What is Public Law Outline?

PLO, also known as Public Law Outline, is a process brought about by the Local Authority when they have significant concerns about the welfare of a child. It is often thought of as the last opportunity for parents to address the Local Authority’s concerns and make positive changes in respect of the care afforded to their child, before the Local Authority makes an application to Court.

If sufficient progress is not made within the PLO process, the Local Authority may decide to make an application to Court for an Interim Care Order (ICO) which, if granted, gives them shared parental responsibility for the subject child and allows them to make decisions in respect of them, such as where they are to live. This may include Local Authority foster care if this is felt necessary. The Local Authority may alternatively apply for a Supervision Order if this is deemed the more suitable option. This does not grant the Local Authority shared parental responsibility for the child but imposes a legal duty upon them to ‘advise, assist and befriend’ them.

At PLO stage, the Local Authority instruct their legal team and encourage parents to seek their own legal representation. Parents will be issued with a PLO letter or ‘Letter Before Proceedings’ which will invite them to an Initial PLO Meeting which they are encouraged to attend with their legal representative. The PLO letter will outline the concerns of the Local Authority and sets out what changes they expect to see from parents in order to avoid them applying to Court to initiate care proceedings. This letter then acts as the agenda for the Initial PLO Meeting so it is important that this is read carefully by parents ahead of the meeting and discussed with their legal representative. The letter will usually also outline a plan for parents moving forward and may ask them to engage in things such as a parenting assessments and engage with any services that have been identified as necessary such as drug and alcohol or domestic abuse support services.

The Initial PLO Meeting is usually attended by the child’s Social Work, their Team Manager, a legal representative for the Local Authority and a minute-taker, as well as parents and their legal representatives. If there are concerns regarding parents’ relationship, for example if there are concerns that the relationship involves domestic abusive, the Local Authority may hold separate meetings for parents.

After the Initial PLO Meeting, further meetings are usually scheduled every 6 weeks, after the Local Authority have had the opportunity to review the matter at their internal review meeting known as ‘Legal Gateway’. During the Review PLO Meetings, the Local Authority will review what progress has been made and whether there concerns have reduced or increased. The Local Authority will also review the actions that were agreed in the Initial PLO Meeting and whether parents have been engaging in assessments and recommended services.

If the conclusion of the Local Authority’s parenting assessment is positive, the decision may be made to drop the matter down from PLO to a Child Protection Plan. However, as mentioned previously, if the Local Authority’s concerns remain or perhaps have even increased, they may decide that the necessary course of action is to apply to the Court for care proceedings to be issued.

Parents that are issued with a PLO letter by their child’s social worker are automatically entitled to free legal representation, regardless of their financial situation. It is important that parents seek legal representation upon receiving this letter and receive support around any questions and concerns they have around the PLO process.

If you receive a PLO letter from the Local Authority in respect of your child, please contact a member of Bromleys Childcare Department on 0161 330 6821 or email bromleys@bromleys.co.uk.