The Public Law Outline (PLO) Process | Howells Solicitors
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The Public Law Outline (PLO) Process

The Public Law Outline (PLO) sets out the process that social services will follow when they choose to issue care proceedings in relation to a family. Starting care proceedings means social services have a concern over a child’s welfare. The PLO process begins when the family are invited to a PLO meeting, known as a pre proceedings meeting.



Our specialist care proceedings solicitors can support you through the entire process when dealing with social services, from the moment they contact you, to appearing in court if necessary. We can offer guidance and advice to parents, family members, children, and guardians.

What is the Public Law Outline (PLO) Process?

The PLO process is when social services write to a parent to set out the issues that are concerning them about the care of a child. It outlines what the parents need to do improve things. A meeting will be held, and the parents are asked to attend with a solicitor.

At this meeting the concerns are again explained to the parents. Under Section 31 Children Act 1989, a court will only make a Care Order or Supervision Order if it is satisfied that the concerns are serious enough for the court to agree that the child has suffered or would be at risk of suffering serious harm and it is in the child’s welfare to make an order.

Where the concerns about a child’s welfare are not being addressed or the child is at risk of harm, social services will determine whether a child should become subject to what is called ‘pre-proceedings’ procedure.

If improvements are not made by the family following the PLO meeting, social services may make an application to the Court for a care order or a supervision order to place a child into care, or in the care of wider family members.

It is vital that you have legal advice at this stage of the Public Law Outline (PLO) process and you should urgently contact us on  0114 249 6693  to book an initial meeting, where we can advise you and discuss if you are eligible for legal aid.

What Happens at a Public Law Outline Meeting?

At the PLO meeting, the social worker will attend along with a solicitor representing the local authority. Parents are asked to attend and told to bring legal representation with them too.

During the PLO meeting, it will be explained why the Public Law Outline process has been started and the family will be made aware of support available to them. The concerns that Social Services have will be reviewed, and the parents will have an opportunity to respond and discuss throughout the meeting.

An agreement may be made and signed, outlining the steps the family will take to address the concerns raised by the social services and what support social services may offer. A follow up meeting may be arranged.

You can arrange for legal representation to accompany you to this meeting and to offer you advice prior the meeting. A Solicitor will also support you and advise you in relation to any agreement or Safety Plan. Contact us on  0114 249 6693  to book an initial meeting, where we can advise you and discuss if you eligible for legal aid.



The Stages of Public Law Outline (PLO)


Stage 1: Letter Before Proceedings

This invites the family to a pre proceeding meeting which aims to deal with the concerns raised regarding the welfare of a child and try to avoid care proceedings. The letter will advise the family to get a Solicitor who specialises in family law. The letter allows the parent to have free legal advice.


Stage 2: Pre-Proceedings Meeting

This meeting is known as the PLO meeting. The purpose of the meeting is for social services to explain to the parents what steps they need to take to ensure the needs of the child are met and  to try to reach agreement about what needs to happen to protect the child from harm. Parents should take their own legal representative.


Stage 3: Period of Change

This is the time for the parents to make the necessary agreed changes to reduce the concerns held by social services.


Stage 4: Pre-Proceedings Review

This is a meeting is usually held within six to eight weeks of the initial Pre-Proceedings Meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to review progress made against the agreement made in the PLO meeting.


What are the Potential Outcomes of the Pre-Proceedings Review


PLO ends as progress has been made

The child protection plan will continue unless so much progress has been made by the family that this plan is no longer required. At this stage Social Services may choose to cease their involvement with the family.


PLO—further period of change

It is felt that further progress can be made by the family. Social Services may request an extension on the agreement made and to hold a second pre proceedings review.


Pursue Care Proceedings

In the event that the family have made insufficient progress against the agreed actions social services may begin care proceedings.


What Are Care Proceedings?

Care proceedings are court proceedings issued by the social services department. At the start of the court proceedings, social services may ask the family court to make a temporary court order if they are worried about your children. If the court agrees, then children’s services can take your child into temporary foster care or place your child with someone in your family.

Over the following months after the first hearing, social workers and other professionals will assess you and your children. They will then make recommendations to the court about what they think is the best outcome for your child in the long term and the court will hear final recommendations about what final orders, if any, should be made, where the children should live and what time the children should spend with members of their family.


Public Law Outline Timescales

The timescale for the Public Law Outline process usually lasts anywhere up to three months but may carry on for longer if the situation is very complex or if there is still outstanding work to be done.

Legal Aid Funding for the PLO Process

Legal aid is the use of public funds to help to pay for legal advice. There are three considerations for legal aid entitlement:

  1. Scope – the type of case you are involved with must be on the list of cases that the government says may be funded by legal aid. Parents who are subject to a PLO process or care proceedings are eligible for legal aid.
  2. Means – An assessment of your financial circumstances may be required to check that you are eligible for legal aid, but all parents are automatically eligible for legal aid in the PLO process and care proceedings no matter what their financial circumstances.
  3. Merits – the legal aid agency check that you have a case to argue, that you have a reasonable likelihood of success, and a reasonable person would use their own funds to pay for the case. This does not apply to the PLO process and care proceedings as all parents are eligible for legal aid for those cases.

Whether your children case is eligible for legal aid depends on the type of case. This can include:

  • Care proceedings
  • A parent in proceedings where the court is being asked to make a Special Guardianship Order for their child.
  • A parent asking to permission of the court to oppose an adoption order.
  • Contact with a child in care.
  • Discharge/variation of a care/supervision order

Our Children Law Solicitors can help with talking to social services and representing you at Court. Speak to one of our Children Law specialists today. Contact us today on  0114 249 6693 to book your  meeting.


A Care Proceedings Solicitor You Can Trust

Our Children Law specialists are experts in dealing with complex and sensitive childcare proceedings. We are Children Panel accredited solicitors, and we offer representation to pregnant mothers, parents, grandparents, and children. We represent thousands of people each year across the UK.

At a distressing and difficult time, we are here to give advice and support without judgement. We can provide assistance and advice to parents, family members, children, and guardians across all aspects of childcare proceedings, including:

  • Offering advice at the first instance social services contact you
  • Explaining the contents of any letters or communication from social services to you
  • Explaining your rights as a parent or guardian during any stage of the care proceedings process
  • Contact social services on your behalf.
  • Review a ‘letter before proceedings’ with you and offer advice.
  • Give advice before a ‘pre proceedings’ meeting.
  • Represent you during a ‘pre proceedings’ meeting.
  • Give advice and explain your rights following a ‘pre proceedings’ meeting.
  • Give you advice and represent you at court.

The intervention and investigations can be hugely traumatic for everyone, and given their complexity and consequences, it’s essential that you seek expert help from a care proceedings solicitor at the earliest opportunity. Contact us today on  0114 249 6693  to book your initial meeting.

How can we help? Contact us today

Contact us on 0114 2496666 and one of our advisors will be in touch to discuss your situation. We will take some initial information and if we can help, we will book you in for a consultation with a legal professional.

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Legal Aid Funding

Legal aid is available in a wide variety of circumstances for friends and family members when social care are involved with children and we will be happy to assess you and advise you as to your eligibility of legal aid. Speak to one of our Children Law specialists for [free] today. Contact us on  0114 249 6693

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The Children Law Team

The Howells  Children Law team is one of the best in the country. It has been consistently highly ranked for family work in the north, and is overseen by the hugely respected and much admired Alyson Siddall. Alyson has developed a group of many talents but with shared values. Tough and resolute in their legal representation, sensitive and compassionate in their client relationships, the team understand that they’re not dealing with ‘cases’ but with people, not bound up in legal process but in real lives.

The team also consists of senior solicitors Sarah Peart and Charlotte Curbishley who deal with Children Law matters, specialising in advising and representing parents, children, and family members at public law proceedings. Both Sarah and Charlotte are on Law Society Children Panel.

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Howells was highly ranked as a law firm for Family Law by Chambers UK 2018. The prestigious guide said Howells is “Increasingly active in dealing with high net worth cases and child abduction cases over the past year. Bolstered by a designated mediation and collaborative law group.”

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The Legal 500 2018 ranks the Family department highly and states that “Howells handles the full spectrum of matrimonial work and children law matters. Alyson Siddall is ‘hugely experienced but always still keen to learn’, and heads the department which benefits from individuals based across Sheffield, Rotherham and Barnsley. Siddall is regularly instructed in complex financial arrangements and has additional expertise in private children matters and collaborative law.”

Sarah Peart

0114 249 6755
Charlotte Curbishley

01709 364 000
Aamnah Saleem

0114 249 6716
Deborah Thompson

01226 805 190
Ryan Marsh

01709 364000
Christopher Patrick

01709 364 000
Stephanie Cundy

Children Law

01709 364000
Sophie Jensen

Family Law

01226 668 803
Laura Hill

Family Law

0114 249 6638