Public Law Applications in light of Coronavirus
Published 26 March 2020
With the growing uncertainty and concern around the Coronavirus pandemic we are aware of an increase in the number of public law applications brought by the local Trusts for the protection of children. So what applications can be made and why?
Public Law applications are made when the public authority (the local Trust) issue proceedings seeking authority to share responsibility for the child with the parents and to decide where the child lives until they reach the age of 18.
The Trust can apply for a Care Order and the Court will determine if the threshold criteria has been met and the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, harm is due to either the care the child is receiving, or likely to receive if the care order isn’t made or if the child is beyond parental control. A Care Order gives the local Trust parental responsibility for the child which is shared with the parents or legal guardian.
Another application that can be made by the Trust is an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) which gives the Trust the power to remove a child or keep a child in a safe place for a specified period of time. It provides the Trust with parental responsibility but this is limited to whatever is required to protect the child’s welfare. An EPO is an extreme measure and is therefore used only in cases of emergencies, ie, where the child is considered to be in immediate danger.
The reasons why the Trust may take such action could vary from the child suffering what they believe to be a non-accidental injury or the child is showing signs of neglect or there are concerns about the parents’ lifestyle. We can see a direct correlation between coronavirus and the increase in public applications as being threefold:
- The Trust may have had concerns about the safety of children but were content to leave children in their homes because schools were providing a ‘safety blanket’ and measuring risks based on the children’s physical and emotional presentation. This is no longer possible in this crisis when schools are taken out of the equation.
- Trust workers/ Social Workers are presently physically unable or restricted in their abilities to attend homes by way of spot checks and now erring on the side of caution if on the last visit they became aware of increased risks and want to ensure a child’s safety.
- There is an increased risk of harm or neglect because of social alienation as a result of the Covid-19 crisis and an increasing lack of social visibility of children.
It is crucial that parents seek independent legal advice from a Family Law expert as early as possible. Our Solicitors have extensive experience of the issues that can arise and you will be entitled to legal aid to defend the proceedings.
If you are a parent who has been served with an application or whose child may be subject of care order proceedings please contact Karen Edwards or Aine Toner at MKB Law. Karen and Aine are members of the Children Order Panel providing them with the necessary skills to deal with your case.
This article is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional legal advice.