Child protection procedures
Emergency protection order (EPO)
An emergency protection order is an order from the court that allows the child to be removed from home if the child is in imminent danger, and grants parental responsibility to the local authority. The court must be satisfied that there are extremely persuasive reasons to make the order. An emergency protection order lasts up to eight days, but can be extended once, for a maximum of seven days.
Police Powers of Protection
Police powers of protection can used without reference to a court, and is only used in emergency situations where a delay in an EPO may put a child at risk.
Strategy discussions and meetings
When there are concerns that a child may be at risk of significant harm, CSC will talk to partner agencies about the child. CSC – together with the Police Child Abuse Investigation team – will decide if the threshold for a child protection investigation (see Section 47 below) has been met. If it has, they will also decide who should carry out the investigation – CSC and the police (joint agency) or the police alone (single agency). This may be done at a meeting or as telephone conversations, depending on the nature and urgency of the enquiries.
Section 47 investigations
A Section 47 enquiry means that CSC must carry out an investigation when they have ‘reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found, in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm’1. The enquiry will involve an assessment of the child’s needs and the ability of those caring for the child to meet them. The aim is to decide whether any action should be taken to safeguard the child. The child’s parents/carers will be interviewed, as well as the child (unless the child is too young). The assessment will also include information from the child’s school, doctor and other professionals.
All agencies have a responsibility to inform CSC and to share information with other agencies if they are concerned that a child is in need or at risk of harm. Good practice shows that they should always discuss this with the parents/carers and the child, if they have sufficient understanding. However, if you are concerned that this could increase risk to the child, you should share their information and get advice from CSC services. You may need to pass on information without the consent of the family if you think it is necessary to protect the child.
This means that if you and your agency:
- have concerns about a child’s safety, you must make a referral to CSC
- are asked, by the police or CSC – as part of a Section 47 investigation – for information about a child or their family, you must reveal all relevant information.
You and your agency may also take part in the child protection processes (conferences and meetings) as a source of protection and information for a child on a protection plan.
Initial child protection conference
CSC may decide to hold an initial child protection conference if the Section 47 investigation decides that the child ‘has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm’. This is a multi-agency meeting chaired by an independent, qualified and experienced social worker of manager grade.
The purpose of the conference is to:
- share information
- assess if the child is likely to suffer significant harm, which category of harm, and whether the harm is due to the care they are receiving
- decide if the child needs a child protection plan
- devise an outline multi-agency protection plan
- identify an allocated worker from within CSC and a core group of professionals from other agencies to work with the family to make detailed plans and to implement the plan.
The child’s parents will always be invited to attend, unless there is real risk of harm to those attending the conference. The child or young person should always be invited unless there are specific reasons not to, such as a risk of violence.
If you are invited to attend you need to prepare a verbal and written report on your involvement, if asked. This report should focus on the child, and identify the family’s strengths, difficulties and the areas of concern. It should be shared with the child and family before the conference. You will be asked for your views on the need for a protection plan, and your comments will be recorded if they disagree with the view of the conference. Everyone present should receive minutes of the meeting. This is a confidential document and must be stored securely.
The core group
A core group is a ‘virtual team’ of key professionals and family members. They are responsible for developing the day-to-day details of the care plan produced by the conference, putting the plan into practice, allocating tasks as appropriate and reporting back to the next conference on progress made. They must meet within 10 days of the initial conference and at least every eight weeks after that. Core group meetings usually take place in the family home, children’s centre or the school, and all present should receive a record of the meeting. The meetings may include professionals from adult/other services, family members and the child if they have sufficient understanding.
Review child protection case conferences
Review child protection case conferences assess progress on the protection plan and may decide that there has been enough progress and a protection plan is no longer needed. The first review is held within three months of the initial conference and at least every six months after that. It is vital that you continue to attend these meetings as an involved professional, to ensure multi-agency decision-making.
Ending a child protection plan
If CSC decide to end a child protection plan, they may still want to continue to offer services to the child and their family. In this case the child would need a Child in Need plan. These plans also involve agencies working together and are regularly reviewed. There is no statutory timeframe but best practice suggests a review every six months.
Ending children’s social care involvement
Sufficient progress on a child protection plan may mean that there is no longer a role for CSC. In this case CSC should inform partner agencies in writing. Partner agencies may continue to be involved and offer services using the Team Around the Child/Family process described below.
What to do if you are worried a child in being abused
You should always share any concerns you have about risk to children or young people with CSC services and/or the local police child protection team. It is important to discuss your concerns with colleagues, supervisors and the lead person for child protection within your agency. Make sure you know your agency’s child protection procedures and your role in protecting children. There are a number of helpful websites that tell you what to do as a professional if you are worried a child maybe being abused. Local authority and CSC services have procedures in place to allow you to voice your concerns if you feel that CSC should begin an assessment and have not already done so.
It is your responsibility if you are the referrer to ensure your concerns are raised and that you are given the reasons for the decisions made. All organisations should have a safeguarding lead, where you will be able to discuss your concerns and the actions that may be needed.
Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs)
Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) are organisations that bring together senior representatives from health, education, social care, police, probation and the voluntary sector. They meet regularly to ensure that agencies are working together to safeguard children and promote their welfare. Adult health and social care services are vital partners in LSCBs.
All LSCBs will have a website – as will the local authority – so that you can find the details you need on referral routes, thresholds/eligibility criteria and service provision in your area.