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What are care proceedings?
- AuthorClaire Eastwood
‘Care proceedings’ is the general term given to an application made by the Local Authority to the Court for a Care Order or a Supervision Order in respect of a child. If the Local Authority believe that a child has suffered or is at risk of suffering significant harm, they can apply to the Court for an Order that would permit them to take action to safeguard that child.
When are care proceedings needed?
The Court can only make an order in respect of a child where it is satisfied there are reasonable grounds to believe that the child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm and that harm is attributable to either the care being given to the child or likely to be given to him if an order was not made, as that care is not what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give to a child or the child is beyond parental control.
This is what is known as the ‘threshold’ and it sounds complicated, but in essence it is simple. The Local Authority must persuade the Judge that the child has been harmed in some way or is at risk of being harmed by virtue of something that his parent has done that they should not have done, or something that his parent has not done that they should have, or alternatively that the parent cannot control the child.
At the interim stage, when proceedings are just beginning, the Court must be persuaded that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the child has been harmed or is at risk. For the purposes of final orders this test is higher, and the Court must be persuaded that it is more likely than not that the child has been harmed or is at risk and therefore it is harder for the Local Authority to prove the threshold for final orders.
Each case is specific on its’ facts, and there are many different avenues that care proceedings can take. The rule is that proceedings should be concluded within 26 weeks, and this will be discussed often in proceedings as parties will speak about the ‘timetable’ and whether the matter will be concluded within it. Additional time can be permitted by the Court if required, but it will need to be proven that it is necessary as the Court will be concerned about preventing delay for the child.
How we can help and advise on care proceedings
If you are a parent holding parental responsibility and the Local Authority tell you that they intend to make an application to the Court, you should seek independent legal advice as soon as possible, and you will be able to access Legal Aid in order to fund that advice.
Claire has a great deal of experience representing parents and those invited to intervene in care proceedings involving the Local Authority Children’s Social Care and CAFCASS Children’s Guardians.
In the first instance, contact Claire Eastwood in our family law team on 01904 624185.
Whilst based at our York office, Claire carries out care proceeding work across our region. She offers in person appointments (at any of our four offices – York, Selby, Malton or Pickering), telephone and video conference appointments.
Claire undertakes a full range of care proceedings, private children and domestic violence matters across Yorkshire. She has experience of acting for parents in proceedings against Social Services in North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and East Yorkshire.