Pre-proceedings and family justice hub

Published: 20/07/2022

An open access resource hub to support family-centred practice and decision-making in pre-proceedings (PLO) and the Family Court, including guidance, practice tools, publications, videos and podcasts.

Resources to support decision-making and support for families in pre-proceedings (PLO) and the Family Court

The pre-proceedings and family justice hub has been developed through the Department for Education Covid Recovery and Building Back Better funding, in partnership with Essex County Council and the regional leads involved in the project across England. It is intended to support local authorities and Children’s Trusts to respond to the President of the Family Division Public Law Advisory Group report (Dec 2020), the Family Justice Board Statement ‘Priorities for the Family Justice System’ (Dec 2020) and the need to reduce court backlogs.

The resources are designed for use by frontline practitioners and strategic leads. They are structured around a child and family’s journey - into pre-proceedings, diverted away from or moving through Family Court proceedings and beyond.

The materials draw on practice expertise, research findings and the voice of lived experience. They include briefings, guidance, practice tools, videos and podcasts. The toolkit of editable template documents can be downloaded and incorporated with local policy and practice materials.

We hope this provides a flexible and dynamic hub to support robust and family-focused systems and practice in pre-proceedings.

The resource pack includes:

This briefing provides an overview of messages from research that are relevant for pre-proceedings work with children and families. The aim is to assist professionals – such as heads of service, principal social workers, case managers, social workers and legal professionals – in the development of strategies and practice to ensure that best use is made of the formal pre-proceedings period. 

In order to set current statutory and practice guidance in context, the briefing recaps briefly on the development of the Public Law Outline and the formal pre-proceedings period. It includes research messages relevant to effective ways of working with children and families as well as specific messages from research about the formal process of pre-proceedings. 

View briefing.

The toolkit consists of downloadable, editable templates to support practice and decision-making leading up to and throughout proceedings. The first section of templates are tools for frontline practitioners, while the second set are designed to support peer review of pre-proceedings practice between local authorities. They are intended to complement the in-house procedures of local authorities and can be amended accordingly.  

Tools for frontline practitioners

Tools to support peer review of pre-proceedings practice between local authorities

This resource compiles important messages from legislation, case law and research around the use of section 20 of the Children Act (section 76 Wales). Inside the briefing, practitioners will find key messages to underpin effective partnership working in what can be a difficult time for a family.

View briefing.

This practice tool brings together new and updated resources design to build analytical skills, support the effective use of research to support decision-making, and prepare for cross-examination.

View briefing.

This section provides guidance for social workers and their managers to incorporate considerations of equality, diversity and inclusion into court and legal processes. The principles and strategies outlined in the briefing can help to ensure that all families are appropriately supported to prevent the need for court and to fully contribute to any legal processes that are required.

View briefing.​

This guide supports social workers and managers in making care plans for children prior to final hearings in care proceedings. It highlights the key legislation and case law, care planning regulations and research that should inform these decisions. It also offers tools to help guide practitioners through the issues they need to consider to enable them to demonstrate to the child, family and the court why they have reached the decisions they have and the evidential basis for this. 

View briefing.

Learning from the voice of lived experience can underpin practice in pre-proceedings. This section contains three podcasts with parents and young people who have gone through Family Court proceedings, alongside guidance for practitioners.

View resource.

Professional Standards

PQS:KSS - Relationships and effective direct work | Child and family assessment | Analysis, decision-making, planning and review | The law and the family and youth justice systems | Promote and govern excellent practice | Effective use of power and authority | Confident analysis and decision-making | Performance management and improvement | Designing a system to support effective practice | Developing excellent practitioners

PCF - Rights, justice and economic wellbeing | Intervention and skills | Contexts and organisations