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CHAPTER 8: Section 47 Enquiries

AMENDMENT

Section 3, Threshold for Section 47 Enquiries was revised in April 2014 with references to child curfew schemes being deleted.


Contents

1. Duty to Conduct Section 47 Enquiries
2. Section 47 Enquiries & the Local Assessment Framework
3. Threshold for Section 47 Enquiries
    Section 47 Intervention Threshold
4. Role of Duty / Allocated Social Worker
5. Strategy Discussion
6. Single & Joint Agency Investigations
7. Immediate Protection
8. Agency Information Sharing
9. Involving Parents, Family Members and Children
10. Meeting the Child
    Investigative Interviews
    Inability to Access the Child
11. Medical Assessment
    Urgent Need for Treatment
    Referrals for Medical Assessment by Children's Social Care / CAIU
    Recording of Medical Assessment
12. Analysis & Assessment of Risk
13. Outcome of Section 47 Enquiries
14. Recording of Section 47 Enquiries
    Record of Outcome of Enquiries
15. Feedback From Enquiries
    Disputed Decisions
16. Timescales


1. DUTY TO CONDUCT SECTION 47 ENQUIRIES


OBLIGATIONS AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF ALL AGENCIES

1.1 All agencies have a duty (professional, and in many cases statutory) to assist and provide information in support of Section 47 Enquiries (Section 47 enquiries).


RESPONSIBILITY OF CHILDREN'S SOCIAL CARE

1.2

Children's Social Care has the:

  • General duty to safeguard and promote children's welfare (s.17 Children Act 1989);
  • Duty to make, or cause to be made, enquiries when the circumstances defined in Section 47 Children Act 1989 exist;
  • Responsibility to inform the police in a case referred which constitutes or may constitute a criminal offence against a child.
1.3 The responsibility for taking emergency action lies with the local authority in whose area the child is found (the first authority). If the child is looked after by, or the subject of a child protection plan in another authority (the second authority) that authority must be consulted. Only when the second authority explicitly accepts responsibility (to be followed up in writing) is the first authority relieved of its responsibility for emergency action.
1.4 Where the child's home address is in another authority (the 'home' authority), the 'host' authority has responsibility for undertaking enquiries e.g. alleged abuse on a school trip out of the local authority.
1.5 In this case, the child's 'home' authority should be informed as soon as possible and involved in strategy discussions. It may sometimes be appropriate for the 'home' authority to undertake the necessary enquiries on behalf of the host authority e.g. in the case of a looked after child (see Children & Families Moving Across Boundaries Procedure).
1.6 The home authority should take responsibility for further support of the child or family, following the emergency action.


RESPONSIBILITY OF THE POLICE

1.7

(See also Chapter Two Working Together 2013)

The police have a responsibility to:

  • Investigate allegations of criminal offences against children;
  • Refer any suspicion, allegation or disclosure a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm to Children's Social Care;
  • Pass all concerns received by CAIUs relating to people under 18 to Children's Social Care.


2. SECTION 47 ENQUIRIES & THE LOCAL ASSESSMENT FRAMEWORK

2.1 Following acceptance of a referral  a Children’s Social Care Social Worker takes responsibility for leading a multi-agency assessment under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. Where information gathered during an assessment (which may be very brief) results in the social worker suspecting that the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, the local authority should hold a strategy discussion to enable it to decide, with other agencies, whether to initiate enquiries under section 47 of the Children Act 1989. (Working Together 2013 “Assessment of a child under the Children Act 1989”)
2.2 The Section 47 enquiries should begin by focusing primarily on information identified during referral and assessment and which appears most important in relation to the risk of Significant Harm.


3. THRESHOLD FOR SECTION 47 ENQUIRIES

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 local authority children's social care, the police, health and other bodies such as the referring agency. This might take the form of a multi-agency meeting or phone calls and more than one discussion may be necessary. A strategy discussion can take place following a referral or at any other time, including during the assessment process. (Working Together 2013 - “Strategy Discussion”)

Please see the Indicators/Thresholds in Chapter 7, Referral and Assessment which sets out thresholds and indicators for Assessments under Section 17 and Section 47 of the Children Act 1989.

3.1 A child's status - e.g. '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.
3.2

SECTION 47 enquiries should be initiated (following a Strategy Discussion) when:

  • There is reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives in or is found in, a local authority area is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm in the form of physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect;
  • Following an Emergency Protection Order or use of Police Protection powers (PPOP).

In all circumstances the decision to initiate a Section 47 Enquiry should be taken at a Strategy Discussion (as set out in Working Together (2010 (now archived) and 2013).

3.3 Children's Social Care is the lead agency for Section 47 Enquiries.
3.4 Children's Social Care must consult the police Child Abuse Investigation Unit (CAIU) and other agencies involved with the child, so that relevant information can be taken into account (see Information Sharing & Confidentiality Procedure).


SECTION 47 INTERVENTION THRESHOLD

3.5

Children’s Social Care will hold a Strategy Meeting to enable it to decide (with other agencies) whether to initiate enquires under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989.

In undertaking the necessary assessment of risk, consideration must be given to both the probability of the event or concern in question and its actual or likely consequence.

3.6

This will involve a consideration of the following variables:

  • Seriousness of the concern/s;
  • Combinations of concerns;
  • 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;
  • A child in the carer's current or previous household is / has been the subject of a Child Protection Plan or of previous Care Proceedings;
  • There has been a previous unexpected death of a child whilst in the care of either parent where abuse /neglect is/was suspected;
  • Emotional environment of child, especially high criticism / low warmth;
  • Any predisposing factors in the family that may suggest a higher level of risk e.g. domestic violence, substance misuse;
  • The impact on the child's health and development.
3.7 A Strategy Discussion must always be initiated immediately there is a 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.


4. ROLE OF DUTY / ALLOCATED SOCIAL WORKER

4.1 Enquiries must be undertaken by a suitably qualified social worker, either a duty officer or the allocated social worker on an open case.
4.2

The duty / social worker must:

  • Obtain clear, detailed information about the concerns, suspicion or allegation;
  • Obtain history and background information including agency files;
  • Establish if the child, any other children in the household or children who have previously lived with the caregiver/s have ever been subject to a child protection plan;
  • Establish whether the child has ever been subject to a Common Assessment (CAF);
  • Report to the responsible manager;
  • Undertake any necessary emergency action;
  • Contact the local police CAIU;
  • Agree with manager if parental agreement to be sought prior to undertaking agency checks, recording the decision;
  • Undertake agency checks with agencies that may be involved with the child and family.


5. STRATEGY DISCUSSION

5.1 If there is reasonable cause to suspect a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, Children's Social Care should convene a strategy discussion. This may take place following a referral or at any other time if concerns about significant harm emerge.
5.2 Depending on the nature of the concerns and the urgency of the situation this may be undertaken via an actual meeting and / or through a series of telephone discussions with the police CAIU and other relevant agencies, including the consultant paediatrician in the case of a suspicious injury.
5.3 Strategy discussions by phone will usually be adequate to plan a straightforward single agency enquiry. Meetings should be held in the case of complex cases and/or to plan joint investigations.
5.4 More than one strategy discussion and/or meeting may be required during the Section 47 Enquiry to share information and plan any further enquiries required. A final strategy discussion should be held to agree outcomes.
5.5 Where a Children's Social Care single agency enquiry is to be held there should be recorded discussions and/or meetings (in line with local procedures) between the team manager, social worker and other relevant agencies to explicitly plan the enquiry.
5.6 Meetings should be held at a convenient location and time for the key attendees e.g. Children's Social Care office, police station, hospital, GP surgery or school.
5.7 Paediatricians should be invited to all Strategy Discussions that involve physical injuries.
5.8

Strategy discussions between Children's Social Care, the CAIU and other agencies involved with the child/ren should:

  • Agree when the child will be seen alone by the lead social worker (unless inappropriate for the child);
  • Clarify nature of allegation or suspicion of abuse and / or neglect;
  • Share and evaluate information;
  • Allocate tasks if any immediate protective action is required;
  • Decide whether a Section 47 Enquiry should be initiated (or continued if already commenced);
  • Agree the conduct and timing of any criminal investigation as part of a joint Section 47 Enquiry.
5.9

Where it is decided there are grounds to initiate a Section 47 Enquiry decisions, in the context of the racial, cultural, religious and linguistic background of the child and her/his family, should be made about:

  • The nature of the concerns and scope of the enquiry, including other children at possible risk;
  • Further information required and how it should be obtained;
  • When, how and who will undertake interviews with the child/ren and if a video interview will be used (consider gender of interviewer, especially in relation to concerns about sexual abuse);
  • When and how the parents / carers will be informed of the concerns and the planned action;
  • The need for any paediatric or specialist assessment;
  • Any further action if consent is refused for interview or medical assessment;
  • How to ascertain the child's wishes and feelings and meet her / his best interests in the enquiry, taking account of any additional needs such as that arising from a disability or a need for an interpreter, speech and language therapist;
  • The needs of other children in contact with the alleged abuser/s;
  • Whether to interview referrer or anyone else;
  • The need to observe the state of the family home in cases of suspected neglect;
  • Agree 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;
  • What information may be shared, with whom and when, taking into account the possibility of placing a child at risk of Significant Harm or jeopardising police investigations;
  • Any implications for disciplinary action e.g. use of evidence statements;
  • Any legal action required;
  • Timescales, agency and individual responsible for agreed actions, including the timing of police investigations and relevant methods of evidence gathering;
  • Contingency planning to cover changing circumstances including the need to reconvene the strategy discussion during the enquiry if the circumstances are particularly complex or unknown;
  • The mechanism and date for reviewing the completion of agreed actions i.e. further strategy discussions.


OUTCOME OF STRATEGY DISCUSSION

5.10

Possible outcomes include:

  • A joint or single agency Section 47 Enquiry to continue or be initiated;
  • Deferred decision whilst more information obtained;
  • No Section 47 Enquiry because the threshold for Section 47 Enquiries has not been reached;
  • No Section 47 Enquiry because the incident is of such marginal significance posing no real or potential threat to the welfare and safety of the child and it is not considered to be in the child's best interests to pursue the matter further.
5.11

Where it is decided not to proceed with a Section 47 Enquiry consideration should be given to specifying:

  • Further information required and if another strategy discussion should be held;
  • Further assessments;
  • Plans for future monitoring by agencies;
  • Any services to be provided by agencies;
  • The need for future intervention to be co-ordinated through the use of a Child's Plan.


PARTICIPANTS TO STRATEGY DISCUSSION

5.12 The Strategy Discussion is essentially a meeting for professionals sufficiently senior to be able to contribute, although exceptional circumstances may arise where others may usefully contribute.
5.13 The Strategy Discussion should ordinarily be co-ordinated and chaired by the Children's Social Care 1st line manager.
5.14 The discussion must generally involve, at a minimum, both Children's Social Care and CAIU 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.
5.15 A CAIU manager must be involved in all cases of possible injury or harm to a child. If the manager is unable to be directly involved in the discussion, clear directions should be provided to the participating police officer/s and the reasons for non-attendance recorded.
5.16 Where issues have significant medical implications, or a paediatric examination has taken place or may be necessary, a paediatrician should always be included.
5.17 If the child is or has recently been 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.
5.18 The local authority legal adviser's involvement may be appropriate.
5.19

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, mental illness, learning difficulties and criminal behaviour/convictions, it will also be important to consider involving the relevant adult services professionals.


NOTES OF DISCUSSION

5.20 It is the responsibility of the chair of the discussion to ensure that the decisions and agreed actions are fully recorded using the strategy discussion form.
5.21 Discussions held to plan Children's Social Care single agency enquiries should also be fully recorded.
5.22 Each participant should leave the meeting with a copy of the record, or have a copy faxed to them where the discussion was by phone.
5.23

The record should include:

  • Those present and those invited and not present (if a meeting);
  • Those involved where the discussion was by phone;
  • A summary of the information shared and an evaluation of it;
  • All action points, with agreed timescale and identified person responsible for carrying it out;
  • Details of how and when progress to be reviewed for each action.


TIMING OF INITIAL STRATEGY DISCUSSION

5.24 Initial Strategy Discussions should be held within 1 working day of referral.
5.25

In the following circumstances, the child must be seen on the day of referral unless the strategy discussion decides (and records) the decision to defer seeing the child:

  • Allegations / concerns indicating a serious risk to the child e.g. serious physical injury, injury to a baby or serious neglect;
  • Allegations of recent penetrative sexual abuse (to ensure forensic evidence);
  • Where the child is frightened to return home.
5.26 Where immediate action was required by either agency prior to a strategy discussion, a discussion must be held within 1 working day of that action.
5.27 Where the concerns are particularly complicated e.g. complex abuse, a Strategy Discussion must occur on the day of referral, but the (first) face to face meeting may be delayed to within a maximum of 5 working days, unless there is a need to provide immediate protection to a child.


TIMING OF SUBSEQUENT STRATEGY DISCUSSIONS

5.28 All enquiries should have a final discussion to agree outcomes and in general, this should not delay an Initial Child Protection Conference being held within 15 working days of the strategy discussion (or the Strategy Discussion at which Section 47 Enquiries were initiated if more than one was held).
5.29 In all cases, any Initial Child Protection Conference must take place within 15 working days of the Strategy Discussion or the Strategy Discussion at which Section 47 Enquiries were initiated if more than one was held.
5.30 Planning discussions for Children's Social Care single agency enquiries should be consistent with these timescales.


6. SINGLE & JOINT AGENCY INVESTIGATIONS


POLICE & CHILDREN'S SOCIAL CARE LIASON

6.1 The primary responsibility of CAIU staff is to undertake criminal investigations of suspected, alleged or actual crime. Children's Social Care has the statutory duty to make, or cause to be made, enquiries when circumstances defined in Section 47 Children Act 1989, exist.
6.2 Criminal investigations and Section 47 enquiries may give rise to circumstances and information relevant to decisions that have to be taken by both agencies.
6.3 Children's Social Care and CAIU / Police must inform each other of any allegations or suspicions of child abuse or neglect, including 'stranger abuse' in line with the Information Sharing & Confidentiality Procedure. Line managers should be consulted in cases of uncertainty and advice recorded.
6.4

A written record must be made of telephone referrals (sharing information that a child is or is likely to be suffering Significant Harm). This written record must be agreed and shared across Police and Children's Services and must be recorded in Children's Services and Police databases. The written record must include details of:

  • Persons involved in the discussion;
  • Agreed actions;
  • Grounds / reasons for decisions made;
  • Decision to proceed on a Single or Joint Agency basis;
  • Review date.
6.5 A joint decision will be made regarding the appropriate level of intervention and of police involvement throughout the process, depending on the individual circumstances and context of each case.
6.6 Where initial allegations are imprecise or concerns arise gradually, it is likely that agreement will be reached for further assessment to determine whether a child is at risk of significant harm.
6.7 Where both agencies have responsibilities with respect to a child, they must co-operate to ensure joint investigation (combining the parallel processes of a Section 47 Enquiry and a criminal investigation) is undertaken in the best interests of the child. This should primarily be achieved through the co-ordination of activities at strategy discussions.
6.8 If agencies agree a single agency enquiry or investigation is appropriate, there should still be an exchange of relevant information, possible involvement in strategy discussions and agreement reached as to the feedback required by the non participating agency. A case may start with single agency status, but further assessment / information indicates a need for joint investigation.
6.9 Any decision to terminate enquiries or investigations must be communicated to the other agency for it to consider, and the rationale recorded by both agencies.
6.10 The decision regarding single or joint agency investigations should be authorised and recorded by 1st line managers in both the police (CAIU) and Children's Social Care.


JOINT AGENCY INVESTIGATION

6.11

A joint investigation must always be initiated whenever there is an allegation or reasonable suspicion that one of the circumstances below applies, regardless of the likelihood of a prosecution:

A sexual offence committed against a child by a child or adult, but excluding 'stranger abuse' see also Draft Guidance for Professionals working with sexually active young people under the age of 18 in Berkshire.

Physical injury, which could be considered serious either by the extent of the injury, age of the child or by repeated assaults of a minor injury e.g. murder, manslaughter, violence to a child constituting actual or grievous bodily harm, repeated assaults causing minor injury.

  • All non accidental injuries to babies;
  • Serious neglect or ill-treatment constituting an offence under s.1 Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (child abandoned, exposes to moral danger, neglected, ill treated, assaulted);
  • Institutional and Complex abuse investigations;
  • Fabricated or induced illness (see Fabricated or Induced Illness Procedure) which must also be reported to senior managers in Children's Social Care and CAIU;
  • Allegations against those whose work or voluntary activities provide unsupervised access to a child/ren e.g. staff of a professional agency represented on the LSCB, baby sitters, voluntary group leader / helper (must also be reported to senior managers in Children's Social Care and CAIU).
6.12

Cases of minor injury should always be considered for a joint enquiry / investigation if the child is:

  • Subject to a child protection plan;
  • Looked after by the local authority.
6.13

In other cases of minor injury, the circumstances surrounding the incident must be considered to determine the 'seriousness' of the alleged abuse. The following factors should be included in any consideration by the CAIU and Children's Social Care:

  • Age, special needs and vulnerability of child or others in household;
  • Any previous history of minor injuries to child / other children in the household;
  • The intent of the assault e.g. strangulation may leave no marks, but is very serious;
  • Whether a weapon or implement was used;
  • Consistency with and clarity / credibility of child's account of injuries;
  • Predisposing factors about alleged perpetrator e.g. criminal conviction/s, history of violence, substance misuse and / or mental health problems;
  • A history of domestic violence;
  • Previous concerns of an LSCB agency;
  • Unusual circumstances are present e.g. suspected complex abuse or fabricated and induced illness;
  • The child's (if age appropriate) wish police involvement.
6.14 There will be times that after discussion, or preliminary work, cases will be judged less serious and it will be agreed that the best interests of the child are served by a Children's Social Care led intervention, rather than a joint investigation.
6.15 In all cases the welfare of the child remains paramount and always takes precedence over the need to commence or conclude any criminal investigation.


CHILDREN'S SOCIAL CARE SINGLE AGENCY

6.16

Where Children's Social Care assess that the circumstances fall into one of the following criteria, it may progress single agency enquiries following discussion with the CAIU (and making relevant checks):

  • Purely emotional abuse with no apparent physical symptoms, unless extreme circumstances constitute an offence of cruelty;
  • Minor physical injury caused to a child in circumstances amounting to poor parenting;
  • Minor physical abuse, except for injuries to infants: no visible injury or minor injury; the child provides a coherent account of how the non-accidental injury occurred and there was no intent to injure her/him; where there has been no previous allegations regarding that child or the alleged perpetrator;
  • Minor allegations against professionals responsible for the care of a child e.g. teacher, where an allegation may represent inappropriate behaviour as opposed to criminal behaviour (CAIU should be consulted before and after Children's Social Care single agency enquiry and joint decision made about subsequent police action) - see Allegations Against Staff, Carers & Volunteers Procedure;
  • Minor neglect through inappropriate supervision or poor parenting skills;
  • Indirect suspicions of sexual abuse, including over-sexualised behaviour of a child, anonymous reports and concerns by other professionals.
6.17 Where information is received indicating a person who has been identified as being a risk to children (see Management of Those Presenting a Risk to Children Procedure) is living in or who has access to a household where there are children, Children's Social Care and CAIU must discuss the circumstances and agree the need for a single enquiry or joint investigation.
6.18 Where a minor crime, initially agreed by CAIU as inappropriate of further police investigation, is subsequently discovered to be more serious, the case must be referred back to the CAIU.


POLICE SINGLE AGENCY

6.19

Criteria for police single agency investigations are those where:

  • An allegation of childhood abuse is made by adults (the possibility of current risks to children should be determined and referred to Children's Social Care;
  • An alleged offender is not known to the child / child's family i.e. stranger abuse providing there are no current child protection concerns arising from the case (in accordance with Achieving Best Evidence, consideration will still be given to joint investigative interview/s).
6.19 Where the police conduct a single agency investigation out of hours, (in response to the duty to respond and take action to protect the child or obtain evidence), Children's Social Care EDT must be informed immediately, and if appropriate, a joint investigation commenced.
6.20 In all cases where the alleged abuser has current contact with children, a referral should be made to Children's Social Care for a strategy discussion to consider joint investigation and the protection of the child victim and other children.
6.21 In all cases where police undertake a single agency investigation, details of any victim aged under 18 must be referred to Children's Social Care, which is responsible for assessing if the investigation raises any child protection issues and if supportive or therapeutic services are appropriate.


DISPUTE RESOLUTION

6.22

Further discussion should occur between the line managers (detective sergeant and team manager) if there is any disagreement between agencies about the:

  • Need for a joint investigation or the 'seriousness' of alleged physical abuse;
  • Possibility that the needs of the criminal investigation, conflict with the needs of a child.
6.23 If line managers disagree, the matter should be referred to the responsible detective inspector and service managers (see Resolution of Professional Disagreement Procedure).


7. IMMEDIATE PROTECTION

(Suggest link is added here to Flowchart 2 in WT 2013)

7.1 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 safety of the child.
7.2 Emergency action may be necessary as soon as a referral is received or at any point of involvement with child/ren, parents or carers.
7.3 Responsibility for immediate action rests with the authority where the child is found in consultation with any 'home' authority e.g. if looked after or subject to a child protection plan in another local authority.
7.4 Only if the 'home' authority is prepared to accept explicit responsibility is the host authority absolved of the responsibility to take action. This must be confirmed in writing immediately by fax or e-mail.
7.5

Immediate protection may be achieved by:

  • An alleged abuser agreeing to leave the home;
  • Removal of the alleged abuser;
  • Voluntary agreement for the child/ren to move to a safer place with / without a protective person;
  • Application for an Emergency Protection Order (EPO);
  • Removal of the child/ren under police powers;
  • Gaining entry to the household under police powers.
7.6 The social worker must seek the agreement of her/his 1st line manager and obtain legal advice before initiating legal action.
7.7 Children's Social Care should only seek police assistance to use their powers in exceptional circumstances where there is insufficient time to seek an EPO or other reasons relating to the child's immediate safety.
7.8 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.
7.9 Where there has been an unexpected (unexplained) child death (see Rapid Response to the Unexpected Death of a Child Procedure), consideration may need to be given to the safety of other siblings / children in the home.
7.10 Planned immediate protection should normally be initiated following a Strategy Discussion.
7.11 Where an agency has to act immediately i.e. prior to a strategy discussion, to protect a child, a Strategy Discussion should take place within 1 working day after that action, to plan the next steps.


8. AGENCY INFORMATION SHARING

8.1 The social worker must consult with other agencies involved with the child and family in order to obtain a fuller picture of the child's circumstances and those of any others in the household, including risk factors and parenting strengths.
8.2

Generally permission is sought from parents prior to seeking such information, but the first line manager may authorise 'checks' to be completed without such permission if:

  • Contact cannot be made with the parent / carer;
  • Seeking permission is likely to increase the risk to the child/ren concerned or other individuals;
  • A request for permission has been refused, the reason for refusal considered and sufficient professional concern remains to justify disclosure;
  • Seeking permission is likely to impede a criminal investigation.
8.3 The responsible manager should record the reasons for such a decision. For further discussion of the issues involved in information sharing, see Information Sharing & Confidentiality Procedure.
8.4 Even when there has been a recent Assessment under the Children Act 1989 or Common Assessment completed, agencies must be consulted and informed of the new information / referral.
8.5 Agency checks should be undertaken directly with involved professionals and not through messages with intermediaries.
8.6 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.
8.7 Agency checks should include accessing any relevant information that may be held in other local authorities or abroad (Appendix 2, Key National Contacts contains national contacts for sources of information about children from abroad).


9. INVOLVING PARENTS, FAMILY MEMBERS & CHILDREN

9.1 The social worker has the prime responsibility to engage with family members in order to assess the overall capacity of the family to safeguard the child, as well as ascertain the facts of the situation causing concern. Children should always be seen and communicated with alone by the Lead Social Worker.
9.2 Parents and those with Parental Responsibility must be informed at the earliest opportunity of concerns, unless to do so would place the child at risk of Significant Harm, or undermine a criminal investigation.
9.3 Parents and children (where appropriate) should, in addition to being offered a verbal explanation of the Section 47 Enquiry process, be provided with explanatory leaflet/s.
9.4 Due consideration must be given to parent/s' capacity to understand this information in a situation of significant anxiety and stress.
9.5 Consideration must be given to those for whom English is not their first language or who may have a physical / sensory / learning disability and may need the services of an appropriate interpreter.
9.6 It is also essential factors such as race, culture, religion, gender and sexuality together with issues arising from disability and health are taken into account.
9.7 It may be necessary to provide the information in stages and this must be taken into account in planning the enquiry.
9.8

In planning any intervention with parent/s, the following points must be covered:

  • An explanation of the reason for concern and where appropriate the source of information;
  • The procedures to be followed (including an explanation of the need for the child to be seen, interviewed and/or medically examined and seeking parental agreement for these aspects of the enquiry and/or investigation);
  • An explanation of their rights as parents including the need for support and guidance from an advocate whom they trust (advice should be given about the right to seek legal advice);
  • An explanation of the role of the various agencies involved in the enquiry / investigation and of the wish to work in partnership with them to secure the welfare of their child;
  • The need to gather initial information on history and structure of the family, the child and other relevant information to enable an assessment of the injuries and/or allegations and the continuing risk to the child to be made;
  • In situations of domestic violence, the possibility of working with the parents separately;
  • Assessment of evidential opportunities in a police investigation and recovery of evidence that may confirm or refute an allegation or suspicion of crime;
  • The provision of an opportunity for parents to be able to ask questions and receive support and guidance.
9.9 In the event of any conflict between the needs and wishes of the parents and those of the child, the child's welfare is the paramount consideration in any decision or action.
9.10 Recognising that there may be alternative accounts and disparities, parents should be provided with an early opportunity to explain their perception of the concerns.
9.11 In the course of an enquiry it may be necessary for statutory agencies to make decisions or initiate actions to protect children, or require the parents to agree to such action.
9.12 The social worker must inform relevant agencies of any such decisions or actions and confirm them in writing without delay.


10. MEETING THE CHILD

10.1 All children within the household must be directly communicated with during an enquiry (unless the Strategy Discussion decides this is not appropriate). Those who are the focus of concern should be seen alone by the Lead Social Worker, subject to age and preferably with parental permission.
10.2 Working Together to Safeguard Children 2010 paragraph 5.68 (now archived) indicates that... 'exceptionally, a joint enquiry / investigation team may need to speak to a suspected child victim without the knowledge of the parent or caregiver.
10.3

Relevant circumstances that could justify this would include:

  • 'The possibility that a child would be threatened or otherwise coerced into silence;
  • A strong likelihood that important evidence would be destroyed; or
  • That the child in question did not wish the parent to be involved at that stage, and is competent to take that decision.
10.4

Consideration must be given to child's developmental stage and cognitive ability. Specialist help may be needed if:

10.5 If the child is unable to take part in an interview because of age or understanding, alternative means of understanding should be used e.g. observation of very young children.
10.6 Consideration should be given to the gender of interviewers, particularly in cases of alleged sexual abuse and it is also essential factors such as race, culture, religion, gender and sexuality together with issues arising from disability and health are taken into account.
10.7 Children may need time, and more than 1 opportunity to develop trust and communicate concerns, especially if they are very young or have a communication impairment, learning disability or mental health problems.
10.8

The objectives in seeing the child are to:

  • Hear her/his account of allegations or concerns and whether these constitute a criminal offence;
  • Record and evaluate, demeanour, mood state and behaviour;
  • Observe and record the interactions of child and carers;
  • See and record the circumstances in which the child is currently living and sleeping and, if different, her/his ordinary residence;
  • Evaluate the physical safety of the environment including the storage of hazardous substances e.g. bleach, drugs;
  • Ensure that any other children who need to be seen are identified;
  • Assess the degree of risk and possible need for protective action;
  • Meet the child's needs for information and re-assurance;
  • Assess the child's willingness to pursue the complaint through the police;
  • Make decisions about format to be used if a detailed account to be given by the child i.e. video / statement / question and answer;
  • Inform decisions about possible medical and forensic needs.
10.9

The Strategy Discussion must decide where, when and how the child/ren should be seen and if a video interview is required. The child should be seen within 24 hours if s/he:

  • Is reported to have sustained a physical injury;
  • Has disclosed sexual abuse and the child is to be returned to a situation that might place him/her at risk;
  • Is already the subject of a child protection plan;
  • Is suffering from severe neglect or other severe health risk;
  • Is abandoned.

 

10.10

In order to avoid undermining any subsequent criminal case, in any contact with a child prior to an investigative interview, staff must:

  • Listen to the child rather than directly questioning her/him;
  • Never stop the child freely recounting significant events;
  • Fully record the discussion including timing, setting, presence of others as well as what was said - if a disclosure is made, questions and answers must be recorded verbatim and contemporaneously;
  • All original notes must be retained for disclosure purposes.
10.11 All subsequent events up to the time of any video interview must be fully recorded.


INVESTIGATIVE INTERVIEWS

10.12 The conduct of and criteria for visually recorded interviews with children are laid out in Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings and should be undertaken by those with specialist training and experience in interviewing children.


INABILITY TO ACCESS THE CHILD

Child's Whereabouts Unknown

10.13 See Missing Person Protocol Between Thames Valley Police and the 9 Thames Valley LSCBs.
10.14

Children's Social Care should make all reasonable efforts to persuade parents to co-operate with a Section 47 Enquiry. If a child's whereabouts are unknown, or s/he cannot be traced by the social worker within 24 hours the following actions must be undertaken:

  • A strategy discussion held with CAIU;
  • Agreement reached with the manager responsible about further action to locate and access the child and complete the enquiry;
  • Legal advice sought.
10.15 If police efforts to locate the child have been unsuccessful within 48 hours, Children's Social Care must call an urgent strategy meeting, involving CAIU and any other directly relevant agency. This meeting must consider whether or not there is sufficient concern to recommend that Children's Social Care circulate information about the child to all other agencies nationally (see also Missing Child, Adult or Family Procedure).


Access to Child Refused / Obstructed

10.16 If access to a child is refused or obstructed by parents or caregivers, the social worker, in consultation with her/his manager, should have a strategy discussion with the police and seek legal advice as appropriate about the need for a Child Assessment Order (where concerns are not so urgent as to require an EPO) or an Emergency Protection Order.


11. MEDICAL ASSESSMENT


URGENT NEED FOR TREATMENT

11.1 Where the child appears in urgent need of medical attention s/he should be taken to the nearest A & E department, regardless of age, explanation or any other factors e.g. where there are suspected fractures, bleeding or loss of consciousness.
11.2 A & E staff should call the paediatricians to assess the child if abuse or neglect is suspected when a child presents at A & E without Children's Social Care involvement.


REFERRALS FOR MEDICAL ASSESSMENT BY CHILDREN SOCIAL CARE / CAIU

11.3 The Strategy Discussion will determine, in consultation with the paediatrician, the need for and timing of a medical assessment for the child and for any other children in the household. If the child is in urgent need of medical attention see Immediate Protection.
11.4

Medical assessments must be considered when there is a suspicion or allegation of child abuse and/or neglect involving:

  • Any injuries to children under 1 year;
  • A suspicious or serious injury (thought to be non-accidental or an inconsistent explanation);
  • Suspected sexual abuse or assault (if information indicates an intimate examination may be needed);
  • Serious neglect.
11.5 An explicit record must be made of the decision about whether to undertake a medical assessment, and its rationale clearly stated.
11.6 The strategy discussion must plan what will be explained to parents / carers so that they understand the reason for the assessment.


East Berkshire

11.7 Injuries in babies under 1 year old are unusual and worrying, and should always be referred to the hospital paediatricians by contacting the paediatric ward registrar at Wexham Park Hospital.
11.8 Children over 1 year, when medical opinion is needed as part of the assessment of risk, where the explanation differs between carer and child or seems incompatible with the history, should be seen by the hospital paediatricians.
11.9 Children over 1 year, where the history is consistent between child and carer and with the injury, and who are not in need of urgent medical treatment, should be seen by the GP for documentation of injuries. When a GP is asked to see a child s/he must be briefed by Children's Service (Social Care) prior to the examination.
11.10 If there are ongoing concerns about repeated minor injuries, signs of developmental delay, growth failure, behavioural difficulties or neglect, the child should be referred to the Community Paediatrician covering her/his area of residence.
11.11 Examinations for suspected child sexual abuse are shared between the designated doctor for child protection at St Mark's Hospital and the police examiners. Early discussion is needed to consider the need for forensic specimens.
11.12 Cases of emotional abuse should be discussed with CAMHS or with the designated doctor.


West of Berkshire

11.13 Referrals of children between 9.00am - 5.00pm with possible physical abuse or non-accidental injury who do not require immediate medical treatment should be made to the Day Child Protection Team based at 3 Craven Road, Reading (Tel: 01189 315800 or 0789 9915718.
11.14 Referrals of children for paediatric assessment owing to possible sexual abuse should be made to the made to the Day Child Protection Team based at 3 Craven Road, Reading (Tel: 01189 315800 or 0789 9915718 for the attention of the Dr A J MacRae, (Consultant Community Paediatrician).
11.15 Referrals of children for paediatric assessment owing to neglect, but about whom there are no concerns about physical abuse, should be referred by letter to Dr A J Macrae (Consultant Community Paediatrician) at 3 Craven Road, Reading RG1 5LF who will arrange an appropriate appointment.
11.16 Referrals at any other time should go to the duty Paediatric Specialist Registrar on call who can be contacted through the Royal Berkshire Hospital switchboard (Tel: 01189 875111). However if the child is not in need of immediate medical treatment it would be preferable if possible to contact the Day CP team the following day (details above).


STANDARDS FOR MEDICAL ASSESSMENT

11.17

Medical assessments should comply with the following standards;

  • When requested by statutory agencies as part of a Section 47 Enquiry, medical examinations should be undertaken by doctors with child protection expertise;
  • The number of examinations should be kept to a minimum to minimise any further trauma to the child;
  • The timing of the examination should be considered: late night or out of hours examinations should be the exception;
  • The wishes of the child's parents or child's advocate should be acceded to when requesting the services of a female or male doctor whenever possible;
  • A GP may be asked to document an injury but not to give an opinion as to whether or not it has been non-accidentally caused;
  • Consent may be verbal or written but must be informed and if verbal must not be transmitted through a 3rd party.
11.18

The response time from referral to examination should be appropriate:

  • Physical abuse: the same day;
  • Child sexual abuse: if forensic specimens needed - as soon as possible evening / day / night; if acute abuse within 48 hours; if chronic abuse, the next available appointment;
    • Neglect: usually next available appointment.
11.19 Child sexual abuse paediatric assessments should be undertaken in accordance with the guidance for paediatricians and FMEs issued by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Association of Police Surgeons Child Health Guidelines (September 2004).
11.20 In sexual abuse the need for both forensic and sexually transmitted infection samples should be considered.
11.21 The examining doctor should provide a written statement of her/his medical opinion, which could be used in a child protection conference and/or in subsequent legal proceedings.
11.22 Clinical details of the medical examination should be recorded at the time of the examination on agreed child protection 'pro formas' and accompanying body charts.
11.23 Necessary investigations e.g. blood tests for clotting, X-rays and medical photographs should be carried out immediately in appropriate cases - facilities will need to be available on site in acute abuse (a skeletal survey may have to be delayed until the next day but the child's safety should always be ensured before then).
11.24

Children who present to hospital and the initial examining doctor has child protection concerns must be examined by the paediatric registrar on the hospital site. No patient about whom there are child protection concerns should be allowed home without informing the consultant on call:

  • Where there is a suspicion of non-accidental injury the consultant on call should be informed immediately;
  • If child protection concerns have been raised but there is nothing on history or examination to suggest non-accidental injury, and the patient is admitted for other reasons, the consultant may be informed at the next ward round but must be informed before the child is discharged.
11.25 Junior paediatric doctors in training who see patients with a possibility of non-accidental injury should immediately refer to their more senior colleague.
11.26 In cases of suspected non accidental injury initially admitted under a specialty, it is the responsibility of the consultant to work closely with the named doctor for child protection in a child protection plan and inform the paediatric team before discharge, so that the discharge protocol is followed.
11.27 In Wexham Park hospital, if a child is treated under a surgical specialty and abuse / neglect is suspected, s/he must be referred to the consultant within that specialty and to the duty paediatric consultant, with a written referral slip handed to the ward registrar.
11.28

Advice and assistance may be sought:

  • On procedural matters from the Trust's named doctor;
  • From the appropriate clinical specialist in determining the exact significance of the history of injuries;
  • From the designated doctor if concerns are not addressed adequately within the Trust and /or for advice on advances in the literature and references in more complex cases.
11.29 Paediatricians examining children for child sexual abuse will participate in a clinical peer review group.


Consent for Paediatric Assessments or Medical Treatment

11.30 Appendix 5, Medical Assessment & Consent offers guidance on this complex subject.


RECORDING OF MEDICAL ASSESSMENT

Report

11.31 The examining doctor must provide a written report of her/his medical opinion, which can be used in a child protection conference and/or subsequent legal proceedings.
11.32

This report should be structured as:

  • Issues;
  • Fact;
  • Opinion.
11.33

The report must:

  • Carefully distinguish between fact and opinion;
  • Clearly document consent to the examination, whether verbal or written and by whom it was given;
  • Record verbatim any account given by the child, distinguished from what anyone is reported to have given;
  • Provide information on any injury in the context of a full paediatric assessment of child's growth, development and emotional well being.


Body Charts / Photo Documentation

11.34 Agreed body charts should be used for both physical and sexual abuse and appended to the report. Photographs should also be used in physical abuse in all complex injuries.
11.35 Photo documentation in sexual abuse should be anonymised and retained separately from the child's details in a safe store.


12. ANALYSIS & ASSESSMENT OF RISK

12.1

The scope and focus during the Section 47 Enquiry will be that of an assessment which specifically addresses the risks for the child/ren. It should address the assessment framework dimensions and specifically:

  • Identify clearly the initial cause for concern;
  • Collect information from agency records and other agencies;
  • Describe the family history and that of the child/ren;
  • Describe the family structure and network;
  • Evaluate the quality of attachments between child/ren and carers;
  • Evaluate the strengths of the family;
  • Consider the child's needs for protection;
  • Evaluate information from all other sources, including any previous assessments;
  • Consider the ability of parents and wider family and social networks to safeguard and promote the child's welfare;
  • Evaluate the risks to the child.
12.2

In evaluating the risk to the child specifically consider:

  • Nature of the risk: for whom is the risk, how likely is it to occur and how serious / severe will be the impact (quantify 1-5, 1= high);
  • Strengths in the situation and to what extent they mitigate risk;
  • Potential benefits from taking the risk, for whom and how likely are they to occur?
  • Views of other people (child, parents, family members, other professionals) about taking the risk; record accurately who says what;
  • What experience / research indicates about taking the risk?
  • Consequences of not taking the risk;
  • Possible actions to minimise effects of risk - by whom and extent this makes risk more tolerable;
  • Possible actions to enhance the strengths in the situation and extent this makes risk more tolerable.
12.3 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 its safety and implemented any support plan required to meet the child's needs.


13. OUTCOME OF SECTION 47 ENQUIRIES

13.1 At the completion of the planned enquiry, the social worker and line manager should decide how to proceed, following strategy discussion/s with relevant agencies and professionals. The aim of the Strategy Discussion at this point is to share information, plan any further enquiries and agree.
13.2 In all cases the manager must authorise the outcome and any plans for further service.


CONCERNS NOT SUBSTANTIATED

13.3 Where the concerns are not substantiated it will still be important to complete the assessment and consider if further help or support is needed. In some cases, there may remain concerns about Significant Harm, despite a lack of evidence and it may be appropriate to put in place explicit arrangements to monitor the child's welfare. In these circumstances, the assessment will need to be completed to an appropriate depth and consideration given to service provision and future monitoring by agencies.


CONCERNS SUBSTANTIATED: CHILD NOT JUDGED TO BE AT CONTINUING RISK OF SIGNIFICANT HARM

13.4 There may be substantiated concerns that a child has suffered Significant Harm, and the agencies most involved, having ensured the child / any others in the household and her/his carers have been seen and spoken with, agree that a plan for ensuring the child's future safety and welfare can be implemented without a conference. This decision must be endorsed by a suitably experienced and qualified social work manager.
13.5 In these circumstances the Assessment should be completed and consideration given to the use of multi-agency meetings and/or Family Group Conferences to develop, implement and review the Child in Need Plan.


CONCERNS SUBSTANTIATED CHILD JUDGED TO BE AT CONTINUING RISK OF SIGNIFICANT HARM

13.6 Where concerns are substantiated and the child is assessed to be at continuing risk of Significant Harm the line manager must authorise the convening of an Initial Child Protection Conference and completion of the Assessment (if incomplete), having ensured the child / any others in the household and the child's carers have been seen.
13.7 Where concerns are substantiated and the child is assessed to be at risk of Significant Harm the line manager(s) may decide to initiate Care Proceedings, either an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) or an Interim Care Order (ICO) or other order as appropriate. This may lead to an Initial Child Protection Conference (ICPC) not being held or an ICPC being held but the decision made not to develop a Child Protection Plan. In these circumstances a letter should be sent to the child and both parents' GP informing the GP of this decision and requesting that the letter is kept on the child's and parents' records.


14. RECORDING OF SECTION 47 ENQUIRIES

14.1 All agencies must keep accurate and detailed records of information, actions and decisions relating to the Section 47 Enquiry, using any agency 'pro-formas' (legibly) signed and dated by the staff or inputted into their electronic record.
14.2 Both CAIU and Children's Social Care records must identify managers' decision making on forms and in electronic records.
14.3 Practitioners should wherever possible, retain signed and dated rough notes until the completion of anticipated legal proceedings.
14.4

Children's Social Care recording of enquiries should include:

  • The date(s) when the child was seen alone by the Lead Social Worker and, if not seen alone, who was present and the reasons for their presence;
  • Agency checks;
  • Content of contact cross referenced with any specific forms used;
  • Strategy discussion / 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.


RECORD OF OUTCOME OF ENQUIRIES

14.5 The outcome must be clearly recorded, with the reasons for decisions clearly stated on the Outcome of Section 47 Enquiries Record (ICS) or equivalent form and signed off by the line manager.
14.6 At the completion of the enquiry Children's Social Care line manager must ensure that the concern and outcome have been entered on a chronology at the front of each file / on the electronic record.


15. FEEDBACK FROM ENQUIRIES

15.1 Parents, and children of sufficient age and appropriate level of understanding, together with those agencies and professionals significantly involved in the Section 47 Enquiry, should be given written information on the outcome of the enquiry (in advance of any subsequent Child Protection Conference held).
15.2 Feedback about outcomes should be provided to non-professional referrers in a manner that respects the confidentiality and welfare of the child. If there are ongoing criminal investigations, the content of the social workers feedback should be agreed with the CAIU.


DISPUTED DECISIONS

15.3 Where Children's Social Care has concluded an Initial Child Protection Conference is not required but professionals in other agencies remain seriously concerned about the child's safety, they should consult the relevant designated person within their agency.
15.4 Where serious concerns remain that a child's welfare may not be adequately safeguarded without one, the designated professional (or other senior manager) of the agency should discuss the concerns with the child protection co-ordinator and may request a child protection conference.
15.5 Any such request should normally be agreed, but if disagreements remain the procedures for resolution of professional disagreement should be followed (see Resolution of Professional Disagreements Procedure).


16. TIMESCALES


ROUTINE

16.1 The initial Strategy Discussion instigates the Section 47 Enquiry and associated Assessment must be completed within 45 working days of the referral (Working Together 2013).
16.2 The maximum period from the start of the Section 47 Enquiry (the date of the Strategy Discussion which initiates the Section 47 Enquiry) to the date of the Initial Child Protection Conference is 15 working days, which means that initial conferences may be held prior to the completion of the assessment.


EXCEPTIONS

16.3 The time-scales above are the standards required by Working Together and national performance indicators. Where the welfare of the child requires shorter time-scales these must be achieved.
16.4

There may be exceptional circumstances where it is not in the child's interests to work to the above time-scales. The circumstances which may lead to an alternative time-scale include:

  • The need to engage interpreters, translators etc. for those with communication needs (including disabled children);
  • Pre-birth assessments.
16.5 Any proposal to justify variation of routine time scales must be authorised by the service manager following line manager's consultations with the CAIU and any relevant agencies.
16.6 Reasons for diverging from these time-scales must be fully recorded together with a plan of action detailing alternative arrangements.

End