Cumbria County Council Logo


Top of page

Size: View this website with small text View this website with medium text View this website with large text View this website with high visibility

1.4.3 Legal and Placement Panel

RELATED CHAPTER

Protocol and Good Practice Model: Disclosure of Information in Cases of Alleged Child Abuse and Linked Criminal and Care Direction Hearings (October 2013)

RELATED GUIDANCE

Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities on Court Orders and Pre-Proceedings (2014)

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in February 2017 to reflect the outcome of a judgement following an application to remove a child at birth. The judge set out what were thought to be ‘basic and good practice steps’. (See Section 2, Considerations) Appendices 1-5 were also updated.


Contents

  1. Purpose of Legal and Placement Panel
  2. Considerations
  3. Attendance at Legal and Placement Panel
  4. Timing and Duration of Legal and Placement Panel
  5. Recording of Legal and Placement Panel

    Appendix 1: Public Law Outline Process Flowchart

    Appendix 2: LP1 – Referral to Legal and Placement Panel

    Appendix 3: Pre-Proceedings Legal Advice – Summary

    Appendix 4: Legal and Placement Panel – Decision Form B

    Appendix 5: Independent Reviewing Officer - Contribution to LGM


1. Purpose of Legal and Placement Panel

Legal and Placement Panels are an essential part of the process for dealing with public law children's cases under the Public Law Outline

Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division in ‘The Process of Reform: the revised PLO and the Local Authority’, states that a properly organised Legal and Placement Panel is invaluable and can be the key to achieving timely outcomes to Care Proceedings. He also recommends that local authority lawyers be involved, advising and assisting their social work clients, at an early stage.

A Legal and Placement Panel should be held to discuss the way forward in a particular case, where an application for a legal order may be required. This can include:

  • Following an application for an Emergency Protection Order when consideration is being given to an application for an Interim Care Order;
  • When it is clear that the protection or welfare of a child cannot be achieved by agreement with the parents, or the security of a legal order is necessary to ensure the viability of a plan for a child, or the existing court order is not providing adequate protection for the child;
  • Where it is thought that a legal order may be required in order to assist in the permanence planning for children, whether that is a return to the family or to achieve permanence elsewhere.

At the meeting, a decision should be made in principle about whether the Threshold Criteria have been met. The local authority should then decide, based on a robust analysis of the level of assessed risk, whether:

  • It is in the best interests of the child to provide a further period of support for the family with the aim of avoiding proceedings; or
  • Whether proceedings should be initiated immediately.

The meeting should also identify any evidence gaps, clarify whether additional assessments will be required.

Note: Where children are already Section 20 Accommodated there should be no delay in issuing proceedings where this is required, (see in Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure, Section 20 Accommodation).

Note: Within Cumbria the legal gateway process is carried out within the Legal and Placement Panel.


2. Considerations

A Legal and Placement Panel is an opportunity to discuss a case fully, and to consult with colleagues to ensure that children are the subject of active case management and that appropriate legal action is taken when required to promote and safeguard the welfare of the child.

The role of the local authority legal adviser is to advise about the legal possibilities for achieving the desired aim and to give a view about the quality of the evidence available.

In order to enable a full discussion to take place, the following must be available:

  • Relevant assessment/s;
  • An up to date Chronology;
  • A Plan or a clear indication that options for a plan have been considered;
  • A Genogram.

The issues to be considered at the meeting will include the following:

  • The reasons for the concerns and the evidential basis for establishing Significant Harm and the Threshold Criteria;
  • Why Care Proceedings are necessary - what is their aim, objective and purpose?
  • The steps already taken to clarify the issues of concern - i.e. Assessment, as well as other medical and other expert involvement;
  • Whether the requirements of the Pre-Proceedings Checklist set out in the Public Law Outline have been met, including a written notification to the parents about the areas of concern and their right to seek legal advice. See Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure;
  • Whether it may be appropriate to instruct any further expert assessment before the commencement of court proceedings.

If Care Proceedings are recommended, the Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure should be followed.

Any potential issues/documentation regarding parental capacity to litigate should up flagged up at the meeting.

Note that with pre-birth situations a recent High Court judgment has set out good practice steps to include:

  • A risk assessment of the parent(s) should be undertaken immediately the social workers are made aware of the mother’s pregnancy and should be completed 4 weeks before the mother’s expected delivery date and disclosed to the parent(s) (and their solicitor where relevant);
  • All relevant documentation should be then sent to the Local Authority Legal Adviser to issue proceedings.

(See Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure, Pre-Birth Planning and Proceedings.)


3. Attendance at Legal and Placement Panel

The Panel will be chaired by the Senior Manager, and the other members of the panel will be a Service Manager and legal representative. The Social Worker having followed the process as set out in the Public law Outline Process flow Chart will book a place on the panel and will complete the LP1.

Where the child has been in foster care, the views of the foster carer should be sought by the child’s Social Worker, the Social Worker will ensure that the foster carers views are recorded on the LP1.


4. Timing and Duration of Legal and Placement Panel

The panel is held weekly and Social Worker can book 30 minute slots. The Panel is normally expected to be held for approximately 4 hours duration.


5. Recording of Legal and Placement Panel

Minutes of the panel are circulated to Social worker and Team Manager, who attended and relevant Service manager, legal, IRO service, virtual schools manager, adoption and fostering finance Team and are put into the child’s ICS file. These are legally privileged and should not be made available to parents or other parties in any potential proceedings without the permission of the chair person or Assistant Director.


Appendices

Appendix 1: Public Law Outline Process Flowchart

Appendix 2: LP1 – Referral to Legal and Placement Panel

Appendix 3: Pre-Proceedings Legal Advice – Summary

Appendix 4: Legal and Placement Panel – Decision Form B

Appendix 5: Independent Reviewing Officer - Contribution to LGM

End