Judith Masson and Jonathan Dickens outline the key findings of their study into the pre-proceedings process for care proceedings, Partnership by Law? The process, introduced under the original PLO in April 2008, enables parents to access legal advice before a care application is made. The process was found to be effective in diverting cases from care proceedings, but not in shortening proceedings. Parents, their lawyers and local authority staff were generally positive about the process, but it did not change court practice. Use of the pre-proceedings process has declined since it was first introduced. The emphasis in the new PLO on concluding cases within 26 weeks, makes early legal advice for parents all the more important. This can help them use the opportunity the pre-proceedings process provides to address the local authority's concerns before proceedings are started.
The full version of this article appears in the November 2013 issue of Family Law.