For any family, the involvement of Social Services can seem frightening and parents often will not know where to turn to for help. Here Sam Wardle, Solicitor in the Family Team at Gordon Brown Law Firm LLP (GBLF), outlines the sensitive topic of Social Services.
It is natural to feel anxious or worried about the thought of Social Services, or more specifically Children’s Services, investigating your family. However, you need to remember that Children’s Services have a statutory duty to respond to any referrals made about children who may be vulnerable or at risk of harm.
What should I do if Social Services are investigating the care of my children?
Try and stay calm. Often when a social worker comes to your home to speak to you and your child it will be to see whether any support or assistance can be offered to you. Always try to be as open and honest as possible with Children’s Services and any other professional that might be involved in the care of your child. Always keep in mind that it is always the aim of the Local Authority to try and keep families together if it is safe to do so.
What are the next steps?
Children’s Services’ involvement will only become more formal if the initial enquiries lead the social worker to the conclusion that a child may be at risk of harm.
If it comes to this then the social worker should clearly explain their concerns, expectations, what will happen and likely timescales. This could also involve the social worker arranging something called an Initial Child Protection Conference.
Don’t worry, this does not mean that your child is about to be removed from your care. It does, however, mean the social worker is sufficiently concerned that there may need to be professional support to prevent an identified risk of harm occurring. This may lead to support being offered under a Child in Need or Child Protection Plan. These plans should clearly set out what is expected of you as a parent and what support you will be offered to address the concerns of the Children’s Services.
Will that be the end of
Social Services involvement?
Not necessarily, if concerns remain for your child’s safety, Children’s Services will consider the need to initiate the Public Law Outline (PLO) process. You will receive written notice of the Local Authority’s intention to begin court proceedings if you do not address the concerns as a matter of priority.
If there is clear evidence that your child is likely to be at risk of significant harm if urgent steps are not taken then Children’s Services will consider removing your child from your care while a full investigation into their welfare takes place. They can either ask your permission to do this or apply to court for a Care Order.
What should I do?
If you believe that Children’s Services are considering taking those steps then it is important that you immediately contact a Family Law solicitor, who specialises in cases involving child protection, for advice. If the situation is so serious that Children’s Services are considering removing your child, legal aid is available regardless of your financial position.