Guide to PLO or Pre-proceedings Meetings
When social services are very concerned about the welfare of a child, the social worker may wish to consider taking the case to Court so they can make Court Orders to protect the child.
PLO stands for 'Public Law Outline', a set of rules which tells social workers how to deal with these sorts of cases.
The Public Law Outline rules say that when social workers are thinking that they may need to go to Court they should invite the parents to a meeting to discuss their concerns. This is also known as a "pre-proceedings" meeting.
This meeting considers what needs to be done to protect the child from harm, and how an agreement can be reached to ensure this. The aim here is to see if any problems can be fixed without needing to go to Court.
How is a PLO Meeting Different?
A PLO is different from other kinds of meeting with your social worker:
- If you don't go to the meeting to talk about the social services' concerns there is a real risk that social workers will decide to go to Court about your child
- A Lawyer from the social services' legal team will be at the meeting to give the social workers advice
- You are entitled to have a Lawyer/Solicitor attend the meeting with you
- If you are the parent of the child or a person with Parental Responsibility you will be entitled to Legal Aid to cover the cost of your Lawyer's involvement
You should have received a 'letter before proceedings' inviting you to the meeting. The letter will set out exactly what the social workers are worried about, what they have done in the past to help you and what they would like you to do in the future.
How Important is this?
Greg Moss, one of our Partners specialising in Family Law advises;
"A PLO meeting is usually a sign that, as far as the social workers are concerned, things have reached a very critical stage. This can often be the last chance a parent will have to work with the social workers before the case is taken to Court. Because of this, it really is important that you attend this meeting, even if you have had difficulties talking with social workers in the past.
"We understand that now we are at the point of a PLO meeting, there is probably a long history of social work involvement. Relationships between parents and social workers can be very difficult and parents can be angry and upset. We advise you to put these understandable emotions aside when you go to the meeting; your Solicitor will give you every support in helping you to focus any issues of concern."
Why Haven't I had a PLO Meeting?
When a social worker feels that the risk of harm to the child is so great, or that the case is very urgent, then there may be no meeting. In this situation the case could go straight to Court for the social workers to ask for an Interim Care Order, an Interim Supervision Order, or perhaps an Emergency Protection Order.
This will only be done if your child is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm. If you have been told that social services are to go to Court about your child, you should get legal advice without delay. If you are a parent (or person with Parental Responsibility) you will still be entitled to Legal Aid, regardless of your financial position.
How Can I Get Help?
The letter you receive inviting you to the meeting will advise you of your right to have a Solicitor present for the meeting. At the meeting your Solicitor will be able to help you to reach an agreement with social services in the hope that this can avoid the issue going to Court.
Because of the importance of these meetings, Legal Aid is provided for parents (and anyone else with Parental Responsibility for the child), regardless of your financial situation. This means you do not have to worry about representing yourself, as you are entitled to representation at this meeting, and any further meetings are also covered.
It is very important that you choose a Solicitor that specialises in this area, and is a member of the Law Society Children Law Panel. Your letter will provide you with a list of Children Panel members that are local to you.
At Simpson Millar our Family Solicitors are members of the Law Society Family Law Panel and are accredited in the areas of Family Law, Family Law Advanced and Children Law.
This information was originally published on our website on 23/04/2015.
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