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EalingChildren's Services Procedures Manual

Ealing's Legal Proceedings Protocol

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This protocol explains the process of pre proceedings and proceedings work in Ealing, as well as how the period of joint working between teams will operate when care proceedings are planned for a child.

Abbreviations:

  • LPM = Legal Planning Meeting;
  • LPP = Legal Planning Panel;
  • CFA = Child and Family Assessment.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated locally in October 2019. It should be re-read in its entirety.

Contents

  1. Principles
  2. Legal Planning Panel
  3. After Panel - Decision to Issue Proceedings
  4. Urgent Cases and EPO
  5. Informing Other Agencies
  6. Conclusion of Proceedings
  7. Disagreements
  8. Monitoring
  9. Appendix 1: Legal Planning Panel Information Form
  10. Appendix 2: Legal Planning Panel Form for Review of Supervision Order

1. Principles

  • Delay is harmful and for children who need protection every day matters;
  • Co-operation and partnership working is key during the joint working period; any disagreements must be resolved by managers as a matter of urgency – see Section 7, Disagreements;
  • Each person involved in the case is responsible for ensuring that key information about the child/family is conveyed to other workers involved. In particular the Multi-Agency Support Team (MAST)/ESCAN social worker and manager must ensure the new social worker and manager understand all the risks and key information;
  • To ensure that work with children and families is outcome focused and transparent.

The LPP will consider all cases where proceedings may be required prior to issuing proceedings, with the exception of urgent cases as noted below.

The LPP will be chaired in rotation by the Head of Service for Children In Need; Looked After Children and Leaving Care; and Children's Placements and Support. Other panel members will always be:

  • Local Authority Lawyer;
  • Care Planning Service Manager;
  • Kinship Deputy Team Manager;
  • Quality Assurance Case Manager;
  • Any other member who may be added with the agreement of the Heads of Service noted above.

Cases come to the LPP through the following routes:

  • New cases following LPM;
  • Review fixed by a previous LPP decision;
  • Children accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989;
  • Supervision Orders due to expire within 3 months;
  • EPO/urgent cases.

New cases following LPM

Social Work manager decides a LPM is required on a case and directs the social worker to complete key actions, e.g. to finish/update CFA and complete chronology.

Social Worker makes referral for a LPM on Frameworki within 2 days. The referral must include;

  • The completed LPM referral;
  • An up-to-date CFA;
  • A genogram;
  • Any key documents (e. g. other assessments/reports/CP Conference minutes);
  • The chronology must be updated.

LPM is held, the legal advice is written up and the lawyer refers the case to the LPP co-ordinator for the next Panel attaching legal advice. N.B. Cases will always be referred to the next LPP to avoid delay.

Panel co-ordinator books in case and social worker completes Legal Planning Panel Information Form (see Appendix 1: Legal Planning Panel Information Form). Paperwork will always include:

  • A CFA (unless family is not previously known);
  • LPM memo;
  • Chronology.

Social worker attends LPP with manager. Cases at panel will be allocated a time of 30 minutes but longer timing can be fixed depending on the nature of the case through discussion with the Case Manager. The social worker should attend at panel with the completed 'Legal Planning Panel Information Form' (see Appendix 1: Legal Planning Panel Information Form) if not already submitted and provide a brief summary and analysis of the current status of the case together with a proposed care plan for discussion. In addition the social worker should advise the panel of any relevant factors which may cause a delay in the case or which have caused delay in the case e.g. Complex medical information, international element including assessments, any concurrent criminal proceedings.

Decisions of the panel may include, but are not restricted to:

  • To issue proceedings;
  • To undertake work under the pre proceedings framework; to include decision to issue pre proceedings letter and arrange a pre proceedings meeting;
  • Timescales for actions, with task allocation;
  • Updating of CFA;
  • To request an expert assessment if, exceptionally, one is required;
  • To nominate a Care Planning Service Court Social Worker to joint work the case; N.B. the Court SW does not become the allocated SW until the date agreed by the two managers – see below;
  • Any support the Case Manager should provide;
  • Whether and when case should return to LPP;
  • Whether the case should close to the LPP.

This is not a definitive list of outcomes which will depend on the child/children's individual situation.

The panel will give a summary of the reasons for their decision which will be put into writing and sent out to the social worker and team manager within 5 working days of the panel. Any issues in relation to the decision can be raised with the Case Manager. 

In any case in pre-proceedings, the social worker must ask the parents for details of any extended family who might be alternative carers and where possible refer to the (Kinship) Team, even before the LPP, for an early viability assessment.

If, after a decision to issue proceedings, subsequently it is decided not to issue proceedings the case must return to the LPP for review.

Review fixed by a previous LPP decision

Where the LPP decides that a case should be reviewed at a subsequent panel, the social worker should again complete the 'Legal Planning Panel Information Form' and submit this along with an email update of the actions taken since the last panel and a summary and analysis of the current status of the case to the LPP co-ordinator.

Children accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989

If an LPM has been held in relation to the child, the above 'new case' process will be followed.  In all other cases, all children accommodated under Section 20 aged 0-15 years must be booked into the LPP on the first available date after they are accommodated.  The 'Legal Planning Panel Information Form' in Appendix 1: Legal Planning Panel Information Form must be completed and sent to the LPP Co-ordinator. 

If the child is a new born baby or a baby under the age of 1 year, the social worker must also make a referral for an LPM at the time of referring to the LPP. The LPM and LPP are not mutually exclusive and early legal advice is essential in the case of a young baby accommodated under Section 20.  The exception to this will be in the case of a relinquished baby under the age of 1 year who is accommodated under Section 20 and no LPM will be sought prior to attendance at the LPP.

Paperwork provided to the LPP Co-ordinator will be:

  • A copy of the ART (Access to Resources Team) referral form;
  • If the placement is a kinship placement, an email update from the allocated social worker stating the date the child became accommodated and summarising the concerns;
  • CFA if completed;
  • A copy of the initial email sent by the social worker for decision on placement containing the full case summary.

Following first attendance at the panel, the case will be automatically booked in for review 8 weeks later. At this review, if the child has returned home and there are no current or additional concerns which would merit proceedings or pre proceedings at that time, the case may be closed to the LPP. 

If the child has not returned home and is still accommodated under Section 20, the LPP must consider the following:

  • Is it appropriate for this child to continue to be accommodated under Section 20?
  • Does the parent or person who provided the Section 20 consent continue to have capacity to consent and is consent still given?
  • Is there a need to issue proceedings in this case to secure a stable placement for the child and if so, is it necessary and proportionate to issue proceedings?

If the paragraph above applies, a further review will be automatically fixed for 4 weeks later. At this review the questions in the above paragraph will be considered again and a decision on whether proceedings are necessary for the long term planning for the child must be made and recorded. If proceedings are not necessary, the case will close to the LPP and will be monitored through the Permanence Review Panel.

Supervision Orders due to expire within 3 months

All Supervision Orders will be reviewed by the LPP prior to their expiry and a decision will be made on the necessity of seeking to extend the order or issuing for care proceedings.

The allocated social worker should complete the Supervision Order Review form (see Appendix 2: Legal Planning Panel Form for Review of Supervision Order) and submit to the LPP co-ordinator no later than 3 months prior to expiry of the order.

No further paperwork is required and an LPM is not needed at this stage.  If the decision of the LPP is to issue care proceedings or to seek an extension of the supervision order, an LPM is requested and the Supervision Order Review form is acceptable by way of LPM memo referral. 

3. After Panel – Decision to Issue Proceedings

The allocated worker's manager and Court Manager will meet (or if unable to meet will discuss by phone) within 3 working days of the LPP to discuss the case and set out the tasks for each worker in relation to court. They will also decide on the transfer date. Ideally this will be before the first hearing.

A family meeting will be held with birth parents and any other known relatives in order to identify relatives who might be able to care for the child if s/he cannot remain with or return to the parents. This will be convened by a worker in the current team and normally held in 2 weeks so that the outcome can be included in the initial statement to court.

When it is decided to issue proceedings the Connect (Kinship) Deputy Team Manager will take responsibility for allocating the case for any additional viability or full kinship assessments that are required. They will also inform the Adopt London West Team Manager as parallel planning for other forms of permanency is likely to be required. In as far as possible all viabilities will be completed by the Connect (Kinship) team.

Case responsibility remains with the MAST social worker until the case is finally transferred. They will remain responsible for managing the child protection plan (if there is one), visits to the child, other ongoing work and any urgent actions. Where a social worker from the court team has begun work it may be possible to negotiate for them to carry out some of these tasks.

Child protection procedures must be followed during court proceedings if the child is subject to a CP plan or a new allegation is made or concern arises.

ESCAN will keep cases in proceedings as their expertise will assist effective care planning.

The role of the Court social worker will be to consider the CFA and LPP decisions and to decide if any further information is needed to issue proceedings. 

The MAST social worker will write the statement for court and the Care Plan based on the up-to-date CFA. The court statement will be completed in line with the National Social Work Evidence Template.

Where proceedings are issued in relation to some of the children in the family, but one or more siblings are not subject to proceedings the whole family case will transfer to the court team.

The Care Plan will cover issues of placement, contact and permanency options and set out a plan of work, including whether the Court social worker will complete a further parenting assessment.

4. Urgent Cases and EPO

If a case requires urgent issuing, e.g. the circumstances of the case are such that an ongoing case requires urgent court action to protect the child(ren) the LPP will decide who is best placed to write the statement and care plan and this would usually be the allocated worker. In these circumstances the case will normally transfer to a Connect court worker at the first hearing.

In cases where an EPO is required in order to safeguard a child(ren) the allocated worker will write the statement and care plan. They will need to get agreement for the EPO from the Head of Service. In these circumstances the Connect manager with a lead for Court work should be alerted and the court team will attempt to send a representative to court. The case must then go to the next LPP and will normally transfer at the first hearing.

When urgent action is taken prior to the LPP the case must be booked into the subsequent LPP to decide other issues and agree the care plan. The LPP co-ordinator will maintain a 30 minute space at the start of each LPP for accommodating urgent cases requiring consideration at panel.

5. Informing Other Agencies

Other professionals (e.g. police, health visitor, teacher etc.) need to be informed that the case is going to court and that they may be asked for a statement. It is important that they are given as much warning as possible as they will have internal procedures to follow to authorise a court statement.

It is the responsibility of the allocated social worker to inform other professionals.

6. Conclusion of Proceedings

If a Supervision Order or a Special Guardianship Order with a Supervision Order or Family Assistance Order is granted, the case will remain within the Connect team. If the proceedings were issued by another authority and Ealing is designated in the final Supervision Order, the case will be allocated to the appropriate MAST.

If any order other than a Special Guardianship Order is granted, the case will transfer to a Children Looked After Connect team unless permanency can be achieved for the child within 12 weeks by the worker in Connect. This time limit may be extended depending on the circumstances of the case and by agreement between the relevant team managers.

7. Disagreements

Disputes or issues that cannot be resolved between managers will need to be escalated within one day to both Heads of Service by the Team Managers to avoid any drift or delay for the child. Heads of Service will make a decision within 24 hours and inform both managers.

8. Monitoring

The LPP co-ordinator will record decisions and dates of actions on a tracking tool. She will chase social workers/managers across all teams for confirmation of actions where this cannot be confirmed from Frameworki. Gaps in information or delays in taking actions will be reported to the next LPP and the Head of Service informed.

The Case Manager will be responsible for case tracking and will work with the LPP co-ordinator to manage the data and tracking of actions.

No case can transfer to the Connect teams without having been to LPP if the child is aged 0-15 years.

No case can transfer to the Leaving Care Team unless the case has been to the AROH panel aged 16-17 years.

Appendices

Appendix 1: Legal Planning Panel Information Form.

Appendix 2: Legal Planning Panel Form for Review of Supervision Order.