The threat of having a child taken into care is for most parents a terrifying experience – but there are procedures that Social Services must follow before a child is removed from its parents, including:
Once parents, guardians or carers have received a Pre-proceedings Letter, they are entitled to Legal Aid and the advice of a Social Services solicitor who can liase with Social Services, guide parents through the procedures – and present their case at the Pre-proceedings Meeting.
Parents will receive the reports Social Services will discuss at the Pre-proceedings Meeting in advance, so that they can discuss these with their solicitor.
If a child or children are old enough to understand what is happening, they will also receive a copy of the reports from Social Services – and can attend the Pre-proceedings Meeting.
Duncan Lewis can also advise parents on the steps they can take in advance of the meeting to prevent their children being taken into care.
This is something Social Services will also discuss at the meeting, because unless a child or children are at immediate risk or have already been harmed, a Pre-proceedings Meeting does not necessarily mean children will be removed from their family.
Families can apply to the court to prevent Social Services obtaining a Care Order, for example – and Social Services can agree to supervise families for a period of time under a Supervision Order.
Social Services might also agree to monitor a family under a Family Assistance Order.
If parents co-operate with Social Services and agree to take steps to make sure their children are safe from abuse and neglect, an Agreement will be signed by the parents – and Social Services will set a time limit for reviewing this.
At the meeting, Social Services may also decide that a child is in need and a family is entitled to support for a disability, for example.
Duncan Lewis can advise parents on alternatives to children being taken into care – as well as advising on Section 17 provisions for children in need.
It is important for parents, guardians and carers to take legal advice from a specialist Social Services solicitor when faced with a Pre-proceedings Meeting.
Even if parents do not attend the meeting, Social Services will go ahead and make important decisions in the absence of the family.
If parents are unable to attend the Pre-proceedings Meeting, Duncan Lewis Social Services solicitors can attend and present their case for them.
Duncan Lewis social service solicitors are a leading firm of Legal Aid child care lawyers able to advise and liase with Social Services on a client’s behalf – and prepare and present their case to the Pre-proceedings Meeting to give parents and their children the best chance of being able to stay together.
Social Services can also provide support to families where there may e concerns over child welfare – including children in need who may have disabilities or a mental health issue and are entitled to support from the local authority under Section 17.
Duncan Lewis is ranked by the Legal 500 2014 for its Family & Matrimonial work – and the Duncan Lewis team includes Advanced Members of the Law Society’s Family Panel, and members of the Law Society Children Panel – so our team is well placed to negotiate with Social Services on a family’s behalf and advise on a Section 47 enquiry, Pre-proceedings Letter or Section 17 provisions for children in need.
Duncan Lewis is one of the UK’s largest providers of Legal Aid family law services – including child care law – and in some cases may be able to offer Legal Aid funding for child care cases, including help with the costs of applying for court orders if a client is on benefits or has a low income.
If a client is not eligible for public funding (Legal Aid) for a child care case, Duncan Lewis children lawyers offer a fixed fee for an initial client interview and assessment of a private child matter.
After a case has been assessed, it is usually possible for a fixed fee arrangement to be put in place – and Duncan Lewis will always advise clients of the costs in advance.
Duncan Lewis Social Services solicitors always advise clients who are seeking help with child care matters – or who are facing a Pre-proceedings Meeting with Social Services – to get in touch as soon as possible before the situation escalates.
Once you have contacted Duncan Lewis, we can act swiftly in any child care matter and put in place measures to help resolve the issues.
For expert legal advice on all child care matters – including a Section 47 enquiry or Pre-proceedings Letter or Meeting – contact Duncan Lewis Social Services Solicitors on 020 7923 4020.