Care Proceedings & the Local Authority

Care Proceedings & the Local Authority

Care proceedings are court proceedings in which a local authority (LA) applies to the court for an order to take a child into care. Care proceedings are only started when the LA believes that a child is at risk of significant harm and that all other options for protecting the child have been exhausted.

The process of care proceedings can be complex and stressful for all involved, but it is important to remember that the court’s primary concern is the welfare of the child.

When can the LA apply for a care order?

The LA can apply for a care order if it believes that a child is suffering or at risk of suffering significant harm. Significant harm is defined as harm that is serious enough to impair the child’s health or development, either physically or emotionally.

The LA will consider a number of factors when deciding whether or not to apply for a care order, including:

  • The nature of the harm that the child is suffering or at risk of suffering
  • The child’s age and level of development
  • The child’s needs and the ability of their parents to meet those needs
  • Any other relevant factors

The care proceedings process

If the LA decides to apply for a care order, it will file an application with the family court. The application will set out the reasons why the LA believes that the child is at risk of significant harm and the order that it is seeking.

The court will hold a preliminary hearing to consider the application. At the preliminary hearing, the court will decide whether or not to make an interim care order. An interim care order is a temporary order that gives the LA legal responsibility for the child until the final hearing takes place.

The final hearing will usually take place within 26 weeks of the interim care order being made. At the final hearing, the court will hear evidence from the LA, the parents, and any other witnesses. The court will also consider any reports that have been prepared by social workers, psychologists, or other professionals.

If the court is satisfied that the child is at risk of significant harm, it will make a care order. The care order will give the LA legal responsibility for the child and the power to make decisions about the child’s upbringing.

What happens after a care order is made?

Once a care order is made, the LA will work with the child and their family to develop a care plan. The care plan will set out the goals for the child’s care and the steps that will be taken to achieve those goals.

The LA will also appoint a social worker to be the child’s child in care social worker. The child in care social worker will be responsible for the child’s day-to-day care and will advocate for the child’s needs.

The LA will regularly review the child’s care plan and make changes as necessary. The LA will also keep the court informed of the child’s progress.

Reviewing care orders

Care orders are reviewed on a regular basis by the court. At the review hearing, the court will consider the child’s progress and decide whether or not the care order should be continued, discharged, or varied.

If the court decides to continue the care order, it will set a date for the next review hearing. If the court decides to discharge the care order, the child will be returned to their parents. If the court decides to vary the care order, it may change the conditions of the order or make it permanent.


Care proceedings are a serious matter, but they are sometimes necessary to protect children from harm. If you are involved in care proceedings, it is important to seek legal advice. A lawyer can help you to understand your rights and obligations and can represent you in court.

 Oliver Fisher has represented its clients against many Local Authorities, Royal Borough Kensington & Cheslea, Hammersmith & Fulham, Surrey and many others. If you would like legal advice the email us at fld@oliverfisher.co.uk

Article by Oliver Conway, Solicitor. 

To get in touch with the writer please email: fld@oliverfisher.co.uk.