Care Proceedings & Social Services
At Lovell Chohan solicitors, we have Law Society accredited Children and Adult Panel Solicitors, Law Society accredited Advance Family Law Solicitors and Specialist Resolution accredited solicitors who are able to advise and assist you in the event that you are involved in any care proceedings with the Local Authority. The burden of responsibilities towards vulnerable children under the children act falls upon the Local Authority. The Local Authority has duties not just towards children in care but towards all children who live in their area, and especially towards ‘children in need’. The Local Authority provides services to meet each child’s identified needs and must be appropriate in terms of the child’s race, culture, religion and background. The general provisions are that if a Local Authority is concerned about the care provided to a child it can bring care or supervision proceedings in relation to that child. Broadly speaking grounds for taking a child into care are where Local Authorities:
- Are informed that a child ,is or is found, in their area is subject of an emergency protection order; or is in police protection; or they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives or is found in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm, the Authority shall make such enquiries as they think it necessary to enable them to decide whether they should take any action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare.
Before a court can order a care or supervision order it has to be satisfied that the following criteria are met:
- The child is suffering or has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm; and
- That harm, or likelihood of harm, is attributable to;
- The care given to the child, or likely to be given to him if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give to him; or
- The child is beyond parental control.
The above grounds are generally known as the ‘threshold criteria’ designed to prevent misconceived applications of taking a child into care. Therefore the Local Authority must investigate before they can take action. This usually involves a full case conference, in which the parents would normally be asked to attend.
The definition of ‘significant harm’ deals with comparing the child’s health and development with what could ‘reasonably be expected of a similar child’. It is not enough to simply allege that the child concerned would be better off living elsewhere else then with the parents.
Beyond parental control usually covers the child who persistently commits crimes or is persistently truant from school. This ground is rarely used but would usually cover situations where a child becomes addicted to drugs, or is sexually promiscuous or has developed anorexia nervosa and the parents are powerless to influence a child’s behaviour.
If the court is satisfied that the above criteria are met it will then need to decide whether to make or not an order and the type of order that should be made. The child’s welfare is paramount. A court will take the following criteria into consideration when making such orders:
- The child’s wishes, in light of their age and understanding
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- How capable each parent is of meeting the child’s needs
- The effect of change on the child
- The child’s age, sex and background, and
- The fact that delay is not usually in the child’s best interest.
In the event that the court makes a care order parental responsibility for the child is passed to the Local Authority and the local authority has power to decide the role that parents will play in the child’s life. Supervision orders are usually made for one year but can the extended up to three years. A supervision order allows the Local Authority to advise, assist and befriend the child.