When a Local Authority, or social services, has genuine concerns about the welfare of a child, they will send a letter to the parents and/or anyone with parental responsibility at the time inviting them to a ‘pre-proceedings meeting’. The meeting is ideally used as a way to carry out any actions considered necessary and avoid court proceedings all together.
The letter before proceedings should provide a summary of the Local Authority’s concerns and what support has already been provided to the parents. It should then briefly set out what actions need to be taken by the parents to avoid a court hearing and include timescales for this to happen. Finally, it must set out the right to free independent legal advice for the meeting. The meeting itself will explore the contents of the letter in more detail. It will allow all involved the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns. The meeting will determine whether any assessments or actions need to be taken by the parents to avoid court proceedings, and a plan will be drawn up and signed by all in attendance. Refusal to consent to the plan, or even non-attendance at the meeting on the part of the parents, will likely result in court proceedings being issued.
If you have received notification of a pre-proceedings meeting, then you are automatically entitled to legal representation at the meeting. Clarkson Hirst Solicitors offer this service so if you require any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.