These enquiries refer to section 47 of the Children Act 1989. Section 47 of the Act covers a Local Authority’s, or Social Services, duty to carry out an investigation or assessment when they are informed that a child, who lives in their area, meets one or more of the following criteria:
- The child is the subject of an Emergency Protection Order
- The child is in police protection
- The child is suffering, or likely to suffer significant harm
Section 47 enquiries must be completed by the Local Authority within 45 days of the initial referral; the assessment will be completed by a qualified social worker. In order to complete the assessment the social worker will need to liaise with and obtain reports from professionals involved with the child, such as health visitors, doctors, the child’s school and police. The social worker will also need to talk with the parents or caregivers of the child and have direct access to the child as part of the Section 47 enquiry.
The purpose Section 47 enquiries are for the Local Authority to determine whether they need to take further action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare. The outcome of a Section 47 enquiry will either find that the concerns raised with the Local Authority are substantiated or not substantiated. If the outcome is that the concerns are not substantiated, it means that the child is found to be sufficiently safeguarded, and that there is no need to continue following Child Protection procedures. It should be noted though that the Local Authority may deem it necessary to provide further help and support to the child and/or caregivers under a Child In Need plan.
If the outcome of the Section 47 enquiry is that the concerns raised with the Local Authority are substantiated, it means that they have found that a child is not sufficiently safeguarded and is at risk of significant harm; such as neglect, physical harm, emotional harm and/or sexual harm. If this is the case then the Local Authority will need to decide how to proceed in order to ensure the child is appropriately safeguarded.
In instances where the risk of harm is particularly great or the child is in immediate danger, the Local Authority can make the decision to start Court proceedings by making an application for an Emergency Protection Order, a Child Assessment Order, an Interim Care Order or an Interim Supervision Order concerning the child. Examples of what may lead to this decision include the social worker being denied access to the child as part of the Section 47 assessment or the parents/ caregivers actively withholding information, as well as the obvious examples where the child may have suffered a significant non-accidental injury.
If, at the conclusion of the Section 47 enquiry, it is deemed not necessary for an application to be made to the Court, but there are still concerns regarding the safeguarding of the child and their welfare, then an Initial Child Protection Conference will be arranged. Parents and professionals involved with the child will be invited to attend the conference, which is chaired by an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO). During the meeting the issues raised from the Section 47 enquiries will be discussed by professionals and parents, at the conclusion of the meeting a decision will be made as to whether or not the child will be made subject to a Child Protection plan.
For more information regarding Child protection plans click here
If Social Services are involved with your family and you would like some more advice, contact Emery Johnson Astills on 0116 255 4855 and ask to speak to a member of the Care Team who will be able to help you.