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Child Protection Enquiries - Section 47 Children Act 1989

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure sets out how to undertake a Strategy Discussion or Meeting and how to conduct Section 47 Enquires.


Contents

  1. Duty to Conduct Section 47 Enquiries
  2. Immediate Protection
  3. Section 47 Thresholds and the Multi Agency Assessment
  4. Strategy Discussion or Meeting
  5. The Section 47 Enquiry
  6. Single Agency and Joint Agency Section 47 Enquiries
  7. Involving Children, Parents/Carers and Other Significant Family Members
  8. Medical Assessments
  9. Achieving Best Evidence Interviews
  10. The Outcome of Section 47 Enquiries
  11. Timescales for Section 47 Enquiries
  12. Recording

    Amendments to this Chapter


1. Duty to Conduct Section 47 Enquiries

When the Local Authority Social Worker receives a referral and information has been gathered during an assessment (which may have been very brief), in the course of which a concern arises that a child maybe suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm, the Local Authority is required by Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 to make enquiries. The purpose of this multi agency enquiry is to enable agencies to decide whether any action should be taken to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child. Any decision to initiate an enquiry under Section 47 must be taken following a Strategy Discussion or Meeting.

Responsibility for undertaking Section 47 Enquiries lies with the Local Authority Children's Social Care in whose area the child lives or is found. 'Found' means the physical location where the child suffers the incident of harm (or is identified as suffering or likely to suffer harm), e.g. nursery or school, hospital, one-off event, such as a festival, holiday home or outing or where a Privately Fostered or Looked After Child is living with their carers. For the purposes of these procedures, the Children's Social Care area in which the child lives, is called the 'home authority' and the Local Authority Children's Social Care in which the child is found is the child's 'host authority'.

Each agency has a duty to assist and provide information in support of Child Protection Enquiries. When requested to do so by Children's Social Care. Professionals from other parts of the Local Authority such as Housing, Schools and those in Health organisations, (including GPs) have a duty to cooperate under Section 27 of the Children Act 1989.

Multi agency information checks:

The Social Worker together with their Manager must decide at what point and whether to seek parental permission to undertake multi-agency checks. If the Manager decides not to seek permission, they must record the reasons why, for example because they:

  • Feel it may be prejudicial to the child's welfare;
  • They have serious concern about the behaviours of the adult;
  • They have serious concern that the child would be exposed to immediate risk of harm.

Where permission is sought from parents and carers and is denied, the Manager must determine whether to proceed, and record the reasons for the decision they make.

Each agency has a duty to assist and provide information in support of child protection enquiries. The Social Worker must contact the other agencies involved with the child to inform them that a Child Protection Enquiry has been initiated and to seek their views. 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.

See also Effective Communication, Consent and Information Sharing Procedure


2. Immediate Protection

Where there is a risk to the life of a child or the possibility of serious immediate harm, an agency with statutory child protection powers (the Police, Children’s Social Care or the NSPCC) should act quickly to secure the immediate safety of the child.

When determining whether emergency action is required, an agency should always consider whether action is also required to safeguard and promote the welfare of other children in the same household (e.g. siblings), the household of an alleged perpetrator, or elsewhere.

Planned emergency action will normally take place following an immediate Strategy Discussion between Police, Children's Social Care, health professionals and other agencies as appropriate.

Police powers of protection should only be used in exceptional circumstances where there is insufficient time to seek an Emergency Protection Order or for reasons relating to the immediate safety of the child. For further details see Section 46 of the Children Act 1989.


3. Section 47 Thresholds and the Multi Agency Assessment

A Section 47 Enquiry must always be commenced immediately following a Strategy Discussion or Meeting when:

  • There is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm in the form of physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect; or
  • Following an Emergency Protection Order or when Police powers of protection have been initiated.

The threshold criteria for a Section 47 Enquiry may be identified during an early assessment or it may become apparent at the point of referral, during multi-agency checks or in the course of a multi agency assessment.

Local Authority Social Workers have a statutory duty to lead enquiries under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989. Police, health professionals, teachers and other relevant professionals must support them in undertaking the enquiries.

A multi agency assessment which is led by Children's Social Care (see Assessment - Hull Children's Social Care Assessment Protocol) is the means by which Section 47 Enquiries are carried out. The assessment will have commenced at the point of receipt of referral and it must continue whenever the criteria for Section 47 Enquiries are satisfied. The conclusions and recommendations of the Section 47 Enquiry should inform the assessment which must be completed within 45 working days of the date when the referral was received.

The enquiries and assessment should always involve separate interviews with the child and, in the majority of cases, the parents, and the observation of interaction between the parent and child. This will include interviews and observations of parents, any other carers and the partners of the parents.

If the whereabouts of a child subject to Section 47 Enquiries are unknown and cannot be ascertained by the Social Worker, the following action must be taken within 24 hours:

  • A Strategy Discussion or Meeting with the Police;
  • Agreement reached with the Consultant Social Worker responsible as to what further action is required to locate and see the child and carry out the Enquiry.
If access to a child is refused or obstructed, the Social Worker, in consultation with the Consultant Social Worker, should co-ordinate a Strategy Discussion or Meeting including legal representation, to develop a plan to locate or access the child/ren and progress the Section 47 Enquiry.


4. Strategy Discussion or Meeting

If there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm, there should be a Strategy Discussion or Meeting. The Strategy Discussion or Meeting should be co-ordinated and chaired by a Children's Social Care Manager / Consultant Social Worker.

The strategy Discussion or Meeting should involve Children's Social Care and the Police, health professionals involved with the child and/or named/designated nurse and/or named/designated doctor and other bodies as appropriate (for example, children's centre/school and, in particular, any referring agency.) In the case of a pre-birth strategy Discussion or Meeting this should involve the midwifery services.

Professionals participating in Strategy Discussions or Meetings must have all of their agency's information relating to the child available to be able to contribute to the Discussion or Meeting, and must be sufficiently senior to make decisions on behalf of their agencies.

In some circumstances Strategy Discussions by telephone may be adequate to plan an Enquiry and must include the agencies directly involved with the child. For telephone Strategy Discussions, all agencies should make a record of the outcome of the telephone discussion and actions agreed at the time. The record of the notes and decisions authorised by the Consultant Social Worker should be circulated as soon as practicable to all parties to the discussion.

Some examples of circumstances where a Strategy Discussion or Meeting should be considered:

  • Any new referrals in respect of a child where there are concerns that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm;
  • When new information on an existing case in Children’s Social Care indicates that a child is likely to suffer significant harm;
  • Any new information that a child may be likely to suffer, or has suffered significant harm through being sexually exploited; undergoing Female Genital Mutilation or being exposed to radicalisation;
  • When an adult or young person assessed as presenting a risk to children has moved into, or is about to move into, the child's household or such a person is regularly visiting or about to have sustained contact with the child;
  • When the likelihood of significant harm to an unborn child may be such as to indicate the need to develop a Child Protection Plan before birth;
  • When the death of a child in family, in which abuse or neglect is suspected, is confirmed and there are other children in the household;
  • When a child lives in, or is born to, a household in which resides another child who is currently the subject of a Child Protection Plan;
  • When a child who is currently the subject of a Child Protection Plan in another area moves into Hull unless the other authority is to retain responsibility for the case;
  • When a child has sexually assaulted another child or there is a risk of such an assault occurring to another child in the same household or in regular contact with the household (in which circumstances a Child Protection Conference should be held in respect of both children);
  • When the child is a ‘Looked After Child’.

Strategy Discussions or Meetings should be used to:

  • Share, review and clarify the information currently available from all agencies involved with the child and / or family;
  • Agree the conduct and timing of any criminal investigation;
  • Decide whether an assessment under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 (Section 47 Enquiries) should be initiated, or continued if it has already begun;
  • Consider the assessment and the key action points, if already in place;
  • Plan how the Section 47 Enquiry should be undertaken (if one is to be initiated), including the need for any medical assessment, and who will carry out what actions, by when and for what purpose;
  • Agree what action is required immediately to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child, and/or provide interim services and support. If the child is in hospital, decisions should also be made about how to secure the safe discharge of the child;
  • Agree, in particular, when the child will be seen alone (if appropriate for the child) by the Social Worker during the course of these enquiries and agree the methods by which the child's wishes and feelings will be ascertained so that they can be taken into account when making decisions;
  • In light of the race, ethnicity, beliefs and culture of the child and family, consider how these should be taken into account and to establish whether an interpreter will be required; and
  • Consider the needs of other children who may be affected (e.g. siblings and other children, such as those living in the same household, and/or in contact with alleged abusers);
  • Determine what information from the Strategy Discussion or Meeting will be shared with the family, unless such information sharing may place a child at increased risk of significant harm or jeopardise police investigations into any alleged offence/s;
  • Determine if legal action is required.

It is the responsibility of the Chair of the Strategy Discussion or Meeting to ensure that the decisions and agreed actions are fully recorded using an appropriate form/ record. All agencies attending should take notes of the actions agreed at the time. A copy of the record should be made available for all those, who had been invited or involved, as soon as practicable by Children’s Social Care. If any relevant information was not available at the time of the Strategy Discussion or Meeting this should be indicated in the record, along with detail of any actions require to ensure the information is made available at a later date.

Whilst the professional starting points and finishing points of all the agencies involved in Child Protection Enquiries (Section 47) may be different, a formal means of co-operation is required when their responsibilities and expertise overlap.  Without co-operation, there is a risk of collision - agencies unintentionally frustrating or compromising the work of one another, sometimes with dangerous consequences.  Co-operation also ensures that all agencies involved know what the others are doing.  Preventing collision, preventing decisions being made in ignorance of other agencies' actions, enabling joint working, is fundamentally what the duty to co-operate is about.

Timescales

The timing of the Strategy Discussion or Meeting will depend on the nature and urgency of the referral but should take place as soon as possible after receipt of the referral/decision that there is reasonable cause to suspect Significant Harm.

Designated Decision Makers

During normal office hours:

  • Children’s Social Care: Consultant Social Worker;

AND

  • Humberside Police: Dedicated Decision Maker (Detective Sergeant) or in their absence a Detective Sergeant - from the Protecting Vulnerable People Unit.

Outside normal office hours:

  • Children’s Social Care –on call Immediate Help Social Worker;

AND

  • Humberside Police: Detective Sergeant - from Protecting Vulnerable People Unit.

Strategy Meetings

There may be circumstances where a Meeting (rather than a telephone discussion) is likely to be the most effective way of discussing the child’s welfare and planning future action. As lead agency, Children’s Social Care will be responsible for convening, chairing and minuting Strategy Meetings.

Strategy Meetings should be convened as soon as practicable bearing in mind the needs of the child.

In some situations more than one Strategy Meeting may be necessary. This is likely to be where the child’s circumstances are very complex and a number of meetings are required during the course of the enquiry. Strategy Meetings should be held at a convenient location for the key attendees, such as a Hospital, School, Police Station or Children’s Social Care office.

Any information shared, all decisions reached and the basis for those decisions should be clearly recorded by the chair of the Strategy Meeting. If the participants conclude that a further Strategy Meeting is required, then a clear timescale should be set and be subject to regular review by the Consultant Social Worker bearing in mind the safety of the child at all times.

The following people may be involved in a Strategy Meeting:

  • The relevant Consultant Social Worker and Detective Inspector/Detective Sergeant as appropriate;
  • The Social Worker and Police Officer/Investigating Officer appointed to the enquiry (known as the Enquiry Team);
  • The person making the referral, where appropriate;
  • In the case of a school age child, the child’s Teacher or appropriate member of the school staff;
  • A person who knows the child well, e.g. Health Visitor, Nursery Nurse, Education Welfare Officer, Voluntary Worker, foster carer/residential worker if the child is Looked After;
  • In the case of an allegation of abuse against a professional, advice should be sought from the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO). See Allegations of Harm made Against People who Work with Children Procedure;
  • A specialist advisor, e.g. if the child has individual communication needs;
  • At least one health representative which may include:
    • The child’s GP;
    • School Nurse or Health Visitor;
    • Where a specialist medical examination has occurred, the responsible clinician from the providing service;
    • If the child is a hospital patient (in or out-patient) or receiving services from a child development team, the Medical Consultant responsible for the child’s health care;
    • A senior ward Nurse if the child is an in-patient;
    • Mental Health Practitioner.
  • Legal Advisor;
  • Any other person relevant to the enquiry.

It is the responsibility of the chair of the Strategy Meeting to ensure that the decisions and agreed actions are fully recorded.

A copy of the record should be made available for all those, who had been invited or involved, as soon as practicable by Children’s Social Care or the Chair of the Strategy Meeting.

Where there is likely to be a delay, a summary of the agreed actions should be circulated via e-mail. Strategy Meeting minutes will then be sent at a later date

There will always be a Strategy Meeting in the following cases:

Disabled Children

Where a child is disabled or has Special Educational Needs. This will include at least one person who knows the child well and, wherever possible, the meeting will be convened at a time and place to enable the professional who knows the child well to attend.

See also Disabled Children Safeguarding Practice Guidance.

Fabricated or Induced Illness

In 2008 the Government published statutory guidance ‘Safeguarding children in whom illness is fabricated or induced'. The guidance provides a national framework within which agencies and professionals at a local level – individually and jointly – draw up and agree their own more detailed ways of working together.

See also Fabricated or Induced Illness Procedure.

Child Sexual Exploitation

The Strategy Meeting should consider whether the information provided indicates Complex (Organised or Multiple Abuse).

Complex (Organised or Multiple Abuse)

Where a Strategy Meeting identifies that abuse involves one or more abusers and a number of children, the Chair of the Strategy Meeting must notify the Hull Safeguarding Children Board.

Where it has been identified that abuse involves a number of children, then consultation will take place with the Independent Conference and Review Officer (ICRO) Team in relation to the meeting being chaired by an ICRO. Please see Organised and Complex Abuse Safeguarding Practice Guidance.

Outcomes

The plan made at the Strategy Discussion or Meeting should reflect the requirement to convene an Initial Child Protection Conference within 15 working days of the Strategy Discussion at which it was decided to initiate the Section 47 Enquiry. When Children's Social Care have concluded that an Initial Child Protection Conference is not required but professionals in other agencies remain seriously concerned about the safety of a child, these professionals should seek further discussion with the Social Worker, their Manager and/or the designated safeguarding professional lead. The concerns, discussion and any agreements made should be recorded in each agency's files. This should be actioned within a timescale commensurate with the need to safeguard the child and in accordance with the Resolving Inter-agency Disagreements Guidance (Escalation Policy).

In exceptional circumstances, enquiries may be more complicated and may require more than one Strategy Discussion or Meeting. If the Strategy Discussion or Meeting concludes that a further Strategy Discussion or Meeting is required, then a clear timescale should be set and be subject to regular review by the Social Work Manager bearing in mind the safety of the child at all times. Where there is more than one Strategy Meeting it should be noted that any Initial Child Protection Conference should be held within 15 working days of the Strategy Meeting which initiated the Child Protection Enquiry.

If the conclusion of the Strategy Discussion or Meeting is that there is no cause to pursue the Section 47 Enquiry then consideration should be given to continuing a multi- agency assessment to meet the needs of the child for any early help support services or to provide family support services to them as a Child in Need.


5. The Section 47 Enquiry

Children’s Social Care is the lead agency for Section 47 Enquiries and the Consultant Social Worker has responsibility for authorising a Section 47 Enquiry following a Strategy Discussion or Meeting.

The Section 47 Enquiry and assessment must be led by a Qualified Social Worker from Children's Social Care, who will be responsible for its coordination and completion. The Social Worker must consult with other agencies involved with the child and family (as outlined above in Strategy Meetings)  to obtain a fuller picture of the circumstances of all children in the household, identifying parenting strengths and any risk factors. Enquiries may also need to cover children in other households with whom any alleged offender may have had contact. All agencies consulted are responsible for providing information to assist.

At the same time, where there is a joint investigation, the Police will have to establish the facts about any offence that may have been committed against a child and collect evidence as they lead the criminal investigation.

Throughout the investigation liaison must take place between Children’s Social Care and the Police and a record of that liaison maintained.

The Section 47 Enquiry should begin by focusing on the information identified during the referral/assessment and Strategy Discussion or Meeting, which appears most important in relation to likelihood of the child suffering Significant Harm.

The assessment of risk will:

  • Identify the cause for concern, its seriousness, any recurring events and the vulnerability and resilience of the child;
  • Evaluate the strengths, including the protective factors and weaknesses of the family;
  • Evaluate the risks to the child/ren and the context in which they are living;
  • Consider the child's needs for protection, from whom and how;
  • Consider the welfare of siblings/other children within the household;
  • Consider the capacity of the parents/carers and wider family and social networks to safeguard and promote the child's welfare - this must include both parents, any other carers, such as grandparents, and the partners of the parents;
  • Identify risk factors that may suggest a higher level of risk of significant harm (e.g. parental mental health difficulties, parental substance misuse, and domestic abuse or immigrant family issues such as social isolation or combinations of these); and
  • Determine the level of intervention required to improve the outcomes for the child to be safeguarded in the immediate, interim and longer term.

Multi Agency Information Checks:

The Social Worker must contact the other agencies involved with the child to inform them that a Section 47 Enquiry has been initiated and to seek their views. The checks should be undertaken directly with involved professionals and not through messages with intermediaries.

The Social Worker, together with their Consultant Social Worker must decide at what point and whether to seek parental consent to undertake multi-agency checks. If the Consultant Social Worker decides not to seek consent, they must record the reasons why. Where consent is sought from parents and carers and denied, the Consultant Social Worker must determine whether to proceed, and record the reasons for their decision.

If a decision to proceed is made, the Social Worker must contact the other agencies involved with the child to inform them that a Section 47 Enquiry has been initiated and to seek their views. The checks should be undertaken directly with involved professionals and not through messages with intermediaries.

Agencies should be informed of the reason for the Enquiry, as well as 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 other parts of the United Kingdom or in any other countries. See also Working with Foreign Authorities: Child Protection Cases and Care Orders Departmental Advice for Local Authorities, Social Workers, Service Managers and Children’s Services Lawyers July 2014.


6. Single Agency and Joint Agency Section 47 Enquiries

The Police and Children’s Social Care must co-ordinate their activities to ensure the parallel process of a Section 47 Enquiry and a criminal investigation is undertaken in the best interests of the child. This should primarily be achieved through joint activity and planning at Strategy Discussions or Meetings.

The primary responsibility of Police Officers is to undertake criminal investigations of suspected or actual crime and to inform Children's Social Care when they are undertaking such investigations, and where appropriate to notify the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) in specific cases where there are allegations against people working in a paid or voluntary capacity, with children.

At the Strategy Discussion or Meeting the Police should share current and historical information with other services where it is necessary to do so to ensure the protection of a child. Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015 states that: The Police should assist other agencies to carry out their responsibilities where there are concerns about the child's welfare, whether or not a crime has been committed. If a crime has been committed, the Police should be informed by the Local Authority Children's Social Care.

A full written record must be made of the decision and the rationale for reaching that decision. The Police must ensure that the record is compliant with National Crime Recording Standards.


7. Involving Children, Parents/Carers and Other Significant Family Members

The child/ren:

Children are a key, and sometimes the only source of information about what has happened to them. Accurate and complete information is essential for taking action to promote the welfare of the child, as well as for any criminal proceedings that may be instigated concerning an alleged perpetrator of abuse.

It is important that even initial discussions with children are conducted in a way that minimises any distress caused to them, and maximises the likelihood that they will provide accurate and complete information.

Leading or suggestive communications should always be avoided. Children may need time and more than one opportunity in order to develop significant trust to communicate any concerns they may have.

Children who are the subject of Section 47 Enquiries should always be seen and communicated with alone by the social worker. In addition, all children within the household must be directly communicated with during Section 47 Enquiries by either the Police or Children’s Social Care or both agencies, so as to enable an assessment of their safety to be made.

The children, who are the focus of concern, must be seen alone, subject to their age and willingness, preferably with parental permission.

Enquiries should always:

  • Involve separate interviews with the child who is the subject of concern;
  • Include the child being seen by the Social Worker and communicated with alone when appropriate, in the child’s preferred language;
  • Ascertain the child’s wishes and feelings having regard for their age and understanding when making decisions about what (if any) services to provide;
  • Ensure other children within the household and siblings of the child who is the subject of the concern are spoken to so as to enable an assessment of their safety to be made and their views obtained;
  • Include observations of the interactions between parents / carers and the child/ren.

While the child is the subject of on-going court proceedings, legal advice must be sought about obtaining permission from the court to see the child.

Children’s Social Care and the Police should ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place to support the child through the Section 47 Enquiry. Specialist help may be needed if:

  • The child's first language is not English;
  • The child appears to have a degree of psychological and/or psychiatric disturbance but is deemed competent;
  • The child has a physical/sensory/learning disability;
  • Interviewers do not have adequate knowledge and understanding of the child's ethnicity, faith and cultural background;
  • Unusual abuse is suspected, including the use of photography or filming (in which case the method of interviewing the child might need to be revised).

Specific examinations or assessments of the child by other professionals (e.g. medical or developmental checks, assessment of emotional or psychological state) may be required.

It may be necessary to provide information to the child in stages and this must be taken into account in planning the Section 47 Enquiry.

Explanations given to the child must be brought up to date as the assessment and the Enquiry progress. In no circumstances should the child be left wondering what is happening and why.

If the whereabouts of a child subject to Section 47 Enquiries are unknown and cannot be ascertained by the Social Worker, the following action must be taken within 24 hours:

  • A Strategy Discussion or Meeting with the Police;
  • Agreement reached with the Children's Social Care Manager responsible as to what further action is required to locate and see the child and carry out the enquiry.

If access to a child is refused or obstructed, the Social Worker, in consultation with their Manager, should co-ordinate a Strategy Discussion or Meeting including legal representation, to develop a plan to locate or access the child/ren and progress the Section 47 Enquiry.

The parents/carers and other significant family members:

In most cases, parents / carers should be enabled to participate fully in the assessment and Enquiry process, which must be explained to them verbally and also in writing by the local leaflet for families – The Enquiry: a guide for parents and carers. If a parent / carer has a specific communication difficulty or English is not their first language, an interpreter should be provided.

The Social Worker has the main responsibility to engage with parents/ carers and other family members to ascertain the facts of the situation causing concern and to assess the capacity of the family to safeguard the child.

Parents/carers must be involved at the earliest opportunity unless to do so would prejudice the safety of the child. The needs and safety of the child will be paramount when determining at what point parents or carers are given information. Parents/carers must be kept informed throughout about the Enquiry, its outcome and any subsequent action unless this would jeopardise the welfare of the child.

The assessment must include both parents, any other carers such as grandparents and partners of the parents, and all members of the household and significant others.

Where a parent lives elsewhere but has contact with the child arrangements should be made for their involvement in the assessment process.

Appropriate, checks should be completed on a parent / carer (or whoever the child is staying with if alternative accommodation is sought) who assumes the care of a child during a Section 47 Enquiry.

An explanation of their rights as parents / carers including the need for support and guidance from an Advocate whom they trust should be provided, including advice about the right to seek legal advice.

Any objections or complaints expressed by parents / carers during a Section 47 Enquiry, and the response to these objections or complaints, must be clearly recorded.


8. Medical Assessments

Strategy Discussions or Meetings must consider, in consultation with the Responsible Named Doctor/ Paediatrician (if not part of the Strategy Discussions or Meeting), the need for and the timing of a medical assessment. Medical assessments should always be considered where there has been a disclosure or there is a suspicion of any form of abuse to a child. Issues of consent to the Medical Assessment should also be considered.

A medical assessment should demonstrate a holistic approach to the child and assess the child's well-being, including mental health, development and cognitive ability.

A medical assessment is necessary to:

Only doctors may physically examine the whole child. All other staff should only note any visible marks or injuries on a body map and record, date and sign details in the child's file.

Consent:

The following may give consent to a medical assessment:

  • A child of sufficient age and understanding (Gillick Competent / Fraser Guidelines);
  • Any person with Parental Responsibility, providing they have the capacity to do so;
  • The Local Authority when the child is the subject of a Care Order (though the parent should be informed);
  • The Local Authority when the child is accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989, and the parent/s have abandoned the child or are assessed as lacking capacity to give such authority;
  • The High Court when the child is a ward of court;
  • A family court as part of a direction attached to an Emergency Protection Order, an Interim Care Order or a Child Assessment Order.

A child of any age who has sufficient understanding (generally to be assessed by the doctor with advice from others as required) to make a fully informed decision can provide lawful consent to all or part of a medical assessment or emergency treatment.

A young person aged 16 or 17 has an explicit right (s8 Family Law Reform Act 1969) to provide consent to surgical, medical or dental treatment and, unless grounds exist for doubting their mental health, no further consent is required.

A child who is of sufficient age and understanding may refuse some or all of the medical assessment, though refusal can potentially be overridden by a court.

Wherever possible the consent of a parent/carer should be sought for children under sixteen prior to any medical assessment and/or other medical treatment.

Where circumstances do not allow consent to be obtained and the child needs emergency medical treatment, the medical practitioner may:

  • Regard the child to be of an age and level of understanding to give their own consent; or
  • Decide to proceed without consent.

In these circumstances, parents/carers must be informed by the medical practitioner as soon as possible and a full record must be made at the time.

In non-emergency situations, when parental consent is not obtained, the Social Worker and Manager must consider whether it is in the child's best interests to seek a court order.

The General Medical Council has issued guidance on child protection examinations. This guidance covers the considerations around obtaining consent (required), and what to do if it is not given.

Arranging the medical assessment:

In the course of Section 47 Enquiries, appropriately trained and experienced practitioners must undertake all medical assessments. Medical assessments can only be requested by Local Authority Children’s Social Care or the Police by contacting Hull and East Yorkshire Hospital Trust, Anlaby Suite, who will arrange for the most appropriate medical practitioner to complete the medical assessment.

Reports relating to medical assessments

A report should be provided by the Medical Practitioner who has completed the medical assessment to the Social Worker, the GP and where appropriate, the Police. The timing of a letter to parents / carers should be determined in consultation with Children's Social Care and the Police.

Reporting on a medical assessment:

  • A verbatim record of the carer's and child's accounts of injuries and concerns noting any discrepancies or changes of story;
  • Documentary findings using both words and diagrams;
  • Site, size and shape of any marks or injuries;
  • Opinion of whether injury is consistent with explanation;
  • Date, time and place of examination;
  • Those present;
  • Who gave consent and how (child / parent / carer, written / verbal);
  • Other findings relevant to the child (e.g. squint, learning or speech problems etc);
  • Confirmation of the child's developmental progress (especially important in cases of neglect);
  • The time the examination ended.

All reports and diagrams should be signed and dated by the doctor undertaking the examination.


9. Achieving Best Evidence Interviews

Visually recorded interviews must be planned and conducted jointly by trained Police Officers / Investigating Officers and Social Workers in accordance with the Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings: Guidance on Interviewing Victims and Witnesses, and Guidance on Using Special Measures (Ministry of Justice, 2011).

All events up to the time of the visually recorded interview must be fully recorded. Consideration of the use of video recorded evidence should take in to account situations where the child has been subject to abuse using recording equipment.

Visually recorded interviews serve two primary purposes:

  • Evidence gathering for criminal proceedings;
  • Examination in chief of a child witness.

Relevant information from this process can also be used to inform Section 47 Enquiries, subsequent civil childcare proceedings or disciplinary proceedings against adults, where allegations have been made.

Prior to an interview with a child, the Joint Interview Team should ensure that the needs of the child and the needs of the criminal investigation are fully addressed by the completion of a pre-interview assessment.

A well conducted interview will only occur if appropriate planning has taken place. The importance of planning cannot be overstated and will need to draw from the information and knowledge gathered during the pre-interview assessment phase. The success of an interview and, thus, an investigation could hinge on the plan.

Parental Involvement

Exceptionally, a Joint Interview Team may need to speak to a suspected child victim without the knowledge of the parent/carer. Relevant circumstances would include the possibility that:

  • A child would be threatened or otherwise coerced into silence;

  • There is a strong likelihood that important evidence would be destroyed; or

  • The child in question did not wish the parent to be involved at that stage, and is competent to take that decision.

Proceeding with the interview in the absence of parental/carer knowledge needs to be carefully managed in interventions with the family. The decision about when to inform the parent or caregiver will have a bearing on the conducts of Police investigations. A record must be made of the most appropriate timing of parental participation and the agency responsible for informing them.

Should the child require therapy at any stage, please see Pre-Trial Therapy - Safeguarding Practice Guidance.


10. The Outcome of Section 47 Enquiries

Children’s Social Care is responsible for deciding how to proceed with the Enquiries and risk assessment based on the Strategy Discussion or Meeting and taking into account the views of the child, their parents / carers and other relevant parties (e.g. a foster carer). It is important that they ensure that both immediate risk assessment and long term risk assessment are considered. Where the child's circumstances are about to change, the risk assessment must include an assessment of the safety of the new environment (e.g. where a child is to be discharged from hospital to home the assessment must have established the safety of the home environment and implemented any support plan required to meet the child's needs).

At the completion of the Section 47 Enquiry, Children’s Social Care must evaluate and analyse all the information gathered to determine if the threshold for significant harm has been reached.

The outcome of the Section 47 Enquiries may reflect 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.

Concerns are not substantiated:

Social Workers with their Consultant Social Worker should:

  • Discuss the case with the child, parents/carers 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 any plan as appropriate;
  • Provide services as specified in the plan for the child; and
  • Review the impact of services delivered as agreed in the plan.

The Consultant Social Worker must authorise the decision that no further action is necessary, having ensured that the child, any other children in the household and the child's carers have been seen and spoken with.

Arrangements should be noted for future referrals, if appropriate.

Concerns of significant harm are substantiated and the child is judged to be suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm:

Social Workers with their Consultant Social Worker should:

  • Convene an Initial Child Protection Conference. The timing of this Conference should depend on the urgency of the case and respond to the needs of the child and the nature and severity of the harm they may be facing. The Initial Child Protection Conference should take place within 15 working days of the final Strategy Discussion or Meeting, or the Strategy Discussion or Meeting at which Section 47 Enquiries were initiated if more than one has been held.
  • Consider whether any professionals with specialist knowledge should be invited to participate;
  • Ensure that the child and their parents understand the purpose of the conference and who will attend; and
  • Help prepare the child if he or she is attending or making representations through a third party to the conference. Give information about advocacy agencies and explain that the family may bring an advocate, friend or supporter.

All involved professionals should:

  • Contribute to the information their agency provides ahead of the conference, setting out the nature of the agency's involvement with the child and family;
  • Consider, in conjunction with the Police and the appointed Conference Chair, whether the report can and should be shared with the parents and if so when; and
  • Attend the conference and take part in decision making when invited;
  • Suitable multi-agency arrangements must be put in place to safeguard the child until such time as the initial child protection conference has taken place. The Social Worker and their Manager will coordinate and review such arrangements.

For further details please see the Child Protection Conferences Procedure.

Feedback from Section 47 Enquiries:

The children’s Social Worker is responsible for recording the outcome of the Section 47 Enquiries consistent with the requirements of the recording system. The outcome should be put on the child's electronic record with a clear record of the discussions, authorised by the Children's Social Care Consultant Social Worker.

Notification, verbal or written, of the outcome of the enquiries, including an evaluation of the outcome for the child, should be given to all the agencies who have been significantly involved for their information and records.

The parents/carers and children of sufficient age and appropriate level of understanding should be given feedback of the outcome, in particular in advance of any Initial Child Protection Conference that is convened. This information should be conveyed in an appropriate format for younger children and those people whose preferred language is not English. If there are on-going criminal investigations, the content of the Social Worker's feedback should be agreed with the Police.

Feedback about outcomes should be provided to non-professional referrers in a manner that respects the confidentiality and welfare of the child.

Where the child concerned is living in a residential establishment which is subject to inspection, the relevant inspectorate should be informed.

Where the decision about the outcome of the Section 47 Enquiry is disputed:

Where Children's Social Care have concluded that an Initial Child Protection Conference is not required but professionals in other agencies remain seriously concerned about the safety of a child, these professionals should seek further discussion with the Social Worker, their Manager and/or the nominated safeguarding children adviser. The concerns, discussion and any agreements made should be recorded in each agency's files.

If concerns remain, the professional should discuss with a designated/named/lead person or Senior Manager in their agency and the agency may formally request that Children's Social Care convene an Initial Child Protection Conference. Children's Social Care should convene a Conference where one or more professionals, supported by a Senior Manager/named or designated professional requests one.

If the matter remains unresolved the Resolving Inter-agency Disagreements Guidance (Escalation Policy) should be used.


11. Timescales for Section 47 Enquiries

From when Children's Social Care receive a referral or identify a concern of risk of significant harm to a child:

  • The Children’s Social Care Assessment taking place along with the Section 47 Enquiries must be completed within a maximum of 45 days with progress being reviewed by a Children’s Social Care Consultant Social Worker regularly to avoid any unnecessary delay and to ensure that the safety of the child is reviewed effectively;
  • The maximum period from the Strategy Discussion or Meeting of an Enquiry to the date of the Initial Child Protection Conference is 15 working days. In exceptional circumstances where more than one Strategy Discussion or Meeting takes place the timescale remains as 15 working days from the Strategy Discussion or Meeting which initiated the Section 47 Enquiries.


12. Recording

A full written record must be completed by each agency involved in a Section 47 Enquiry, in accordance with their own agency procedures.

The responsible Consultant Social Worker must countersign/authorise Children's Social Care Section 47 recording and forms.

Practitioners should, wherever possible, retain rough notes in line with local retention of record procedures until the completion of anticipated legal proceedings.

At the completion of the Enquiry, the Consultant Social Worker should ensure that the concerns and outcome have been entered in the recording system including on the child’s chronology and that other agencies have been informed.

Children’s Social Care recording of enquiries should include:

  • Agency checks;
  • Content of contact cross-referenced with any specific forms used;
  • Strategy Discussion or Meeting notes;
  • Details of the enquiry;
  • Body maps (where applicable);
  • Assessment including identification of risks and how they may be managed;
  • Decision making processes;
  • Outcome/further action planned.

All agencies involved should ensure that records have been concluded and countersigned in line with agency policies and recording procedures.

All records should be checked for the correct spelling of names and any alias as well as correct dates of birth.


Amendments to this Chapter

This procedure was reviewed in July 2016 and updated throughout.

End.