The amount of children entering the care system is hitting an all time high. Statistics from the Department for Education show that 72,670 children were taken into care within the past year—the highest rate in the last 5 years.
The involvement of social services is stressful for any family. Social workers may look into the care standards of your child if they are concerned about their living environment, health or development. They will work with you and your family to ensure children are protected, to help your family stay together if that’s the best option, and to help ensure a safe and happy environment for all involved.
Social services work with families under three main frameworks to try and resolve matters in the best interests of everyone and outside of court. These approaches are explained below.
1. Child In Need Plan
A Child In Need Plan will be put in place if there is a perceived risk that a child will not be able to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health or development, or that their health or development is likely to suffer, without the involvement of a local authority.
2. Child Protection Plan
If a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm, the local authority will put a Child Protection Plan in place. This plan sets out how the child can be kept safe, how things can be made better for the family, and what support is needed. This approach is more serious than a Child in Need Plan.
Before the plan is put in place, any professionals working with the child will be asked to attend a meeting to provide information and offer support. Professionals may include health visitors, family support workers, domestic violence support workers, or professionals from schools/nursery. Following these consultations, a Working Agreement will be made to outline what help each professional will offer and the expectations of you as parents. It is highly important that families work with social workers to minimise risks to the children and to avoid matters going to court.
3. Pre court proceedings
Pre-Proceedings offer a final chance for parents to demonstrate they can ensure the adequate protection and care of their child before matters are taken to court.
If this path is taken, you’ll be asked to attend a meeting, which will normally also be attended by the social worker, their manager, and any legal representatives. A plan will be drawn up with the steps that parents must take to try and avoid going to court. Members of the family can also be assessed at this stage to see if they can care for the children in the event that they cannot remain in their parents’ care.
If social services have contacted your family or started any of the above actions, you should seek legal advice immediately; you may be entitled to a free consultation. Let us help you to understand the process, have your voice heard and ensure fair treatment.
To find out if you’re eligible for free legal advice or to book an appointment, contact family law specialist Stacey Lunn on 0121 685 1255.