1.4 The Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry)
Flow chart 1: Action taken when a child is referred to local authority children's social care services
Flow chart 2: Immediate protection
Flow chart 3: Action taken for an assessment of a child under the Children Act 1989
Flow chart 4: Action following a strategy discussion
This chapter was amended in June 2014 with regards to reflect the single assessment process.
- Purpose of the Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry)
- Duty to conduct Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiries)
- Cross Boundary Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiries)
- Obligations and Responsibilities of all Agencies
- Integration with the Assessment Framework
- Threshold for Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry)
- Information Sharing with the Police
- Immediate Protection
- Police Protection Powers (PPP)
- Strategy Discussions/Meetings
- Participants to Strategy Discussions/Meetings
- Timing of Strategy Discussion/Meetings
- Location of Strategy Discussion/Meetings
- Record of Strategy Discussion/Meetings
- Criminal Investigations - Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit
- Single or Joint Agency Enquiries
- Medical Assessments
- Video Interviewing
- Interview with Alleged Abusers
- Completion of the Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry)
- Recording of the Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry)
|Timescale: The Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) must be undertaken within a maximum of 15 working days of the latest Strategy Discussion/Meeting. The urgency of the situation, however, may dictate that the timescale is shorter.|
Local authority social workers are responsible for deciding what action to take and how to proceed following Section 47 Enquiries. The outcome of a Section 47 Enquiry must be endorsed by the team manager.
A Section 47 Enquiry may conclude that the original concerns are:
- Not substantiated; although consideration should be given to whether the child may need services as a Child in Need;
- Substantiated and the child is judged to be suffering, or likely to suffer, Significant Harm and an Initial Child Protection Conference should be called.
1.1 Concerns not substantiated
Social workers with their managers should:
- Discuss the case with the child, parents and other professionals;
- Determine whether support from any services may be helpful and help secure it; and
- Consider whether the child's health and development should be re-assessed regularly against specific objectives and decide who has responsibility for doing this.
All involved professionals should:
- Participate in further discussions as necessary;
- Contribute to the development of a Child in Need Plan;
- Provide services as specified in the Child in Need Plan for the child; and
- Review the impact of services delivered as agreed in the Child in Need Plan.
Outcomes may be:
- No Further Action
Enquiries have revealed that there are no causes for concern. The child may be a Child in Need but the family do not wish for services to be provided, in which case the case will be closed;
- Family Support to be provided
Enquiries have revealed that there are no causes for concern but that there are needs that could be met by the short term provision of services either under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 or by signposting the family to another agency. The family are willing for a short-term package of support to be provided, or continue to be provided.
Where services are to be provided under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, the social worker/team manager should convene a Child in Need Planning Meeting within 7 working days to agree a Child in Need Plan - see Inter-Authority Protocol for Children in Need and Children Subject to a Child Protection Plan.
Children’s Social Care Services have the statutory duty to make, or cause to be made, enquiries when the circumstances defined in Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 exist.
The responsibility for undertaking Section 47 Enquiries (Child Protection Enquiry) lies with the local authority in which the child lives or is found.
It is always the responsibility of the local authority where the child lives to carry out the Section 47 Enquiry. The authority in which the child is living (host) must inform the placing authority (home) if different. The home authority should be involved in Strategy Discussions/Meetings. The home authority may agree to undertake the necessary enquiries on behalf of the host authority. This is likely to be appropriate in the case of a Looked After Child (see Inter-Authority Protocol for Children in Need Procedure.
The ‘home authority’ should be informed as soon as possible and may be involved in Strategy Discussion/Meetings. The home authority should take responsibility for further support of the child or family (see Inter-Authority Protocol for further information about children and families who move or are moved across boundaries).
The Children Act 1989 places a statutory duty on health, education and other services, to help the local authority in carrying out its social services functions under Part III of the Children Act 1989 and Section 47 Enquiries.
All agencies have a duty to assist and provide information in support of Section 47 Enquiries.
The Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families provides a structured framework for collecting, drawing together and analysing available information about a child and family within the following three domains:
- Child’s developmental needs;
- Parenting capacity and family;
- Environmental factors.
Whenever the threshold criteria are met Section 47 Enquiries should be initiated. This will usually follow an Assessment (which may be very brief), but may be justified
- At the point of referral;
- During the early consideration of a Referral;
- During the Assessment; or
- At any time in an open case when the threshold criteria are satisfied.
The Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) should begin by focusing primarily on the information identified during the referral and Assessment, which appears most important in relation likelihood of Significant Harm.
The Assessment should cover all relevant dimensions in the Assessment Framework, including the systematic gathering of information about the history of the child, family and household members, including any previous specialist assessments.
On being notified of a referral, Children’s Social Care has a duty to decide within 24 hours whether an Assessment is required.
Where a decision is reached by Children’s Social Care that the threshold for Section 47 (Child Protection) Enquiries has been reached, the Police must be notified as soon as possible and in any event within 24 hours.
Where the Police receive information that amounts to an allegation of suspicion of child abuse, Children’s Social Care must be advised as soon as possible and in any event within 24 hours.
A child’s status, whether In Need or ‘at risk of Significant Harm’ must be ascribed in a flexible manner, which recognises the possibility of change and a consequent need to re-ascribe that status.
An Assessment should be undertaken if at any point the threshold for Section 47 Enquiries (Child Protection Enquiries) is met, and the procedures outlined in this chapter should additionally be followed.
Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) will almost certainly be indicated where the following apply:
- A clear allegation of sexual abuse;
- Any injury, however minor, to a non mobile baby or child;
- Alleged or suspected serious physical injury;
- There is a repeat of non-accidental injury;
- Suspicion of factitious illness by proxy, whether the presentation is medical, psychological or educational;
- Neglect is serious, and standards of living for adults are markedly better than for the child;
- Repeat of neglect after family support services have been given previously;
- Injury/treatment is sadistic/brutal (i.e. pain/distress caused deliberately and giving the adult satisfaction);
- Where children are the subject of parental delusions, or are targets for parental aggression, rejection or neglect for pathological reasons;
- There is no consistent explanation/no admission of what is clearly abuse;
- Domestic violence where the child has been injured, even if inadvertently;
- There is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm in the form of Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Emotional Abuse or Neglect;
- Following an Emergency Protection Order or Police Protection Powers;
- A child breaches curfew criteria in which case the response must be initiated within 48 hours of receipt of the information Section 47 (1)(a)(iii) Children Act 1989 inserted by [Section 15(4) Crime and Disorder Act 1998].
Children’s Social Care Services is the lead agency for child protection enquiries
In making a final decision about whether the threshold for a Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) is met, Children’s Social Care Services should consult with the Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit and other appropriate agencies so that relevant information can be taken into account.
The police must be informed at the earliest opportunity whenever a criminal offence appears to have been committed, or is suspected of having been committed, against a child.
The Police are responsible for undertaking the criminal investigation
A criminal investigation or further police involvement may not be required in every case. Among other factors, the police decision will take account of the best interests of the child/ren.
The Children’s Social Care Services manager has the responsibility, based on available information, to decide and authorise a Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry). In undertaking the necessary assessment of risk, the manager must consider both the probability of the event or concern in question and its actual or likely consequence.
In reaching her/his conclusion as to the justification for a Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry), the manager must consider the following variables:
- Seriousness of the concern/s;
- Repetition or duration of concern/s;
- Vulnerability of child (through age, developmental stage, disability or other pre-disposing factor -e.g. Looked After);
- Source of concern/s;
- Accumulation of sufficient information;
- Context in which the child is living - e.g. a child in the household is already subject to a Child Protection Plan;
- Any predisposing factors in the family that may suggest a higher level of risk e.g. mental health difficulties, substance misuse of parent / carer or domestic violence.
A Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) must always be commenced immediately when there is an indication (disclosure, allegation or evidence) that a child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm. This applies equally to new, re-referred and open cases.
A combination of any of the factors which taken individually would require a Child and Family Assessment, when combined with domestic violence, parental mental illness, excessive drinking, or drug use may justify considering an immediate Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry).
After initial enquiries and consultation between the Police and Children’s Social Care Services it may be agreed that further child protection action by either agency is not necessary as there is insufficient evidence of risk of Significant Harm to the child.
This decision is only acceptable providing it is agreed by the Children’s Social Care Manager and the Detective Sergeant, Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit and the reasons recorded.
The Laming report emphasised the need for Children’s Social Care staff to adhere to the guidance set out in paragraph 5.19 of Working Together to Safeguard Children (2010) (now archived).
This states that:
“Whenever the LA children’s social care have a case referred to them, which constitutes, or may constitute a criminal offence against a child, they should always discuss the case with the police at the earliest opportunity.”
Whenever other agencies, or the LA in its other roles, encounter concerns about a child’s welfare which constitute, or may constitute, a criminal offence against a child, they must always consider sharing that information with local authority children’s social care or the police in order to protect the child or other children from the risk of significant harm. If a decision is taken not to share information, the reasons must be recorded.
Sharing of information in cases of concern about children’s welfare will enable professionals to consider jointly how to proceed in the best interests of the child and to safeguard children more generally.
A police referral must be made whenever an allegation of abuse is made that may also constitute an allegation of crime, irrespective of the decision made by Children’s Social Care Services about Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) thresholds.
Whatever the circumstances information should be shared within one working day.
The Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit manager will decide whether to investigate, following obligatory checks and information sharing.
Where it is decided that it is in the best interests of the child to proceed with a full criminal investigation, that criminal investigation is the responsibility of the police.
Where there is a risk to the life of a child or the possibility of serious immediate harm, the police officer or social worker must act quickly to secure the immediate safety of the child.
Emergency action may be necessary as soon as the referral is received or at any point during involvement with children, parents or carers. Planned emergency action will normally take place following an immediate strategy discussion between police, Children’s social Care Services, and other agencies as appropriate (including NSPCC where involved).
Where a single agency has to act immediately to protect a child, a Strategy Discussion should take place as soon as possible after such action to plan next steps.
Legal advice should normally be obtained before initiating legal action, in particular when an Emergency Protection Order is to be sought.
Responsibility for immediate action rests with the authority where the child is found, but should be in consultation with any ‘home’ authority.
Immediate protection may be achieved by:
- An alleged abuser agreeing to leave the home;
- The removal of the alleged abuser;
- Voluntary agreement for the child/ren to move to a safer place;
- Application for an Emergency Protection Order (EPO);
- Removal of the child/ren under Police Protection powers;
- Gaining entry to the household under police powers.
The social worker must seek the agreement of her/his manager and obtain legal advice before initiating legal action.
Children’s Social Care Services should only seek the assistance of the police to use their ‘powers of protection’ in exceptional circumstances where there is insufficient time to seek an Emergency Protection Order or other reasons relating to the child’s immediate safety.
The agency taking protective action must always consider whether action is also required to safeguard other children in the same household, in the household of an alleged perpetrator or elsewhere.
Police Protection powers (PPP) should only be used after sharing information as to the most suitable way of protecting a child or where there is an immediate risk to their safety and insufficient time to consult with Children’s Social Care Services.
When Police Powers of Protection are used, an independent officer of at least inspector rank must act as the designated officer. Planned immediate protection will normally take place following a Strategy Discussion with the social worker.
Where the Police have to act immediately to protect a child, a Strategy Discussion should take place, within 1 working day of the emergency action, to plan the next steps.
The Children’s Social Care manager must make any decision that the threshold for a Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) has been met and authorise the instigation of Section 47 Child Protection Enquiries.
The social worker must consult with other agencies involved with the child and family in order to obtain a fuller picture of the circumstances of all children in the household, identifying parenting strengths and any risk factors.
Even when there has been a recent Child and Family Assessment, agencies should be informed that a Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) has been initiated and their views sought.
The social worker must consult her/his manager so that s/he can decide on the basis of available information, whether to seek consent to undertake inter-agency checks from a person with Parental Responsibility.
If the manager decides not to seek permission, s/he must record the reasons and this may include:
- Prejudicial to the child’s welfare;
- Serious concern about the behaviours of the adult;
- Concern that the child would be at risk of further significant harm.
Where permission is sought and denied, the manager must determine whether to proceed, and if so, record the reasons.
The checks should be undertaken directly with involved professionals and not through messages with intermediaries.
The relevant agency should be informed of the reason for the enquiry, whether or not parental consent has been obtained and asked for their assessment of the child in the light of information presented.
Agency checks should include accessing any relevant information that may be held in one or more other countries.
Whenever there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, there should be a Strategy Discussion involving Children’s Social Care Services, the Police, and other bodies as appropriate (for example, children’s centre/school and health), in particular any referring agency.
A Strategy Discussion may take place following a referral, or at any other time (for example, if concerns about Significant Harm emerge in respect of child receiving support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989).
The purpose of the Strategy Discussion/Meeting is to:
- Share available information;
- Decide whether a Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry)/Child and Family Assessment should be initiated (or continued if already commenced);
- Allocate tasks, decide if any immediate protective action is required, by whom and when;
- Assist in the coordination of the criminal investigation.
A Strategy Discussion by telephone will usually be adequate to plan an enquiry, but face to face meetings are likely to be more effective in complex types of maltreatment such as neglect or fabricated illness. Direct communication between more than two agencies is required for meaningful discussion.
Meetings must be held where:
- There are allegations against staff, carers and volunteers or anyone professionally involved with the child (see Allegations of Abuse made Against a Person who Works with, or is in Contact with Children Procedure);
- There is an allegation that a child has abused another child (separate Strategy Meetings should be held for both children - see Children who Display Harmful Sexual Behaviour);
- There are ongoing, cumulative concerns about the child’s welfare and a need to share concerns and agree a course of action;
- There are concerns about the future risk to an unborn child;
- There are allegations from a Looked After child concerning a member of staff/foster carer;
- There are concerns about organised or institutional abuse (see Organised and Complex Abuse Procedure);
- There are concerns about fabricated or induced illness (see Children in whom Illness is Induced or Fabricated Procedure);
- There are concerns about female genital mutilation (see Children and Female Genital Mutilation Procedure)
- There are concerns about child/ren who are being trafficked (see Child Trafficking and Exploitation Procedure);
- There are concerns about forced marriages (see Children and Forced Marriages Procedure);
- There are child/ren subject to Police Protection Powers or Emergency Protection Order.
More than one Strategy Discussion/Meeting may be required.
Where it is decided that there are grounds to initiate a Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry), decisions, in the context of the racial, cultural, religious and linguistic background of the child and her/his family, should be considered. Decisions should be made about:
- Sharing other available information;
- Whether a Child and Family Assessment under section 47 of the Children Act 1989 should be initiated or continued if it has already begun and how the Child and Family Assessment under section 47 will be carried out and what further information is required about the child and family and how it should be obtained and recorded;
- Agreeing the conduct and timing of any criminal investigation
During the Strategy Discussion/Meeting, police officers should discuss the basis of any criminal investigation and any relevant processes that other agencies might need to know about, including the timing and methods of evidence gathering. The officer should identify any actions by agencies which may jeopardise the criminal investigation, such as sharing particular information with a suspected offender. In some criminal investigations it may also be useful to involve other agencies in planning an interview with a child. For further information, see West Midlands Joint Protocol - Child Protection Enquiries and Related Criminal Investigations;
- Further information required and how it should be obtained;
- Who will carry out what actions, by when and for what purpose;
- Agreeing what action is required immediately and in the short term to safeguard the child and/or provide interim services and support;
- The scope of the enquiry, including other children at possible risk;
- Determining what information about the Strategy Discussion/Meeting will be shared with the family, unless such information sharing may place a child at risk of harm or jeopardise a criminal investigation;
- The need for any paediatric or specialist assessment;
- How to meet the best interests of the child in the enquiry, taking account of any additional needs such as that arising from a disability or a need for an interpreter or speech and language therapist;
- When, how and who will undertake interviews with the child/ren and if a video interview will be used. The Strategy Discussion should agree when the child will be seen alone by the Lead Social Worker (unless inappropriate for the child);
- Any further action if consent is refused for interview or medical assessment;
- The needs of other children in contact with the alleged abuser/s, including all other children in the household;
- Whether to interview or refer to anyone else;
- Agreeing what other actions may be needed to protect the child or provide interim services and support, including securing the safe discharge of a child in hospital.
Where a child is in hospital, this should include how to secure the safe discharge of the child;
- What information may be shared, with whom and when, taking into account the possibility of information sharing placing a child at risk of Significant Harm or jeopardising police investigations;
- Any implications for disciplinary action e.g. use of evidence statements;
- Whether legal action is required and seeking legal advice if necessary;
- Coordinating a press strategy, if relevant;
- The need for further Strategy Discussion/Meetings;
- Timescales, agency and individual responsible for agreed actions, including the timing of police investigations and relevant methods of evidence gathering;
- Any need to reconvene the Strategy Discussion and/or meeting during the enquiry if the circumstances are particularly complex or unknown;
- Ensuring consideration is given to a contingency plan to be followed if circumstances change and prompt action is required to safeguard the child;
- The mechanism and date for reviewing the completion of agreed actions i.e. further Strategy Discussion or Strategy Meeting/s in complex cases.
The Strategy Discussion/Meeting should ordinarily be co-ordinated and chaired by the Children’s Social Care Services manager.
The Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit manager must be involved in the initial Strategy Discussion/Meeting if a decision to undertake a criminal investigation is being considered.
The Strategy Discussion / Meeting must generally involve, as a minimum, both Children's Social Care Services manager and the Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit with other agencies included as appropriate, in particular the referring agency, the child's nursery / school, health and (where relevant) registered owner of service and registration authority.
Where issues have significant medical implications, or a paediatric examination has taken place or may be necessary, a paediatrician should always be included.
If the child is receiving services from a hospital or child development team, the discussion should involve the responsible medical consultant and, in the case of in-patient treatment, a senior ward nurse.
The local authority solicitor's involvement may be appropriate.
Consideration should be given to the need to include a professional with expertise in particular cases of complex forms of alleged abuse and Neglect.
Where parents or adults in the household are experiencing problems such as domestic abuse, substance misuse or mental illness, it will also be important to consider involving the relevant adult services professionals.
The Strategy Meeting is essentially a meeting for professionals sufficiently senior to be able to contribute, although exceptional circumstances may arise when a non-professional may usefully contribute.
Strategy Meetings should be convened within 3 working days except in the following circumstances:
- For allegations/concerns indicating a serious risk to the child (e.g. serious physical injury or serious neglect) the Strategy Discussion/Meeting should be held on the same day as the receipt of the referral;
- For allegations of penetrative sexual abuse, the Strategy Discussion/Meeting should be held on the same day as the receipt of the referral if this is required to secure forensic evidence;
- Where the concerns are particularly complex e.g. organised abuse the Strategy Meeting must be held within a maximum of 5 working days, but sooner if there is a need to provide immediate protection to a child.
The plan made at the Strategy Discussion/Meeting should reflect the requirement to convene an Initial Child Protection Conference within 15 working days of the last Strategy Discussion/Meeting.
Usually, the Strategy Meeting should be held at the local Children’s Social Care Offices, but can be convened elsewhere if appropriate.
If the child is an in-patient in hospital, the Strategy Meeting may need be held at the hospital, to maximise input from hospital staff.
It is the responsibility of the chair of the meeting to ensure that the decisions and agreed actions are fully recorded using an appropriate form.
Both agencies must then fully record the content of the Action Plan. A record of the Strategy Discussion/Meeting should be made available for all parties on the relevant agency form.
For telephone discussions, a copy of the notes authorised by the manager should be faxed to all participants. All Strategy Discussion/Meetings should have detailed minutes, which include a clear and auditable process, to ensure that all participants are aware of any risks, actions agreed for managing risks and decisions made.
The Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit officers attending Strategy Meetings or conducting Strategy Discussions will record the decisions and actions agreed on their agencies record forms.
The Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit and other agencies will ensure that any discrepancies between Children's Social Care and their records are resolved at the earliest opportunity.
At the conclusion of the Strategy Discussion/Meeting both agencies will confirm their mutual understanding of what has been agreed and why.
In a criminal investigation, an interview with the child should not be delayed unnecessarily solely for the purposes of a Strategy Discussion, unless it is in the best interests of the child.
Any suspected, alleged or actual crime must be referred to the Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit.
The Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit manager will make a decision, following checks and information sharing, whether to initiate a criminal investigation.
Where the Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit is undertaking a criminal investigation, the police are responsible for all the associated investigative activities, such as, conducting interviews of witnesses and suspects; visiting crime scenes and in conjunction with the social worker arranging medical examinations.
The Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit should through Strategy Discussions and/ or Meetings discuss with those involved, processes relevant to other agencies, in particular timing and methods of information gathering likely to impinge on a Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry).
Some activities will be best undertaken collaboratively between Children's Social Care and police e.g. interviews of child/ren and parents / carers, unless this is prejudicial to the criminal investigation.
In urgent criminal cases (critical incidents) the police may need to act independently of partner agencies, however police will advise the appropriate agencies of the matter as soon as practicable.
Following a full assessment of the available facts the Crown Prosecution Service may decide at any stage e.g. during or following a Strategy Meeting, to terminate a criminal investigation and will inform the Lead Social Worker of the decision.
The Police will ensure that the Lead Social Worker and the family are kept informed of the progress of the criminal investigation and the final decision of the Crown Prosecution Service.
Children’s Social Care Services
In some circumstances, Children’s Social Care Services may decide that the threshold for child protection enquiries is not reached and that any assessment or support to the family should be provided under their duties to provide services to help prevent child abuse and neglect (Section 17 of The Children Act 1989).
Children’s Social Care Services must inform the Police whenever they receive a referral, which may constitute a criminal offence against a child, even when they have decided that they are dealing with the referral as a Section 17.
There may also be occasions when the Children’s Social Care Services notifies the Police that a decision has been reached to commence child protection enquiries, where both agencies agree that Children’s Social Care will make those enquiries as a single agency. The situations where this is likely to apply are:
- Minor physical injury, (except where there is a pattern of injuries occurring or the child is very young);
- Minor Neglect or Emotional Abuse;
- Information concerning sexual abuse or behaviour, not amounting to an allegation but giving rise to child protection concerns.
If, during the course of enquiries evidence of a possible criminal offence emerges the process may develop into a joint enquiry. Social workers will therefore need to be aware of the need to:
- Keep accurate and contemporaneous notes of any interview;
- Assess the child’s willingness and ability to pursue a criminal complaint.
Both agencies may agree that the Police undertake a single agency enquiry in cases of:
- Persons aged 18 years or over making historical allegations;
- Where the perpetrator is not a relative, carer or professionally involved with the child;
- Where the perpetrator is not known to the child.
In all cases where the police undertake a single agency investigation, details of any victim under 18 must be referred to with Children’s Social Care who will assess whether the investigation raises any child protection concerns in relation to the victim.
The enquiry officers must be mindful of the possible ongoing needs of the child and family. A single agency enquiry should not preclude the possibility of referral to Children’s Social Care Services for supportive services.
If during the course of the criminal investigation it emerges that parental deficiencies in the care of a child have significantly contributed to the alleged abuse the process will develop into a joint enquiry. If during the course of a criminal investigation risk to other children is identified the need for a joint enquiry should be discussed with Children’s Social Care Services.
Where there have been initial discussions between both agencies but a decision has been taken to pursue the enquiry on a single agency basis, the arrangements for each agency to feed back to each other should be clarified at the outset.
Joint enquiries will always begin whenever there is an allegation or a reasonable suspicion that one of the criminal offences describe below has been committed against a child. The likelihood or otherwise of a prosecution is NOT the criteria for deciding on a single or joint agency investigation
Joint enquiries will normally take place where the Child and Family Assessment by the Children's Social Care Services indicates that the situation falls into one of the following categories:
- A clear allegation of Sexual Abuse where sexual offences committed against a child under the age of eighteen years of age;
- Sexual Offences committed by young people;
- Alleged or suspected serious physical injury;
- Minor injuries to a child subject to a Child Protection Plan or a Looked After Child;
- Serious cruelty, ill treatment, Neglect, abandonment or exposure to moral danger;
- Concerns/suspicions of Fabricated or Induced Illness, whether the presentation is medical, psychological or educational (see Children in Whom Illness is Fabricated or Induced Procedure);
- Allegations against teachers, local authority staff, health professionals, foster carers and volunteers;
- Organised, complex, or institutional abuse (see Organised and Complex Abuse Procedure);
- Sexual exploitation through child prostitution (see Child Trafficking and Exploitation Procedure);
- Child pornography on the Internet where the offender has ready access to children;
- Children involved in prostitution (see Children Involved in Prostitution Procedure).
Planning Joint Enquiries
Enquiries will always be planned jointly. In urgent situations this will not prevent or delay an emergency response. However, Strategy Discussion/Meetings will remain a priority.
The planning of joint enquiries can either be by Strategy Discussions or a Strategy Meeting.
When a Strategy Meeting is required Children's Social Care Services will assume responsibility for convening, chairing and recording the meeting. The two agencies will meet for Strategy Discussions if the enquiry is complex.
Strategy Discussions on the telephone are appropriate when the referral is straightforward and authority is granted by line managers or the discussion is conducted by line managers.
Both agencies will share information with parents or carers unless this would be detrimental to the safety and welfare of the child or the safe conduct of the enquiry.
The needs and safety of the child will be paramount when determining at what point parents or carers are given information.
The child will not be interviewed in the presence of an alleged/suspected abuser. Other circumstances might include urgent situations where no parent can be contacted, or at the express wish of the child.
When it is decided to interview the child prior to the parents or carers being informed, the reasons for this must be recorded and the decision endorsed by a line manager. The parent or carer will be informed as soon as practicable.
Where permission is refused and there are reasonable grounds to believe that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, Significant Harm, and access is refused, Children’s Social Care Services have a duty to apply for:
- An Emergency Protection Order; or
- A Child Assessment Order; or
- A Care Order; or
- A Supervision Order.
unless it is satisfied that the child’s welfare can be safeguarded without doing so (Section 47(6) Children Act 1989).
This is a professional decision and legal advice must be sought from the Local Authorities solicitor. See also West Midlands Joint Protocol - Child Protection Enquiries and Related Criminal Investigations.
Seeing of the Child
Children should always be seen and communicated with alone by the Lead Social Worker unless it is agreed by the manager that it is inappropriate to do so, in which case who was present and the reasons for their presence must be recorded.
Both the police and Children's Social Care Services will provide an urgent response to the following referrals:
- Severe Neglect;
- Severe physical injury;
- Direct allegation of Sexual Abuse or Physical Abuse and the child is;
- Where a child is frightened to return home.
In all these cases the child will always be seen and spoken to during the course of the Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) on the same day or within 24 hours depending on the circumstances by either the Police or Children’s Social Care Services.
All children subject of joint child protection enquiries will be seen as soon as practicable and within 24 hours in order to assess the child’s safety and welfare.
Agencies will record the reasons for the timescales they apply to these referrals.
All other children in a household subject to a Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) will be seen by either the police or Children’s Social Care Services or both of the agencies to enable an assessment of their safety to be made.
If children in other households are named, similar enquiries will be required.
Where a child is of appropriate age and understanding, s/he should be told what is to happen and their agreement sought. Non-agreement should be respected. If the child is not of sufficient age and understanding, consent must be sought from a parent.
Explanations should be brought up to date as the Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry)/investigation progresses. In no circumstances should the child be left wondering what is happening and why.
Children’s Social Care Services and the Police will ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place to support the child through the enquiry/investigation.
The child will not be interviewed in the presence of an alleged /suspected abuser.
Other than in exceptional circumstances, a child will not be interviewed or medically examined more than is actually necessary.
Throughout the enquiries, parents, carers, children and young people will be involved and informed about the enquiry, its outcome and any subsequent action unless this would jeopardise the welfare of children.
- The child’s wishes and feelings, gender, cultural, racial and religious background will always be considered.
Strategy Discussion/Meetings will consider whether a medical assessment is required. A medical assessment will be conducted after the interview of the child unless there are exceptional circumstances.
Where medical assessments are required for physical injury or serious neglect, the responsibility for arranging the medical will rest with Children’s Social Care Services.
During normal working hours medical assessments should take place at City of Coventry Health Centre or, out of hours, at the Children’s Unit at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW).
When a Forensic examination is required the medical assessments may take place at the Sexual Assault Referral Centre at George Eliot Hospital, City of Coventry Health Centre, or elsewhere depending upon the availability of a suitably trained individual or the urgency of the assessment.
Unless the Strategy Discussion/Meeting has decided otherwise, the Lead Social Worker undertaking the Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) and the enquiry Police Officer will jointly attend the medical assessment. Their roles in helping, supporting and managing the child and their families through this process should have been agreed in the Strategy Discussion.
Where medical assessments are required because sexual abuse is suspected, the Police will discuss and arrange the medical through the Police Surgeon and the Community Paediatrician.
A medical assessment in cases of Sexual Abuse should only take place after an interview has taken place unless there is a clear case where a forensic assessment is needed and/or medical treatment is needed urgently.
Timing of Medical Assessments
All child protection medicals should be arranged the same day or within 24 hours. Where the referral relates to penetrative sexual abuse that has occurred within the previous 7 days, immediate medical assessment will be sought
In all cases where it is agreed to conduct a video recorded interview of a child witness, the (‘Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings: Guidance for Vulnerable and Intimidated Witnesses, Including Children’) will be followed.
Once agencies decide to conduct an interview on video, it will take place as soon as possible and normally within 48 hours of receipt of the disclosure.
Where the video interview is not conducted within 48 hours of receipt of the disclosure, both agencies will record the reason for the delay.
Investigative interviews with the child will only take place where this is in the child’s best interests. In addition to the nature of the allegations/concerns, attention must be paid to the child’s individual background. This includes their ability to formulate and express ideas, their ability to make their feelings known, their wishes and their ability to understand the purpose of the interview.
Staff trained in the principles contained within the Achieving Best Evidence Guidance (ABE) will carry out the interview.
All interviews should be planned to avoid a child having to undergo repeat interviews. It will be normal practice to carry out an initial interview with the child before a medical assessment takes place (Diagnosis of Child Sexual Abuse: Guidance to Doctors, HMSO 1988).
Only ABE trained staff will lead on interviewing children. If it has been decided that a Social Worker alone will interview the child, the Police will not re-interview him/her unless significant new information emerges during the Social Workers interview. A social worker and Police Officer will be jointly involved in video-recorded interviews.
Both the police and the social worker will give consideration to involving specialists with the planning process or the investigative interview when they are dealing with children:
- Who have special needs;
- Who have learning disabilities;
- Who have psychiatric or psychological problems;
- Who have speech or sensory impairment;
- Where unusual or bizarre abuse is suspected;
- Whose first language is not English.
Ownership and Storage of Video Tapes
Responsibility for this will be undertaken by the Police who will ensure that video tapes are sealed and stored safely. Staff who need to view the tape in connection with a Court Hearing or subsequent therapeutic work can arrange this by contacting the Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit.
The Police will have responsibility for interviewing the alleged abuser in respect of criminal offences.
The decision to arrest and interview an alleged abuser will be a tactical decision by the Police but will take account of the need for Children’s Social Care to engage with parents in the best interest of the child
The Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) is concluded at the point when an informed decision is made taking account of all information available as to whether the child is at continuing risk of Significant Harm or not.
The three possible outcomes of a Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) are:
Concerns are not substantiated
Children’s Social Care Services and other relevant agencies as necessary, should always consider with the family what support and/or services maybe helpful; how the child and family might be provided with these services, if they wish it; and by whom.
It is important that consideration should be given to whether the Child and Family Assessment has been completed or what further work is required before it is completed. The focus of the Section 47 enquiries is the welfare of the child and the assessment may well reveal a range of needs for which services may be required.
In some cases, there may remain concerns about Significant Harm, despite there being no real evidence. It may be appropriate to put in place arrangements to monitor the child’s welfare. It is also important to inform parents about the nature of any on-going concerns.
There should also be a time set for reviewing the monitoring arrangements through holding a further discussion or meeting.
Concerns are substantiated but the child is judged not to be at continuing risk of Significant Harm
This decision must be endorsed by a suitably experienced and qualified social work manager.
In this instance it should be agreed between agencies most involved and the child and family, that a plan for ensuring the child's future safety and welfare can be developed and implemented.
The agencies most involved may judge that a parent, caregiver, or members of the child's wider family are willing and able to cooperate with actions to ensure the child's future safety and welfare and that the child is therefore not at continuing risk of harm.
This judgement can only be made in the light of all relevant information obtained during a Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry), and a soundly based assessment of the likelihood of successful intervention, based on clear evidence and mindful of the dangers of misplaced professional optimism.
The Lead Social Worker has a duty to seek children's views and take account of their wishes and feelings, according to their age and understanding.
A meeting of involved professionals and family members must be convened at the end of the Section 47 Enquiry to agree what actions should be undertaken by whom and with what outcomes for the child's health and development.
Whatever process is used to plan future action, the resulting plan should be informed by the Child and Family Assessment findings. It should set out who will have responsibility for what action, including a timescale for review of progress against planned outcomes. It should also include a timescale for review of progress against planned outcomes.
Family Group Conferencing may have a role to play in fulfilling these tasks.
Concerns are substantiated and the child is judged to be at continuing risk of significant harm
This will lead to a Child Protection Conference being convened.
The Child Protection Conference will be convened at the end of the Section 47
Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) and must take place within a maximum of 15 working days of the latest Strategy Discussion/Meeting. Consideration should be given by the date of the Initial Child Protection Conference to whether the Child and Family Assessment has been completed or what further work is required before it is completed.
The outcome and supporting evidence must be recorded, together with recommendations for further action, by the person undertaking the Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry), and signed by the designated Social Care Manager.
The record should include the date(s) when the child was seen alone by the Lead Social Worker and, if not alone, who was present and the reasons for their presence.
Parents and children of sufficient age and appropriate level of understanding (together with professionals and agencies who have been significantly involved) should receive a copy of this record.