When you’re asked to attend a Public Law Outline (PLO) meeting, also known as a pre-proceedings meeting, it can be stressful and upsetting.
If you are invited to a PLO meeting it means that your Local Authority or social worker believes that the health, safety and wellbeing of your child is at serious risk. This meeting is your chance to try and work with the Local Authority and make changes to demonstrate that your child can be safe in your care.
There may be more than one PLO meeting if social workers consider that necessary, and if they believe changes can be made which would avoid the need for them to take their concerns to Court.
Before you go to your PLO meeting, it’s important to know what to expect so you can be prepared.
What is a PLO meeting & why do I need to go?
When a PLO meeting is planned, you will receive a letter from your Local Authority asking you to attend a meeting. This should outline the reasons for the meeting and give you a time, date and location.
PLO meetings are put in place when the Local Authority and Social Workers have serious, ongoing concerns about the health, safety and wellbeing of a child.
Social Workers will be hoping to have an open and frank discussion with you. It isn’t the purpose of a PLO meeting to confront you or accuse you of being a terrible parent. You’ll have a chance to explain your circumstances and make suggestions about what you think is the best way to look after your child.
Hopefully, the outcome of the meeting will be to agree on a plan that will get you the help and support you need to better protect the welfare of your child, without needing to go to Court.
Why do you need to attend the PLO meeting?
Even if you and your social worker don’t see eye to eye, or you don’t agree with what they’re saying about your child’s welfare, you should still go to the PLO meeting. If you don't, there’s a real risk you’ll have to go to Court.
What will happen at my PLO meeting?
PLO meetings usually begin with the social worker talking through their concerns about the welfare of your child. They’ll then talk you through what they think is needed to improve things in your home or lifestyle.
Then, you’ll get a chance to put your concerns or thoughts across, and together you’ll come up with a plan that is hoped will work for all concerned. This will then be put into a written agreement for you to sign.
This written agreement could include things like:
- making sure that your child gets to school on time each day;
- cooperating with the social worker or other support agencies or networks ;
- completing a parenting assessment;
- engaging with drug or alcohol testing.
The date for a review PLO meeting should then be agreed. This review meeting will be to make sure that everything is going to plan and that the social worker’s initial concerns are being dealt with. If the social worker is happy that you’re complying with the written agreement and that the situation surrounding the welfare of your child is improving, they might not need to proceed with any more PLO meetings.
If, however, they’re still concerned about your child, they might request that a new written agreement be drawn up, or they might prepare to go to Court.
Who will be at my PLO meeting?
The following people will usually attend a PLO meeting:
- you, any other parent, or anyone who has parental responsibility for your child;
- your legal representative;
- a Local Authority team manager who will lead the meeting;
- your social worker;
- a lawyer from social services.
You don’t have to bring a legal representative with you to your PLO meeting, but you are entitled to do so and there is legal aid available for this. We strongly advise that you consider it and we can help you to apply for legal aid.
We regularly attend PLO meetings with our clients and completely understand how daunting they can be, especially if you’re facing it alone. It can also be incredibly frustrating if you don’t agree with what the social worker is saying about you and the well-being of your child.
We’re here to support you through the whole PLO process and we will get your side across in the best way possible for you and your child.
For free legal advice call our Care Proceedings Solicitors
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