What is Public Law Outline (PLO)?
Public Law Outline (PLO) and the pre-proceedings procedure enables the local authority to address concerns regarding the care of a child and put in place a plan to alleviate those concerns. The child or children must be under a child protection plan running alongside the PLO process.
This is a last resort for you to improve the care of your child before the local authority issues court proceedings. In the event court proceedings are issued, the local authority may ask the judge to allow the local authority to share parental responsibility of a child or to remove a child from your care. It is therefore an extremely serious matter and should not be taken lightly.
The PLO process re-launched on Monday 16 January 2023 following concerns over the delay in public law matters. As a result, the President of the Family Division has further stressed the importance of the PLO process.
Do I need a solicitor or a legal representative?
It is extremely important for you to instruct a legal representative on your behalf. PLO is a serious matter and you’ll want to make sure your views and concerns are voiced. A solicitor can also ensure the local authority is fulfilling its legal obligations throughout the matter.
Am I entitled to Legal Aid?
Everyone is entitled to legal aid for PLO. You will need to show your solicitor a copy of the PLO letter you have received from the local authority in order to be eligible for legal aid.
Where and when do PLO meetings take place?
Meetings will generally take place at the local authority offices or your local family centre on a pre-arranged time and date. Meetings can also take place virtually via video link such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
Your solicitor should meet or speak with you prior to the meeting so that they are aware of any concerns or worries you may have. Your solicitor will raise any concerns you have directly with the local authority on your behalf if you wish them to do so.
Who will be at the PLO meeting?
Meetings will usually involve your allocated social worker and a team leader. A legal representative from the local authority should also be present. Your legal representative will also be present with you. If you are in a relationship with the other parent then a joint meeting can take place if appropriate. If you do not wish for a joint meeting to take place, separate meetings can be arranged.
What happens at PLO meetings?
During the meeting the local authority will discuss their concerns and what it is expected of you to address those concerns. You will also have the opportunity to discuss with them anything you do not agree with, any expectations you have of the local authority and any support you believe you would benefit from.
Timescales for the conclusion of any assessments, such as parenting assessments, will be agreed and a date for a review meeting can be arranged.
What is a parenting assessment?
A parenting assessment is completed by the allocated social worker. The social worker will arrange with you times and dates which they will meet with you to go through the assessment. Following these sessions, the social worker will finalise the assessment in writing and consider whether you are able to offer suitable care to a child. The assessment will cover what further support you may be able to benefit from.
This assessment will help the local authority decide what further steps should be taken if deemed necessary.
How long does the PLO process take?
The PLO process lasts up to 12 weeks with a review meeting after about six weeks. This can be extended in certain circumstances such as if ongoing support is necessary or assessments have been delayed.
What happens at the end of the PLO process?
Following the conclusion of the PLO process, the local authority will decide whether there are still concerns and if matters need to be escalated. The local authority will decide if it is necessary to issue care proceedings at court or whether during the PLO process concerns have been alleviated enough to step the matter down from PLO.
You should be notified in writing as to what the local authority intends to do next.
If you need advice please contact Child Law team at our Cosham office on 023 9221 0170.