How to contact us for advice

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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). For Textphone dial 18001 followed by the advice line number. Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

Discuss on our forums

Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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How long do care proceedings take?

The law says care proceedings should be completed within 26 weeks. That is 6 months). See section 32 (1) (a) (ii) of the Children Act 1989.

A case management hearing is usually the first court hearing that takes place in care proceedings. The court will not make any final decisions at this hearing. But will:

  • Review the application, including the proposed care plan for the child
  • Identify the main issues in the case, and
  • Set a timetable for the case.

When setting a timetable for the case, the court will note key dates for the child. For example, their birthday, important school dates and any looked after child review meetings or other key meetings with children’s services.

The care proceedings can be extended beyond the 26-week time limit where the court grants permission. The court should only grant permission if the judge thinks that it is necessary to do so in order to deal with the case fairly. An extension can only be for eight weeks. But there can be more than one extension made.

More information about the timetable for care proceedings is included on our Stages of care proceedings page.

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