As a paralegal at Hodge Jones & Allen I often attend PLO meetings. I understand how scary and confusing the PLO process can be for parents, so I’ve set out below the answers to some of the questions I get asked a lot.
What is it?
The Public Law Outline is better known as the PLO. It is the procedure that Social Services follow when they have concerns about your child and are considering whether they need to go to Court.
How will I know if the PLO process has started?
If Social Services have serious concerns about your child, and are thinking about going to Court, they will send you a letter inviting you to attend a meeting. The meeting may be called a Public Law Outline meeting, a PLO meeting or a pre-proceedings meeting, but all these terms mean the same thing.
Do I need a Legal Representative to attend the PLO meeting with me?
If you receive a PLO letter from Social Services it will recommend that you bring a legal representative to the meeting with you. You should contact a law firm that specialises in child care cases straight away so that they can help you.
If you attend the meeting without a legal representative it is likely to be rearranged, as Social Services want to make sure that you have proper legal advice and support.
Do I have to pay for a Legal Representative to come to the PLO meeting with me?
You do not have to pay for a legal representative to come to the PLO meeting with you. Once you have given your legal representative a copy of the letter from Social Services confirming that they are arranging a PLO meeting, you will be entitled to free legal advice. You do not have to give your solicitor any information about your financial situation.
Who else will be at the PLO meeting?
The people who usually attend the meeting are as follows:
- You and your legal representative
- The social worker
- A lawyer from Social Services
- Any other parent your child has, or anyone else who has parental responsibility for your child.
If you do not have a good relationship with your child’s other parent they will usually be invited to a separate PLO meeting. If a joint meeting has been suggested, and you are not comfortable with this, you should tell your legal representative straight away.
Does the PLO Meeting mean my children will be taken away from me?
Being in the PLO process does not automatically mean that your children will be taken away from you. The PLO meeting is a chance for Social Services to explain their concerns to you, and to see if it is possible to make sure your child is safe without going to Court.
Social Services will tell you what they want you to do to avoid them going to Court, and will often ask you to sign a written agreement setting out what you have agreed to do. This could contain things like:
- Getting your children to school on time.
- Not using physical chastisement.
- Letting the social worker see your children.
- Not to let your children have contact with certain people Social Services are concerned about.
- Engaging with a parenting assessment.
Your legal representative will look at the written agreement and will advise you whether to sign it or not. They will tell you if anything in the agreement is unreasonable, and will talk to you about the consequences of not signing the agreement. You legal representative can also negotiate with Social Services about any part of the written agreement you are concerned about to see whether it can be changed.
What will happen after the PLO meeting?
If everything is going well, and you have done everything in the written agreement, the PLO process could without the need for another meeting.
If there are still concerns another PLO meeting may be arranged so that a new written agreement can be prepared.
In some cases, Social Services may feel that the risk to your children is so serious that they need to go straight to Court. In these cases there will not be a PLO meeting and you should contact your legal representative straight away.
Our team do everything they can to make the PLO process as straight forward as possible. It is important to us that the parents we work with understand everything that is going on as, this gives them the best chance for their children to remain in their care.