Pre-Proceedings meetings take place between the Local Authority, the parents and the parents’ lawyers to discuss with the parents how they can change the way they look after their child and what support and help is needed from the Local Authority.
These meetings are often known as PLO Meetings. 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 decisions about the protection and future welfare of the child.
In most cases, the Public Law Outline requires that Children’s Services Departments arrange a meeting with the parents to see if it is possible to reach agreement about what needs to happen to protect a child from harm so that Court proceedings can be avoided.
Parents are invited to meetings by letter and are entitled to legal representation at the meetings which is paid for by public funding through the Legal Aid Agency.
The hope is therefore that parents will come to the meeting with a solicitor who will be able to help the parents negotiate agreement with Children’s Services so as to avoid the need to go to Court.
In some cases the Local Authority may feel that the risk of harm to a child is so great, or the case is so urgent, that the case will go straight to Court and in those instances, there are no pre-proceedings meetings.
Upon receipt of an invitation to go to a PLO or Pre-Proceedings meeting it is important to seek urgent legal advice and a parent or person with parental responsibility is entitled to legal aid or public funding and will not have to pay for the legal advice or representation at the meeting.