Can I Get Free Legal Advice When My Child Has Social Work Involvement?

Family Law Girl with Cat

‘Can I get free legal advice when my child has social work involvement? Family Law Solicitor, Melissa Knight, discusses in her latest blog…..

You may have heard of the terms ‘legal aid’ or ‘public funding’. The rules in respect of who will be eligible for legal aid are governed by a government department called the Legal Aid Agency (LAA).

Care Proceedings

If the Local Authority have made an application for a care order or supervision order, then the Legal Aid Agency will automatically grant legal aid to the parent and the child to which the care proceedings relate. In addition, if anybody else shares parental responsibility for the child at the time the proceedings are issued then they too will be entitled to legal aid. This means that you will not have to pay for the advice and representation that your solicitor provides to you. You will need to contact a solicitor as soon as possible so that they can make the application for legal aid on your behalf. They will be able to accept the paperwork on your behalf and tell the Judge what you want to happen during court hearings.

PLO / Pre-Proceedings Level

If the Local Authority have invited you to a pre-proceedings meeting (sometimes known as a PLO meeting) then anybody who has parental responsibility is entitled to free legal advice to assist them with representation at the PLO meetings. You must have evidence that the Local Authority has concerns about your child which are detailed on a letter usually called a PLO or Letter before Proceedings.

Discharge Of Care Order / Revocation Of Placement Order Proceedings

If you are hoping to make an application to discharge an existing care or placement order then you will not automatically be entitled to free legal aid. In this scenario, you would need to speak to a solicitor in order for them to carry out what is known as a means and merit test to assess your eligibility.

Your solicitor would need to make an application to the Legal Aid Agency providing information about your case, any change of circumstances since the original order was made and what your position is. The Legal Aid Agency would also need to assess your financial situation and you would need to provide evidence of your financial circumstances in order for the Legal Aid Agency to determine whether you are eligible for funding. Once all the information has been provided to the Legal Aid Agency, your solicitor will contact you once a decision is made.

Other Family Members

In care proceedings, assessments are often completed of family members to see whether they are a safe option for the children to live with on a short, medium or long-term basis. There is usually a short assessment completed first and if that is positive then a more in-depth assessment will be completed. In the event that these assessments are negative, then unfortunately the family members are not automatically entitled to legal aid in care proceedings. If they are made a party to the proceedings however, then they may be entitled to legal aid.

In these sorts of situations, this can leave family members in a vulnerable position if they cannot afford to pay for independent legal advice and do not agree with the reasons why the social worker has concluded that they are unsuitable carers. Some local universities offer free legal clinics whereby by students studying Law are able to help individuals with making applications to challenge the outcome of these assessments in these scenarios.

If you require assistance to determine whether you are eligible for free legal advice, then please feel free to contact one of the family team on freephone 0800 011 6666 or via email at

Melissa Knight Photo

Melissa Knight
October 2022


Blog by Area of Expertise