Social Services

We specialise in representing parents, children, grandparents, extended family members, foster carers and prospective adopters in relation to social services involvement with children.

We are able to represent clients in all meetings, hearings, case conferences and negotiations with Local Authorities.

Local Authorities have a legal duty to investigate the circumstances of any child where they have cause to suspect that a child is at risk of significant harm. Child protection procedures may be invoked to decide whether children should be made subject to a Child Protection Plan. A Local Authority may ultimately apply to a Court for a range of Orders. These may include:-

Emergency Protection Order (EPO)

This gives parental responsibility for a child to a Local Authority and authorises the removal of that child to Local Authority accommodation. These Orders are obtained from the Court to ensure the short term safety of a child. The Court will only make this Order if it is satisfied that there is reasonable cause to believe that the child is likely to suffer significant harm if he is not removed to accommodation provided by the Local Authority or he does not remain in the place where he is currently being accommodated e.g. in hospital.

Care Order

This Order gives a Local Authority parental responsibility for a child. The Local Authority will share parental responsibility with the parents. A Care Order allows a Local Authority to make decisions for the child including deciding where the child lives. Such an Order may enable a child to be placed with Local Authority approved foster carers.

Supervision Order

This obliges a Local Authority to advise, assist and befriend a child. A Local Authority will have a duty to monitor children, who will generally remain living at home or with family members.

Before considering the removal of a child from his or her carer/parent, a Court must first be satisfied that the "threshold" criteria has been met. If a Court is to consider the making or a Care or Supervision Order, a Local Authority must first satisfy a Court that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm and that the harm or likelihood of harm arises because the care that the child is receiving is not of a reasonable standard or because the child is beyond parental control. If the threshold is made out, a Court may go on to consider whether any Order should be made and if so what Order is appropriate.

Secure Accommodation Order

These Orders permit a Local Authority to place a child in secure accommodation. A Court can make a Secure Accommodation Order where a young person has a history of running away, or is likely to run away from any other kind of accommodation and if he runs away is likely to suffer significant harm or if a young person is not kept in secure accommodation he is likely to injure himself or other people. The Court's authority is not required for the first 72 hours that a child is placed in secure accommodation. However if the Local Authority believes that the child needs to be in secure accommodation for longer, an application must be made to the court. Regardless of the length of the Court Order, if during the course of the Order the child no longer meets the criteria to restrict his liberty, the Local Authority must remove the child from secure accommodation.

The Children's Guardian

At the start of any public law Children Act case, a Court will appoint a "Guardian" from the Children and Families Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) to represent the interests of the child. The Guardian, assisted by a solicitor, is independent from the Local Authority and the parents. The Guardian will be under a duty to investigate and report to the Court and has extensive powers to interview parties, view official records and secure reports from experts.

Legal Costs

Public Funding (Legal Aid) is automatically available in public law proceedings to parents and any other party with parental responsibility regardless of their financial situation or the merits of their case. Means and merits tested funding is available for other parties who do not have PR. We have a contract with the Legal Aid Agency that allows us to provide funded legal representation.

For other family members not entitled to legal aid, we can be flexible as to how cases are funded and by whom.  Sometimes Local Authorities wil agree to pay our legal fees if a family member is being put forward to care for a child.

Other Legal Orders

We also frequently advise on other types of applications where Social Services may be involved including Special Guardianship and Adoption.

Three of our solicitors are Accredited Children's representatives (formerly the Law Society's Children Panel) and, the Association of Lawyers for Children.  Accredited Children's representatives are able to represent children in court proceedings and provide specialist legal advice to any client.

All of our solicitors are members of Resolution and are committed to dealing with children cases in a sensitive and constructive manner. 

Children Team members:

Further Information

Social Services Related Legal Services:

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