If you are involved with social services either as a result of a Child In Need plan, a Child Protection plan or are currently participating in a Pre Proceedings process there is an increased importance now being placed on your engagement with those interventions.
If you have been involved with children’s services, you may have attended a lot of meetings with social workers. You may have had several social workers work with you and so meetings can often feel the same. The labels put on these meetings by professionals may not make them feel very different to you. You may have been involved in many assessments and courses and agencies.
If things do not improve the local authority may talk about going to court. If the local authority issue proceedings a judge will get involved and can make orders about your family.
Going to court feels very different for families. It feels serious, because very often it is, as the court could make decisions that result in your children living somewhere else, or even being adopted.
‘I didn’t realise it was that serious’ is a phrase that is often heard at first hearings and parents often seek a second chance to show that they can make the changes that the local authority seeks.
No second chances
Recent guidance issued at both local and national levels have restricted the opportunity for second chances and increased the importance that the courts put on the engagement by parents before they come to court.
This guidance includes: –
- Cases must be resolved in 26 weeks. There should be no delay.
- The number of hearings is to be reduced which limits the courts oversight of proceedings.
- Expert evidence is to be limited.
- The court will be more focused on what orders are needed and not on what help is needed.
- Limiting the scrutiny of care plan by the appointed children’s guardian.
But most importantly there will be fewer assessments directed to take place within proceedings. The court will be relying on assessments that take place before the court process. Before these recent changes a judge would be involved in deciding on what the right assessment was or would consider whether any expert was needed so an assessment could be done fairly. Outside court the local authority alone are making those decisions.
Additionally, guidance has been given that enables the local authority to provide accommodation for your child without going to court, if you provide consent, for long periods. It is important to ensure that your voice is heard in that process.
All these changes mean that at whatever level the local authority are involved with you and your family you need the best legal advice available.
Morecrofts have the most accredited children law specialists in the Liverpool City Region, and we can support you through the process. Visit our family law section for more details.