The paradox of parental participation and legal representation in 'edge of care' meetings

Jonathan Dickens, Judith Masson, Julie Young, Kay Bader

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10 Citations (Scopus)


This paper assesses the nature of parental participation and legal representation in pre-proceedings meetings in England and Wales. These are called when a local authority is considering care proceedings on a child. The parent(s) are invited to a meeting to discuss the concerns, and are entitled to attend with a lawyer. The paper draws on findings from a study of the process which included a file survey of over 200 cases, observations of 36 meetings and interviews with more than 90 key informants, including parents. The aim of the process is (usually) to reach an agreement to prevent the case going to court, but the families are usually well known to children's services, and have been through many meetings and agreements before. What then are the possibilities for parental participation and legal representation in the meetings? The study shows that they may help bring a greater degree of clarity to the local authority's proposals, but are not expected to challenge them. Paradoxically, they serve to reinforce the authority's position. The meetings can help divert cases, but it is important to be realistic about the chances of change in these often long-standing ‘edge of care’ cases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267–276
Number of pages10
JournalChild and Family Social Work
Issue number3
Early online date13 May 2013
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015


  • child protection (policy and practice)
  • law
  • partnership/empowerment
  • social work

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