PLO (pre-proceedings meeting)

Posted on Sunday, 30th Aug, 2015 at 09:16:18 PM
When social workers are concerned about the welfare of a child, they may be thinking about taking the case to court so that they can ask the court to make orders to protect the child.

In most cases the Public Law Outline requires the social services department to arrange a meeting with the parent(s) to see if it is possible to reach agreement about what needs to happen to protect the child from harm, so that court proceedings can be avoided.

The hope is that the parents will come to the meeting with a solicitor. The solicitor will be able to help the parents to negotiate an agreement with the social services department to try to avoid the need to go to court. This formal meeting is often known as a pre-proceedings meeting or PLO meeting.

In some cases the social workers may feel that the risk of harm to a child is so great, or the case is so urgent, that the case should go straight to court. In these cases no meeting takes place at all.

If you have been asked to go to a PLO or pre-proceedings meeting it is important that you seek urgent legal advice. If you are a parent or person with parental responsibility you will be entitled to legal aid and you will not have to pay for legal advice.

As soon as the decision is made by the allocated social worker's manager, after consultation with the allocated social worker, that the Threshold Criteria for Significant Harm have been met, the manager will discuss the case with the Deputy Service Manager (in the first instance) or the Service Manager, to seek permission to convene a Legal Planning Meeting.

Once this is agreed, the child's social worker should convene a Legal Planning Meeting as soon as this is possible but no longer than 5 days after the initial discussion with the manager.

The purpose of a Legal Planning Meeting is to consider if there are sufficient grounds to initiate the Public Law Outline (PLO) procedure with a view to applying for a Care Order or Supervision Order. It is the first opportunity to consider the case issues in a legal context and receive legal advice.

The meeting will be chaired by the allocated social worker's manager (or in their absence, another manager at the same level or the next available manager upwards). The Chair will also take the minutes. Further invitees can include relevant professionals from other agencies. The social worker should ensure that written invitations are sent to all attendees. In the event that there is insufficient time to send written invitations, it is permissible for invitations to be issued via telephone. The reasons for this should be recorded on the case file and all telephone invitations should similarly be recorded together with the contact details of those invited

The aim of the meeting is to exhaustively discuss the case and to recommend whether there are sufficient grounds to initiate the PLO procedure.

The format of the meeting is as follows:

Introductions;

Chair's introduction, including purpose and format of meeting; confidentiality; outlining what input is requested by other agencies present;

Social worker presents verbal report that addresses all completed sections of the Legal Planning Meeting pro-forma;

Chair invites agency contributions;

Agency contributions;

Chair invites initial advice by solicitor;

Initial advice by solicitor;

Chair sums up.

The final outcome of the meeting should be recorded in the minutes and the advice from the Legal Department will be emailed to the manager so that it can be incorporated into the minutes.

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