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Supervision orders - child care proceedings

What is a Supervision Order? A supervision order is a legal order, obtained by the local authority through the court, which requires a child to be supervised by social services, while still living in the family home (or placed with a relative), to make sure that the child is well cared for.

A supervision order imposes a duty on the local authority to ‘advise, assist and befriend’ the child as set out in section 35 of the Children Act 1989

This could include whether the child is being fed, clothed and kept clean, as well as if the child is being raised in a stable environment and safe from harm.

A court can only grant a supervision order to the local authority if they believe that:

  • The child is suffering harm, or is at risk of suffering harm in the future; and
  • The harm is being caused by the child’s parents, or
  • The parents are unable to protect the child from harm as they are unable to control the child.
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Parental responsibility

Unlike a care order, a supervision order does not give the local authority any parental responsibility. The duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child rests on his parents (or carer). However, the local authority is under a duty to advise, assist and befriend the child.

Social workers will have access to the home and child to make regular assessments of the quality of care being provided.

A supervision order can be  made for up to one year, but it can be stopped (discharged) earlier or extended for a total of up to three years.

If it is believed that the quality of care being provided to the child is not sufficient, or is deteriorating, the local authority may apply for a further order, such as a care order or emergency protection order.

If you wish to challenge the making of a supervision order, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible. Please call us on 0161 696 6193 to speak with one of our legal advisors.

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

Is legal aid available for supervision orders? In the event that social services are applying for a supervision order in relation to your children, legal aid is always automatically available - it may also be available to extended family members but will depend on whether they are eligible by way of their financial circumstances and the strength of their case.

Frequently asked questions about supervision orders

Supervision orders can be complex. We’ve provided answers to some of the most common questions we are asked about this area of law below. If you can’t find the information that you’re looking for here, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our expert team for specialist support. Call 0161 696 6193.

What is an interim supervision order?

An interim supervision order gives the local authority the legal power to temporarily support parents with their parenting. A social worker will befriend and assist the parents of the child, offering advice and support to them on parenting matters.   It may be made early on in proceedings whilst assessments are undertaken in relation to the child which will inform what the appropriate final order may be. 

How long does a final supervision order last?

A supervision order is generally in place for at least 12 months but can be of a shorter duration. Supervision orders can also be extended for longer than the original 12 months, for up to three years.

Can a 12-month supervision order be renewed?

An application can be made to the court to extend a supervision order for up to three years from the starting date of the original supervision order. Supervision orders cannot be extended for more than three years.

What happens when a supervision order ends?

When a supervision order is no longer deemed to be needed, it can be discharged early, or will come to an end once the order expires. Once a supervision order ends, the local authority no longer has the same legal obligation to stay as involved.

What is the difference between a care order and a supervision order?

A care order gives the local authority parental responsibility for the child, meaning that the local authority can override the wishes of parents, if they feel it is required. A supervision order instead requires that the local authority have regular input and visits with the child and family to support the family and offer advice.

What is an education supervision order?

An education supervision order is a legal order granted by the Family Proceedings Court to help improve a child’s school attendance. Before the local authority applies for an education supervision order, all reasonable efforts should have been made by all the parties to solve any school attendance problem. Parents and child will be required to work with the Supervising Officer and to follow the directions of the order. If a parent persistently fails to comply with a direction given under an education supervision order they will be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine.

What is the difference between a supervision order or a child in need plan?

A child in need plan is a voluntary plan offered to parents and child in circumstances when it’s felt they may need more support to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare. A supervision order is a legal court order requiring input from social services and is not voluntary.

How to apply for a supervision order

A supervision order can only be applied for by a local authority or an ‘authorised person’ (NSPCC). They will need to apply to the Court and prove that the threshold has been met for the order to be granted.

How to appeal a supervision order

It is sometimes possible to appeal against a supervision order, but you will need specialist legal advice to do so, because of the complexities involved with every case being unique. Legal aid for this may be available if the order is in relation to your own children.

What does PLO stand for in social services?

PLO stands for the Public Law Outline. The PLO outlines the duties of local authorities who are applying a care order or supervision order to be granted for a child and outlines the different stages of the process. The family may be invited to a PLO review meeting to discuss the situation and the best way forward and ow to avoid proceedings when they are thinking about going to court.

What happens on a supervision order?

Under a Supervision Order, a child remains at home but under the local authority's supervision. This involves regular visits from a social worker, monitoring the child's welfare, and potentially offering support to the family. The aim is to ensure the child's safety while maintaining the family environment.

When will a supervision order be made?

Supervision order is made when a court believes a child needs extra protection and support, but can safely stay in their home. It's used when there are concerns about a child's welfare, but removal from the family is not deemed necessary.

Who can apply for a supervision order?

A supervision order is usually sought by local authorities, primarily in situations where a child's welfare is a concern. This legal measure enables the child to stay in their home under the supervision of the local council, ensuring their safety and wellbeing while maintaining family connections.

Can a child be removed on a supervision order?

Under a supervision order, a child is generally not removed from home. The order aims to monitor and support the child within their family setting. However, if significant concerns arise about the child's safety, further legal action may be considered to protect them.

Is a supervision order a “looked after child”?

A child under a supervision order is not classified as a 'looked after child'. The order entails supervision in their own home, unlike 'looked after' status, which applies to children in foster care, residential care, or other arrangements away from their family home.

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