Legal Eagle: What to do when the local authority raises child protection issues with you

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The local authority has told me they have concerns about my child. What can I do? I have never been involved with them before and I am afraid that they are now wanting to meet with me.

It is important to understand that the local authority has a duty to all children that live in their area to keep them safe and well.

It can become involved with families in different ways. Usually families are made known to the local authority from a referral being made to them.

If a referral is made the local authority has a duty to investigate this. It is depending on its investigations and what it finds or does not find that means that it can become involved with your family in different ways. A couple are discussed below.

The local authority can become involved with a family under a child protection category. If it is going to be involved with your family in this way, it will have spoken to you and or written to you.

There will be a meeting called, an initial child protection conference, whereby other professional people will be there and the concerns will be discussed.

You are entitled to legal advice and assistance during this process and legal aid is still available to you.

This legal aid is based on a financial assessment. You can have a legal representative attend this meeting with you.

The local authority may decide that a child protection conference is not the right arena for them to be involved in and may then write to you about a public law outline meeting or a letter before proceedings meeting.

This is a meeting that the local authority hold which will be between it and you. Legal aid is available for this and there is no financial assessment needed for this kind of involvement.

At your meeting it is important you have a legal representative there with you.

When this kind of meeting takes place it means that the local authority has serious concerns that your child is at risk or may suffer significant harm if changes are not made. It is therefore really important that you seek legal assistance if you do have one of these meetings pending.

It is advisable that you obtain some legal advice sooner rather than later and take any paper work that you have with you to your legal meeting.

Ben Hoare Bell LLP has several specialist solicitors with experience in family issues and childcare law.

If you have been referred to the local authority or received notification of a meeting, act soon and contact our solicitors on (0191) 5653112 or email advice@benhoarebell.co.uk.

Visit www.benhoarebell.co.uk for more information.