This information is important where a Local Authority becomes involved in welfare issues relating to a child. This is usually because they are worried about physical or sexual child abuse or because there are concerns over neglect.
It is a very difficult area of law because there are important Human Rights involved. Children have a right to be protected from harm and in particular from inhuman or degrading treatment. In addition, all children and families have a right to family life.
Every effort is made to respect the rights of families to remain together and so far as possible, children should be brought up by their natural parents. Sometimes this cannot happen if the child is likely to suffer significant harm if left at home.
Since April 2008, there have been guidelines for Local Authorities to work with families to keep children at home before taking Court proceedings for their removal. This includes a meeting or a series of meetings to set out the welfare concerns and to discuss how families might meet those concerns to prevent Court action. If you receive a letter inviting you to such a meeting and you have Parental Responsibility for the child concerned, you are entitled to take a solicitor with you to the meeting and you will be entitled to free legal aid.
The Court can make a Supervision Order if it is satisfied that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm and that the harm is due to the care given to him or likely to be given to him if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give or if the child is beyond parental control. A Supervision Order means that the Local Authority must befriend and assist the parent(s) and provide support with child welfare. At first, a supervision order can last for a maximum of 12 months but it can be extended. A Supervision Order does not give Parental Responsibility to the Local Authority and it does not take Parental Responsibility away from anyone that had it before.
I Court can make a care order if it is satisfied that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm and that the harm is due to the care given to him or likely to be given to him if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give or if the child is beyond parental control. A care order gives Parental Responsibility to the Local Authority that it shares with anyone who already has it. In practice, the Parental Responsibility of the Local Authority will override the Parental Responsibility of anyone else and usually, the child or children will be removed from the home if that is the care plan approved by the Court.
The above summary is only very general information. We can provide advice or representation tailored to your own particular circumstances.