. The parents will be asked to sign this document and agree to take the steps outlined. Whilst this agreement in itself is not legally binding, if the parents breach what they have initially agreed to, it’s likely that care proceedings will be applied for by the local authority.
There will usually be a date set for another meeting so that everything can be reviewed, and it can be discussed whether there is a need for the Public Law Outline process to carry on, or whether the progress made is satisfactory to avoid proceedings.
Public Law Outline timescales
The timescale for the Public Law Outline process usually lasts anywhere up to three months, but may carry on for longer if the situation is very complex or if there is still outstanding work to be done.
If the social worker feels that there is immediate risk of harm to a child or that the matters involved are urgent, it might be that the case goes straight to court instead of following the standard process.
If you are a parent requiring Public Law Outline guidance because of an upcoming PLO meeting or an ongoing situation, our team can offer specialist advice and support and if you are a parent legal aid is automatically available regardless of your financial circumstances. We have many years of experience in dealing with situations like this and can provide expert advice to help you at what can be a very difficult and stressful time. Call us on 0161 696 6193 for more information.