Welcome to another week.
As promised, we are republishing a post we shared last week inviting parents to share their experiences of care proceedings with a focus on which stages of the process they felt were unfair.
Researching Reform will show social work staff how the framework used in care proceedings sets parents up to fail and enables unjust child removals, at an event hosted by Neath Port Talbot social services.
The Public Law Outline (PLO) is a legal framework which acts as a form of guidance for the family court about how to manage care proceedings.
It contains the order of the different stages of the process; the matters to be considered at the main case management hearings; and timescales for each stage of the process which should be followed by the family courts and social work staff in order to resolve the proceedings within 26 weeks.
Initially created to prevent children from staying too long inside the child protection system, the outline has been heavily criticised in recent years.
One of the key concerns stems from its use of time limits to try and push cases through the courts in instances where more time would have allowed parents to demonstrate their ability to care for their children, and keep them in their care.
Social workers also struggle to meet the deadlines in an increasing number of cases. Extensions are supposed to be granted in cases where additional time would resolve the case fairly, but many parents say they are simply refused more time to make the changes being asked of them.
And despite a growing number of social work experts acknowledging that the system does set parents up to fail – and even using the term, which was coined by deeply frustrated families inside the system experiencing this unfairness – the system has not done anything to address the problem.
Researching Reform decided that the best way to show social work staff the problems with this guidance and its timeframes was to collect real-life experiences of the families who have been exposed to them, and we would be so grateful for your help.
We are looking to gather experiences of families and children who have gone through care proceedings and felt that the stages and time limits set them up to fail.
This post includes questions below which you are welcome to email or post your answers to if you would like to share your experience. There is also an accessible breakdown of the PLO so that you can point to which bits of the guidance affected you, and how.
The conference takes place at the beginning of February, so we would welcome as much input as you can offer over the next two weeks. We will keep sharing this post as well, so that you can come back to it whenever you would like to.
Questions we would love the answers to:
- Did you feel you the care proceedings process/ PLO was setting you up to fail, and if so, why?
- How did the timelines in your case affect your ability to carry out tasks, courses and assessments ordered by the court?
- Did any of the courses run over any of the time limits and prevent you from showing the results to a court?
- Were any of the timelines extended?
- Which part/s of the PLO do you think should be scrapped and why?
- Which parts of the PLO do you think are useful, and why?
- Was some of the PLO ignored or not carried out at all during your case?
- Was some/ all of the PLO wrongly carried out during your case?
Breakdown of the Public Law Outline:
- Pre-proceedings Checklist – submission of documents, evidence and records to the court
- Stage 1: Issue and Allocation – On day 1, a local authority files the application form, then 24 hours later a court must consider an application and give directions
- Stage 2: Case Management Hearing – advocates meet including litigants in person, no later than 2 business days before the case management hearing. Not before day 12 and not later than day 18 is a further case management hearing to be held only if necessary, and must listed as soon as possible and in any event no later than day 25.
- Stage 3: Issues Resolution Hearing – advocates meet including litigants in person, no later than 7 business days before the issue resolutions hearing. Court identifies key issues and evidence, and gives final case management directions including the filing of the final evidence and care plan, skeleton arguments and a listing for the final hearing.
If you would like to see the PLO in full, you can access it here.
There is also a good page explaining the PLO and the documents related to it on the Family Rights Group website.
You can post your comments below (we review comments before publication to ensure we don’t publicly share any confidential information) or you can email Researching Reform at Sobk13 at gmail dot com.
Researching Reform has not accepted any payment for taking part in this conference.