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What is a PLO meeting?

Our People - Jalpa Vadgama
18 January, 2024

A pre-proceedings meeting, or legal gateway meeting, means that the Local Authority is concerned about the care of your children and is considering taking the matter to Court.

What is the purpose of a pre-proceedings meeting?

In the United Kingdom, when concerns arise about the welfare and safety of a child, local authorities may initiate Public Law Outline (PLO) pre-proceedings as part of the statutory process before considering court proceedings.

During a pre-proceedings meeting, various parties involved in the child protection process, such as social workers, legal representatives, parents, and sometimes other professionals, come together to discuss the concerns, explore possible solutions, and work towards resolving issues without the need for court intervention. The aim is to encourage collaboration and support families in addressing concerns about a child’s welfare.

These meetings typically involve discussions about the child’s circumstances, the concerns raised, and the plan of action to address those concerns. The goal is to find ways to safeguard the child and provide necessary support to the family, while also considering the legal options that may be pursued if the issues persist.

What do I do if I have received a letter from the social worker inviting me to a PLO meeting?

If you have received a letter from the social worker inviting you to a PLO meeting, it is crucial to consult with a solicitor as soon as possible.

The letter will outline the concerns the local authority has regarding your situation and provides guidance on necessary actions to prevent court proceedings.

Seeking legal advice swiftly is essential to understand the implications of the concerns raised and to develop a strategy to address them effectively. A solicitor can help you comprehend the contents of the letter, guide you on the steps to take, and provide valuable assistance in preparing for the upcoming PLO meeting. Time is of the essence, and prompt legal counsel can be instrumental in safeguarding your rights and navigating the complexities of the child protection process.

Will I receive legal aid for a PLO meeting?

If you have received a PLO letter from the Local Authority inviting you to attend a pre-proceedings meeting, you will be eligible for free legal advice. Upon receipt of the letter, you have the right to seek legal aid to ensure you have proper representation and assistance during this crucial stage of the child protection process.

Do I have to attend a PLO meeting?

Yes, it is strongly advised that you attend your pre-proceedings meeting. We highly recommend your participation as the meeting offers a crucial platform to address any concerns the Local Authority may have. Non-attendance could potentially lead the Local Authority to initiate court proceedings, indicating a lack of engagement on your part.

Attending the PLO meeting demonstrates your willingness to collaborate and resolve issues cooperatively. By actively participating, you enhance the opportunity to work with the Local Authority in finding constructive solutions and potentially avoiding the need for court involvement. Your presence at the meeting is a proactive step towards addressing concerns and working towards the best possible outcome for all parties involved.

What happens at a PLO meeting?

A pre-proceedings meeting is a crucial juncture in the child protection process, representing the final opportunity for you to persuade Social Services against pursuing court action to remove your children. Before the meeting, we will thoroughly discuss the list of concerns with you, seeking your perspective to effectively communicate your views to the social worker and their solicitor.

During the PLO meeting, you will be provided with an opportunity to articulate your thoughts and address the concerns raised by the social worker. It’s a chance to express your viewpoint and present any information that may impact the decision-making process.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the social worker and their solicitor will deliberate on the gathered information and determine the subsequent steps. The outcome could involve the formulation of a plan to address the concerns collaboratively or, depending on the circumstances, the initiation of court proceedings. The collaborative nature of this meeting aims to find a resolution that prioritises the well-being of the child while considering the input of all involved parties

What happens after the PLO meeting?

After the pre-proceedings meeting, a written agreement is typically established, outlining the expectations and responsibilities within the PLO process. This agreement, often referred to as a written agreement, delineates the actions the Local Authority anticipates you to take and details the support they commit to providing for you and your family.

Following this, a review PLO date is scheduled, usually around 12 weeks after the initial PLO meeting. This meeting serves as an opportunity to assess the outcomes of various evaluations and conduct a comprehensive review of developments since the initial PLO meeting. During the review, the Local Authority will discuss the progress made and confirm the next steps in the process.

The subsequent actions may involve concluding the PLO process if satisfactory progress has been achieved. However, if concerns persist, the Local Authority might opt to initiate court proceedings or extend the PLO process. This careful review and subsequent decision-making aim to strike a balance between addressing concerns about the child’s welfare and providing necessary support to the family involved.

How long does the PLO last?

The typical duration of a PLO is approximately 3 months, but it is important to note that this timeframe can be extended. The initial 3-month period allows for assessments, discussions, and the implementation of plans to address concerns raised by the Local Authority. Extensions may occur based on the progress made during this period or if additional time is deemed necessary to thoroughly evaluate and address the circumstances.

While the aim is to resolve matters within the initial time frame, the flexibility to extend the PLO process ensures that thorough consideration is given to the complexities involved, prioritising the well-being of the child and providing ample opportunity for collaboration between the parties involved.

What should I do at the PLO meeting?

During the PLO meeting, it’s crucial to remain calm and avoid expressing anger or losing your temper with the social worker, even though this may be challenging. Staying composed helps create a constructive atmosphere for discussions.

You will likely be presented with a written agreement, and our role is to guide you through its contents and provide advice on whether signing it is in your best interest. Following our private discussion about the agreement, we will engage with the Local Authority solicitor to negotiate the terms. Importantly, you should be aware that signing the agreement is a voluntary decision, and you will not be compelled to do so.

Once you’ve committed to the terms outlined in the written agreement, it is crucial to follow through on your commitments. Failing to adhere to the agreed-upon actions, whether it involves therapy, participation in a domestic violence course, or undergoing a psychiatric/psychological assessment, could lead the Local Authority to pursue court proceedings based on perceived non-compliance. Consistent engagement and fulfilment of the agreed-upon terms can significantly impact the resolution of the matter outside of court.

Do I need a solicitor to attend a PLO meeting with me?

It is highly recommended that you engage the services of a solicitor to accompany you during the PLO process. Having a care proceedings solicitor by your side is crucial as they can provide valuable advice, ensuring that you have a comprehensive understanding of the entire process. Their expertise can guide you through the complexities of the proceedings, address any concerns you may have, and advocate on your behalf during the PLO meeting. Having legal representation enhances your ability to navigate the process effectively and safeguard your rights and interests.

How can GN Law help?

If your family is currently dealing with social services involvement through a legal gateway process, PLO process, or if care proceedings have been initiated, GN Law is here to provide immediate assistance. We prioritise your concerns and offer prompt appointments to address your specific situation.

For further guidance on social services involvement or any related matters concerning your family, feel free to reach out to us at 020 8492 2290. Our dedicated family law solicitors are ready to provide valuable insights and support. Schedule an appointment today by calling us, and let us assist you in navigating through the legal complexities and finding the best solutions for your family.

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