In times of crisis, social services may become involved with investigating concerns about the welfare of children or seeking to support children in need.
If social services become involved with your family it is important to consider your legal position and how best to work with them to protect the children from any difficulties.
Normally if social services are concerned about a child protection issue, they will work with the parents and other agencies to investigate such concerns. They will also look to take steps to ensure that the children can be protected from any further difficulties.
If the situation is seen to be serious social services sometimes arrange a child protection case conference. This will involve other agencies and social services discussing the children’s situation and deciding whether their names should be placed on the child protection register. If a child’s name is placed on the register the local authority will look to put in place a child protection plan that will deal with the concerns.
The local authority may also arrange what is known as a legal gateway meeting. It is usual for solicitors to attend such meetings which have to be arranged where social services are thinking about issuing court proceedings. The intention is that these meetings will be used to discuss all issues and work out a plan to prevent the need for court proceedings.
Legal aid is available for advice in relation to social services involvement with your family. If a legal gateway meeting has been arranged then free legal aid will automatically be available. In other circumstances you would have to qualify financially for legal aid.
Although it is very important to look to work with and follow the advice of social services, it is only with a court order that social services can remove children from your care without your agreement. A police officer can only remove children temporarily in an emergency.
It is of course much better to avoid any problems getting worse and early legal advice is often essential in such circumstances.
If you have any concerns of this nature, we will be able to help you.