Public Law Outline (PLO) Meetings
Have you received a letter from Children Services headed ‘Public Law Outline, Letter of Intent to issue Court proceedings or pre proceedings’?
If so, we have a professional team of legal advisors who can advise and guide you through the process. Receipt of such a letter will undoubtedly cause you concern. It is a process that you may find daunting and difficult to understand.
The letter should advise you to seek independent legal advice, and we highly recommend you should do so.
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What is the Public Law Outline (PLO) process?
Public Law Outline (PLO) is normally the last warning for parents to make positive changes their parenting before the local authority step in and and care proceedings are required.
The PLO process outlines the duties a local authority has when considering whether to take a case to court, where they can then ask for a care order or supervision order to be made. It is important to note that in some cases, if asocial worker feels that the risk of harm to a child is so great, or matters require urgent attention, a decision may be made that the case should go straight to Court.
The PLO process can vary in length, but normally they last about 3 months, with some cases taking longer if there is outstanding work or complications that need sorting.
What should I do if I receive a PLO letter?
It is highly recommended that if you receive a letter inviting you to a PLO meeting you should seek urgent legal advice. If you are a parent and person with parental responsibility then you should be entitled to Legal Aid and therefore wont have to pay any of the costs. If you choose not to attend the meeting then the Local Authority may make the application to the Court and care proceedings will be issued.
If you have received a PLO letter and are unsure as to what to do, please contact us. Our experienced team of family lawyers are here to help you and make sure the best interests of your child as carried out.
What Happens at a PLO Meeting?
If a PLO process is initiated by a local authority, the parents will receive a letter. This letter is normally labelled “letter before proceedings.” It will outline the main concerns that the authority feel the child is facing and the help that has been provided by children’s services so far. It will also schedule a date and time for you to attend a meeting.
The PLO meeting is attended by the Local Authority Solicitor, Team Manager, Social Worker and the parents along with their respective legal representatives. In the meeting, the Team Manager will outline why the PLO process has been initiated and what support you can be offered to you by social care to help.
Social Care will go through the concerns outlined in its letter to parents and provide an update as to what has been happening. During the meeting, the parents will have the opportunity to respond.
It is likely that the parents will be asked to sign a document called a ‘Written Agreement.’
This document sets out what is expected of the parents and what both the parents and Social Care agree to do to improve the situation. This is not a legally binding document, however if there is a breach it is likely that the local authority will then escalate the matter. It is important to note that Social Care do have a duty to provide the parents with relevant support.
How Important is a PLO Meeting?
PLO meeting are incredibly important and should be taken extremely seriously. The meeting is usually a sign that, as far as the social workers are concerned, things have reached a very critical stage. It is often the last chance a parent will have to work things out with the social workers to improve their parenting before the case is taken to Court. Because of this, it really is important that you attend this meeting, even if you have had difficulties talking with social workers in the past.
If you have got the the stage of a PLO meeting, there is probably a long history of social work involvement. We know that in many cases, relationships between parents and social workers can be very difficult and parents can be angry and upset or feel like they’re being watched at every turn. We advise you to put these understandable emotions aside when you go to the meeting; your solicitor will give you every support in helping you to focus any issues of concern.
If there is a PLO meeting – does this mean that the case will definitely end up in court?
The short answer to this question is simply, no. The point of a PLO meeting is to give you, the parent a chance to improve the situation alongside social care so that court can be avoided. However, if improvement’s aren’t made then it may be taken to court.
Legal Support for your PLO proceedings
If you receive a letter inviting you to a PLO meeting, it is highly recommended that you seek urgent legal advice to help support you. If you are a parent or person with Parental Responsibility, you will be entitled to Legal Aid. This means you are entitled to have free legal advice and representation at the meeting.
If you have any questions about PLO meetings or require representation, please do not hesitate to get in contact with our Family Law team. We are more than happy to answer your queries and assist you with your matter should you choose to instruct us.