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Threshold criteria

Where the local authority (children’s services) have issued care proceedings concerning your child, or another child of the family, you will likely hear the term ‘threshold’ or ‘threshold criteria’ being mentioned, particularly by the lawyers or other professionals.

Before the court can make an interim care order (or care order) or an interim supervision order (or supervision order), the local authority must be able to demonstrate to the court that the ‘threshold criteria’ has been met. This means that they must be able to prove to the court that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the child who the application relates to is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm and that the harm (or likelihood of harm) is caused by:

a. The care being given to the child, or the care likely to be given to the child, not being what would be reasonable to expect a parent to give to that child; or

b. The child being beyond parental control

Harm is defined in law as ill-treatment or the impairment of health (physical or mental) or development (physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural), including, impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another. 

 

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Threshold document

When the local authority set out to prove that the ‘threshold criteria’ has been met, they will do so by preparing a ‘threshold document.’ This will either be a separate document or will be contained in the application form that the local authority submits to the court.

Within the threshold document, the local authority will set out a list of facts that they assert prove to the court how the child is suffering or is at risk of suffering significant harm. If you are a parent of the child who is subject to the application (or you have otherwise been appointed as a party within the proceedings), you will have the opportunity to respond to the points in the threshold document, as to whether you agree with them or not. Where they are disputed the court can hear evidence from the parties and decide whether to make “findings” as to what occurred.

If the court does not consider that the threshold criteria has been met, then a care or supervision order cannot be made.

If the court concludes that the threshold criteria has been met, then the court will consider the ‘welfare test', including whether it would be better for the child to make an order, than it would be for no order to be made at all.

As part of considering the welfare test, the court should consider the welfare checklist, as set out below.

  • the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding),
  • the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs,
  • the likely effect on the child of any change in his circumstances,
  • the child’s age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant,
  • any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering,
  • how capable each of the child’s parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs,
  • the range of powers available to the court.

If the court determines that the threshold criteria has been met and the welfare checklist requires an order to be made to protect the child’s interests, then at the outset of proceedings, the court can decide to make an interim care order, whereby the local authority share parental responsibility for the child; or an interim supervision order, whereby the local authority have a duty to ‘advise, assist and befriend’ the child.

If the local authority have indicated that they intend to issue care proceedings in relation to your child, or if they have already done so, it is vital that you seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity. Call our team on 0161 696 6193.

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