When a local authority has concerns that a child has suffered or is at risk of suffering significant harm because of the care being given to them by a parent, they can bring an application for either a care order or supervision order.
At Lupton Fawcett we have helped many parents who are faced with care proceedings. Our family team will provide comprehensive advice and support through this often difficult time to ensure your children’s best interests are being met.
If you have been told that your child is inadequately cared for and the local authority has commenced discussions to address such issues or has applied for an order, you should speak to one of our expert lawyers to find out more about your rights. Get in touch with our Yorkshire-based team today by contacting our Leeds, York or Sheffield offices by calling 0333 323 5292, by sending us an email or by filling out our enquiry form and letting us know a suitable time to call you back.
Our expert solicitors are dedicated to providing one-on-one support and can provide guidance and support throughout proceedings to ensure you fully understand what is happening, what your rights are, and that your interests are protected. We understand that this time can be incredibly difficult for both parents and children and will handle all matters sensitively.
How Can Local Authorities Apply for an Order?
Local authorities are required to prove that, what is known as, the threshold criteria is established. This means that the local authority have to prove and a court must be satisfied that, ‘there are reasonable grounds to believe that the child concerned is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, and that the harm or likelihood of harm is attributable to (i) the care given to the child, or likely to be given to him if an order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give; or (ii) the child being beyond parental control’.
Types of Order
There are two main types of order that a local authority can apply for.
- Care order - this is when the local authority will share parental responsibility for the child, making decisions towards their wellbeing, including placing them into foster care.
- Supervision order - this is when the local authority supports the child by advising, befriending and assisting them but does not give the local authority parental responsibility.
Where a care order has been obtained and the local authority concludes that the child cannot be brought up within the family, a placement order can be applied for. This enables the local authority to commence a search for an alternative long-term adoptive family for the child. If that application is successful, a separate adoption order application will follow.
However, the local authority is under a duty to promote contact between a parent and a child, unless there is a good reason as to why it should not go ahead. If necessary, under the Children Act 1989, you can apply for an order to secure contact with the child.
About the Order Process
Once an application is has been applied for, copies of the papers will be sent to the parents with details of the application, why the local authority are bringing the proceedings, and a hearing date. At the initial hearing - referred to as a case management hearing - decisions will be made as to where the child should live whilst the proceedings are ongoing and what further work needs to be undertaken. If an order is granted to the local authority at this stage, a temporary or ‘interim’ order is put in place while the proceedings are ongoing until the court has all the information to make a final decision.
There will be consideration as to what further information is required and how that is to be obtained via social workers, parenting assessments and statements from parents and other agencies involved with the child. In some cases, the court will consider that expert evidence is required, for example from a psychologist, psychiatrist or medical evidence.
During the course of the proceedings a children's guardian will be appointed to represent the interests of the child and the guardian will also have legal representation. The guardian is independent of the local authority and will promote the child's best interests throughout the proceedings and also prepare a report with recommendations for his/her future to the court.
Care proceedings are to be concluded within 26 weeks unless there are exceptional circumstances.
How Courts Make a Decision
The court will take into consideration the child’s age, any evidence of harm and their wishes and feelings when coming to a decision about which order to apply for. If the court concludes that the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering significant harm then the court will need to make a decision as to what type of order should be made and which type of order is proportionate to the harm or risk of harm which the child has suffered.
During proceedings, a temporary or “interim” order will be applied for while assessments are undertaken of parents and extended family members.
The court will set down a compulsory timetable, and cases are usually concluded within a 26-week period, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
In some cases, there may be independent expert assessments of a parent from professionals including psychologists, psychiatrists and other medical staff. This is so the court has as much information as possible before making a final decision.
Contact Us for Help
To have an initial discussion with a care proceedings solicitor on the specific details of your case, contact our Yorkshire-based team today by contacting either of York, Sheffield or Leeds office using the details below. Legal aid is available to all parents involved in care proceedings.
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