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Can an Interim Care Order last beyond a child's 17th birthday?

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Our Care team at Emery Johnson Astills can assist on a range of Child Law related matters. Whether that is representation at case conferences and/or at Court. We have specialist solicitors who can assist you.

In relation to the question posted, the law on this area is contained in the Children Act 1989 and has been split into two sections. Interim Care Orders are dealt under section 38 Children Act 1989 and Full Care Orders are dealt under section 31 of the Act. However, you will find that the legislation overlaps in this area.

A child is anyone who has not reached their eighteenth birthday and the rights of children are contained in the Children Act 1989 as well as the European Convention on Human Rights and United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (just to name a few).

An Interim Care Order is a temporary Order granted by the Court and is governed by section 38(1) Children Act 1989. Under section 38(2) of the Act the Court cannot make an Interim Care Order unless it is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the circumstances in relation to the child have been met and these are stated in section 31(2) of the Act.

Under section 31(2) the Court can only make an Order if it is satisfied (a) that the child concerned is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm and; (b) the harm, or likelihood of harm is attributable to (i) the care given to the child, or likely to be given to him if the Order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give him or, (ii) the child is beyond parental control. If granted, the child may be placed with another family member or in foster care for a temporary period while the Local Authority carry out further assessments to determine who is best placed to care for the child in the long term, if it is not considered safe for the child to remain in their parent’s care. It is important to remember that an Interim Care Order is only supposed to be a short-term measure and this is further emphasised in the Act under section 38(4) and will cease to have effect if for example a Full Care Order is granted by the Court at the conclusion of Care Proceedings (section 38(4)(d)).

So how does this help us answer the question posed. We have to look at Section 31 of the Act and more specifically section 31(3) which states that no Care Order (or Supervision Order, which is less draconian than a Care Order and does not confer Parental Responsibility for the child on the Local Authority) may be made with respect to a child who has reached the age of seventeen (or sixteen in the case of a child who is married).

So does section 31(3) apply to an Interim Care Order? The answer is yes and section 31(11) of the Act helps us with this. Section 31(11) confirms that a Care Order includes an Interim Care Order made under section 38. This means the Court cannot make an Interim Care Order that lasts beyond the child’s seventeenth birthday. This is further supported in case law: Re Q (A Child: Interim Care Order) [2019] EWHC 512 (Fam) at paragraph 28 of the judgement. Please follow the link below to view the full judgment:

We hope you have found this article useful and should you require legal representation in relation to Child Law matters, please do not hesitate to call our Care Team at Emery Johnson Astills on 0116 255 4855 (Leicester) or 01509 610 312 (Loughborough) or email us at