top of page

What are we getting wrong when we talk about 'PLO?'

"We're in PLO."

"We're going to have to go to PLO."

"The family have been in PLO for 6 weeks."

All phrases I have heard in social work offices and all phrases I have used myself.

I used to explain PLO to families as 'the steps we take before we go to court'.

Maybe you have done the same.

But when putting together the new court skills series in my membership, The Collective, I realised we need to break the habit of using these acronyms because they just aren't accurate.

Here's the thing, the phrase Public Law Outline refers to a template for case management of proceedings (family law). It's an 'outline' for 'public law'. Great.

But what's been happening in practice, is a miscommunication. When I was an ASYE, throwing around 'PLO' without thinking about it, what I actually meant was 'pre-proceedings'.

So why didn't I say this?

Well, because I didn't understand what I was talking about. I was learning on the job. I passed my law exam at university but of course it didn't cover the nuance of practice issues.

Oh, and everyone else was doing it. I was copying my more experienced colleagues who were caught up in the same bad habit of using acronyms without a second thought.

Why does this all matter?

I've asked myself if I'm being too fussy about this. 'Let it go vicki, we've got bigger fish to fry'. But I firmly believe that how you do one thing is how you do everything.

I can't sit with the idea that new social workers like you can find yourself in an office where no one quite understands what they are talking about, because they are saying PLO instead of pre-proceedings. It may mean that you don't really learn where the public law outline originates. It will probably mean that you don't explain the process to children and families properly. This happened to me. I didn't understand it so I couldn't explain it. It's not fair.

PLO becomes a replacement term, instead of offering a calm and sensitive explanation to families. And like all acronyms, we stop questioning and start accepting. This is dangerous.

It's these practice issues that I care about. Because habits spread as quickly as misinformation, and bright, intelligent and knowledge seeking social workers deserve to understand context.

I care about you knowing what you are talking about. I want you to be informed so you can support children and families through these incredibly difficult processes. It starts with you getting to grips with what the processes are.

It's all inside the video linked in this article which has an annoying title because technically the question would be 'What is the public law outline?' Just to confirm for the grammar police, I've used poor grammar in this title because this was the wording of the question that inspired this training, and speaks to the idea that there is a lack of understanding around the term.

Does this resonate? Or are you in an office where you get specific on your terms of reference? Either way I'd love to know if this connects with you.

Collective members can unlock more:

The Court Skills Series is your starting point for clarity and knowledge for practice. Understanding care orders, attending legal planning meetings, Public Law Outline and Understanding and applying threshold criteria are all video trainings available in the learning hub now.



Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page