Nottingham City Safeguarding Children’s Board Procedures Manual
Nottingham City Safeguarding Children’s Board Procedures Manual Nottingham City Safeguarding Children’s Board Procedures Manual

1.4.2 Court Proceedings

NOTE

For applications for Emergency Protection Orders, see Applications for Emergency Protection Orders Procedure.

N.B. Any changes in a child's legal status as a result of court proceedings must be recorded on the electronic database.

This chapter should be read in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice Guidance: Preparing for Care and Supervision Proceedings.

AMENDMENT

An "under review" marker was removed from this chapter in November 2016.


Contents

  1. Starting Care Proceedings
  2. After the Issue of Care Proceedings
  3. Format of Care Plans filed in Care Proceedings
  4. Correspondence During Court Proceedings
  5. Timescale


1. Starting Care Proceedings

Before a decision can be made to initiate Care Proceedings, a Legal Planning Meeting should be held and the approval of the Service Manager obtained.

N.B. Any decision to commence Care Proceedings should have regard to the requirements of the Public Law Outline - see Public Law Outline Procedure.

Where a child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, Significant Harm in the future it is the local authority’s duty to consider the evidence and decide what, if any, legal action to take. The information presented to the Child Protection Conference should inform that decision-making process but it is for the local authority to consider whether it should initiate for example Care Proceedings. Where a child who is the subject of a Child Protection Plan becomes Looked After, the Child Protection Plan should form part of the child’s Care Plan.

The Service Manager will chair the meeting and the Team Leader from the Children and Adults Legal Team will also attend to give legal advice and assistance. The child's social worker will attend with their Team Manager to present the evidence.

The issues to be considered at the meeting will include the following:

  • The reasons for the concerns and the evidential basis for establishing Significant Harm and the Threshold Criteria.

Quote the threshold criteria here for clarity:

  • Why Care Proceedings are necessary - what is their aim, objective and purpose? What legal order will be sought and legal basis for any proposed separation;
  • The steps already taken to clarify the issues of concern - i.e. Single Assessment, as well as other medical and/or expert involvement;
  • Whether the requirements of the Pre-Proceedings Checklist set out in the Public Law Outline have been met, including a written notification to the parents about the areas of concern and their right to seek legal advice, see Public Law Outline Procedure;
  • When will the Single Assessment and other supporting documentation be available, if not already?
  • The action/decisions already taken and where the decisions were made e.g. Strategy Discussion/Meeting, Child Protection Conference, Core Group meeting
  • The proposed Care Plan for the child, including the proposed placement and any cultural, language and ethnic issues. Consultation with parents and the wider family, whether any family members are available to care for the child on an interim or permanent basis, if so whether the required checks have been made, the proposals for contact
  • Whether it may be appropriate to instruct any further expert assessment before the commencement of court proceedings - if so, what are the proposed remit of the instructions and the areas to be addressed, who should the assessment be done by and what are the likely timescales?
  • Have there been previous Court proceedings in relation to the family? If so, what steps are required to obtain the papers in relation to the case from the Court? or another local authority?
  • When will the social worker's court documents including statement, interim care plan(s), chronology, Single Assessment be ready, if not already completed?

If authorised, the child's social worker will advise the child and the relevant family members of the decision.

The social worker prepares the draft documents with the support of the Legal Support Officer before sending them to the allocated Solicitor to make final checks and amendments.

The issues set out in the Public Law Outline checklist, where possible, need to be addressed before the first Court hearing and dates by which any outstanding assessments can be completed.


2. After the Issue of Care Proceedings

It is essential that the social worker and the local authority solicitor have regular contact during the course of the proceedings, and that the progress of the case is kept under constant review.

This will include discussion of any disclosure issues, which may need to be the subject of directions by the Court.

The Public Law Outline checklist will become a running document and completion of the Checklist will require regular liaison between the social worker and local authority solicitor during the course of the proceedings.

In addition the social worker must keep the local authority solicitor and Children's Guardian up to date with any changes in relation to the child during the proceedings, for example, placement, contact, school/education, health.

Arrangements must not be made for any change to the child's placement without prior consultation with the Children's Guardian.

The Children’s Guardian will be invited to all reviews in connection with the child.


3. Format of Care Plans Filed in Care Proceedings

The format of the Interim Care Plan and Final Care Plan should follow these headings:

  • Overall aim;
  • Child's needs including contact;
  • Views of others;
  • Placement details and timetable;
  • Management and support by local authority.

There must be a separate Care Plan for each child.

Where adoption is part of the Care Plan either as the preferred or contingency plan, legal advice should be sought as to the need for and timing of a Placement Order application.

The social worker and his/her manager must sign the Interim and Final Care Plans.

What about format of statement, Single Assessment, chronology, etc for court proceedings, if you are going to highlight the care plan?

The Legal Support Officer pilot scheme as locally, we have a lot of poor practice around drafting court documents which was one of the reasons for creating the LSO posts.


4. Correspondence During Court Proceedings

All correspondence received from solicitors for other parties during court proceedings must be passed to the Legal Services to deal with.

Where the Legal Services receive correspondence or scanned and emailed to the social worker immediately upon its receipt and the social worker must give clear instructions to the solicitors as to the reply as soon as practicable.

In relation to any other contentious correspondence, including letters received from an expert received during court proceedings, the social worker must send the letter to Legal Services as soon as possible, together with detailed instructions for the reply.


5. Timescale

Care cases are now required to be concluded within 26 weeks, save in exceptional circumstances. Drift and delay will negatively impact on the welfare of children. Social workers are expected to meet court deadlines; issues in meeting deadlines will be brought to the attention of the Team Manager and Service Manger.

End