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1.4.3 Public Law Outline

An updated Public Law Outline came into effect on 22 April 2014, alongside the statutory 26-week time-limit for completion of care and supervision proceedings under the Children and Families Act 2014.

RELATED GUIDANCE

Care, Supervision and Other Part 4 Proceedings: Guide to Case Management, Public Law Outline (2014)

RELATED CHAPTERS

Court Proceedings Procedure

RELEVANT DOCUMENTS

Protocol and Good Practice Model: Disclosure of information in cases of alleged child abuse and linked criminal and care directions hearings October 2013.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in October 2019 to reflect changes from ‘Practice Direction 27a - Family Proceedings: Court Bundles (Universal Practice to be Applied in the High Court and Family Court)’ in relation to the required maximum length of certain court documents, (unless otherwise specifically directed by the court). In addition, a new subsection of Section 1.5.1, Local Authority Documentation - ‘Final Care Plan’ provides further detail on the importance of recording information on the Care Plan which will help the child, parent or the child’s carer understand why decisions have been or are being made.

That section was also amended to reflect HHJ Greensmith’s comments regarding M and N (Children: Local authority gathering, preserving and disclosing evidence) [2018] EWFC 40 (1 June 2018)). 


Contents

1. Public Law Outline
  1.1 Introduction
  1.2 Flexible Powers of the Court
  1.3 Pre-Proceedings
  1.4 Pre-birth Planning and Proceedings
  1.5 Documentation
  1.6 Case Management Hearing
  1.7 The Timetable for the Child and the Timetable for Proceedings
  1.8 Extensions to the Timetable for Proceedings
  1.9 Use of Experts
2. Case Management Checklist and Flowcharts
  2.1 Pre-Proceedings
  2.2 Stage 1: Issue and Allocation
  2.3 Stage 2: Case Management Hearing
  2.4 Stage 3: Issues Resolution Hearing
  2.5 Public Law Outline 2014 (26 weeks) Flowchart
  Appendix 1: PLO Review Form
  Appendix 2: PLO Letter Before Proceedings
  Appendix 3: Letter Before Proceedings (Decision Already Made / Are Highly Likely to Issue)


1. Public Law Outline

1.1 Introduction

The Public Law Outline: Guide to Case Management in Public Law Proceedings came into force with effect from 6th April 2010. This followed on from previous statutory guidance for local authorities effective from 2008, which resulted from the Review of the Child Care Proceedings System in England and Wales.

A Pilot Scheme of a revised Public Law Outline was phased in between 1st July 2013 and 7th October 2013, and ran until 21st April 2014. A revised Public Law Outline was then introduced on 22nd April 2014.

The Public Law Outline sets out streamlined case management procedures for dealing with public law children's cases. The aim is to identify and focus on the key issues for the child, with the aim of making the best decisions for the child within the timetable set by the Court, and avoiding the need for unnecessary evidence or hearings

As well as the Court-set timetable, the case management tools also involve the case management documentation to be filed by the local authority and other parties, (including case summaries and a schedule of proposed findings), advocates' discussions / meetings, a Case Management Hearing and an issues resolution hearing before the final hearing.

Under the revised Section 32(1)(a) of the Children Act 1989 (introduced by Section 14 of the Children and Families Act 2014), care and supervision proceedings must be completed ‘without delay, and, in any event, within twenty-six weeks beginning with the day on which the application was issued’. This places an increased emphasis on pre-proceedings work and the quality of assessments.

Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, has set out his interpretation of the revised Public Law Outline in ‘The process of reform : the revised PLO and the local authority’.

1.2 Flexible Powers of the Court

Although the Public Law Outline sets out a prescribed set of stages, it also provides for flexibility at any stage of the proceedings. Steps, which the court will ordinarily take at the various stages of the proceedings, may be taken at another stage if the circumstances of the case so merit.

The flexible powers of the court include the ability for the court to cancel or repeat a particular hearing, to give directions without a hearing including setting a date for the Final Hearing, (or a period within which the final hearing will take place) or to take oral evidence at the Case Management Hearing, Further Case Management Hearing or Issues Resolution Hearing.

Where it is anticipated that oral evidence may be required at the Case Management Hearing (‘CMH’), Further Case Management Hearing (‘FCMH’) or Issues Resolution Hearing (‘IRH’), the court must be notified well in advance and directions sought for the conduct of the hearing.

Where a party has requested an urgent hearing:

  1. To enable the court to give immediate directions or orders to facilitate any case management issue which is to be considered at the CMH; or
  2. To decide whether an ICO is necessary.

The court may list such a hearing at any appropriate time before the CMH and give directions for that hearing. It is anticipated that an urgent preliminary case management hearing will only be necessary to consider issues such as jurisdiction, parentage, party status, capacity to litigate, disclosure and whether there is, or should be, a request to a Central Authority or other competent authority in a foreign state or consular authority in England and Wales in an international case. It is not intended that any urgent hearing will delay the CMH.

It is expected that full case management will take place at the CMH. It follows that the parties must be prepared to deal with all relevant case management issues, as identified in Stage 2: Case Management Hearing. A FCMH should only be directed where necessary and must not be regarded as a routine step in proceedings.

1.3 Pre-Proceedings

Work done in the period pre-proceedings is vital for two reasons:

  • It may divert a case along a route which avoids the need for proceedings;
  • When that is not possible, and proceedings have to be commenced, the preparatory work will facilitate the smooth running of the case.

The Public Law emphasises the timeliness of assessments and decision making, day one for the child starts on the day of the referral. There is to be purposeful social work intervention to prevent drift. Whilst assessments are taking place they should run alongside a plan of support / safeguarding as identified.

On those cases where it is required necessary to consider possible legal action there is clear process in place which must be adhered which identifies timescales, documentation required and the need to keep the family fully informed.

Where managers believe the threshold is met for pre-proceedings a case management decision should be arranged with a Head of Service. Prior to this case management all relevant key documents must be updated which include:

  • Children and Families Assessment;
  • Chronology;
  • Child's plan;
  • Genogram.

A Head of Service is unlikely to make a decision unless this work is completed. Unless of course an emergency where a more urgent application is being considered which sits outside of pre-proceedings work.

All relevant information will be discussed in the case management and where a decision is made that pre-proceedings work should commence then a legal planning meeting will be advised. This should be arranged as soon after the case management as possible.

The Legal Planning Meeting - the pathway from the legal planning meeting can be:

  • In exceptional cases immediate action through the court to protect the child through emergency processes. The family will be entitled to public funding and so advised;
  • The seriousness of the issues result in the initiating of proceedings. In such cases the parents will be informed by letter of the decision and the reasons why. The letter triggers availability of public funding and they will be advised to seek immediate legal representation. Social workers will continue to have dialogue with the parent(s);
  • The seriousness of the issues means the local authority may issue care proceedings, if immediate risks to the children cannot be reduced in an agreed plan of action.

The Legal planning meeting should be chaired and led by the Head of Service; attending should be the team manager, social worker, legal representative, kinship team, adoption team representative.

This meeting is purely a professional meeting and will not involve the family.

Roles within the Meeting

  • Head of Service - Chair meeting / decision maker;
  • Team Manager - To share relevant information, and key decisions made;
  • Social worker - Present case history, and assessment information;
  • Legal representative offer legal advice;
  • Kinship worker - Identify any previous assessments linked to family and contribute to decision making and care planning.

If a decision is made to implement PLO a Pre-Proceedings Meeting with the parent(s) and their legal representative, should be arranged. The parents will be informed by a pre-proceedings letter which triggers availability of public funding and they will be advised to seek legal advice. The letter will detail the concerns and also the supports which have been given to the family and the reasons why a Pre-Proceedings Meeting has been called.

The allocated social worker will complete the pre-proceedings letter, there are 2 letters which indicate whether the Local Authority will issue care proceedings, Appendix 3: Letter Before Proceedings (Decision Already Made / Are Highly Likely to Issue) or allow some time for management of risk to reduce, giving parents a last opportunity Appendix 2: PLO Letter Before Proceedings which will then be sent to the parents of the child, outlining the concerns and recommendations and inviting the parents to a pre-proceedings legal meeting.

A pre-proceedings meeting will be convened following a period of 10 days after the letter being sent to the family to allow the family to seek legal representation.

Consideration must be given to parents where Domestic Abuse is an issue or where parents have separated, in that 2 separate legal meetings may need to be convened for each parent, to reduce risks towards potential victims of abuse.

Case Recording

All decisions made in respect of the family should be captured on the child’s file as case management decisions. A copy of the legal planning minutes taken by a legal advisor should also be uploaded to the documents section of the child’s file. The PLO tracker should then be updated by the manager and PLO icon initiated on liquid logic to identify the case is at PLO.

The Pre-Proceedings Meeting

The Meeting will involve parent(s) and their legal representative, alongside the Local Authority social worker and team manager and a legal representative will chair the meeting. It will consider in details the issues and seriousness of the concerns. The objective is to identify a plan for social workers and the family to work together to evidence reduction of risk.

The Pre-Proceedings Meeting is a further opportunity for parent(s) to identify supports within their family or close friendship networks in order for assessments of them to be conducted to inform decisions. It will be pertinent at this meeting to ensure any contingency carers will be identified and kinship team notified of potential assessments to pursue quickly.

Bolton cases are managed by the Team Manager who supervises the social worker with case responsibility. The Team Manager has responsibility for quality assure standards in regard to assessments, planning, services and documentation. The quality assurance at each stage includes consideration to what is in the child’s best interest and the issue of permanency. Once the Public Law Outline process is entered into the designated solicitor on the case supports the quality assurance process to ensure fit for purpose documents and timelines required are maintained.

In some cases, the safety and welfare of the child may be jeopardised if the start of proceedings is delayed until all of the documents in the Pre-proceedings Checklist are available. Or if a trigger event arises that means the pre-proceedings period may need to escalate urgently into care proceedings. The safety and welfare of the child should never be put in jeopardy because of lack of documentation, and immediate action such as an application for an Emergency Protection Order or the issue of immediate Care Proceedings should be taken where necessary. Where any of documents are not available at the time of issue of the application, the court may make directions about when any missing documentation is to be filed. The expectation is that there must be a good reason why one or more of the documents are not available. Further directions relating to any missing documentation will also be made at the Case Management Hearing.

Where an application for an interim order is urgent, then the hearing of that application is NOT expected to be postponed until the Case Management Hearing. The Case Management Hearing is still to be held not before day 12 and not later than day 18. If an urgent preliminary Case Management Hearing or an urgent contested ICO hearing is held before the CMH, the court should not dispense with the CMH unless all of the parties have been sufficiently prepared and the court has been able to deal with all case management issues which would have come before it at the CMH.

PLO Review

It is essential once a pre-proceedings meeting has been held with the family that the detailed care plan and timescales are reviewed. This review period should not extend beyond 12 weeks. The manager should ensure in regular supervision that PLO cases are discussed and reviewed, a formal review by the team manager and social worker should be recorded no later than 6 weeks into PLO using the PLO review form (see Appendix 1: PLO Review Form).

An alert on liquid logic will be sent to manager at 10 weeks into a PLO review period, indicating a review with a head of service is required no later than 12 weeks to consider progress and further care planning.

Where it is decided that cases can step down form PLO a full discussion with Head of Service will be required, with any supporting evidence collated during the PLO period. This decision should be clearly recorded on the child’s file by Head of Service.

Where serious concerns remain or where a trigger incident of harm occurs, an immediate review should be held and decision to initiate care proceedings considered by Head of Service.

1.4 Pre-birth Planning and Proceedings

Considering Care and Supervision Proceedings at a pre-birth stage and when a child is newly born remains challenging for a number of reasons.

A High Court judgment (Nottingham City Council v LW & Ors [2016] EWHC 11(Fam) (19 February 2016)) has sought to provide ‘good practice steps’ with respect to public law proceedings regarding newly born children and particularly where Children’s Services are aware at a relatively early stage of the pregnancy.

From previous judgments it is established that: ‘At an interim stage the removal of children from their parents is not to be sanctioned unless the child’s safety requires interim protection.’ (See also Applications for Emergency Protection Orders Procedure, ’X Council v B Guidance’.)

It continues to be important to ensure for both the child and the parent(s):

  • Any hearing should be considered a ‘fair hearing’ commensurate with Article 6 of the Human Rights Act (the right to a fair trial);
  • The fact that a hospital is prepared to keep a newborn baby is not a reason to delay making an application for an ICO, (the hospital may not detain a baby against the wishes of a parent/s with PR and the capability of a maternity unit to accommodate a healthy child can change within hours and is dependent upon demand);
  • Where a Pre-birth Plan recommends an Application for an ICO to be made on the day of the birth, ‘it is essential and best practice for this to occur’.

Once it has been determined that there is sufficient evidence to make an application for an ICO and removal of a child, any additional evidence (e.g. from the maternity unit) must not delay the issuing of proceedings. Any such information may be ‘envisaged and/or provided subsequently’.

1.4.1 Good Practice Steps

In all but, ‘the most exceptional and unusual circumstances, local authorities must make applications for public law proceedings in respect of new born babies timeously and especially, where the circumstances arguably require the removal of the child from its parent(s), within at most 5 days of the child’s birth’:

  • The Pre-birth Plan should be rigorously adhered to by social work practitioners, managers and legal departments;
  • A children and families assessment should commence no later than 16 weeks into the pregnancy;
  • The Assessment should be completed at least 4 weeks before the expected delivery date;
  • The Assessment should be updated to take into account relevant events pre - and post delivery where these events could affect an initial conclusion in respect of risk and care planning of the child;
  • The Assessment should be disclosed upon initial completion to the parents and, if instructed, to their solicitor to give them opportunity to challenge the Care Plan and risk assessment;
  • The Social Work Team should provide all relevant documentation (see Section 1.5, Documentation) necessary to the Local Authority Legal Adviser to issue proceedings and application for ICO:
    • Not less than 7 days before the expected date of delivery;
    • Legal Services must issue on the day of the birth and certainly no later than 24 hours after the birth (or the date on which the Local Authority is notified of the birth).
  • Immediately on issue - or before - the Local Authority solicitor:
    • Should serve the applications and supporting evidence on the parents and, if instructed, their respective solicitors;
    • Should have sought an initial hearing date from the court, or the best estimate that its solicitors could have provided.

1.5 Documentation

(Note that some courts may require electronic submissions. Your legal department will be able to advise).

The Family Court, in the case of RE M and N (Children) (Local authority gathering, preserving and disclosing evidence) made clear the need for good practice in relation to note-taking and record-keeping, and disclosure of relevant evidence to all parties:

  • Social workers / practitioners must make contemporaneous notes which form a coherent, contemporaneous record. The notes should be legible, signed and dated and record persons present during the meeting / conversation in question. The notes should be detailed and accurately attribute descriptions, actions and views etc. Sketches / diagrams may be helpful in establishing the veracity of explanations given, e.g. in relation to how injuries were sustained;
  • Formal case-notes based upon these contemporaneous notes must be created as soon as possible in order to reduce the potential for inaccuracy / faulty recall as a result of delay. The original notes should be retained and be available to the court if required. Legal advice should be sought as to the need for disclosure of these notes to other parties in the case. If the notes constitute ‘material evidence’, then they must be disclosed;
  • The local authority must ensure full disclosure of all material evidence to all relevant parties at the earliest opportunity. This includes ensuring that expert witnesses have had sight of one another’s evidence - a full picture must be presented to the expert witnesses in the case.

Where a case moves to care proceedings the following will be required:

1.5.1 Local Authority Documentation

Documents to be Filed with the Court

The following documents must be attached to the application filed with the court on Day 1:

  • The social work Chronology;
  • The social work statement and genogram;
  • Any current Assessment relating to the child and/or the family and friends of the child to which the social work statement refers and on which the local authority relies;
  • The Care Plan;
  • Index of Checklist documents.

Documents to be Served on the Other Parties (but not filed with the court)

On Day 2 the local authority must serve on the other parties (but must not file with the court unless expressly directed to do so) the application form and annex documents as set out above, together with the ‘evidential checklist documents’. These are:

  • Evidential and other documents which already exist on the local authority's files, including:
    • Previous court orders (including foreign orders) and judgments / reasons;
    • Any assessment materials relevant to the key issues, including capacity to litigate, Section 7 or Section 37 reports;
    • Single, joint or inter-agency reports, such as health, education, Home Office and Immigration Tribunal documents).

Documents to be Disclosed on Request by any Party

  • Decision-making records including:
    • Records of key discussions with the family;
    • Key local authority minutes and records for the child;
    • Pre-existing Care Plans (e.g. Child in Need Plan, Looked After Child Plan and Child Protection Plan);
    • Letters before proceedings.

Principles

In the revised Public Law Outline, both the filing and service of documents is more focused, with a concentration on what is relevant, central and key, rather than what is peripheral or historical. Local authority materials are expected to be much shorter than previously, and they should be more focused on analysis than on history and narrative. Even if there has been local authority involvement with the family extending over many years, both the social work Chronology and the summary of the background circumstances as set out in the social work statement must be kept appropriately short, focusing on the key significant historical events and concerns and rigorously avoiding all unnecessary detail.

Documents must be recent - restricted to the most recent, limited to those from the last two years. Documents need not be served or listed if they are older than two years before issue of the proceedings, unless reliance is placed on them in the local authority’s evidence.

Documents must be focused and succinct:

The Chronology should be no more than 10 sheets and sides of A4 text unless specifically directed by the court.

(Practice Direction 27a - Family Proceedings: Court Bundles (Universal Practice to be Applied in the High Court and Family Court)).

The social work Chronology is a schedule containing:

  • A succinct summary of the length of involvement of the local authority with the family and in particular with the child;
  • A succinct summary of the significant dates and events in the child’s life in chronological order, i.e. a running record up to the issue of the proceedings, providing such information under the following headings:
    1. Serial number;
    2. Date;
    3. Event-detail;
    4. Witness or document reference (where applicable).
  • The social work statement should be no more than 25 sheets and sides of A4 text unless specifically directed by the court. (This is exclusive of exhibits). (Practice Direction 27a - Family Proceedings: Court Bundles (Universal Practice to be Applied in the High Court and Family Court)). It is to be limited to the following evidence (see Appendix 1: PLO Review Form):
    • Summary:
      • The order sought;
      • Succinct summary of reasons.
    • Family:
      • Family members and relationships especially the primary carers and significant adults / other children;
      • Genogram.
    • Threshold:
      • Precipitating events;
      • Background circumstances:
        • Summary of children’s services involvement. This must be cross-referenced to the Chronology;
        • Previous court orders and emergency steps;
        • Previous assessments.
      • Summary of suffering significant harm and/or likelihood of suffering significant harm which the local authority will seek to establish by evidence of concession;
    • Parenting capacity:
      • Assessment of child’s needs;
      • Assessment of parental capability to meet needs;
      • Analysis of why there is a gap between parental capability and the child’s needs;
      • Assessment of other significant adults who may be carers.
    • Child impact:
      • Wishes and feelings of the child(ren);
      • Timetable for the child;
      • Delay and timetable for the proceedings.
    • Permanence and contact:
      • Parallel planning;
      • Realistic placement options by reference to a welfare and proportionality analysis;
      • Contact framework.
    • Case management:

The local authority materials must be succinct, analytical and evidence-based. Assessment and analysis are crucial. They need to distinguish clearly between what is fact and what is professional evaluation, assessment, analysis and opinion, and between the general background and the specific matters relied on to establish ‘threshold’.

Threshold Statement

‘Threshold Statement’ means a written outline by the legal representative of the local authority in the application form, of the facts which the local authority will seek to establish by evidence or concession to satisfy the threshold criteria under Section 31(2) of the Children Act 1989, limited to no more than 2 pages.

Local Authority Case Summary

A document prepared by the Local Authority legal representative for each case management hearing in the prescribed form. Unless specifically directed by the court, it should be no more than 6 sheets and sides of A4 text. (Practice Direction 27a - Family Proceedings: Court Bundles (Universal Practice to be Applied in the High Court and Family Court)).

Final Care Plan

It is important that the Care Plan records information which will help the child, parent or the child’s carer understand why decisions have been or are being made.

It should set out:

  • The information about the long term plan for the child, including timescales (the Permanence Plan);
  • The arrangements to meet the child’s needs in line with the child’s developmental needs domain of the Assessment Framework (see Children and Families - Single Assessment Protocol and Guidance): 
    • Arrangements for promoting the child’s health, detailing GP and other arrangements, particularly where there is a health condition that requires monitoring or treatment;
    • Early Years provision and education, detailing the PEP (identifying the resources and services that will meet the child’s needs, together with any additional support that has been assessed as required);
    • Contact arrangements for the child with the parents and others who have Parental Responsibility, together with any other significant people the child has relationships with, (for example a sibling in another placement), detailing the frequency and any support required.

      Or, where no contact is sought, the reasons for this and why it is not in the child’s best interest;
    • Details of any court orders sought, e.g. Section 8; Section 34; Placement Order, etc.;
    • Details of any other local authority or voluntary body services and resources that are planned to be taken up by the child or their parent / carer and the reasons for this, together with who will be responsible for the arrangements. Also, to include possible future support the child may be entitled to, e.g. leaving care arrangements.
  • Details of the Placement Plan and why the placement was chosen and the way in which it will meet the child’s needs;
  • The wishes and feelings of relevant people about the arrangements for the child;
  • The wishes and feelings of those people about any proposed changes to the Care Plan;
  • Details of the review of any arrangements made or required, including the name of the IRO and who, or which, agencies will be involved;
  • Identification of a contingency plan in the event that the Care Plan is not achieved.

The Care Plan will need to be signed by the practitioner completing it, together with the Nominated Officer who has responsibility for agreeing the resources to be made available.

The Care Plan should be no more than 10 sheets of A4 paper and sides, unless directed by the court.

1.5.2 Case Analysis

A written (or, if there is insufficient time, an oral) outline of the case from the perspective of the child's best interests prepared by the Children's Guardian or Welsh family proceedings officer for the CMH or FCMH (where one is necessary) and IRH or as otherwise directed by the court, incorporating an analysis of the key issues that need to be resolved in the case including:

  • A threshold analysis;
  • A case management analysis, including an analysis of the timetable for the proceedings, an analysis of the Timetable for the Child and the evidence which any party proposes is necessary to resolve the issues;
  • A parenting capability analysis;
  • A child impact analysis, including an analysis of the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child and the impact on the welfare of the child of any application to adjourn a hearing or extend the timetable for the proceedings;
  • An early permanence analysis including an analysis of the proposed placements and contact framework, by reference to a welfare and proportionality analysis;
  • Whether and if so what communication it is proposed there should be during the proceedings with the child by the court. (See President of the Family Division, Family Proceedings: Parents with a Learning Disability and Good practice guidance on working with parents with a learning disability (2007) updated 2016.)

1.5.3 Parents’ Response

A document from either or both of the parents containing:

  • In no more than two pages, the parents’ response to the Threshold Statement;
  • The parents’ placement proposals including the identity and whereabouts of all relatives and friends they propose be considered by the court;
  • Information which may be relevant to a person’s capacity to litigate including information about any referrals to mental health services and adult services.

1.6 Case Management Hearing

A greater emphasis is placed on the first hearing, which is renamed Case Management Hearing (‘CMH’) (previously Case Management Conference). It is vital that the first Case Management Hearing is effective in order to meet the 26-week deadline.

The first Case Management Hearing should take place on Day 12 to 18.

It is expected that full case management will take place at the Case Management Hearing. The parties must be prepared to deal with all relevant case management issues, as identified in Stage 2: Case Management Hearing. A Further Case Management Hearing (‘FCMH’) should only be directed where necessary and must not be regarded as a routine step in proceedings.

1.7 The Timetable for the Child and the Timetable for Proceedings

1.7.1 The Timetable for the Child

The Timetable for the Child is the timetable set by the court which takes into account dates which are important to the child’s welfare and development.

The Timetable for the Proceedings is set having particular regard to the Timetable for the Child, and the Timetable for the Child needs to be reviewed regularly. Where adjustments are made to the Timetable for the Child, the Timetable for the Proceedings will have to be reviewed consistently with the aim of resolving the proceedings within 26 weeks or the period of time specified by the court. If proceedings can be resolved sooner than 26 weeks, then they should be.

Examples of the dates the court will take into account when setting the Timetable for the Child are the dates of:

  • Any Looked After Review or PEP;
  • Any significant educational steps, including the child taking up a place at a new school and, where applicable, any review of a statement of the child’s Special Educational Needs;
  • Any health care steps, including assessment by a paediatrician or other specialist;
  • Any review of local authority plans for the child, including any plans for permanence through adoption, Special Guardianship or placement with parents or relatives;
  • Any change or proposed change of the child’s placement; or
  • Any significant change in the child’s social or family circumstances; or
  • Any timetable for the determination of an issue in a case with an international element.

Information about these significant steps in the child’s life must be provided in the Application Form and the social work statement, and this information must be updated regularly, taking into account information received from others involved in the child’s life such as the parties, members of the child’s family, the person who is caring for the child, the children’s guardian, the Independent Reviewing Officer, the child’s key social worker and any Central Authority or competent authority in a foreign state or a consular authority in England and Wales in a case with an international element.

Where more than one child is the subject of the proceedings, the court should consider and will set a Timetable for the Child for each child. The children may not all have the same timetable, and the court will consider the appropriate progress of the proceedings in relation to each child.

Where there are parallel care proceedings and criminal proceedings against a person connected with the child for a serious offence against the child, linked directions hearings should where practicable take place as the case progresses. The timing of the proceedings in a linked care and criminal case should appear in the Timetable for the Child. The time limit of resolving the proceedings within 26 weeks applies unless a longer timetable has been set by the court in order to resolve the proceedings justly. In these proceedings, early disclosure and listing of hearings is necessary.

See also Protocol and Good Practice Model: Disclosure of information in cases of alleged child abuse and linked criminal and care directions hearings (October 2013).

1.7.2 The Timetable for Proceedings

The court will draw up a Timetable for the Proceedings with a view to disposing of the application:

  • Without delay; and
  • In any event, within 26 weeks beginning with the day on which the application was issued.

The court will have regard to:

  • The impact which the timetable or any revised timetable would have on the welfare of the child; and
  • The impact which the timetable or any revised timetable would have on the duration and conduct of the proceedings.

The court will use the Timetable for the Child to assess the impact on the welfare of the child, and to draw up and revise the Timetable for the Proceedings.

A standard timetable and process is expected to be followed in respect of the giving of standard directions on issue and allocation and other matters which should be carried out by the court on issue, including setting and giving directions for the Case Management Hearing.

1.8 Extensions to the Timetable for Proceedings

Having regard to the circumstances of the particular case, the court may consider that it is necessary to extend the time by which the proceedings are to be resolved beyond 26 weeks, but may do so only if it considers that the extension is necessary to enable it to resolve the proceedings justly. This may be on application or the court’s own initiative. Extensions are not to be granted routinely and require specific justification. When deciding whether to extend the timetable, the court must have regard to the impact of any ensuing timetable revision on the welfare of the child.

Applications for an extension should, wherever possible, only be made so that they are considered at any hearing for which a date has been fixed or for which a date is about to be fixed. Where a date for a hearing has been fixed, a party who wishes to make an application at that hearing but does not have sufficient time to file an application notice should as soon as possible inform the court (if possible in writing) and, if possible, the other parties of the nature of the application and the reason for it. The party should then make the application orally at the hearing.

The reason(s) for extending a case should be recorded in writing in the Case Management Order and orally stated in court, so that all parties are aware of the reasons for delay in the case. The Case Management Order must contain a record of this information, as well as the impact of the court’s decision on the welfare of the child.

An initial extension may be granted for up to eight weeks (or less if directed). A further extension of up to eight weeks may be agreed by the court. There is no limit on the number of extensions that may be granted. If a further extension is granted, the Case Management Order should:

  • State the reason(s) why it is necessary to have a further extension;
  • Fix the date of the next effective hearing (which might be a period of shorter than a further eight weeks); and
  • Indicate whether it is appropriate for the next application for an extension of the timetable to be considered on paper. Extensions should generally be considered at a hearing - this can be by telephone or by any other method of direct oral communication.

1.9 Use of Experts

One of the threads of the overall aim of reducing the time taken to deal with proceedings is a change in the emphasis on, and a resulting reduction in, the use of expert evidence.

Revised Rules and Practice Directions came into force on 31 January 2013 relating to expert evidence. These were put onto a statutory footing by Section 13 of the Children and Families Act 2014.

The changes include:

  • A change to the test for permission to put expert evidence before the court from ‘reasonably required’ to ‘necessary to assist the court to resolve the proceedings justly’. This new test also applies to permission to instruct an expert and for a child to be examined or assessed for the purpose of the provision of expert evidence;
  • The inclusion of specific factors to which the court is to have particular regard in reaching a decision whether to give permission relating to expert evidence, including the impact on the timetable and conduct of the proceeding and the cost:
    • Any impact which giving permission would be likely to have on the child(ren);
    • The impact on the timetable and conduct of the proceedings;
    • The cost;
    • What other expert evidence is available (whether obtained before or after the start of the proceedings), and whether evidence could be given by another person, such as a social worker or the Children’s Guardian.
  • An application for permission to instruct an expert should state the questions which the expert is required to answer and the court will give directions approving the questions that are to be put to the expert.


2. Case Management Checklist and Flowcharts

2.1 Pre-Proceedings

PRE-PROCEEDINGS
PRE-PROCEEDINGS CHECKLIST

Annex Documents are the documents specified in the Annex to the Application Form which are to be attached to that form and filed with the court:

  • Social Work Chronology;
  • Social Work Statement and genogram;
  • The current assessments relating to the child and/or the family and friends of the child to which the Social Work Statement refers and on which the LA relies;
  • Care Plan;
  • Index of Checklist Documents.

Checklist documents (already existing on the LA’s files) are:

(a) Evidential documents including:

  • Previous court orders including foreign orders and judgments / reasons;
  • Any assessment materials relevant to the key issues including capacity to litigate Section 7 and 37 reports;
  • Single, joint or inter-agency materials (e.g. health & education / Home Office and Immigration Tribunal documents).

(b) Decision-making records including:

  • Records of key discussions with the family;
  • Key LA minutes and records for the child;
  • Pre-existing care plans (e.g. child in need plan, looked after child plan and child protection plan);
  • Letters Before Proceedings.

Only Checklist documents in (a) are to be served with the application form.

Checklist Documents in (b) are to be disclosed on request by any party.

Checklist documents are not to be:

  • Filed with the court unless the court directs otherwise; and
  • Older than 2 years before the date of issue of the proceedings unless reliance is placed on the same in the LA’s evidence.

2.2 Stage 1: Issue and Allocation

STAGE 1: ISSUE AND ALLOCATION
DAY 1 AND DAY 2

On Day 1 (Day of issue):

  • The LA files the Application Form and Annex Documents and sends copies to Cafcass / CAFCASS CYMRU;
  • The LA notifies the court of the need for an urgent preliminary case management hearing or an urgent contested ICO hearing where this is known or expected;
  • Court officer issues application.

Within a day of issue (Day 2):

Court considers jurisdiction in a case with an international element;

  • Court considers initial allocation to specified level of judge in accordance with the Allocation Rules and any President's Guidance on the distribution of business;
  • LA serves the Application Form, Annex Documents and evidential Checklist Documents on the parties together with the notice of date and time of CMH and any urgent hearing;
  • Court gives standard directions on Issue and Allocation including:
    • Checking compliance with Pre-Proceedings Checklist including service of any missing Annex Documents;
    • Appointing Children's Guardian (to be allocated by Cafcass / CAFCASS CYMRU);
    • Appointing solicitor for the child only if necessary;
    • Appointing (if the person to be appointed consents) a litigation friend for any protected party or any non-subject child who is a party, including the OS where appropriate;
    • Identifying whether a request has been made or should be made to a Central Authority or other competent authority in a foreign state or a consular authority in England and Wales in a case with an international element;
    • Filing and service of a LA Case Summary;
    • Filing and service of a Case Analysis by the Children's Guardian;
    • Filing and Serving the Parents' Response;
    • Sending a request for disclosure to, e.g. the police or health service body;
    • Filing and serving an application for permission relating to experts under Part 25 on a date prior to the advocates meeting for the CMH;
    • Directing the solicitor for the child to arrange an advocates' meeting no later than 2 business days before the CMH;
    • Listing the CMH;
    • Court considers any request for an urgent preliminary case management hearing or an urgent contested ICO hearing and where necessary lists the hearing and gives additional directions.
  • Court officer sends copy Notice of Hearing of the CMH and any urgent hearing by email to Cafcass / CAFCASS CYMRU.

2.3 Stage 2: Case Management Hearing

STAGE 2: CASE MANAGEMENT HEARING
ADVOCATES’ MEETING
(including any litigants in person)
CASE MANAGEMENT HEARING
No later than 2 business days before CMH (or FCMH if it is necessary).

CMH: Not before day 12 and not later than day 18.

A FCMH is to be held only if necessary, it is to be listed as soon as possible and in any event no later than day 25.

  • Consider information on the Application Form and Annex documents, the LA Case Summary, and the Case Analysis;
  • Identify the parties’ positions to be recited in the draft Case Management Order;
  • Identify the parties' positions about jurisdiction, in particular arising out of any international element;
  • If necessary, identify proposed experts and draft questions in accordance with Part 25 and the Experts Practice Directions;
  • Identify any disclosure that in the advocates’ views is necessary;
  • Immediately notify the court of the need for a contested ICO hearing and any issue about allocation;
  • LA advocate to file a draft Case Management Order in prescribed form with court by 11a.m. on the business day before the CMH and/or FCMH.

Court gives detailed case management directions, including:

  • Considering jurisdiction in a case with an international element;
  • Confirming allocation;
  • Drawing up the timetable for the child and the timetable for the proceedings and considering if an extension is necessary;
  • Considering any need for DNA testing re paternity / blood borne virus testing;
  • Identifying additional parties, intervenors and representation (including confirming that Cafcass / CAFCASS CYMRU have allocated a Children’s Guardian and that a litigation friend is appointed for any protected party or non-subject child);
  • Giving directions for the determination of any disputed issue about litigation capacity;
  • Identifying the key issues;
  • Identifying the evidence necessary to enable the court to resolve the key issues including any expert evidence;
  • Deciding whether there is a real issue about threshold to be resolved;
  • Determining any application made under Part 25 and otherwise ensuring compliance with Part 25 where it is necessary for expert(s) to be instructed;
  • Identifying any necessary disclosure and if appropriate giving directions;
  • Giving directions for any concurrent or proposed placement order proceedings;
  • Ensuring compliance with the court’s directions (Practice Direction 27a - Family Proceedings: Court Bundles (Universal Practice to be Applied in the High Court and Family Court));
  • If a FCMH is necessary, directing an advocates’ meeting and Case Analysis if required;
  • Directing filing of any threshold agreement, final evidence and Care Plan and responses to those documents for the IRH;
  • Directing a Case Analysis for the IRH;
  • Directing an advocates’ meeting for the IRH;
  • Listing (any FCMH) IRH, Final Hearing (including early Final Hearing) as appropriate;
  • Giving directions for special measures and/or interpreters and intermediaries;
  • Issuing the Case Management Order.

2.4 Stage 3: Issues Resolution Hearing

STAGE 3: ISSUES RESOLUTION HEARING
ADVOCATES’ MEETING
(including any litigants in person)
ISSUES RESOLUTION HEARING (IRH)
No later than 7 business days before the IRH. As directed by the court, in accordance with the timetable for the proceedings.
  • Review evidence and the positions of the parties;
  • Identify the advocates’ views of:
    • The remaining key issues and how the issues may be resolved or narrowed at the IRH including by the making of final orders;
    • The further evidence which is required to be heard to enable the key issues to be resolved or narrowed at the IRH;
    • The evidence that is relevant and the witnesses that are required at the final hearing;
    • The need for a contested hearing and/or time for oral evidence to be given at the IRH.
  • LA advocate to:
    • Notify the court immediately of the outcome of the discussion at the meeting;
    • File a draft Case Management Order with the court by 11a.m. on the business day before the IRH.
  • Court identifies the key issue(s) (if any) to be determined and the extent to which those issues can be resolved or narrowed at the IRH;
  • Court considers whether the IRH can be used as a final hearing;
  • Court resolves or narrows the issues by hearing evidence;
  • Court identifies the evidence to be heard on the issues which remain to be resolved at the final hearing;
  • Court gives final case management directions including:
    • Any extension of the timetable for the proceedings which is necessary;
    • Filing of the threshold agreement or a statement of facts / issues remaining to be determined;
    • Filing of:
      • Final evidence & Care Plan;
      • Case Analysis for Final Hearing (if required);
      • Witness templates;
      • Skeleton arguments.
    • Judicial reading list / reading time, including time estimate and an estimate for judgment writing time;
    • Ensuring Compliance with PD27A (the Bundles Practice Direction);
    • Listing the Final Hearing.
  • Court issues Case Management Order.

2.5 Public Law Outline Flowchart

Click here to view the Public Law Outline Flowchart.


Appendix 1: PLO Review Form

Click here to view Appendix 1: PLO Review Form.


Appendix 2: PLO Letter Before Proceedings

Click here to view Appendix 2: PLO Letter Before Proceedings.


Appendix 3: Letter Before Proceedings (Decision Already Made / Are Highly Likely to Issue)

Click here to view Appendix 3: Letter Before Proceedings (Decision Already Made / Are Highly Likely to Issue).

End