Care Proceedings and Social Services

Care proceedings are Court proceedings brought by the Local Authority where they may make an application for a “Care Order” or “Supervision Order” in respect of a child. Care proceedings are highly emotional and we have extensive experience in representing parents, children, grandparents and extended family members. Given the traumatic nature of the proceedings, we deal with these cases professionally, sensitively and with expertise.

Duties of the Local Authority
The Local Authority will take action to protect children who they have reasonable grounds to believe are suffering harm or are likely to suffer harm if protective measures are not put in place. The Local Authority has a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of the children within its locality, i.e. Exeter County Council in Exeter.

The Local Authority or another agency will make a referral to social services who will assess the needs and welfare of the child. This may involve a social worker speaking with the parents, other family members, Health visitors, GPs and school teachers. The purpose of this assessment is to establish whether there is reasonable cause to suspect that the child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm. At this point, the Court may direct that a Section 37 investigation is undertaken. This investigation considers whether the Local Authority should consider applying for a Care Order or Supervision Order.

During the Court process, an independent person (typically a social worker) is appointed by the Court to protect the children’s best interests. This person is known as a Children’s Guardian and their role is to provide information to the Court about what the child’s best interests are.

Emergency Protection Order
The Local Authority may apply for an Emergency Protection Order where they believe that the child will be at risk. An Emergency Protection Order could authorise the Local Authority to remove a child from his home or to keep the child in a safe place. The Local Authority would have to show that there is reasonable cause to believe that the child may suffer significant harm if he or she is not removed to accommodation provided by the Local Authority. An Emergency Protection Order generally lasts for 8 days but can be extended once for 7 days.

Threshold criteria
Prior to the Court making a final order for a Care or Supervision Order, they must be satisfied that:-

(1) The children are suffering or are likely to suffer significant harm and;

(2) That the harm or likelihood of harm is attributable to:
(i) The care given to the child is not what it would be reasonable to expect the parent to give him or
(ii) The children are beyond parental control.

Care Order
A Care Order places a child under the care of the Local Authority. A Care Order also gives the Local Authority Parental Responsibility for the child in care. The Local Authority will provide accommodation and maintenance for the child. Children that are subject to Care Orders can be returned to their parents.

Supervision Order
A Supervision Order places a child under the supervision of the Local Authority. The child can reside at home, but typically there are conditions in place and an agreement will be drawn up between the Local Authority and the parents. During the period that the child is under a Supervision Order, a social worker will work closely with the family and will assist with any questions and queries that the parents may have.

If you have any concerns regarding Social Services, Child Protection, Care Proceedings or Adoption please contact one of our family solicitors immediately for free advice. You may be entitled to Legal Aid to fund a case of this type.

Work involving the Local Authority is a specialised area of family law. Here at Rundlewalker, we have experts in this area who can provide advice to you during what is normally a very highly emotional experience for all involved.

Please contact our Family Law Team by telephone for free initial advice: 01392 209209.
If you choose to email, please provide a contact telephone number and we will call you at the earliest opportunity.
Nick Dudman, Director: 01392 209210. Email nick.dudman@rundlewalker.com
Susan Jury, Solicitor: 01392 209212. Email sue.jury@rundlewalker.com

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