The Local Authority (also known as Children’s Services formerly Social Services) may become involved with your family if it suspects the following:-
(a) That your child has suffered significant harm; or
(b) That your child is at risk of suffering significant harm attributable to the care given or likely to be given to your child not being what it would be reasonable for a parent to give; or
(c) That your child is beyond parental control; or
(d) You need assistance in caring for your child.
Harm is not just physical harm it can be sexual abuse or emotional harm. It can also be suffered from hearing or seeing ill-treatment of another person.
If a Local Authority believe they can work with you and ensure you receive the assistance you need to care for your child or to prevent your child from suffering harm they can either convene a Child in Need meeting or a Child Protection Conference.
If the Local Authority do not believe that they can do anything to prevent your child from suffering harm or your child has suffered harm attributable to your care, the Local Authority can do the following:-
(a) Apply to the Court for an Emergency Protection Order allowing the Local Authority to remove your child from your care and place them in the care of the Local Authority; or
(b) Apply to the Court for a Care Order, an Interim Care Order or in some cases a Supervision Order.
If the Local Authority apply for any of the Orders set out at paragraphs (a) and (b) above and you are the parent of that child or have parental responsibility for that child then you will be entitled to receive Legal Aid to enable you to be represented by a solicitor within the Court proceedings.
Usually before the Local Authority apply for a Care Order they will send you a “Letter before Action”. If you have not already done so you should at that stage consult a solicitor. Provided you have received this letter, you will again be entitled to receive Legal Aid.
A Care Order is usually made at a final hearing. If a Care Order is made by the Court then this will enable the Local Authority to share Parental Responsibility for your child with you. The Local Authority would however usually have the final say if there is a dispute between parents and the Local Authority over any decision to be made with regard to your child.
Interim Care Order
This type of Order is applied for by the Local Authority at the start of the care proceedings. Again if this Order is made it will allow the Local Authority to share parental responsibility for your children with you. Unlike a Care Order, an Interim Care Order is time limited. The purpose of an Interim Care Order is to provide a holding position to enable the Local Authority to carry out any assessments which are felt necessary, any medical reports to be obtained and any testing for drug or alcohol misuse to be carried out.
An Interim Care Order or a Care Order may result in the removal of a child from the care of the parents/carers, however, this is not always the case. Even if the criteria is met to enable the Court to make an Interim Care Order, the test may not be met for the child to be removed from the care of their parents.
If a Supervision Order is made the Local Authority will have a duty to advise, assist and befriend you in caring for the children. The Local Authority will not share parental responsibility with you. As however with the making of a Care Order, the Court will need to be satisfied that your child has suffered significant harm or is at risk of suffering significant harm, or beyond parental control.
In the case of an Interim Care Order the Local Authority need to show that it has reasonable grounds for suspecting that your child has suffered harm etc.
If therefore the Local Authority become involved with your family, it is essential you get specialist advice from a solicitor who is an accredited member of the Law Society Children Panel.
Anthony Clark and Co. have specialists working in this area of law. Please therefore contact us to arrange an appointment with one of our solicitors.