Care Proceedings - Information for Social Workers
It is the policy of the Directorate to work in partnership with parents to implement Care Plans and Child Protection Plans. The Directorate will only pursue legal proceedings where of the child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm and this is attributable to the parent(s) and where protection cannot be achieved through voluntary agreement.
The Directorate will not consider legal proceedings provided:
- There remains a reasonable level of partnership with parents;
- The child(ren) are not being placed at risk of significant harm without such proceedings.
This chapter was reviewed locally in December 2014, and substantially amended. It should be read in full. It contains guidance for Social Workers on the information which the Court will require when Care Proceedings are initiated and also offers advice for Social Workers when preparing to appear in Court.
For further information, see: Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure
Advice should be sought from the legal officer as to whether a case is likely to reach the legal threshold for taking proceedings following one of the following:
- Discussion between social worker and team manager in supervision;
- A child protection conference;
- A Planning Meeting at which key professionals (including the legal officer) are present;
- A Child Care Review. The Review of Arrangements Form should show this as a recommendation. The Independent Reviewing Officer should also notify the senior manager and the allocated social worker of the recommendation within 48 hours of the review taking place;
- As the outcome of a section 37 investigation requested by the Court.
For a Care Order, or Form C20 Appendix 2d for a Secure Accommodations Order.
2. Preparing for Court - Case Files
It will be necessary to produce documents from the case file in Court
This means ensuring that:
- Case files are set up according to the guidelines in the Guidelines for Recording Child Care Case Files (to follow);
- Case files must be up to date before the Court Hearing;
- Case files must be typed;
- As far as possible, case recordings should have been written contemporaneously;
- Rough notes written in a note book should be signed and dated. These should be available in addition to the file.
3. The Court Hearing
The social worker should give evidence in court based on their statement. They should prepare for this with the Legal Officer.
It is essential to present as credible, competent and professional in a Court setting:
- Know your case;
- Appropriate dress;
- Ensuring you have the appropriate files and documentation;
- Remember you are acting as a representative of the Local Authority;
- Remember the need to set up mechanisms for rapid liaison with a Senior Manager; clarify beforehand what decisions need to be referred to a Senior Manager;
- Give thought to practical matters such as the location of court buildings, parking, staff safety etc;
- Ensure you have had prior discussion with the Legal Officer about significant points which need to be made in evidence and ensure you have thought through any difficult points so that evidence can be presented effectively.