Public Children matters

A Local Authority will start care proceedings if there are concerns about a child, and can apply to the Court for orders to protect them. There are a number of different orders that a Local Authority can apply for, but the most common are:

  • care orders
  • supervision orders
  • emergency protection orders
  • secure accommodation orders

We have extensive experience in this area of law and are routinely approached by family members concerned for children when social services have become involved. Our specialist solicitors can advise you of what steps you can take, and negotiate with the Local Authority on your behalf. If necessary, we can apply to the Court to ensure that you are fully considered as a vital connected person to the child perceived to be at risk and facing permanent removal from his or her birth family.

What is a Care Order?

A care order is a ruling of the Court. It allows a Local Authority to take a child into care and share responsibility for making important decisions about the child’s upbringing, including who looks after them, where they live and how they are educated.

How are Care Proceedings Initiated?

A social worker from the Local Authority’s Children’s Service can start care proceedings if they are worried about the welfare of a child. The underlying premise is that a child will be better off at home with his or her family, so every effort will be made to keep the child with its birth parents.

Letters and meetings with social workers will always be the first steps taken by the Local Authority before any care proceedings are commenced. If you have received a warning letter or have such a meeting scheduled, we would suggest you get in touch with one of our solicitors who can advise you and provide support at this time.

Involving Social Services

It is important to understand why Social Services may become involved with your family. Social Services have a legal duty to ensure that no child within their area is at risk of harm and they must take every referral very seriously. Referrals can be from a school, a health worker, the police, a hospital, a neighbour or sometimes an anonymous caller. Whatever the source, the social worker has no choice but to investigate.

Social Services may become involved with your family to:

  • carry out a risk assessment
  • identify issues and provide monitoring and support
  • obtain a court order to protect your child

Just because you receive a visit, does not mean Social Services will want to remove your children. Nevertheless, a visit from a social worker can still be frightening, confusing and may leave you angry and frustrated. You will almost certainly have a lot of questions about what Social Services can and cannot do with your family. It is therefore essential that you receive the right legal advice early so that you have the confidence and support to deal with Social Services and, importantly, ensure that your views are heard.

If the Local Authority take steps to remove a child from its parents, they will look firstly to extended family members to assist, therefore all sides of the family can find themselves involved and being assessed.

How can we Help with your Public Children’s Matter?

Regardless of your income or the nature of your case, it is likely that you will be eligible for Legal Aid which means we can provide free legal advice and representation.

We will advise you on your legal rights and, importantly, help you work with Social Services, so you get the best possible outcome for your family. Often, taking early legal advice can help to avoid Social Services taking further action or possibly applying to the Court to remove children.

Do not wait until Social Services tell you that you need a solicitor! It is nearly always best to cooperate, but you do have rights and you should not feel bullied or scared into making any decisions. We would suggest that you never agree that your child can be removed without first speaking to one of our solicitors. Only the police or a court has the right to remove your child, and not a social worker.

We understand that at such frightening and confusing times you need the hands-on assistance of your allocated solicitor as well as a human approach to what can feel like the most intrusive invasion of your family life and personal circumstances. With solicitors specialising solely in such matters you are guaranteed this service from Staffordshire Family Law.

If you need assistance, contact one of our solicitors at [email protected] or call 01785 336617 for expert legal advice.