What is the Public Law Outline Process and how can we help?
- AuthorMahbuba Akhtar
A Public Law Outline (PLO) can be daunting and at times hard to understand. Mahbuba Akhtar, a Trainee Solicitor at Family Law Group, Nottingham office explains what a PLO case is and how we can help you every step of the way.
What is the Public Law Outline (PLO) process?
The Public Law Outline (PLO) process takes place when the Local Authority is concerned about a child’s wellbeing and unless positive steps are taken to address and alleviate those concerns, the Local Authority may consider making an application to the Court. The PLO process is therefore the last opportunity for parents to make improvements to their parenting before care proceedings are issued.
The PLO process sets out the duties that the Local Authority has when thinking about taking a case to court to ask for a Care Order or Supervision Order to be made. It is important to note that where a social worker feels that the risk of harm to a child is so great, or matters are so urgent, a decision may be made that the case should go straight to Court. The PLO process usually lasts for around 3 months but can be extended if there is any outstanding work that needs to be completed.
What happens at a PLO meeting?
If the Local Authority wishes to initiate the PLO process, it will provide the parents with a letter entitled “letter before proceedings.” This letter will outline the main concerns and the help that has been provided by Children’s Services so far. It will also schedule a date and time for you to attend a meeting.
The PLO meeting is attended by the Local Authority Solicitor, Team Manager, Social Worker and thee parents along with their respective legal representatives. The Team Manager will explain the reasons why the PLO process has been initiated and what support can be offered by Social Care.
Social Care will go through the concerns outlined in its letter to parents and provide an update as to what has been happening. During the meeting, the parents will have the opportunity to respond.
It is likely that Social Care will want the parents to sign a document called a ‘Written Agreement’ which sets out what is expected of the parents and what both the parents and Social Care agree to do. This is not a legally binding document but if it were to be breached, there is a likelihood that the Local Authority will escalate matters. It is important to note that Social Care do have a duty to provide the parents with relevant support.
At the meeting, there will always be a further opportunity for the parents to discuss outside the meeting, the contents of any written agreement. This will ensure that the terms of the agreement are reasonable and that each party understands and is in agreement with its contents before signing. A date for a further meeting will then be set so that matters can be reviewed and a decision made as to whether the Public Law Outline process needs to continue.
How can we assist with PLO proceedings?
If you receive a letter inviting you to a PLO meeting, it is vital that you seek urgent legal advice. If you are a parent or person with Parental Responsibility, you will be entitled to Legal Aid. This means you are entitled to have free legal advice and representation at the meeting.
Family Law Group is able to offer you advice and representation at each meeting. We are also able to ensure that you are able to put forward your concerns in a clear and concise manner. We are able to review any agreements before they are entered into and offer support at each stage of the process. If you are subject to the PLO process and wish to discuss matters confidentially, we have a number of lawyers in each of our offices who will be able to help you if you complete an enquiry form by visiting our Contact Us page. However, if you need urgent advice from us, we also have our emergency number, 08000 320999, which is available both in and out of office hours.