Revised Method of Managing Decision Making in Relation to Legal Proceedings within Social Care Guidance for Staff
- Development and Purpose of a Legal Planning Panel Meeting
- Structure and Functioning of the Legal Gateway Meeting
- Emergency Referrals and Police Protection
- Flowchart: Legal Planning Panel Meeting
The purpose of this guidance is to advise all social care staff of the revised process for decision making in relation to legal proceedings. This is to ensure a more consistent approach to the process and to ensure that the cases are tracked and timely intervention occurs, specifically in relation to any pre-proceedings meetings.
It will also allow a strategic overview of those children requiring the court intervention and reasons for this to further develop the early intervention and prevention model and timely intervention in children's lives.
The tracking of Legal Planning Meetings will link to the LAC Sufficiency Strategy and planning for regulated services.
There have been significant changes over the last years which require the way in which legal decisions are made is reviewed and updated. In particular there has been the implementation of the Public Law Outline and Pre Proceedings Protocol, and the re-structure of Safeguarding Teams to align them closely with Early Help Teams.
Difficulties were identified in the Ofsted 2014 inspection, which have now been included in our Improvement Plan. An action to 'Ensure prompt arrangements are made to progress Legal Planning Meetings where identified risks are not diminishing,' is now an action which requires our urgent attention.
The PLO process is not consistent and in either timescales or assessments completed during the pre-proceedings period and vary from team to team.
Consideration has been given to the publication by DCSF and the Ministry of Justice which outlines best practice in this area.
("Preparing for Care and Supervision Proceedings" August 2009)
3. Development and Purpose of a Legal Planning Panel Meeting
It is proposed to develop a panel to oversee the Legal Planning process which will bring challenge and allow a service overview of the decision making.
The panel will oversee requests to formally make an application for proceedings and where appropriate, track cases to ensure they do not drift in either Section 20 or pre proceedings.
The purpose of this meeting would be to enable the Local Authority to consider, discuss and seek advice prior to proceeding with legal applications.
Where Social Workers have undertaken a Case Management Discussion with their Team Manager, and the manager has agreed a decision there are reasonable grounds for believing that:
- The threshold as defined in Children Act Section 31 (2)) has been reached;
- That an application for court proceedings is required whether this be immediate application to court or threshold "in Principle" to invoke pre proceedings process – as threshold criteria has to be satisfied for both.
The Team Manager and/or Social Worker will present the Case Management Decision to the Legal Planning Panel Meeting chaired by a Service Manager.
The meeting (on behalf of the Local Authority) will then consider the case presented in order to:
- Discuss and seek advice about the decision presented;
- Decide if the use of the Pre Proceedings Protocol is appropriate;
- Decide if immediate issue of proceedings is required and if so what order is most appropriate;
- Determine what communication should take place with the family:
- Letter before proceedings;
- Letter to notify of immediate proceedings;
- Arrange for the manager to have the opportunity for further discussion or advice that is required;
- Timetable the paperwork and proposed plan including any pre proceedings meetings. Timescales will be made and expected to be adhered to by both CSC and the Legal Department;
- Agree proposed assessments and funding of these assessments;
- Address potential contact issues.
The Legal Planning Panel Meeting should not be used as an alternative to effective Care Planning Meetings.
4. Structure and Functioning of the Legal Gateway Meeting
The Panel will meet weekly at Bickerstaffe House and will be chaired by a relevant Service Manager on a rotating basis. The Panel will be held on a Thursday and it will begin at 12.30 p.m. Where there is a busy week the panel may have to commence earlier.
The Panel will consist of:
- Team manager fostering;
- Team manager adoption;
- Legal representative;
- Contact Centre Manager;
- Family Group Conference Manager;
- Team Manager representation from locality (if Duty case);
- Admin Support to minute meeting and update Legal Planning tracker.
Administration support will be available to:
- Book rooms;
- Collate and distribute paperwork;
- Prepare agenda;
- Distribute minutes and decisions made;
- Update case tracker.
Managers wishing to present decisions for ratification should submit the required paperwork electronically by the Tuesday lunchtime prior to panel taking place. The paperwork should be submitted to our admin co-ordinator.
The paperwork required is as follows and is not negotiable:
- Up to date Child and family Assessment or Section 47 and Strategy Meeting minutes if the case is an emergency;
- Chronology of involvement;
Other paper work which is desirable for the Panel includes:
- Medical reports;
- Child Protection minutes/recommendations;
- Any relevant assessments;
- Child in Need minutes.
This paperwork would then be sent electronically by to panel members before close of business on Tuesday.
The Social Worker and Team Manager will be invited to attend the panel to present the case for discussion. This presentation should include a clear Care Plan.
Recommendations of the meeting will be recorded, and the Tracker updated.
Meeting decisions will be sent to the Panel members who should ensure these are entered on Frameworki within 7 days of the panel meeting.
5. Emergency Referrals and Police Protection
Where there is an urgent requirement for a Legal Planning Meeting, a Social Worker should discuss with their Team Manager who should then escalate their request to their Service Manager, who will, if appropriate convene an emergency meeting. The Service Manager will make every effort to make sure all relevant parties can attend. This should only be used in the most exceptional of circumstances.
Wherever there is a case where powers of Police Protection are utilised, these cases should also be submitted to the Legal Planning Panel Meeting. This will enable management oversight of these instances and to ensure correct processes are being used in respect of Police Protection.