Legal Gateway Panel - Terms of Reference
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter describes the role and function of the Legal Gateway Panel and its processes. As well as providing agreement and oversight with respect to legal proceedings, the Panel reviews child protection matters where children have been on child protection plans for over 12 months. It also has a monitoring function and informs the commissioning process with respect to service development.
1. Intended Outcomes
The Legal Gateway Panel is an internal decision making and scrutiny body established to achieve improved outcomes for children by:
- Reducing delays in planning for children at risk of significant harm;
- Considering whether care or pre proceedings should be initiated;
- Supporting the care of children within their families and communities where this is still a viable and safe option and preventing them from entering the care system;
- Analysing patterns and trends in order to ensure best practice; inform commissioning intentions and trigger responses from relevant service areas and partner agencies regarding identified practice concerns;
- Promoting cost savings by ensuring the best use of resources and that accommodation, where used, is used appropriately and only to safeguard children at risk of harm;
- Helping to promote early permanence decisions for children.
2. Main Activity
The Panel will address the following key issues:
- Ensure senior management oversight of cases and scrutiny of the evidence where threshold is met and pre - proceedings / or care proceedings are agreed;
- Regularly review cases currently within the Public Law Outline (PLO) framework to ensure that plans progress in a timely manner and those cases formally exit from the pre - proceedings process or escalate into care proceedings as appropriate;
- Review cases of children subject to Child Protection (CP) Plans in excess of 12 months and/or repeat presentation to CP Plans where there remain on-going issues of concern regarding parental capacity for change and the overall implementation and progress achieved under the plan;
- Ensure permanence planning arrangements are considered at the earliest opportunity and put in place for children who become the subject of public law proceedings; this includes early of primary carers and identification and assessment of non resident parents and connected persons;
- Provide feedback within Children and Young People's Service and across the partnership regarding example of good practice and also in cases where practice and multi-agency working needs to be improved;
- Ensure that assessments and interventions are robust and offered to families to prevent issues escalating and reduce the likelihood of care proceedings being issued;
- Clarify situations where expert evidence cannot be provided by the social worker but will be required for the determination care / pre - proceedings;
- Ensure that appropriate and increased safeguarding measures are put in place and maintained when PLO and or care proceedings are issued.
3. Protocol and Function of Legal Gateway Panel
- Referrals of new cases to the Panel must first be agreed by the relevant Service Manager or Head of Service;
- Cases where there have been previous CP plans or previous proceedings will be identified by the Service Manager for the Assessment Service;
- Referral forms and all relevant documents must be submitted electronically to the Business Support Officer by 4pm on the Friday before the next scheduled Panel;
- The Business Support Officer will liaise with Legal Services to agree time allocations at Panel, circulate the papers to Panel members, finalise and circulate the agenda as well as notify Team Managers and social workers when their cases will be discussed/reviewed and they are required to attend;
- The Team Manager and social worker will attend at their allocated time on the Panel agenda with a clear evidenced plan of what is required and what decision is being sought from the Panel. An update on the progress of the pre proceedings/CP plan is needed for reviews;
- If care proceedings are to be issued the Panel will clarify timescales for sending the Letter of Intent to issue proceedings, evidence preparation, enquiries regarding experts, liaison with the Court Team regarding case transfer and the likely care plan and a final date by which the application should be made to the Family Court;
- Where pre proceedings are agreed the Panel will set a review date for the Team Manager and Social Worker to return to Panel and provide an update and confirmation that the plan is progressing within given timescales;
- In the event that confirmation is provided that proceedings have been issued and the case has been listed for hearing; alternatively where pre - proceedings process have concluded then the Panel has the authority to remove the case from the agenda;
- If care proceedings have been issued in an emergency without having been presented to Panel, the allocated Social Worker and Team Manager must provide an update at the next scheduled Panel to allow for scrutiny of the proposed care plan and assessments prior to the Case Management Hearing;
- The Chair of the Panel will be responsible (directly or by identifying the relevant person to do so) for taking forward identified patterns and trends and practice concerns to the relevant service areas and partner agencies;
- The solicitor with conduct of the case will complete the Legal Planning Advice Memo and circulate it to the allocated Social Worker, Team Manager, meeting members. This is to be done within 24 hours for urgent cases and within 3 days for other cases.
4. Frequency of Legal Gateway Panel
Panel will occur weekly on a Wednesday morning; the first part of the Panel will consider cases where care or pre - proceedings are being considered and the second half of the meeting will review cases in PLO and children subject to CP plans as outlined above.
Where an emergency Legal Planning Meeting has been convened outside of Panel the case must be reviewed at the next scheduled Legal Gateway Panel.
Panel membership will comprise:
- Chair - Head of Service/Service Manager;
- A representative from the Court Team;
- The Local Authority Care Proceedings Case Manager;
- The Social Care Lawyer with conduct of the case for those needing an LPM;
- The Team Manager/allocated Social Worker;
- Business Support Officer.
6. Panel Administration and Information Governance
The Business Support Officer will maintain a spreadsheet (tracker) of all key Panel decisions.
Referral forms are printed by the officer for hard copy presentation/consideration at the relevant Panel. At the conclusion of each Panel, the Business Support Officer will collect all hard copies of papers and ensure that these are disposed of in a matter that maintains confidentiality.
The Panel is responsible for providing a typed/handwritten action sheet to the Team Manager and social worker following the meeting. It is the responsibility of the Business Support Officer to ensure that the action sheet is uploaded within 48 hours of the meeting.
For audit purposes, the Business Support Officer will retain an electronic copy of the referral forms and associated decision sheets. Social workers are expected to store the electronic copy of the application forms and associated decision sheet on the child's Mosaic record.
The Panel will produce quarterly highlight reports and an annual report for presentation to the senior leadership team in Children's Services.