At Mortimers, we have a team of experienced Solicitors who are members of the Law Society's Children Panel and who are able to represent parties within Care Proceedings or other associated applications. We act for parents, friends and family and children
Are you a PARENT of a child/ren and Social Services are involved with your child?
Your Local Authority has a legal duty to protect children. If Social Services are involved with your family, it is because they are concerned that your child is not being looked after properly and is at risk of “significant harm”.
You can get free legal aid if you receive a letter before proceedings. You just need to bring the letter and some personal identification to us. You may be entitled to free legal aid to attend a Child Protection Case Conference. It is important that you use a solicitor who is an expert in Children Law.
A Child Protection Conference is arranged when Social Services believe that a child may be at risk of significant harm. The aim of the meeting is to discuss what those risks are and what needs to be done to reduce or remove those risks. A social worker will prepare a report for the conference setting out their concerns. Teachers, doctors, health visitors and the Police may be at the conference as well. You are entitled to have your solicitor with you at the meeting.
The aim of the Conference is to prepare a Child Protection Plan. The Plan will then be put into action and reviewed at regular intervals by a further conference. It is important that you work with the Local Authority and show that you can put your child’s interests first.
In some cases, your social worker will ask you to agree to your child being looked after by a foster carer for a short period of time and you will be asked you to sign a document. This is known as giving Section 20 consent. You should seek advice from a solicitor before agreeing to this and before signing any documents.
If Social Services continue to have concerns about your child, the Local Authority may go to Court and ask for your child to be taken into care under a Care Order.
Before they go to Court, the Local Authority should send you a “letter before proceedings”. The letter is very important and you should not ignore it. This is an important meeting where the Local Authority will decide whether or not to go to Court and apply for a care order. You must attend this meeting and you should take your solicitor with you. Your social worker and a solicitor from the Local Authority will be there to talk about their concerns. You will have a chance to say what you think is the best way to look after your child. The aim of the meeting is to reach an agreement about things you and Social Services can do to look after your child better.
You should get a solicitor now so they can meet with you before the letter before proceedings meeting and attend that meeting with you.
If Social Services concerns continue, they can go to Court and ask a Judge to make a care order. If the court grants that, your child is removed from your care and placed with foster carers whilst the Local Authority decide if it is safe to return the child to your care. You should take legal advice before this happens.
Are you a FRIEND OR RELATIVE of someone whose child/ren are involved with Social Services?
Before a Local Authority goes to Court to apply for a Care Order and during care proceedings, the Local Authority must assess any friends or family to see if they are suitable to be carers for any child/ren where it is not safe to return them to their parents. Friends and family can be assessed as short term carers (for a few months whilst the Court proceedings are going on) or as long term carers (until the child/ren reach 18)
It is important that the Local Authority is formally requested to carry out an assessment at the earliest opportunity to avoid any delay for the child/ren. A Social worker will carry out an initial viability assessment and, if that is positive, a full social work assessment or a connected persons assessment.
In some cases, even if the assessment is negative, there is an opportunity for the friend or relative to apply to the Court for an independent assessment. These applications are complex and you should seek expert legal advice at the earliest opportunity.
If there is a successful assessment, the child/ren can be placed within the family rather than being in long term foster care or adopted.
We have Solicitors who have vast experience acting for many Guardians in England and Wales. We aim to conduct all hearings without recourse to counsel. We offer a very personal service and can be contacted “out of hours”.
We can also advice on:
Emergency Protection Orders & Police Protection Orders
Placement orders and adoption
Varying or discharging Care Orders
Special Guardianship Orders & Child Arrangements Orders