Family law proceedings can be incredibly stressful for everyone involved and it can be easy for parents and guardians to feel intimidated when Social Services become involved. Mark Hawkins, family lawyer at Tallents Solicitors in Mansfield offers clear advice to help reduce the strain on all concerned.
Having many years’ experience in family law our family lawyers know how worried and concerned parents and guardians will be at this time, especially when children are involved. Over the years our family solicitors have developed close professional contacts with Social Services and we can represent your case to them on your behalf.
Following reforms to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 in April 2013, legal aid funding for family proceedings was withdrawn for many situations. However, there is funding available for any family law cases involving issues of child protection or where an individual can produce evidence of domestic abuse within the relationship.
The first contact a parent or guardian will have with Social Services is usually a Child Protection Conference (CPC). The purpose of the conference is to allow everyone who has concern for the child to discuss and share information about the child’s wellbeing. In addition to the immediate family, this can include doctors and teachers.
The thought of attending this formal proceeding can be intimidating for parents, but it’s important to remember that a CPC does not automatically mean that your child will be taken into care.
If you’ve received Notice of a CPC then it is very important to seek legal advice immediately to make sure your position is made clear. Our family solicitors will be able to represent your interests and explain each stage to you as the procedure progresses.
Once the conference is over, social services will consider all the information that has been given and if it is concluded that the child is in danger of suffering harm of some nature, then steps will be taken to ensure their safety is protected. These steps will be formalised as a Child Protection Plan.
If social services are considering Child Care proceedings for your child, they are obliged to contact you in writing to confirm:
- That, with the information gathered so far, they are considering care proceedings
- Exactly what concerns they have about your child that has led them to consider this course of action.
This letter will also invite the parents or guardian to attend the pre-proceeding meeting.
There is public funding available for the pre-proceeding meeting so you should show the letter to your lawyer and ask them to attend the meeting with you. Your lawyer will ensure that you present relevant information to the local authority.
These proceedings can be intimidating but it’s important for parents and guardians to remember that social services are not allowed to remove your child from your care without your permission or the permission of the court.
If after the pre-proceeding meetings there are sufficient concerns about the wellbeing of the child, the local authority can apply to the court for one of the following Orders:
- Care Order
- Supervision Order
Care Order – this order places your child into care and makes the child the responsibility of the Local Authority. As parents, you have the right to challenge the Local Authority’s decision to place your child in care.
Supervision Order – this order allows social services to supervise your child to ensure they are not at risk of harm. It does not place your child in care.
The safety of the child is always paramount, but so is their wellbeing, so the court will always look to keep the child with their parents unless there are compelling reasons why this should not be. The local authority has to prove that there are enough good reasons to be duly concerned about the child’s imminent safety for the court to make an order. If they cannot, then the court will not make an order.
Our specialists in Family and Child Care law are here to help parents and guardians through this stressful process. When you contact us, we will listen to the specifics of your case and work with you to find the best solution for your children and you to the problems you are facing. We also offer a free, drop-in family law clinic at our Southwell office from 5-7pm on Tuesdays for anyone with concerns they wish to discuss.