Passmores – The Care Proceedings Experts
At Passmores Solicitors we pride ourselves on having a professional team, experienced in all aspects of Public Family Law.
We have extensive experience in representing parents, extended family members (e.g. grandparents, aunts, and uncles), and children throughout Care Proceedings.
The team is headed by Catherine Roblin who is an accredited member of the Law Society Advanced Family Panel, the Children Panel, and is a Resolution Panel Specialist. In addition, Catherine is a Solicitor Advocate who has higher righter of audience in the civil Court, and also sits as a part-time Tribunal Judge.
Alongside Catherine we have solicitors, Charmaine Earley and Sammi Ahmed.
Charmaine is a specialist in Public Family Law Proceedings, International Children Law, and Private Family Law.
Sammi works alongside Catherine and Charmaine and is well versed in Public Family Law matters.
If you are a parent with Parental Responsibility for a child, then the relevant Local Authority (e.g. the Vale of Glamorgan Council / The City of Cardiff Council) has an obligation to notify you if they have concerns in respect of your child’s welfare. If the concerns are at a level where the Local Authority are considering issuing legal proceedings, they will provide you with a Public Law Outline letter advising you to seek your own independent legal advice; this letter entitles you to free legal representation through the Legal Aid Agency.
What We can Do
If the Local Authority has contacted you about concerns relating to your child, we can guide and assist you through the process.
We are able to attend Child Protection Conferences and Public Law Outline meetings with you to provide you with expert legal advice and guidance. In the majority of cases, this will be covered by Legal Aid.
Should the matter escalate, we are able to represent you in Court should the need arise.
In addition to supporting those with parental responsibility, we can also provide expert help and support to extended family members who wish to ‘intervene’ in the Court process.
The relevant law in this area is the Children Act 1989 (the “1989 Act”).
Key principles covered by the 1989 Act include local authorities’ duties to consider whether action should be taken to safeguard or promote a child’s welfare and when to initiate Care Proceedings.
In Wales, the 1989 Act has been complemented by the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (the “2014 Act”).
The 2014 Act provides the framework for social services.
Children In Need
A child is to be taken to be ‘in need’ if:
- he is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or to have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision for him of services by the Local Authority; or
- his health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision for him of such services.; or
- he is disabled.
A Local Authority has a duty to children who are deemed to be ‘in need’; this duty includes:
- to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within its area who are in need; and
- so far as is consistent with that duty, to promote the upbringing of such children by their families.
Any service provided by a Local Authority to a child can also be provided to the child’s family or any member of the child’s family, if it is provided with a view to safeguarding or promoting the child’s welfare.
Provision of Accommodation
A Local Authority must provide accommodation to any child in need within its area if there is no person who has parental responsibility for him, he is lost, or abandoned, or the person who has been caring for him is prevented from providing him with suitable accommodation or care.
‘Looked After’ Children
Children who are the subject of a Care Order or who are accommodated by the Local Authority are ‘looked after’ by the Local Authority; in such circumstances, the Local Authority is acting in a parental role and is under a duty to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare and to make use of services available for children.
Care and Supervision Orders
A Care Order is an order placing the child in the care of the Local Authority
A Supervision Order is an order putting the child under the supervision of the Local Authority, or of a probation officer.
An application for a Care or Supervision Order can only be made by a Local Authority; the Court has no power to require a Local Authority to commence proceedings, nor can it make an order unless there has been an application.
A Court may only make a Care or Supervision Order in respect of child who is under 17 years of age if it is satisfied that:
- the child concerned is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm; and
- the harm or likelihood of harm is attributable to –
- the care given to the child, or likely ot be given to him if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give him; or
- the child being beyond parental control.
These conditions have become known as the ‘threshold criteria’. They are not in themselves grounds for making a Care or Supervision Order buy the minimum circumstances which must be found before the court could be justified in making such an order.
Once Care Proceedings have been instituted, the court has the power to make:
- an Interim Care Order;
- an Interim Supervision Order; or
- a Child Arrangements Order (or such other section 8 Order) for a limited time.
An Interim Care Order and an Interim Supervision Order has the same effect as a final order, except the order can include directions as to the examination or assessment of the child and will be of limited duration.
Special Guardianship Orders
Special Guardianship places a child or young person to live with someone other than their parent(s) on a long-term basis. The person(s) with whom a child is placed will become the child’s Special Guardian.
A Special Guardian will get Parental Responsibility for the child until the child reaches the age of 18.
Section 8 Orders
Under section 8 of the 1989 Act the court can make an order stating with whom the child should live.
Family Assistance Orders
A Family Assistance Order requires a professional to advise, assist and befriend a person named in the order.
In the application for a Care Order, the Local Authority should outline what plans it has if a Care Order is made.
Before making a Care Order, the court must consider the Local Authority’s arrangements for contact and must invite the parties to comment.
Effect of a Care Order
A Care Order will remain in place until a child reaches the age of 18 years; unless it is brought to an end earlier.
A Care Order gives the Local Authority parental responsibility jointly with any other holder (e.g. parents). However, the Local Authority has the power to determine the extent to which a parent may exercise their parental responsibility.
On the making of a final Care Order, the court is effectively handing over responsibility for the child to the Local Authority.
Effect of a Supervision Order
A Supervision Order places the child under the supervision of the Local Authority; the Local Authority does not acquire parental responsibility.
The basic duties of the supervisor are to advise, assist and befriend the child, and to take steps to give effect to the order.
Contact with a Child in Care
Before making a Care Order, including an interim Care Order, the court must consider the Local Authority’s arrangements for contact.
As contact is so important for a child, the Local Authority should, if possible, place the child with a member of his family or, if that is not possible, in accommodation near to the child’s home. The Local Authority may also give assistance in travel and other expenses incurred in visiting the child to any person to whom there is a duty to promote contact.
There is a general duty on the Local Authority, subject to its duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child, to promote contact between a ‘looked after’ child and his parents, others with parental responsibility, and relatives, friends, and others connected with him.
If appropriate, any person can apply as of right to be allowed contact with a ‘looked after’ child.
Discharge of Care Order
A Care Order remains in force until the child reaches 18 years of age, unless it is brought to an end earlier.
The order may be brought to an end by the making of a Child Arrangements Order, the substitution of a Supervision Order, or by the making of an Adoption Order, or a Discharge Order.
An application for discharge of a Care Order can be made by anyone with parental responsibility, the child, or the Local Authority.
Section 3(1) of the Children Act 1989 defines Parental Responsibility as ‘all rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property’.
In reality, Parental Responsibility gives a parent responsibility for taking all of the important decisions in a child’s life, for example, education, religion and medical care. It also enables a parent to take day-to-day decisions, for example, in relation to nutrition, recreation and outings.
The duties involved in Parental Responsibility will change from time to time with differing needs and circumstances, and will vary with the age and maturity of the child. It is important to bear in mind that a child will gradually become mature enough to take decisions for himself.
Married parents have joint Parental Responsibility; if parents are not married, only the mother has Parental Responsibility for a child. An unmarried father can acquire Parental Responsibility for a child by, for example, being registered as the father on the child’s birth certificate with the consent of the mother.
The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) was established by the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000.
In respect of family proceedings in which the welfare of a child is in question, Cafcass has the principal function of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the child, giving advice to any court about any application made to it in such proceedings, and providing information, advice and other support for the child and the family.