There has been a steep rise in care proceedings in the family court during lockdown with some areas reporting a fivefold increase in cases going to court.
Families are now spending the majority of their time together with children not going to school and parents working from home; and with all the additional worries around the virus itself this can put tremendous pressure and strain on the family unit.
Courts are now operating remotely with hearings being conducted by Skype or Conference calls. This brings with it its own challenges when the courts are having to make a decision as to whether to remove children from their family, when they also have to consider that in this lockdown period there may be restrictions on the child being able to have contact with their family.
As soon as the restrictions were put in place we set up systems to make sure that we were ready to deal with remote hearings. We are still attending Public Law Outline (PLO) meetings with our clients and having virtual meetings with them – it is very much business as usual.
A PLO meeting, or a pre-proceedings meeting is called when the Local Authority and the Social Worker are concerned about the care that a child or children are receiving. They can apply to the court for an order to protect the child or children.
If you are in receipt of a PLO meeting request, it is extremely important that you obtain legal advice, urgently. As a parent or carer, you will have access to Legal Aid, meaning that you will have legal representation at that meeting for free.
Our specialist Care Team are working harder than ever to make sure proceedings are dealt with justly and clients are properly represented. We acknowledge that it is a really worrying and stressful time for families when court proceedings are issued and even more so in the current climate. We are fortunate that we have a strong team of solicitors all of whom are experienced, most of whom are on the children panel and are committed to guiding parents through this difficult process in these unprecedented times.
If social services are involved with your family then give one of our specialist team a ring on 0161 665 3502 or contact us at [email protected]