What to expect when Social Services get involved
Children services have a duty to ensure that children are safe when concerns have been raised in relation to the child’s wellbeing and welfare.
Children are often referred to social services by school, health visitors, the police and in some instances by concerned neighbours when a child has been identified to be at risk of physical or emotional harm. When a child is referred to social services, an assessment is carried out to identify if the child is in need of services and to consider whether there is any need for local authority involvement
Explained below are the types of different meetings and their purposes, the Local Authority needs to follow:
Child in Need Plan
There were 399,500 children in need in March 2019 which illustrates if work is completed with social services, child protection plans can be stepped down.
At this stage there is the least level of involvement from the Local Authority, because it has been identified the child is not at risk of harm, however needs some support. Therefore a child in need plan has been formed for necessary work to be undertaken.
Child Protection Conferences
There were 52,300 children subject to a child in protection plan in March 2019, this statistical publication provides information on children referred to social services.
At the initial child protection conference a decision will be made as to whether the child needs to become the subject of a child protection plan. A child is often made subject to such a plan if the Local Authority has identified that a child is at a risk of suffering significant harm given their current living circumstances. This harm can be emotional, physical, sexual or psychological.
A child protection conference is a formal meeting where parents, social services, the police, teachers and various other professionals attend to discuss information obtained through any assessments or reports about the child. A safety plan is produced to put immediate action in place to protect the child.
After the initial conference another review conference takes place after three months to monitor any changes or improvements. The Independent Reviewing Officer who chairs such conference decides whether the child remains subject to a child protection plan and if it is decided the plan will continue then there will usually be conferences every six months.
This is a meeting with parents arranged by social services and their legal team. Social services are required to put their concerns in writing about the child concerned. At this meeting parents are invited to talk through the contents of the “Pre-Proceedings” letter. The aim of this meeting is to try and reach an agreement about what arrangements need to be put in place to protect the child from harm in order to avoid Court proceedings.
Notice of intention to issue:
However, in some instances social services may feel that the risk of harm to the child is so high that Court proceedings should commence. Parents are invited to this meeting where social services set out reasons explaining why they will be issuing Court proceedings.
Parents should contact a solicitor if they receive either one of the letters mentioned above.
Here at Dodds Solicitors legal aid funding may be available. (A means assessment funding is available for child protection conferences and on a non means & non merits basis for parents who require representation in pre-proceedings). A member of our experienced team will be happy to advise you whether you are entitled to legal aid depending on the nature of your legal matter.