If a social worker is concerned that a child is being, or is at risk of being, neglected or abused in some way, but they think it is possible to work with the family to improve things, they can arrange a case conference. A case conference is a meeting that brings together family members with the professionals that are involved in supporting the family. The purpose of the meeting is to see if it is agreed (by the professionals) that there is concern about the child and if so, to formulate a plan to work with the family towards making changes.
A decision can be made to place the name of the chid upon the Child Protection Register. Review meetings will be held and if improvements are made then the conference can decide to remove the child’s name from the Register. If improvements are not made then the child’s name will continue to remain on the Register or a decision may be made to take a different course of action.
Public Law Outline (PLO) meeting
If a social worker is concerned about the care of a child or the future care of an unborn baby to the point that they think that if changes are not made then they will need to start court proceedings, also known as care proceedings, they may decide to arrange a Public Law Outline meeting - often called A PLO meeting. Each parent should be given a letter inviting them to this meeting. The letter will set out clearly why the social worker is concerned about a child and what action they think a parent or parent’s needs to take to address these concerns. Social services only arrange these meetings when they are concerned about the children to the point where they are seriously thinking about whether a child can remain living in the family or whether they should be placed with other family members or into foster care.
It is very important that you ask a solicitor to attend this meeting with you. Legal aid is available for this. If you do not attend the meeting or if you do not make the changes that the social worker has asked you to do, then it is likely that court proceedings will start.
We have a lot of experience in attending these meetings. We can talk to you about the concerns that the social worker has and can advise you if these concerns appear to be reasonable or not. It is really important that you understand what is happening in this process, so that you can do all that you can to avoid court proceedings starting.
If a PLO meeting is being arranged, then this is an indicator that you may be experiencing some difficulties and may require additional assistance. We have a lot of contact with supporting agencies and we will routinely consider if there is any support in the community that could be available to you and we will assist with putting you in touch with such organisations.