When social workers are concerned about the welfare of a child, they may be thinking about taking the case to court so that they can ask the court to make orders to protect the child.
In most cases, the Public Law Outline requires the social services department to arrange a meeting with the parent(s) to see if it is possible to reach agreement about what needs to happen to protect the child from harm so that court proceedings can be avoided.
The aim of the meeting is to enable the Local Authority and parents, both with advice and attendance from their legal advisors, to reach an agreement that will prevent the Local Authority from going to Court for Protective Orders. This formal meeting is often known as a “pre-proceedings meeting” or “PLO meeting” and you are permitted and encouraged to bring a solicitor to that meeting who would be able to advise you prior, during and after the meeting to ensure that your best interests are served appropriately.
In some cases, the social workers may feel that the risk of harm to a child is so great, or the case is so urgent, that the case should go straight to court for an EPO or ICO. In these cases, no meeting takes place at all.
If you have been asked to go to a PLO or pre-proceedings meeting it is important that you seek urgent legal advice. If you are a parent or person with parental responsibility you will be entitled to legal aid and you will not have to pay for legal advice.