When Social Worker’s are concerned about the welfare of a child they may invite parents to a Public Law Outline Meeting (PLO) or a pre-proceedings meeting. These meetings are called if the Local Authority and the Social Worker are concerned about the care that a child is receiving and they may make an application to the Court to see if the Court will make orders to protect the child.
The PLO Meeting is a meeting that is attended by a Local Authority solicitor, but the parents are also invited to come along with their own solicitor to see if any agreement can be reached or negotiated with the Social Services department to prevent the matter going to Court. It is often possible to reach agreement about what needs to happen to protect the child from harm so that Court proceedings and orders are avoided. If the concerns are so great and there can be no protective plan put in place, the Court proceedings will be started and the PLO Meeting will be used to advise the parents of this. There will be some cases where the meetings do not take place because the risk of harm to the child is so great or is so urgent that there is no PLO Meeting.
If you receive a letter inviting you to a PLO Meeting it is vital that you seek urgent legal advice. If you are a parent or person with parental responsibility you will be entitled to legal aid and will have representation at that meeting for free. However if the Local Authority have called a PLO Meeting they will wish you to have legal representation at the hearing to try and avoid the Court action.