South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures
South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures

1.4.3 Legal Threshold Meetings

RELATED CHAPTER

Protocol and Good Practice Model: Disclosure of Information in Cases of Alleged Child Abuse and Linked Criminal and Care Direction Hearings (October 2013)

RELATED GUIDANCE

Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities on Court Orders and Pre-Proceedings (2014)

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in November 2016 to reflect the outcome of a judgment following an application to remove a child at birth. The judge set out what were thought to be ‘basic and good practice steps’ (see Section 2, Considerations).


Contents

  1. Purpose of Legal Threshold Meetings
  2. Considerations
  3. Who can Convene Legal Threshold Meetings
  4. Attendance at Legal Threshold Meetings
  5. Timing and Duration of Legal Threshold Meetings
  6. Recording of Legal Threshold Meetings
  7. Review/Subsequent Legal Threshold Meetings


1. Purpose of Legal Threshold Meetings

When it is clear that the protection or welfare of a child cannot be achieved by agreement with the parents or the security of a legal order is necessary to ensure the viability of a plan for a child or the existing court order is not providing adequate protection for the child or is no longer required, a Legal Threshold Meeting should be convened.

A Legal Threshold Meeting may also be convened in circumstances where it is thought that a legal order may be required in order to assist in the permanence planning for children, whether that is a return to the family or to achieve permanence elsewhere.

A Legal Threshold Meeting should be convened following an application for an Emergency Protection Order when consideration is being given to an application for a Interim Care Order.

A Legal Threshold Meeting will be chaired by the social worker's line manager, and involve  a legal adviser to the local authority on childcare matters. Consideration should also be given to whether it would be advisable to have a colleague from another agency or service that have an active involvement with the family and whose view would assist in making decisions about the child's legal status.


2. Considerations

A Legal Threshold Meeting is an opportunity to discuss a case fully, and to consult with colleagues to ensure that children are the subject of active case management and that appropriate legal action is taken when required to promote and safeguard the welfare of the child.

The role of the local authority legal adviser is to advise about the legal possibilities for achieving the desired aim and to give a view about the quality of the evidence available.

In order to enable a full discussion to take place, the following must be available:

  • Relevant assessment/s;
  • An up to date Chronology;
  • A Plan or a clear indication that options for a plan have been considered;
  • A Genogram;

The issues to be considered at the meeting will include the following:

  • The reasons for the concerns and the evidential basis for establishing Significant Harm and the Threshold Criteria;
  • Why Care Proceedings are necessary - what is their aim, objective and purpose?
  • The steps already taken to clarify the issues of concern - i.e. Initial Assessment and Core Assessment, as well as other medical and other expert involvement;
  • Whether the requirements of the Pre-Proceedings Checklist set out in the Public Law Outline have been met, including a written notification to the parents about the areas of concern and their right to seek legal advice.  See Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure;
  • When will the Initial Assessment or Core Assessment and other supporting documentation be available, if not already?

    Note that with pre-birth situations a recent High Court judgment has set out good practice steps to include:

    • A risk assessment of the parent(s) should be undertaken immediately the social workers are made aware of the mother’s pregnancy and should be completed 4 weeks before the mother’s expected delivery date and disclosed to the parent(s) (and their solicitor where relevant);
    • All relevant documentation should be then sent to the Local Authority Legal Adviser to issue proceedings.

(See Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure, Pre-Birth Planning and Proceedings).

  • The action/decisions already taken and where the decisions were made e.g. Strategy Discussion/Meeting, Child Protection Conference, Core Group meeting;
  • The proposed Care Plan for the child, including the proposed placement and any cultural, language and ethnic issues, the need for a Twin Track Plan, consultation with parents and the wider family, whether any family members are available to care for the child on an interim or permanent basis, if so whether the required checks have been made, the proposals for contact;
  • How the proposed Care Plan is to be achieved, including where appropriate arranging a date for the case to be presented to the Adoption Panel;
  • Whether it may be appropriate to instruct any further expert assessment before the commencement of court proceedings - if so, what are the proposed remit of the instructions and the areas to be addressed, who should the assessment be done by and what are the likely timescales?
  • Have there been previous Court proceedings in relation to the family?  If so, what steps are required to obtain the papers in relation to the case from the Court? or another local authority?
  • When will the social worker's Statement of Evidence be ready?

If Care Proceedings are recommended, the Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure should be followed.


3. Who can Convene Legal Threshold Meetings

The decision to convene a Legal Threshold Meeting will be made by the social worker's line manager - the decision will usually be taken following a recommendation from a Child Protection Conference, as a result of a Looked After Review, a Permanence Planning Meeting, or on the request of a social worker, manager, local authority lawyer, or other agency.


4. Attendance at Legal Threshold Meetings

The following can be invited to attend a Legal Threshold Meeting: the child's social worker; the social worker's line manager; any other professional who has first-hand evidence and may be a potential witness; and those who may be involved in the provision of services integral to the order being sought.


5. Timing and Duration of Legal Threshold Meetings

The timing of a Legal Threshold Meeting is likely to be determined by the urgency of court proceedings and the need to allow sufficient time for necessary preparation.


6. Recording of Legal Threshold Meetings

Notes of Legal Threshold Meetings should be circulated to all attendees. These are legally privileged and should not be made available to parents or other parties in any potential proceedings without the permission of the chairperson or Director.


7. Review/Subsequent Legal Threshold Meetings

The meeting should consider whether further Legal Threshold Meetings are necessary and if so, when. It may be that new information emerges which requires a change of plan for the child. In this even, the Legal Threshold Meeting must be reconvened in order to consider the implications for the legal plan.

End