Child protection

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Your Local Authority has duties under sections 17 and 47 of the Children’s Act 1989 to carry out investigations where they consider a child to be in need or at risk. A referral can be made to social services by a parent, professional or member of the public who feels that a child’s needs are not being met. Some examples of this might be in circumstances where a parent refers because they are struggling to accommodate the special needs of their child, or where the police refer due to allegations of domestic violence between the parents of a child. 

You will have no legal right to be represented during this stage and you are unlikely to be eligible for legal aid. It can be a very nerve-wracking experience for parents who have not made their own referral and it may be that you wish to seek privately paid legal representation. However, as the Local Authority has the power to carry out these investigations under the Children’s Act, it is likely that any advice that could be given would be extremely limited. 

Once a referral has been made, the Local Authority will carry out an initial assessment of the child’s needs and any risk of significant harm. Significant harm is assessed under four categories: neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse or sexual abuse. 

After these initial enquires, a number of things can happen: 

1)     No further action may be necessary. 

2)     The Local Authority may assess the child as a “child in need”. They will then hold a child in need planning meeting within 15 days to produce what is known as a child in need plan. Through this plan, the Local Authority will provide such assistance as is necessary, for example parenting courses, financial assistance or special educational measures. 

The Local Authority will need to hold further planning meetings every 12 weeks in order to update the plan. 

3)     A strategy discussion may be convened. At this stage, the social worker will gather information from the child, parents, family members and other professionals and if there is evidence to suggest that the is a risk of significant harm to the child then further investigations will be carried out under section 47 of the Children’s Act 1989. 

4)     A section 47 enquiry will involve assessments of the child’s welfare and safety needs. If the findings are that the child is at risk of significant harm then there will be a child protection conference.  

5)     The Child Protection Conference must happen within 15 days of the strategy discussion. Everyone involved (i.e. social services, the school, health visitor, GP and the parents) identify what needs to be done to protect the child and a child protection plan is drawn up which sets out: 

  • how social services will check on the child’s welfare 
  • what changes are needed to reduce the risk to the child 
  • what support will be offered to the family. 

There will be a further child protection meeting after 3 months, and then at least one meeting every 6 months. 

Contact us today without obligation. Call 01803 213251 or complete the enquiry form.  

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