The social services department in your Local Authority (Council) is responsible for making sure that children are safe and appropriately cared for by their parents or the person looking after them.
If social services believe, from information received, that a child may be suffering serious harm or is likely to suffer serious harm, then they can apply to the court for a Care Order or a Supervision Order.
Social services should only apply to the court for a Care Order or Supervision Order if they think it is the best way to ensure that your child(ren) can be properly protected. Social services cannot take any action with which you do not agree without first obtaining the court’s permission.
If social services have become involved or want to become involved with caring for or protecting your child, you should seek independent legal advice at the earliest opportunity.
It is imperative that you obtain legal advice at the very outset at the earliest opportunity from a family lawyer who has experience in dealing with these sorts of cases, known as Public Law childcare proceedings. At Gyanham King and Mellor we have two Law Society Accredited Children Panel Solicitors and a former Children Panel Solicitor, all of who are very experienced in this specialist area of Children Act Law and related proceedings.
Gaynham King & Mellor have a contract with the Legal Aid Agency and can provide 'Legal Help' Legal Aid funding for Pre Proceedings (Public Law Outline) Meetings with Children's Services and Parents or Guardians who have Parental Responsibility for a Child or Children are entitled to receive automatic 'Legal Aid Funding Certificates' once formal Court Proceedings are issued, ensuring all legal fees are paid by the Legal Aid Agency.
This means that you remain responsible for your child’s care but social services have the power to “supervise” how you care for your child.
A Supervision Order lasts for up to one year unless the Local Authority asks the court for an extension.
If a Supervision Order is made then the Local Authority will agree a “Contract” or supervision plan with you, this will set out what is expected of you, and the services the Local Authority will provide.
This is an order that places your child in the care of the Local Authority and provides for the Local Authority to share parental responsibility with those persons who already have it.
The court must decide how and when you and other family members such as brothers and sisters will see your child if he or she is not returning to live with you. If you disagree with what is decided and you want the arrangements changed, you can apply for a Contact Order.
Once a Care Order is made the Local Authority will decide where your child will live. It is possible for a child to remain living in the family unit whilst subject to a Care Order however it is more usual for the child’s residence with the immediate family to end upon the making of a care order if it has not done so already for example through placement in voluntary foster care albeit on a temporary basis.
Local Authority Childcare work is a specialised area of Family Law and is a service which is not provided by all Family lawyers. At Gaynham King & Mellor however our family solicitors are able to offer both parents and children (through the Children’s Guardian) specialist advice and representation in this extremely sensitive and demanding area of law.
For more advice and assistance regarding Local Authority childcare intervention or concerns regarding the involvement with the children’s department of social services with your family please contact us.
Emma Ferson - firstname.lastname@example.org