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Child Protection Information (England and Wales)

Child Protection Information (England and Wales)  
Some pages/links included on the Fassit UK site are in PDF format. Download the Free Acrobat Reader

IMPORTANT: With effect from 6 April 2011.

The Family Procedure Rules 2010 will come into force for all family proceedings, including adoption proceedings.

The provisions of the Family Procedure (Adoption) Rules 2005 will be included in the new Rules. You can preview the new Family Procedure Rules and the Practice Directions supplementing them prior to 6 April 2011 by using the following link. Rules and Practice Directions Preview Please note that all applications made on or after 6 April 2011 must be made in accordance with the Family Procedure Rules 2010.


This information explains your legal position if social services are concerned about your child’s welfare and are considering child protection proceedings. Written mainly for parents and carers, but the information in it is also for other people, including other family members, who are involved in the welfare of a child and may become involved in child protection proceedings. For specialist legal advice we recommend you seek the professional assistance of a experienced Solicitor.
Finding a Solicitor

Child Protection Advice

1.Gov/LA Guidelines on Child Protection »
2.Child Protection Enquiry »
3.Initial Assessment »
4.Emergency Protection Procedures »
5.Section 47 Enquiry »
6.Core Assessment »
7.Child Protection Conference »
8.The Child Protection Register »
9.How to appeal - Child Protection Register »


1. Government/Local Authority Guidelines on Child Protection

NOTE: Changes to legislation: There are outstanding changes not yet made by the legislation.gov.uk editorial team to Children Act 1989.

In England and Wales Child Protection is the overall responsibility of the Department of Education and Skills (DFES).

Their contact details are:-

Department for Education and Skills
Sanctuary Buildings
Great Smith Street
London
SW1P 3BT
E –Mail: info@dfes.gsi.gov.uk 
Tel: 0870 000 2288

The DFES issue guidance to local authorities about Child Protection which must be followed. This is called statutory guidance. You can view or print information on this guidance at:
http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk

The DFES also issue non statutory guidance to local authorities. These are procedures they suggest the local authorities follow.

Local authorities use the above guidelines by the DFES to produce their own procedures. You can ask your local authority for a copy of their guidelines. You are legally entitled to this information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

The framework used for child protection procedures is “Framework for the assessment of children in need and their families - You can also print off all the guidance notes, questionnaires, scales, forms used by social workers, etc at Department of Health

The laws used for child protection are:-
The Children Act 1989 - Link
The Children Act 2004 - Link 



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2. Child Protection Enquiry

The local authority have a duty to make enquiries about a child’s protection when they have reasonable - or often very unreasonable - cause to suspect that a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm. This is called a Child Protection Enquiry.

"Harm" is defined as ""ill-treatment or the impairment of health, or development" and includes "seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another". Government guidance divides the concept of harm into four categories - physical, emotional, sexual and neglect. A child may be classed as suffering significant harm if he/she witnesses any violence or conflict at home. Social services can legally remove children just because the parents are arguing under the category of emotional abuse.

Social services will contact professional agencies involved with the family such as doctor, health visitor, head teacher. They are allowed to do this without the parents consent. A social worker will interview the family and the child involved. They are allowed to interview the child alone if the child is old enough, but we would recommend parents ask for an independent person/family member to be in attendance with the child, or for the meeting to be tape recorded, as what is written in reports for court and placed before the judge is often not a true representation of what was actually said. Parents have to give their permission for the child to be videoed, or for the child to have a medical examination, but if the parents refuse then social services can get a court order to allow this.

Social services have 24 hours to decide what action to take. If they decide a child is “at risk” then they must carry out an initial assessment. This must be completed within 7 days.




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3. Initial Assessment

When social services consider your children at harm, but not an emergency they must start enquiries and follow guidance laid down in the "Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families" (Department of Health 2000). The assessment will look at what your child’s needs are and if you as a parent can meet them, also if your child is safe. Are you able to look after your child's health and development, and if action is needed to protect or promote your child's welfare. (If they are planning to take your child from you, this report will be as damning as possible. It could contain exaggerations or downright lies, as has happened to many parents in this position. You must challenge this at your first court hearing).

Guidelines state that the local authority must help you play a full role as possible in decisions about your child. (In reality they keep parents in the dark as much as possible if they are looking to start care proceedings. Be very careful what you say to them. They have been known to take what you say out of context so it sounds bad. They will use anything you say against you in court. They might say they are helping you, but if they want your child taken, they will only be gathering as much information as possible against you).

If the initial assessment concludes that your child has not suffered actual, or is at risk to suffer actual harm then they may take no further action. If it finds your child is not in need of protection but "in need of support services”, the parent will be asked whether they agree to a core assessment being carried out. (We would advise do not accept, unless there will be consequences in not doing so. Go to your family or friends for help, or if possible pay yourself for some decent respite, with someone you trust. Don't forget if involved with social services they can so easily take your children).

If the child is judged to be at risk, or have suffering harm then they will hold a strategy discussion. This is where professionals from the relevant agencies, including the police will meet to share information. They will decide what information (if any) about the strategy discussion will be shared with the family. Obviously, the family are not invited to this discussion. They will also decide whether or not to initiate a section 47 enquiry.

Government guidance specifies the following, which are often totally ignored by social workers:- it acknowledges the impact of the enquiry process on the family can be devastating and therefore needs to be handled sensitively.

Social services are required to be open and honest with you (yeah right!) and to share all relevant information with you unless this will place your child at risk. Any information to be withheld should be decided by the strategy meeting.

they must conduct enquiries in a way which allows for future constructive working relationships with you.




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4. Emergency Protection Procedures

If there is concern that a child is in immediate danger then the local authority and also the police can take action. They can ask the person they think is endangering the child to leave the home and keep away from the child. They may suggest putting your child in voluntary care (Never agree to this. It is very hard to get a child back from voluntary care. Parents can be later threatened with Emergency Protection Orders if you try and bring your child back home). The local authority or police can remove the child to a place of safety or prevent their removal from a safe place such as a hospital. The child may be taken into police protection for a maximum of 72 hours (3 days), without first obtaining a court order. The local authority will make accommodation arrangements for the child, such as placement with foster carers. They have a legal duty to see if there any suitable family members first that the child can be placed with.

The local authority can then apply for an Emergency Protection Order. This allows a child to be removed from home for up to 8 days. Another option would be an exclusion order which would ban the alleged abuser from the family home allowing the child to stay with the non-abusive parent.




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5. Section 47 Enquiry

Section 47 relates to Section 47 of the Children’s Act 1989. You can view section 47 of the Children’s Act 1989 at:
Children Act 1989 Sec 47



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6. Core Assessment

This will be to identify your child's needs, to access your capacity to respond to those needs within the wider family context and to determine what services would be appropriate to meet them so as to bring about the best outcome for the child. Government Guidance divides the assessment into three main sections: the child's developmental needs, family and environmental factors and parenting capacity. Support from other agencies such as housing or education should be considered if this is appropriate. As per government guidance you should be kept fully involved in the assessment process, keeping you up-to date with what is happening verbally and in writing.
Once completed you should be involved in drawing up a plan of action about what services will be required for your child (if, they have sufficient funds for it). They may also suggest family group conferences (FGC's) for taking forward such plans.

The core assessment should be completed within a maximum of 35 working days from its commencement.

If the child is deemed to be at risk of continuing significant harm then a child protection conference will be held.




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7. Child Protection Conference

A child protection conference is a meeting organised by social services and can Conferences can take place before a child is even born, for instance if there is a history of child abuse from the parents, or if the mother is substance dependent.

The Child Protection Conference is attended by the family and all professionals involved with your child, e.g. social workers, doctor, health visitor, teacher, paediatrician. There will be a member from the child protection services there. Also a police officer to advise if there has been any police involvement, even if there hasn't been. You can take a friend, family member for support and you may take your solicitor but he/she cannot speak. They can only observe and take notes. Make sure you take a legal representative. The conference will usually be held at the social services offices. (It can be quite daunting so get prepared as best as possible).

You cannot take a dictaphone in to the meeting, but you should make notes yourself as to what has been said. Also, make sure you read thoroughly through all the minutes of the meeting afterwards as it is our collective experience that what is said is often recorded out of context or completely missed out. If this happens write to the chairperson of the meeting (social services will give you this information), and ask them to be changed. Give a copy of your letter to your solicitor. This is important because the minutes of this meeting will be given into the judge if care proceedings are instigated.

The aim of the conference is for everyone to share information about your child's circumstances, and if your child is at risk, come up with plans to protect your child and look after their welfare. Social services should include a written report that you should have seen in advance of the meeting. Other professionals may have done reports also. The conference must be held within 15 days of the strategy discussion. The conference will often be chaired by a child protection officer.

The conference will decide whether or not your child's name needs placing on the child protection register by deciding if your child has suffered ill treatment or other impairment of health or development as a result of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect, and that professional judgement is that further ill-treatment or impairment are likely, or professional judgement substantiated by findings of the enquiries if that your child is likely to suffer the above.


If the decision is made to register your child's name, an outline child protection plan must be set out. This will be developed into a full plan after the conference. The outline plan should contain the risks to your child, the aims and objectives about how your child will be protected and his/her welfare promoted and lastly it should clarify who will have responsibility for which actions and within what timescales. Your child will have a key social worker allocated to them. They are responsible for ensuring that the plan is implemented and developed properly, and following core group meetings are convened.

It may be decided at the child protection meeting that care proceedings are necessary (see Fassit Section on Advice - Care proceedings England & Wales).




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8. The Child Protection Register

Each local authority keeps its own child protection register. It is a list of children in the area who are at continued risk of significant harm.


If a decision is made to place your child on the child protection register then a review conference must be held after three months, and then every six months thereafter for as long as the child’s name remains on the register. Review meetings are usually chaired by a child protection officer. The Key social worker, and other professionals involved will be invited to come. You can take a friend or relative for support. You may take your solicitor but he/she can only observe and take notes. These meetings are usually held at the social services offices. They will look at how the plan is progressing and any changes that need to be made. If they feel your child is now not at risk of harm they can remove their name from the child protection register (de-registration).



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9. How to appeal registration on the Child Protection Register

You have to put your reasons in writing to the chairperson of the Child Protection Sub-Committee within 28 days of the conference.

What will happen to the appeal?
The chairperson of the Child Protection Sub-Committee will let you know if your appeal can be heard. If so, an appeals panel will be set up.

What is an appeals panel?
An appeals panel is made up of at least three people who have not been involved in your case. Panel members are nominated by local child protection agencies, but the panel is chaired by someone independent.


The panel will read all the relevant files and reports and will interview people involved. The appeals panel report and recommendations will be completed within 28 days of the panel’s appointment. The report is then given to the chairperson of the Child Protection Sub-Committee.
What will an appeals panel do?

The panel will recommend that a registration decision should be looked at again if:

there were serious faults in the way procedures were used in the case.

relevant information was not taken into account

irrelevant information influenced the decision.

anyone involved in the conference decision had a personal interest or were seen to be biased.


the decision was against the weight of evidence.

no reasonable conference would have arrived at the decision that was reached.


Decisions & actions
The chairperson of the Child Protection Sub-Committee will make a decision based on the appeals panel recommendation and will let you know what will happen as a result.

If the chairperson agrees that the registration decision should be looked at again, a child protection conference will be held as a matter of urgency.

Where possible, different staff will be asked to attend the conference.

This new conference will consider the appeals panel’s recommendation and the views of all agencies who know you and your child. They will then decide whether child protection registration is appropriate or not.
More information on the appeals proceedure



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