Care proceedings are a type of court proceedings that are instigated by a local authority’s social services department when there is a suspected harm or a risk of harm to a child.
This care proceedings flowchart will help you understand the care proceedings timeline based on what can be expected in many care proceedings cases.
Initial Social Services Contact
A social worker will likely get in touch if there is any indication of harm or risk of harm to a child. You should contact a solicitor at the earliest stage possible.
Letter Before Proceedings
The letter will include:
- The concerns the children’s services have
- Changes they would like the parent or carer to make
- Information about any assessments or courses children’s services think parents should be involved in
- Any support children’s services can put in place
- Invite the parent or carer to a pre-proceeding meeting to discuss those concerns with the parent or carers’ solicitor
Application sent to court and ‘issued’
Social services will instruct their lawyers to send an application to the court to apply for an order and this will start the court case.
Interim Care Order
If children’s services are of the view that a child needs to be removed from the care of their parents a social worker will ask the court to make a temporary court order, called an ‘interim care order’. This hearing will decide who the child will have contact with and who they will live with.
If the court agrees, children’s services can take the child into care on a temporary basis.
Case Management Hearing
The Case Management Hearing is a court hearing where directions will be set as to how the case will progress. The Court gives detailed case management directions, which will outline the key issues, review the evidence, and decide on the following:
- Identifying the key issues including what the facts are that have led the social worker to be concerned and whether those facts are agreed or whether the court must hear evidence to determine those facts
- Identifying the evidence necessary to enable the court to resolve the key issues
- Deciding about what assessments there needs to be of the parents, other family members and the children so that the court can make final decisions about the children at the end of the case.
- Setting the dates when evidence should be filed and when the case should be ready for a final decision to be made
This is generally a short hearing which will resolve procedural matters which enable to case to be ready for a hearing where a final decision will be made.
Issues Resolution Hearing
The purpose of this hearing is to see if the care proceedings can be concluded early. If this is not possible, the purpose is to identify and narrow the issues for determination at a final hearing
If the child’s parents and the child’s social workers are unable to agree a plan regarding the child, the case will proceed to a final hearing. The court will determine whether a Care Order, Supervision Order or another type of order is required to safeguard the welfare of the child.
There are several possible final orders the court can make:
- Care Order: local authority gain parental responsibility for the child and the child will likely live in foster care.
- Supervision Order: local authority are granted the power to monitor the child’s needs and the parent or carers’ ability to meet the child’s needs whilst the child lives at home or elsewhere
- Special Guardianship Order: An order stating that a child or young person will live with someone other than their parents on a long-term basis
- Placement Order: The Court gives permission to the local authority to place a child for adoption even if the child’s parents do not agree