The Local Authority may take Care Proceedings in respect of your child which can result in a Court Order under which your child can be taken away from you and placed in the care of the Local Authority. Did you know that a parent automatically has the right to free Public Funding (formerly “Legal Aid”) so that you can be represented within the Court proceedings by a Solicitor? The Law Society has awarded some Solicitors with specialist knowledge of this subject membership of the Law Society’s Children Panel to recognise their expertise.
In some cases, other people may also wish to become involved, for example extended family members, or a person with whom the child has been living. These people will not automatically be entitled to free Public Funding but should consult a Solicitor to see whether they do qualify.
The SSD will be represented by the Local Authority Solicitor. The SW will be a witness within the case. The SSD do not decide the outcome of the case. The case will be decided by a Judge or by Magistrates.
Your child will be represented by someone called a Children’s Guardian, who in turn will appoint their own Solicitor. The job of the Guardian is to act on behalf of and give advice to the child in light of the child’s age and understanding. The Guardian should also advise the Court about the child’s understanding, the child’s wishes, the appropriate timing of the proceedings, the suitability of the options being considered and any other matters relevant to the Court’s decision.
At the first Court appointment the Court will try to establish what evidence it needs have available to be able to decide your case, and will set a timetable for dealing with the case. It is usual for all parties to be invited to file evidence with the Court on specific dates.
You must co-operate with Social Services and the Guardian throughout the proceedings.
The Court will decide the case once it has sufficient evidence before it. The Court will use the “Welfare Checklist” when deciding the case. (For details of the Welfare Checklist see Section 3.4.3).
6. Local Authority/Social Services intervention in the family