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If you have received an invitation to attend a public law outline (PLO) meeting, you should make sure you can make the date set by your local authority(often referred to as children’s services or social services). Failure to do so may result in the local authority taking a decision to issue care proceedings. As detailed within the local authority’s letter, it is also strongly advisable that you contact a child law solicitor.
We understand that involvement in a child safety investigation can be stressful for those involved, so we can provide you with advice on how best to handle the situation. Before making any decisions, you can contact one of our expert child law solicitors who will be able to explain the legal implications of responding to a PLO invitation, and what your options are. Please note that your legal fees during this process can be funded free of charge through legal aid.
When social workers are concerned about the physical, mental and/or emotional health of a child, a local authority may invite the parents to attend a public law outline (PLO) meeting. This is sometimes also referred to as a pre-proceedings meeting (PPM). During the meeting, the authority will discuss their reasons for concern and attempt to address them by finding out about your situation and making a plan, including expectations of all parties, to try avoid the matter being brought before the Family Court
It may be the case that you have a financial issue or other areas in which you need support that is limiting the care you can provide for your child, and this can be an opportunity for the local authority to help you seek help and find a solution. Regardless of the reason for your PLO invitation, you should consider seeking legal representation as any missteps could result in further investigations and possible Court proceedings which can in certain circumstances include an application to remove the child from a parents care.
The social worker should provide you with a letter to set out the date for the PLO meeting and the reasons why the local authority is worried about your child/children.
A PLO meeting is attended by the local authority, the social worker and usually a team manager. The parents and their solicitors are also invited to these meetings. Everyone is given an opportunity to speak during the meeting, and the local authority explains what needs to happen in order to avoid going to court. Your solicitor will advise you about the meeting - how long it may last and what you can expect to be discussed within, based on your specific circumstances. Often, a further review PLO meeting will be scheduled so that everyone can meet to discuss any progress that has been made.
You are entitled to legal aid funding irrespective of your circumstances if you are a parent or a person with parental responsibility for a child through a court order. Ramsdens Solicitors offers some free legal advice to those going through child care proceedings, and we may be able to identify ways for you to secure funding for further legal aid
How important are PLO meetings?
PLO meetings are very serious - they are the last chance offered to parents and carers before court proceedings become necessary. If parents or carers do not work with the local authority and make changes, then the local authority’s next step will be to issue court proceedings. This could, at worst, mean an application for the child to be removed from their parent’s care.
What should I do if I receive a PLO letter?
If you receive a letter, you should seek urgent legal advice. It is so important that you take action at an early stage to give you the best possible chance of resolving issues with the local authority.
How long does a PLO meeting last?
It is impossible to say exactly how long a PLO meeting will last as this will vary on a case-by-case basis. Typically, PLO meetings will not last longer than a few hours. It is essential that all of the local authority's concerns are explained and are understood by the parent or carer - the local authority (or the local authority solicitor, if one is present) should make this their top priority - and so the meeting will last as long as this takes.
While a PLO meeting may only last a matter of hours, the full PLO process may take up to nine months to fully resolve. During this time, the social services authority will monitor the care of the child and hold further follow-up meetings. If the parents or carers do not follow the authority's requirements, legal proceedings may be opened. This may happen at any point in the PLO process.
If you have received a PLO letter, you should get legal aid from child law solicitors who are experienced in child law and can empathise with the stress that you may be going through . Please contact our child law team on 01924 431 774, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book a free information session at any of our offices. Alternatively, fill out an online contact form and we will be in touch.