Overview of the Public Law Court Process

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Guide to the Public Law Court Procedure

What kind of Orders can Social Services apply for?

If the Social Services department believe a child is at risk, they may apply to the Court for the following orders:

  • Supervision Order

This would mean that although the child stays with the parent, Social Services have the power to supervise how the child is cared for. This Order lasts for up to one year unless an extension is asked for.

  • Care Order

This would mean that the child is taken into the care of the Local Authority and they would have Parental Responsibility for the child.

  • Emergency Protection Order

If Social Services feel that a child is in immediate danger they could apply to the court for an Order which would either remove the child from the care of the parent (s) or Order that the child stays where they are (for instance if they are in hospital

  • Prohibited Steps Order

This order would most likely be made alongside a Care or Supervision Order and would prevent a person felt to be a danger to the child from being near the child without the Court’s consent.

  • Exclusion Orders

This Order requires that a person who is believed to be a danger to a child leaves the living accommodation of that child. This Order is likely to be made in respect of a parents partner.

  • Contact Order

The Court would make this Order either during Care Proceedings of if the parent applied to the Court after proceedings. It would set out the details of contact between the parent and child and the type of contact (i.e. whether it is in person, over the telephone, etc).

  • Interim Orders

These are temporary Orders, which are sometimes made at first or second hearings.

For instance there can be an Interim Care Order where a child is taken into care for a set period of time, an Interim Supervision Order where a child is supervised for a set amount of time and so on.

What is the Local Authority and what responsibility do they have for children?

The Local Authority are a body of Councillors elected by inhabitants of a local government area. They have the following duties in relation to the welfare of children:

  • They must give advice, guidance & assistance to prevent a child from having to be received into care
  • They may work with voluntary associations and give assistance, including financial assistance
  • They must look after the children that come into their care
  • They must support children in need
  • They must also supervise the welfare of foster children and children under a Supervision Order
  • They must maintain an adoption service and to report to the court in respect of non-agency adoption applications, Contact Applications, Residence Applications, Prohibited Steps Orders & Specific Issue Orders.

What is a Child Protection Case Conference?

This is a meeting to see if the child in question could be protected without a Care Order being made. This could be achieved by providing the family with support. People such as the child’s teachers, doctors and other agencies that are involved with the child will be invited to the meeting.

What grounds do Social Services have to show to the Court before a Care Order is granted?

They have to show the following:

  • That the child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm; and
  • That the harm or likelihood of harm is due to:
    • The care given or likely to be given to the child is not what would be reasonable to expect a parent to give to a child; or
    • The child being beyond parental control i.e. the parent is not able to control the child.

The Courts must be satisfied that these grounds have been shown before making the Order.

What does the Court have to consider before making an Order?

The Court has to take into account the Children Act 1989, which states:

  • The child’s welfare is the main consideration;
  • In considering the welfare of the child the court must apply standard factors;
  • The Court must also bear in mind the presumption that any delay in deciding matters is likely to affect the welfare of the child; and
  • The Court must not make an Order unless it considers that making it would be the better for the child than making no order at all.

Note: this is a basic version of the section of the Act as it is fairly detailed. If this part of the Act is relevant to your case we can discuss this with you in greater detail.

Who will be involved in the case?

It is likely that the following will be involved in the case:

  • Representative of Social Services

There will be a particular Social Worker involved with the case.

  • Children’s’ Guardian

The Court will usually appoint a Guardian to represent the child throughout the case.

  • Children’s’ Solicitor

The child will also have a Solicitor who will work with the Guardian and will represent the child throughout the proceedings.

  • Parents’ Solicitor

The parent is entitled to have a representative for all aspects of the proceedings.

If the parents are no longer together they will have separate solicitors.

  • Other Agencies

Throughout the case other parties may be involved. These can range from agencies such as Sure Start to Family Advice Centres or can be health professionals such as doctors, teachers, psychiatrists, psychologists etc.

  • Other parties interested in the Childs’ welfare

Other parties may apply to be “joined to the proceedings” and it is up to the court whether or not the application is agreed. These parties could be for instance grandparents of the child or prospective adoptive parents.

What is a Guardian and what is their role?

A Guardian is a person who acts for the child in the proceedings. The Guardian will usually appoint a Solicitor who will also represent the child.

They will try to find out as much as possible about the situation and meet the child to try and ascertain what their wishes and feelings are. They will also meet with all parties concerned and review all information such as local authority files, medical reports, teacher’s reports etc.

They will take into account a child’s wishes if they are old enough to provide them.

A Guardian has rights of access to examine/take copies of Local Authority records relating to the child or indeed the records of any other organisation, for instance, the NSPCC that may be relevant.

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