Johnson Astills Solicitors Banner Image


News and Events

What is a Child Assessment Order?

View profile for Emily Jones
  • Posted
  • Author

If the Local Authority are concerned about a child’s health, development or the way that they are being treated, but do not feel that there is an immediate risk to them, they may request that various assessments are undertaken. These assessments are often requested when the Local Authority suspect that the child in question is suffering from harm, but they have no firm evidence to substantiate their concerns.

Medical, psychiatric, or social work assessments may be requested. If you refuse for your child to participate in the assessments, the Local Authority may apply to the Court for a Child Assessment Order under s43 of the Children Act 1989. 

The Local Authority should inform you that they intend to make this application to the Court. They must be able to prove that they have a good reason to suspect that the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm and that a satisfactory assessment cannot be made without an Order.

What does “a good reason to suspect” mean?

The Local Authority may have a good reason to suspect that a child is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm if the child:

  • Discloses incidents of neglect, physical, mental, or sexual abuse to a trusted adult or directly to social services.
  • Becomes withdrawn, anxious or displays unexplained changes in behaviour or personality.
  • Displays inappropriate sexualised behaviours for their age.
  • Presents with unexplained injuries (or their sibling(s) presents with unexplained injuries confirmed by a medical professional, prompting further investigation)
  • Lacks personal hygiene, dental hygiene or clean clothes.
  • Presents as obviously malnourished or excessively overweight.
  • Has untreated medical conditions.

What is “significant harm?”

Harm is defined as the “ill treatment or the impairment of the health or development of the child” under Section 31 of the Children Act 1989.

There is a separate Johnson Astills article linked below which further details the definition of significant harm in the context of the Local Authority’s threshold criteria.

Significant Harm Article.  

Can I refuse the assessment of my child?

If the Court grant a Child Assessment Order, you are required to make the child available for any of the requested assessments, for the duration of the Order. A Child Assessment Order can last for a maximum of seven days, starting from the date the Court makes the Order, and within this period the Local Authority must arrange for the necessary assessments to take place. This may involve you taking your child to a medical appointment, or a social worker observing the child in the home or at a neutral location, such as a children’s centre.

The Local Authority may even request that your child is removed from their home if this is necessary to conduct the assessments. You would be able to request confirmation of the contact you would have with your child during the assessment period. 

What will happen if I do refuse the assessment of my child?

The Local Authority cannot force you to obey the Court Order and make the child available for assessments. Even if you do make your child available for the assessments, they may then refuse, and the assessment cannot be forced.  If the subject child is deemed competent by the Court, they cannot be made to engage in the process. An older, emotionally mature, and sound-minded child is likely to be deemed competent.

If you or your child refuse the assessments, the Local Authority may apply to the Court for an Emergency Protection Order or an Interim Care Order, on the grounds that refusal to obey the Child Assessment Order is evidence of the likely harm to the child.  If you do not obey the Child Assessment Order, the Local Authority are likely to be even more concerned and take further steps to ensure that the proposed assessment is carried out.

Please see the below linked articles which detail Emergency Protection Orders and Care Orders.

EPO - Article

Care Order Article

Solicitors at Johnson Astills can assist you if the Local Authority intends to apply for a Child Assessment Order.

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 email us on, a member of our team will be happy to assist you.