Action research to explore the implementation and early impacts of the revised Public Law Outline (PLO)
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The Family Justice Review (Ministry of Justice, 2011) highlighted a number of concerns surrounding delays in care and supervision proceedings. As a result, the Government is seeking to introduce a statutory time limit for all care and supervision cases to be completed within 26 weeks wherever possible. The Public Law Outline (PLO) is the key guidance the judiciary use for managing public law cases. Revisions have been made to the PLO to institute streamlined processes which will deliver speedier outcomes that better meet the needs of children and lay the foundation for the planned introduction of the time limit. The revised PLO places increased emphasis on local authority documentation and assessments being completed earlier during pre-proceedings in order to deliver evidence at the outset of a case. It also aims to ensure that the evidence local authorities provide for the court is focused, succinct and analytical. The revised PLO introduces reduced timeframes for key stages in court proceedings. One of the most significant changes is that the first key hearing, now the Case Management Hearing (CMH), should be held no later than Day 12. Here, detailed case management directions should be given to enable cases, where possible, to be completed within 26 weeks. The requirements of the revised PLO outlined in this report are accurate for the processes and documents in place during the period of the revised PLO, between July 2013 and April 2014. The findings of this research have been used to inform the development of the ‘final’ PLO (and associated documentation) that will support the introduction of the 26-week time limit included in the Children and Families Act 2014.
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