The Public Law Outline: Guide to Case Management in Public Law Proceedings (the PLO) was introduced on 1 April 2008 and applies to care proceedings issued after that date.
Requests for information from healthcare professionals under the PLO have recently begun to increase. This is a reminder of the key points.
The PLO is a streamlined and simplified case management procedure for dealing with referrals about child protection concerns. There is an expectation that local authorities will prepare the bulk of their cases (if possible) pre-application. The pre-proceedings checklist outlines documents the court will expect to see at the start of proceedings. This includes “inter-agency materials” which include health.
There are three main ways the new PLO affects healthcare professionals:
- You need to consider whether you can lawfully disclose the information being requested as there will be no court order authorising this. You need the consent of a person with parental responsibility or you will need to satisfy yourself that the disclosure is justified , namely:
- when there is evidence that the child is suffering, or is at risk of suffering, significant harm; or
- where there is reasonable cause to believe that a child may be suffering, or at risk of, significant harm; or
- to prevent significant harm arising to a child.
- You may come under a lot of pressure from the local authority to produce your information quickly.
- You may worry that a child is at risk of harm if the local authority spend too long gathering the information to go to court. If the safety and welfare of the child means an application needs to be made immediately, local authorities should not wait until all of the documentation has been prepared (Paragraph 10.2 PLO).