Care Proceedings – Are You Talking My Language?
The words and terminology used within care proceedings are often very confusing for parents and those who find themselves in the midst of the Court process concerning a child.
As a parent or carer of a child you will receive information from a whole host of professionals who will all use their own terminology depending on their role and area of expertise. This could be medical language, social work language or general legal jargon. Your solicitor will, of course, explain issues to you in a suitable way but if at any point you do not understand something it is extremely important that you make this known.
It is vital that you understand the proceedings concerning your child or a child in your care since failure to do so can result in you providing incorrect instructions to your solicitor, making ill-informed decisions and potentially the wrong outcome being reached in respect of a child.
Care Proceedings – Explanation of Key Terms & Acronyms
I will therefore provide you with an explanation of key terms and acronyms so that you know your PR from PLO.
- Legal Aid – This is a form of public funding which is often available automatically to those who are made party to care proceedings and who hold parental responsibility for a child.
- PR – Parental Responsibility. A father holds this if he is named on a child’s birth certificate, if he was married to the mother at the time the child was born, or if he has obtained PR via a Court Order. Mother’s automatically hold PR for their child. PR can be limited or removed from a parent either by Court Order or due to adoption.
- PLO – Public Law Outline. This term usually refers to the pre-proceedings process whereby a Local Authority seeks to work with a family to avoid care proceedings. In Care Proceedings the Public Law Outline refers to the 26-week timetable and what is expected as the timetable progresses.
- SWET – The social worker’s evidence template or more simply put the social worker’s statement which sets out the Local Authority’s concerns in respect of the care provided to a child, the evidence relied upon to substantiate the concerns and the Local Authority’s recommendations for the child.
- ICO – Interim Care Order. A temporary order which is intended to last for the duration of the proceedings or until it is replaced with another order within proceedings. It grants the Local Authority parental responsibility which can be exercised to the exclusion of the parent(s) parental responsibility. A final Care Order can be made at the end of proceedings but this will not be an ICO, it will last until a child turns 18 unless it is discharged beforehand.
- SO – A Supervision Order. This is an order granted only to a Local Authority which places a duty on the Local Authority to advise, befriend and assist a child. It does not grant the Local Authority PR or remove PR from anyone. A plan should accompany it and it can be made alongside an SGO or CAO.
- SGO – Special Guardianship Order. An order that grants PR and facilitates an arrangement akin to a “family adoption”. It provides the carers (usually family members of the child) with PR to an enhanced degree over the parents and lasts until the child turns 18 unless it is discharged earlier.
- CAO – Child Arrangements Order. An order granting PR and confirming where a child should live or who they should spend time with. PR is not granted to an enhanced degree over the parents, all share PR equally.
- “The child’s timescales” – This effectively means the duration of the care proceedings and before a final decision on the child’s placement needs to be made in the child’s best interests.
- “Welfare Checklist” – The factors that the Court must consider before making any order in respect of a child. It can be found at s1(3) Children Act 1989.
- 34(4) Order – An order permitting a Local Authority to suspend or prevent contact between a child and their parent/carer.
- EPO – Emergency Protection Order. To obtain this the Local Authority will have made an application urgently and needs to be able to evidence that the child is at imminent risk of harm.
As always, we are on hand to advise and represent you within care proceedings and to make the process as straight forward and jargon-free as possible. It is important that you are able to navigate these proceedings successfully to achieve the best possible outcome for your child.