Public Law Proceedings – Court

‘’There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.’’ Nelson Mandela

The right to make decisions about a child is the responsibility of those who hold parental responsibility.

What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental Responsibility is defined in s 3(1) Children Act 1989 as being:

‘All the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property’.

In practical terms Parental Responsibility means the power to make important decisions in relation to a child.

Court and Care Proceedings

If the Local Authority believe a child is suffering significant harm or a child is at risk of significant harm, they can apply to court for permission to take action to protect the child. This is known as Care Proceedings.

The Local Authority application for care proceedings must cross ‘threshold’ and the application will contain a threshold document.

What is Threshold?

Threshold is set out in s31(2) Children Act 1989 as:

A court may only make a care order or supervision order if it is satisfied—

(a)that the child concerned is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm; and

(b)that the harm, or likelihood of harm, is attributable to—

(i)the care given to the child, or likely to be given to him if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give to him; or

(ii)the child’s being beyond parental control.

These are known as the ‘threshold criteria’. The duty is on the local authority to show that the ‘threshold criteria’ has been crossed.

Application and Court

Once the Local Authority has made an application to Court to initiate proceedings, the court will list the matter for a first hearing. This is known as a Case management Hearing. This is a vital and very important hearing.

This will not be the only hearing during care proceedings. During proceedings, assessments and plans are drafted to make recommendations to the Court so the Court can justly dispose of proceedings at a final hearing.

Under the Public Law Outline (2014) and the Children and Families Act 2014, there is a 26-week time limit for the completion of care proceedings.

Once the Court has heard the matter, it will need to consider what Orders it can make. One option for the Court is a care order, which can be made as an interim Care Order for the duration of proceedings or as a final Care Order.

Interim Care Order

The court can consider whether to make an Interim Care Order which places the child temporarily under the care or supervision of the local authority whilst care proceedings are ongoing.

An Interim Care Order will be made where the court has reasonable grounds for believing the threshold criteria have been met. This law is set out under s38(2) Children Act 1989.

Care Order

A Care Order is an Order, which places a child under the care of the Local Authority. The child becomes a ‘Looked After Child’.

The court can make a care order under Section 31 Children Act, placing a child in the care of a local authority.

A Care Order will be made where the court is satisfied that:

  1. that the child concerned is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm; and
  2. that the harm, or likelihood of harm, is attributable to—
    1. the care given to the child, or likely to be given to him if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give to him; or
    2. the child’s being beyond parental control

A care order will usually exist until the child turns 18 and cannot be made once a child has turned 17, unless the order is discharged.

There is a requirement for a care plan that will look at arrangements for the child including living arrangements and education, for example, also, contact with parents and other family members.

A care plan is also a requirement under an interim care order, which will specify the same considerations regarding living arrangements and contact.

Why do the Local Authority want an order?

Only a care order or interim care order allows the Local Authority to share parental responsibility with the parents and it allows Children Services to make that day-to-day decisions for a child.

Legal Advice

If the Local Authority are wanting an interim care order or care order to remove your child from your care or whether they want an interim care order or care order with your child remaining in your care, you must seek legal advice immediately.

Supervision Order

Under Section 31 (2) Children Act 1989, on the conclusion of care proceedings, the court can grant the making of a Supervision Order.

A Supervision Order imposes a duty on the local authority to ‘advise, assist and befriend’ the child.

It is designed to allow the local authority to keep a reasonable amount of control over a child where there has been harm or a risk of harm but not enough continuing harm to warrant a Care Order.

A supervision order can last for one year. However, this can be extended yearly to a total of three years. It will last until the child reaches the age of 18, unless discharged at an earlier date.

When can this be made?

A Supervision Order will be made where the court is satisfied that:

  1. that the child concerned is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm; and
  2. that the harm, or likelihood of harm, is attributable to—
    1. the care given to the child, or likely to be given to him if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give to him; or
    2. the child’s being beyond parental control

This is the same threshold criteria as interim care order or care orders.

A Supervision Order does not give the Local Authority parental responsibility.

Legal Advice

If the Local Authority are seeking a Supervision Order, you must seek legal advice immediately.

Funding

At Berksons we can provide you with legal advice, support, and assistance with your Court Proceedings.

Regarding Care Proceedings, you are entitled to Legal Aid. This entitles you to free advice and representation throughout proceedings.

Our team are specialists in Public Law and will treat your matter with trust, empathy, and expertise.

 

 

Thank you for all your support and professionalism over the past year. As you said, it’s sad the way things turn out, but in fact, I am now much better financially!

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