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What is a Section 7 Report?

View profile for Laura Cotton
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A Section 7 report is a report prepared by CAFCASS or a social worker from the Local Authority (Social Services) in cases where an application has been made to the Court under Section 8 of The Children Act 1989.

A Section 7 report may be required in cases where an application has been made to the Court for an Order under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989, in respect of which the parents cannot agree.  Section 8 of the Children Act 1989 covers applications for Orders such as:

  • a Child Arrangements Order, which can specify with whom the child is to live and/or the arrangements for the child to spend time with the parent (or other relative) with whom they are not living;;
  • a Prohibited Steps Order, which can prevent either parent from doing certain things or making specific trips with their children without the express permission of the other parent or Order of the Court, for example a prohibition (ban) from removing the children out of the country;
  • a Specific Issue Order, which is an order to determine a specific question which has or may arise in connection with any aspect in relation to a child, for example which school a child shall attend, or any issues in relation to change of a child’s surname;

A Section 7 Report may be ordered by the Court when the parents cannot agree matters in respect of children and the Court requires further information about a child’s welfare, what is best for the child and sometimes where there are certain risk factors or concerns raised in relation to a child, parent or other relative. A CAFCASS officer or social worker will provide an independent assessment of  the situation and will report these findings to the Court, whilst making recommendations as to what the best arrangements for the child are. The Court usually stipulates what they want the worker to focus on in their report.

What will a Section 7 Report contain?

A Section 7 report must contain all relevant background information in relation to the parents and the child, key facts and evidence that the needs of the child have been considered in accordance with the Welfare Checklist. The report will also consider the child’s wishes and feelings, dependent upon their age and whether they are able to express these clearly, and what the  author of the report considers to be in the best interests of the child.

The welfare of the child will always be considered to be the Court’s paramount (most important) consideration.

The person who prepares the report may speak to the child (depending on their age and understanding) about their wishes and feelings and what they would like to happen. They will also spend time with both parties and listen to any concerns they may have. They may also speak to other people such as family members, teachers and health workers. They will not ask the child to make a decision or to choose between  the parents as to who they should live with and any contact they will have with the non-resident parent.  

What is the Welfare Checklist?

When deciding matters in respect of the children, a Court needs to take into account the welfare checklist:

(a)        the ascertainable wishes and feeling of the child concerned (considered in the light of the child’s age and understanding);

(b)        the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs;

(c)        the likely effect on the child of any change in his/her circumstances;

(d)        the child’s age, sex, background, and any other characteristic which the court considers relevant;

(e)        any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering;

(f)        how capable each of the child’s parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting the child’s needs;

(g)        the range of powers available to the court under the Children Act in the proceedings in question.

I’m not happy with the Section 7 report, what can I do?

If you do not agree with the report it is important that you let the Court know your concerns, including in relation to what you consider to be any factual inaccuracies in the report and any disagreement you have in respect of the recommendations contained within the report. The judge will consider your concerns when making a decision.

Who makes the final decision?

After reading the report and listening to what you and other people in the case have said, the Court will make the final decision about what should happen to your children, if an agreement cannot be reached between parents. The Court will make the decision based on what is best for the child. It will take into account their wishes and feelings but the order may not be in accordance with the child’s wishes and feelings if this is not considered to be in their best interests. The decision will be set out in a Court Order which you must comply with.

Contact the Family Department at Johnson Astills for more information, advice and assistance about cases concerning children and assistance in relation to any reports received.