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1.5.2 Pathway to the Public Law Outline

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter details the process for addressing continuing or persistent concerns and Care Proceedings is, or should be, considered.

OTHER RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Public Law Outline

2013 Protocol and Good practice Model: Disclosure of information in cases of alleged child abuse and linked criminal and care directions hearings

Sussex Child Protection and Safeguarding Procedures, Actions and Decisions of the Conference Procedure

See also: Tracking Cases within the Pre-Proceedings Public Law Outline

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in May 2017 to reflect the outcome of a judgment following an application to remove a child at birth. The judge set out what were thought to be ‘basic and good practice steps’. (See Section 5, First Legal Planning Meeting (LPM)).


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Identifying the Pathway is Required
  3. Care Planning Forum
  4. Requirement for Enhanced Assessment Identified
  5. First Legal Planning Meeting
  6. Following the LPM
  7. Meeting Before Action (MBA)
  8. Following the MBA: Letter of Instruction for Enhanced Assessment
  9. Expectations of the Assessment Service (Clermont)
  10. Following the Receipt of the Enhanced Assessment Report
  11. Further Legal Planning Meeting


1. Introduction

This document provides specific guidance to Brighton and Hove City Council Children Services, in respect of the Care Planning Forum, Legal Planning Meetings, and the commissioning of enhanced assessments outside of the Court process.

The purpose of this document is to set out the expectations of social workers who are working with families where, unless there is an improvement in the perceived risks to the care of the child, care proceedings are a real possibility.

Nothing in the pathway is predicated on a view that proceedings are inevitable if the Pathway is followed.

The Pathway is designed to promote early intervention and assessment where there are identified Child Protection concerns with a risk that if they remain unaddressed Care Proceedings could become necessary.

The aim of the Pathway is to enhance the prospects of there being early assessment and understanding of the functioning of the family, so that where intervention services are appropriate they can be offered without delay so as to reduce the prospect of the child becoming Looked After, and care proceedings becoming necessary. Alternatively, where it is the case that assessments demonstrate that harmful parenting cannot be addressed within the child’s timescales, it is essential for the child that this is identified as soon as realistically possible to enable steps to be taken to protect the child, so enhancing the child’s prospects for fulfilling their developmental potential and forming secure permanent attachments. Timely assessment, intervention and robust decision making will enhance the child’s life chances and reduce the level of social work intervention they will need in future years.

Furthermore, detailed guidance in respect of Pan Sussex expectations of performance pre proceedings is contained in the Sussex Family Justice Board ‘Expert Assessment’ Pilot documentation. The Pan Sussex Protocol for achieving expert effective assessment outside of court proceedings will form part of the Expert Assessment Pilot. (See Expert Assessment Pilot - to follow).


2. Identifying the Pathway is Required

Where a Social Work team identifies non emergency child protection issues over the course of an assessment, AND a real possibility that cannot sensibly be ignored that there is a risk of the threshold for care proceedings being met without significant change in family functioning:

The Social Worker will consider:

  • What timescales are reasonable for change to have occurred with reference to the timetable of the children concerned?
  • Whether a referral is now needed to the Care Planning Forum.


3. Care Planning Forum

The Care Planning Forum will consider:

  • Which services would be appropriate to be offered to the parents try to effect change on the child’s timescale;
  • What assessments are needed to assess parenting capacity and to be credible in the event that proceedings are necessary, including any enhanced assessments;
  • Whether the need for a Family and Friends Group Conference (see Family Group Conference Service Procedure) arises at this stage;
  • Whether a legal planning meeting is now appropriate under the Pathway.


4. Requirement for Enhanced Assessment Identified

Where assessments are needed beyond the social work assessment a referral for a Legal Planning Meeting (LPM) must be made.


5. First Legal Planning Meeting (LPM)

In addition to the usual framework for a LPM, at the LPM there will be a detailed discussion about:

  • The enhanced assessments needed, where they are agreed as being necessary;
  • Consideration of moving into Public Law Outline(PLO) procedures;

    Note that with pre-birth situations a recent High Court judgment has set out good practice steps to include:
    • A risk assessment of the parent(s) should be undertaken immediately the social workers are made aware of the mother’s pregnancy and should be completed 4 weeks before the mother’s expected delivery date and disclosed to the parent(s) (and their solicitor where relevant);
    • All relevant documentation should be then sent to the Local Authority Legal Adviser to issue proceedings.

    (See Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline, Pre-birth Planning and Proceedings.)


6. Following the LPM

Where enhanced assessments are identified as needed a preliminary enquiry to the proposed assessment service in respect of their theoretical availability and suitability will be made by the lawyer allocated to the LPM. This will include establishing potential timescales for a start and finish date.

The Letter Before Action (LBA) to the parents will be drafted by the SW. This must include reference to the risk of care proceedings in order for the right to free legal advice to be triggered for the parent.

In addition to the standard requirements the LBA will include:

  • Some information about the sort of assessments being considered, (enclose Clermont leaflet for parents if Clermont being used);
  • A draft agenda if possible including reference to any assessments proposed.

Wherever possible the Letter of Instruction (LOI) questions will be drafted for consideration at the Meeting Before Action, in advance of the meeting.


7. Meeting Before Action (MBA)

In addition to the usual format the MBA will consider:

  • The assessments proposed by the local authority; and
  • The contents of the LOI for any enhanced assessment, in an effort to reach agreement about the headings of the instruction with parents and their legal representatives.

Where representatives of the Legal Department attend the MBA they will do so in compliance with the Law Society standards for their participation in the meeting.


8. Following the MBA: Letter of Instruction for Enhanced Assessment

Where an enhanced assessment is agreed at the MBA the following steps will be taken:

  • As soon as possible after the meeting the lawyer will confirm with the assessment service to whom the initial referral was made whether they are required;
  • All enhanced assessments will have a LOI;
  • Legal will draft the LOI based on MBA discussion, and prepare papers to send to assessment service;
  • The LOI and papers accompanying it will be copied to parents and their legal representatives.


9. Expectations of the Assessment Service (Clermont)

The Assessment Service will:

  • Confirm receipt of the LOI and confirm timescales for final report;
  • Send appointment letters out, copying in SW and legal;
  • Apply the same professional standards will apply as if the assessment was being conducted within care proceedings;
  • Where the assessment is being conducted by the Clermont a leaflet will be provided to the parents providing some background information about the Unit.


10. Following the Receipt of the Enhanced Assessment Report

Within 1-2 weeks of receipt of the enhanced assessment, or the conclusion of the social work assessment:

  • The need for a further LPM will be reviewed and held if required;
  • A meeting with parents about outcome of the assessment(s) will be held.


11. Further Legal Planning Meeting

The SW assessment and Chronology must be available to the meeting, together with any enhanced assessment reports.

The LPM will be consider the need for proceedings, and whether any further evidence or assessment is needed for that purpose.

If it is considered that care proceedings are required a timetable will be agreed for:

  • Issue;
  • Filing of evidence;
  • Informing parents and their representatives;
  • Referral to the Permanency Planning and Tracking Forum.

End