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What is an Investigation in children matters? What types of investigations are there?

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There are two types of investigations, a Section 47 investigation, and a Section 17 investigation.

Within 24 hours of suspected harm being reported it is the Social Workers decision in regards to what investigation is required. They will decide one of two different sorts of investigations to see if the child is either:

  • A child in need. This is known as a section 17 investigation, or
  • A child at risk of significant harm. This is known as a section 47 investigation.

A Section 47 investigation may occur if the local authority  has reason to suspect that a child who lives, or is found, in their area is suffering (or is likely to suffer) significant harm, or where the child is subject to an Emergency Protection Order or has been taken into Police Protection. A child is someone under the age of 18. Harm could be in the form of emotional, physical, sexual abuse and neglect. Here at Johnson Astills we can represent you on all Local Authority matters.

A section 17 investigation identifies the needs of the child and to ensure that the family are given the appropriate support enabling them to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare. Section 17 can be used to assist homeless children together with their families. Social Services can provide accommodation for a whole family under Section 17.

These investigations must be carried out within 45 working days from when the concern was reported. Depending on the circumstances, the investigation may need to be completed quicker.

Each local authority will have its own procedures about how they investigate although they have to keep to certain standards. You can ask the social worker for a copy of their local procedure.

What does an investigation usually involve?

Usually, an investigation involves social workers meeting with the parents and other professionals involved with the family, for example, the child’s teacher or doctor. They will look at the child’s records and may ask the police to investigate whether any other allegations have been made about the person suspected of abuse. In very serious cases, the social workers may start making enquiries before they let the parents know.

If the local authority informs you, as the parent, that they are starting an investigation, it’s very important that you co-operate with them. You should get legal advice, in these cases-you might get legal aid. Contact us to find out more if you are eligible for Legal Aid at Johnson Astills or have a read through our article on Legal Aid Johnson Astills.

 What can happen after the investigation?

This investigation might be enough to end the local authority’s concerns.

However, it may be that after a section 47 investigation, the Social Worker determines that the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm. In cases of serious abuse, and in all cases of sexual abuse, the local authority will tell the police. At this stage, the local authority may have to take urgent action to have the child removed from the family home and placed under Police Protection. However more usually, the social worker is likely to decide that the child is a child in need or that a meeting called a Child Protection Conference should be called. For more information have a read through our articles Johnson Astills


If you have Local Authority involvement with your children at Child Protection level ranging through to Care Proceedings in the Family Court then Johnson Astills can assist you. We have experience in assisting parents at all stages of Local Authority involvement. Please contact Johnson Astills at either our Leicester Office on 0116 255 4855 or our Loughborough Office on 01509 610 312 and ask for a member of the Care Team so that we can advise you accordingly. Alternatively, please visit either of the above offices or email us on and a member of our team will be happy to assist you.