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What is Threshold Criteria in Case Proceedings?

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The Threshold Criteria are the facts that the Local Authority must prove if they want the Court to make a Care or Supervision Order. The Threshold Criteria is found under Section 31 of the Children Act 1989.

In order to justify making a care or supervision Order, the Court has a 2 stage test that must be satisfied;

Stage one:

The Threshold Stage – there must be sufficient reasons to justify making a care or supervision Order. This can only be passed if the Court agrees that:

  • Things have happened which have already caused significant harm to a child
  • There is a serious risk that significant harm will be suffered in the future
  • The child is beyond parental control

Significant harm is caused by either what the parents are doing or failing to do for their children or because the child is beyond parental control. Harm is defined in the Children Act as ill treatment, impairment of physical or mental health (including that suffered from seeing or hearing another person suffer ill treatment) and the impairment of physical intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development. Ill treatment includes sexual abuse, neglect, emotional abuse and psychological abuse.

When considering whether the harm suffered is significant, the child’s health and development must be compared with that which is reasonably expected of a similar chid. Significant has been defined in case law to mean enough to justify intervention by the state.  

Stage two:

The Welfare Stage – it must be in the child’s best interest for the Court to make an Order.

When a Court is considering making one of these orders it must regard:

  • The wishes and feelings of the child (considering their age and understanding)
  • Their physical, emotional and/or educational needs
  • The likely effect on them of any change in circumstances
  • Their age, sex, background (any other characteristics the Court considers relevant)
  • Any harm which they have suffered or are at risk of suffering
  • How capable each of their parents or any other relevant person is of meeting the child’s needs.

There is a duty placed on the Local Authority to show that the Threshold Criteria are met. If the threshold cannot be passed then an Order cannot be made.


Here at Johnson Astills, we have extensive experience in advising and assisting parents at all stages of involvement with the Local Authority including Child Protection Conferences, Pre-Proceedings meetings and during Care Proceedings.

Should you require representation at Court or need advice at the stage of conferences then please contact Johnson Astills at either our Leicester Office on 0116 2554855 or our Loughborough Office on 01509610312 and ask for a member of the Care Team so that we can advise you accordingly. Alternatively please email us on and a member of our team will be happy to assist you.