When it comes to care proceedings, strict legal procedures must be followed to ensure the welfare of the child or children involved remains the number one priority. Where possible, it is always preferable to keep the child with their family unless their welfare is at risk. This is why there is a strict threshold criteria in place that must be met before a local authority can issue proceedings. Charlotte Ellingham, solicitor in the Bromleys child care team, tells you everything you need to know about the threshold criteria.
What is the threshold criteria?
If the local authority is considering issuing court proceedings in respect of your child, they will have to satisfy that there are sufficient grounds to start court proceedings. This is referred to as the threshold criteria. This threshold document will set out a list of facts, as alleged by the local authority, about the concerns that they have and the reasons why they are issuing court proceedings. In order to issue the proceedings, children’s services need to prove that that both of the following are true:
- The child (or children) is suffering (or likely to suffer) significant harm.
- The harm is the direct result of the care they are receiving at home.
The court cannot grant an Interim Care Order or an Interim Supervision Order unless it is satisfied that the above threshold criteria is met. This means that the local authority will have to prove to the court that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the child or children with whom the application relates to is suffering or is at risk of suffering harm by one of two reasons. The first is that the risk of harm is due to the care being provided not being what it is reasonable to expect a parent to provide to that child, or, that the child is beyond parental control.
Harm is considered to be ill-treatment or impairment of health and development. This can relate to physical health and mental health and physical, emotional, social, psychological or behavioral needs of the child. It also includes impairment sufferance from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another person. If the local authority cannot prove the facts in the threshold document at the end of the proceedings, then a Care Order or Supervision Order cannot be granted.
How can we help?
In some instances where the local authority feels there is a risk serious harm (e.g. child neglect) during proceedings, the decision may be made to take the child or children involved into care. It’s important to remember that whilst this may be an extremely upsetting time, our highly specialist team are here to assist.
We can advise on all aspects and stages of childcare proceedings including interim care and supervision orders, wardship, parental responsibility orders and contact orders. We will provide hands-on specialist representation and engage other experts with your case where required.
If the social worker has confirmed to you that they have sufficient grounds to cross the threshold for care proceedings, please contact us at Bromleys so we can advise further. Call us on 0161 330 6821 or make an enquiry.