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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). 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 should family and friends be involved in the pre-proceedings process?

The general legal duties on children’s services mean that they should aim to keep children safe, well cared for and, at home unless this would place them at risk (see section 17 Children Act 1989).  If a child cannot be raised by their parents, children’s services should first look at whether there is anyone in the child’s family and friends network that can care for them.

All this means that during the pre-proceedings process, children’s services should:

  • Look at who in the family and friends’ network can offer support to the child and parents. And work with the parents and family to explore this
  • Look at who may be able to take on the care of the child if they can’t be safely cared for by their parent or carer
  • Arrange for potential carers to be assessed.

It is important that parents discuss with their family and friends how they might be able to help before they go to the pre-proceedings meeting.

A good way of working through how the family and friends network can help is for a family group conference (FGC) to be held. A family group conference is a family-led decision-making meeting. It brings together the whole family and others who are important to the chid. Together, at the family group conference, they make a plan. See our Family group conference: advice for families page for information about this. Parents don’t have to wait for children’s services to suggest a family group conference.  They can ask children’s services to arrange one.

Note: that wider family will not be invited to the pre-proceedings meeting itself. But if a parent feels that this would be helpful, then they can ask their solicitor to raise this.

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