Machaela O’Brien, Family Executive at Coodes Solicitors, outlines what a Public Law Outline meeting entails and why it is important to seek legal advice if you have been asked to attend.
If a social worker has concerns over the welfare of a child, they may write to parents inviting them to a Public Law Outline (PLO) meeting. Parents will receive a ‘letter before proceedings’, which will detail the concerns and what has already been done to assist the family.
The reasons social workers may be concerned for a child’s welfare could range from poor attendance at school to health concerns and risk of harm.
The main purpose of a PLO meeting is for the social worker to meet with the parents, discuss their concerns about the child and what support is available. The meeting is used to try and reach an agreement without the need for court proceedings and will outline what changes or improvements need to be made to reduce the concerns.
Before being invited to a PLO meeting, it is likely that the family would have already had interactions with a social worker and this is usually a sign that the situation has reached a critical stage. A Public Law Outline meeting is often the last chance for parents to avoid Court proceedings being issued.
At the meeting, a written agreement may be produced, which sets out what the parents will need to do and how the social worker will help. It is important that the parents follow this agreement. If an agreement is not reached or the agreement is not adhered to, it very likely the case will go to court.
In some cases, if the concerns that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm are so serious that an agreement is not possible, the meeting will be used simply to inform the parents that an application will be made to the Court.
Although it is important to attend all meetings and engage fully with the social worker, it is especially important for parents to attend a PLO meeting if they have been invited to one.
This meeting is usually the last chance for parents to respond to the concerns and ask for the support they require to try and move forward. Relationships between parents and social workers can often be difficult and emotions can run high, but a solicitor will be able to provide support and can keep everyone focused on the issues.
If you receive a letter inviting you to a Public Outline Meeting, it is important that you seek legal advice as soon as possible and arrange for a solicitor to attend the meeting with you.
Legal Aid is automatically available to parents who have received a letter before proceedings inviting them to a PLO meeting, regardless of their financial situation.
Coodes Solicitors has a Legal Aid contract for the whole of Cornwall and the Holsworthy area in North Devon. Do not hesitate to contact our Family team if you have received a letter and require legal advice.
If you have been affected by any of these issues please contact Machaela O’Brien in our Family Team at 01579 347600 or firstname.lastname@example.org