Why has the local authority issued care proceedings?

Why has the local authority issued care proceedings?

There are a number of reasons why the local authority may issue court proceedings; it could be one or a number of issues of concern. 

There are steps the local authority may take prior to proceedings starting in which you will be involved, called pre-proceedings.

Range of issues of concern


This is when the day-to-day needs of your child are not being met or are at risk of not being met due to your behaviour. This can include:

  • Poor school/nursery attendance
  • Poor living conditions, for example a dirty, untidy or chaotic household
  • Lack of food or lack of basic items required by a child, inadequate nutrition, no structured mealtimes
  • Poor hygiene, unwashed clothes, infrequent bathing, untreated head lice
  • Leaving your child home alone
  • Lack of cooperation with services which provide assistance (including the local authority), failure to keep appointments for or about your child.

Emotional harm

This is when the emotional needs of your child are not being met or are at risk of not being met due to your behaviour. This can include:

  • Leaving your children with a number of different carers
  • Withdrawing love, rejecting your child, being inconsistent or unavailable when your child wants to talk or spend time with you
  • Not believing your child/taking action when your child tells you something is wrong
  • Thinking about yourself and your needs before those of your child
  • Exposing your child to inappropriate people, for example, sex offenders or drug dealers
  • Ridicule and threats, making the child feel worthless
  • When your child witnesses or is nearby during an incident of domestic violence.

Physical harm

This is when your child has suffered an injury to his or her body or is at risk of suffering such an injury.

  • This includes punching, biting, hitting, shaking, kicking, burning, and scratching
  • It can be a slap as a form of punishment
  • A delay in seeking treatment for injuries or illness and misuse of medication – that is, not giving medicines properly – can be physical harm.

Non-accidental injury

This is when your child is injured as a result of mistreatment or deliberate action of an adult care giver. This is at the most serious end of the physical harm category.

  • This includes all the issues listed under physical harm and the more serious forms of physical harm including, extensive or multiple bruises, lacerations, burns/scalds, fractures, head injuries and poisoning.

Sexual abuse

This is when a child is, or is at risk of, being used sexually by an adult or young person.

  • This includes any sexual act with a child including touching genitals or breasts and some sorts of kissing
  • Exposing a child to sexualised behaviour between adults or other young people
  • Making a child look at pornographic magazines or films.

Parental issues that make the above more likely

  • Drug/alcohol misuse
  • Mental health issues
  • Low cognitive functioning

All of the above can make a parent less focused on their child and therefore more likely to be neglectful or expose them to one of the other forms of harm. These are not necessarily bars to providing an acceptable level of parenting, but parents may need help in addressing the reasons why their parenting is not of a good enough standard and making changes to their parenting.

Pre proceedings


  • Your child may already be in the care of the Local Authority following an agreement by you known as a ‘Section 20’ agreement. If this is the case and you want your children returned to your care, you can withdraw your consent. If, however, the Local Authority does not think your children should be returned to your care then they may apply to the Court for an Order.
  • The Local Authority may convene a Child Protection Case Conference to which various agencies will be invited, for example, Midwifery, Health Visitors, school representative, GP, Police. The social work team will also be in attendance as may additional family members. This can result in your child being made the subject of a child protection plan OR a child in need plan
  • The Local Authority may send you a letter (known as a ‘PLO’ (Public Law Outline) letter), giving you a last opportunity to cooperate prior to issuing proceedings
  • In the event you receive an 'Immediate Issue Letter' your matter will be heard by the Court. In the event you have not already taken legal advice you should do so immediately

If the local authority has issued care proceedings in relation to your children you are entitled to free legal advice. You may also be entitled to be represented under the legal help or legal aid scheme in respect of other matters relating to your children.

For more information please contact Liz Fitzpatrick on 01895 207857 or email childcare@ibblaw.co.uk.

Liz Fitzpatrick

01895 207857