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1.4.3 Legal Planning Meetings

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in February 2017, with the addition of the Appendix 1: PLO Process Flowchart and minor updating of the text throughout.


Contents

  1. Purpose of Legal Planning Meetings
  2. Who can Convene Legal Planning Meetings
  3. Attendance at Legal Planning Meetings
  4. Timing and Duration of Legal Planning Meetings
  5. Recording of Legal Planning Meetings

    Appendix 1: PLO Process Flowchart

    Appendix 2: Legal Planning Meeting Request form


    Appendix 3: Legal Planning Meeting Checklist

    Appendix 4: Pre-Proceedings Meeting Agenda

    Appendix 5: Pre-Proceedings Flowchart

    Appendix 6: Pre-Proceedings Action Plan


1. Purpose of Legal Planning Meetings

A Legal Planning Meeting is to be considered when a threshold of significant harm is reached a legal framework is to be considered in circumstances where it is thought that a legal order may be required in order to safeguard children or to assist in the permanence planning for children, whether that is a return to the family or to achieve permanence elsewhere.

A Legal Planning Meeting will be chaired by the social worker's Team Manager, and involve a legal adviser to the local authority on childcare matters.

It is an opportunity to discuss a case fully, and to consult with colleagues to ensure that children are the subject of active case management and that appropriate legal action is taken when required to promote and safeguard the welfare of the child.

The role of the local authority legal adviser is to advise about the legal possibilities for achieving the desired aim and to give a view about the quality of the evidence available or if a pre-proceeding process is to commence. Where applicable legal advice should also determine if "threshold is met" for issuing proceedings.

A request for a legal planning meeting should be made using form B1 (see Appendix 3: Legal Planning Meeting Checklist), attaching all relevant documents as background information for the Local Authority Solicitor. The request should be made initially to a Service manager who will decide whether it is appropriate to have the meeting. Once Service manager approval has been given the request will be forwarded to the legal section by the Service Manager and the Pre-Proceedings Officer.

Form B1 will be used to record decision and outcomes from the Legal Planning Meeting and Legal Advice given. It is important that the timescales for the child are clearly discussed and recorded within this meeting.

The local pre-court proceedings Legal Planning Checklist (see Appendix 3: Legal Planning Meeting Checklist) sets out information to be forwarded to the Local Authority solicitor prior to the legal planning meeting; an agenda is to be followed for the meeting and action points are to be recorded after the meeting.

If Care Proceedings are recommended, the Care and Supervision Proceedings and The Public Law Outline Procedure should be followed.

Note: where children are already Section 20 Accommodated there should be no delay in issuing proceedings where this is in their best interest, (see Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure, Obtaining Parental Consent to Look After a Child).


2. Who can Convene Legal Planning Meetings

The decision to convene a Legal Planning Meeting will be made by the social worker's line manager who must seek service manager approval before arranging the meeting with the legal section - the decision will usually be taken following a recommendation from a Child Protection Conference, as a result of a Looked After Review, a Permanence Planning Meeting, or on the request of a social worker, manager, local authority solicitor, or other agency. It should also be considered following an EPO or PPO.


3. Attendance at Legal Planning Meetings

The following can be invited to attend a Legal Planning Meeting: the child's social worker; the Assistant Team Manager; any other professional who has first-hand evidence and may be a potential witness; and those who may be involved in the provision of services integral to the order being sought. The meeting will be chaired by the Team Manager.


4. Timing and Duration of Legal Planning Meetings

The timing of a Legal Planning Meeting is likely to be determined by the urgency of court proceedings and the need to allow sufficient time for necessary preparation. The timing of a Legal Planning Meeting is likely to be determined by the urgency of court proceedings and the need to allow sufficient time for necessary preparation. It is important to undertake Legal Planning Meetings at the earliest opportunity.

For Unborn Babies where there are significant risk factors a Pre-birth Child Protection Conference should be held. The pre-birth Conference should consider the need for case management within the Public Law Outline framework. This legal process should commence within 24 weeks gestation at the very latest.


5. Recording of Legal Planning Meetings

Notes of Legal Planning Meetings should be taken by a legal advisor and circulated to all attendees. These are legally privileged and should not be made available to parents or other parties in any potential proceedings without the permission of the chairperson or Director.


Appendices

Appendix 1: PLO Process Flowchart

Appendix 2: Legal Planning Meeting Request form

Appendix 3: Legal Planning Meeting Checklist

Appendix 4: Pre-Proceedings Meeting Agenda

Appendix 5: Pre-Proceedings Flowchart

Appendix 6: Pre-Proceedings Action Plan

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