1.1 Under the Children Act 1989, Local Authorities, have a general duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need. (Sec. 17 Children Act 1989).
1.2 Local Authorities must assess a child's needs and promote the upbringing of children by their own families if safe to do so.
1.3 Local Authorities should work in partnership with parents. While the Local Authority will seek a Court order when compulsory action is in the best interest of the child, the first option must be to work with the parents by voluntary arrangement unless to do so would clearly be placing the child at risk of significant harm.
1.4 The Court will only make an order if it is better for the child than making no order. Consideration of the welfare checklist assists the Court in making this decision.
1.5 In all cases when the Court determines any question with respect to the child's upbringing, the child's welfare shall be the paramount consideration.
1.6 The Children Act introduces the principle that delay in Court proceedings is harmful to the child. The Court has the power to draw up a timetable and give directions as to the conduct of the case and will invariably exercise this power. There is however a general principal that there will be some occasions where delay is beneficial.
2.1 Child means any person under the age of 18 years (16 years if married).
2.2 Parental responsibility is defined as, 'All the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which a parent has in relation to the child and the child's property.'
2.3 Birth mothers (and fathers married to the birth mother) automatically have parental responsibility.
2.4 The natural father who is not married to the birth mother can acquire parental responsibility by means of a formal agreement with the mother or on application to Court for an order granting parental responsibility or on the grant of a Residence Order. Parental responsibility in these circumstances can be terminated by Court Order.
2.5 Parental responsibility may be acquired by other adults in the child's life through a Court Order but will cease when the Order ends or is terminated.
2.6 Parents with parental responsibility can appoint a Guardian to have parental responsibility upon death of the parent.
2.7 The Local Authority will acquire parental responsibility upon the granting of a Care Order. Limited responsibility is given with an Emergency Protection Order.
2.8 Under Adoption Orders, parental responsibility lies solely with the adopters.
2.9 A child is defined as being subject of significant harm where there is ill treatment or impairment of health or development:
Child in Need
2.10 A child is defined as being a child in need if:
3.1 It is the general duty of every Local Authority to:
3.2 In order to undertake this task, the Local Authority will provide a range of services which will also help children in need to continue to live with their families and which are designed to help prevent abuse and neglect.
3.3 The underlying philosophy in the provision of services is to work in partnership with parents and children to prevent the breakdown of family relationships and minimise the need to have recourse to Court or emergency protection.
3.4 The keynote to achieving this aim is careful joint planning and agreement in the provision of services within the family home, assisting and enhancing the parental authority.
3.5 The Local Authority is required to make such provisions as it thinks appropriate to provide the following services to children in need:
4.1 The decision as to whether a child is in need (as defined in Section 17 of the Children Act 1989) as opposed to in need of protection (as defined in section 47 of the Children Act 1989) will always be complex.
4.2 A list of risk factors should only be used as one tool in the overall assessment plan as this method alone can give workers a false sense of security while failing to protect children whose families do not appear to exhibit these particular risk factors.
4.3 The family context in which harmful or abusive behaviour by parents occurs is an important factor in assessing risk to the child.
4.4 In this context, workers should refer to the section on Framework of Assessment.
4.5 The Local Authority also has a duty to investigate if:
5.1 The Local Authority has a duty to investigate when there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.
5.2 The investigation will include an objective of the needs of the child, including the risk of abuse and need for protection, as well as the family's ability to meet those needs.
5.3 In the course of the investigation the Local Authority must take such steps as are reasonably practical to obtain access to the child, or to ensure that a person obtains access on its behalf authorised by the Local Authority for this purpose.
5.4 If the Local Authority is refused access to the child, it must apply for a Court order unless satisfied that the child's welfare can be safeguarded without an order.
5.5 If, as a result of the investigation, the Local Authority is satisfied there is no need to apply for a Court order, it must decide whether or not to review the situation at a later date and set that date.
5.6 It is the duty of the following agencies to assist Local Authorities in their enquiries by providing relevant information and advice if called upon to do so (unless it would be unreasonable, given all the circumstances of the case):
5.7 Neither the Police nor the Probation Service is included in this list. It is assumed that both services would assist if requested as part of their established duties.
6.1 A decision to remove a child from home must balance the likely immediate and long-term effects of removing the child against the possible harm if the child is left at home. This decision should also take into account the need either to secure evidence of criminal offences or arrest suspects.
6.2 Except when a child is in acute physical danger, it is essential that the timing of the removal of a child from their home should be agreed following consultation with all appropriate professionals. This will normally follow initial assessment and a strategy discussion.
Emergency Protection Orders (S44 Children Act 1989) (EPO)
6.3 These should be used only in a genuine emergency either to remove the child from where they are or to ensure that the child stays where they are, for example in hospital, to provide immediate and short-term protection. The application may be made without prior notice to those with care or parental responsibility if it is not practicable or is not in the best interest of the child.
6.4 The grounds for obtaining an Emergency Protection Order are that:
6.5 Duration of the Order is as follows:
6.6 Conditions for the Order are as follows:
Police Protection Order (S46 Children Act 1989) (PPO)
6.7 These are to be used in cases of immediate emergency where the delay of applying for an Emergency Protection Order would pose significant harm to a child. This Order should not be used where a Local Authority can apply for an Emergency Protection Order and has sufficient time to do so.
6.8 The Police must have reasonable grounds for believing the child would otherwise suffer significant harm.
6.9 The duration for the Order can be up to 72 hours but can be allowed to lapse before this time if the child's safety is not at issue.
6.10 Conditions for the Order are as follows:
6.11 Other Features
Police Entry to Premises (S17, PACE Act 1984)
6.12 In dire emergencies the Police can exercise their powers under Section17(1)(e) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, to enter and search premises without a warrant for the purpose of saving life and limb.
Police Arrest (S25, PACE Act 1984)
6.13 Under Section 25(3)(e) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the Police may arrest without a warrant any person who has committed an offence, if the arrest is necessary to protect a child from that person.
7.1 Recovery Orders under Section 50 Children Act 1989 will only be granted by a Court when a child is subject of Care, Police Protection or an Emergency Protection Order:
7.2 A 'responsible person' is one who has care by means of a Court Order, Police Protection Order or Emergency Protection Order.
7.3 An application can be made to the Courts without the knowledge of the respondents if this is in the best interests of the child and upon it being granted, authorises a Police Officer to enter any premises specified to search for the child.
7.4 Any person intentionally obstructing an authorised person under the Order to remove a child commits an offence.