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1.3.3 Section 47 Enquiries

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter should be read in conjunction with the South West Child Protection Procedures.

RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Assessments - Local Guidance

AMENDMENT

This chapter was reviewed and updated in April 2016. There has been one minor amendment in Section 1, Initiating Section 47 Enquiries to clarify that Strategy Discussion/Meetings should be held at the earliest opportunity, within a maximum of 10 working days.


Contents

  1. Initiating Section 47 Enquiries
  2. Purpose of Section 47 Enquiries
  3. Conducting Section 47 Enquiries
  4. Outcomes of a Section 47 Enquiry
  5. Recording Section 47 Enquiries
  6. Dispute Resolution


1. Initiating Section 47 Enquiries

Where information gathered during the contact, referral and / or assessment stage (which may be very brief) results in the social worker suspecting that the child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm, a Strategy Discussion/Meeting should be held at the earliest opportunity, within a maximum of 10 working days, to decide whether to initiate enquiries under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989. Where such a decision is made the Section 47 Enquiry must be completed within 10 working days.

A Section 47 Enquiry is carried out by undertaking or continuing with an Assessment in accordance with the guidance set out in this chapter and following the principles and parameters of a good assessment as set out in the Assessments - Local Guidance Procedure.

Local authority social workers have a statutory duty to lead Section 47 Enquiries. The police, health professionals, teachers and other relevant professional’s have a duty to advise, inform and assist the local authority in undertaking its enquiries.


2. Purpose of Section 47 Enquiries

The objective of the Section 47 Enquiry is to determine whether action is required to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child.


3. Conducting Section 47 Enquiries

Social workers with their managers should:

  • Lead the Assessment and enquiry in accordance with this guidance;
  • Carry out enquiries in a way that minimises distress for the child and family;
  • See the child who is the subject of concern to ascertain their wishes and feelings; assess their understanding of their situation; assess their relationships and circumstances more broadly;
  • Interview parents and/or caregivers and determine the wider social and environmental factors that might impact on them and their child;
  • Systematically gather information about the child's and family's history;
  • Analyse the findings of the Assessment and enquiry, and evidence about what interventions are likely to be most effective and consider information provided/ shared by other relevant professionals to determine the child's needs and the level of risk of harm faced by the child. This should inform what help should be provided and what action should be taken to provide that help;
  • Follow the guidance set out in Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings: Guidance on interviewing victims and witnesses, and guidance on using special measures, where a decision has been made to undertake a joint interview of the child as part of any criminal investigation.

The social worker, when conducting a Section 47 Enquiry, must assess the potential needs and safety of any other child in the household of the child in question. In addition, Section 47 Enquiries may be required concerning any children in other households with whom the alleged abuser may have contact.

In determining who should be involved in a Section 47 Enquiry, consideration should include who are the family most likely to cooperate with, and whether there are any risks. In all cases where there is a known propensity to violence within the family household, consideration should be given to the strategy to be adopted, with Police advice/assistance if appropriate, about how to reduce the risks before any visits take place.

The child must always be seen and communicated with alone in the course of a Section 47 Enquiry by the Lead Social Worker, unless it is contrary to his or her interests to do so. The Strategy Discussion/Meeting will plan any interview with the child. The Record of the Section 47 Enquiry and Reports to Child Protection Conferences 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.

Before a child is seen or interviewed parental permission must be gained unless there are exceptional circumstances that demonstrate that it would not be in the child’s interests and to do so may jeopardise the child's safety and welfare. Relevant exceptional circumstances 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.

In such circumstances, the social worker must take legal advice about how to proceed and whether legal action may be required, for example through an application for an Emergency Protection Order or a Child Assessment Order.

The police should:

Health professionals should:

  • Undertake appropriate medical tests, examinations or observations, to determine how the child's health or development may be being impaired;
  • Provide any of a range of specialist assessments. For example, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and child psychologists may be involved in specific assessments relating to the child's developmental progress. The lead health practitioner (probably a consultant paediatrician, or possibly the child's GP) may need to request and coordinate these assessments; and
  • Ensure appropriate treatment and follow up health concerns.

All involved professionals should:

  • Contribute to the Assessment and enquiry as required, providing information about the child and family; and
  • Consider whether a joint enquiry/investigation team may need to speak to a child victim without the knowledge of the parent or caregiver.


4. Outcomes of a Section 47 Enquiry

Local authority social workers are responsible for deciding what action to take and how to proceed following Section 47 Enquiries. The outcome of a Section 47 Enquiry must be endorsed by the team manager.

A Section 47 Enquiry may conclude that the original concerns are:

  • Not substantiated; although consideration should be given to whether the child may need services as a Child in Need;
  • Substantiated and the child is judged to be suffering, or likely to suffer, Significant Harm and an Initial Child Protection Conference should be called;
  • Substantiated but not judged to be suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm risk i.e. Child moved out.

4.1 Concerns not substantiated

Social workers (with appropriate management overview) should:

  • Discuss the case with the child, parents and other professionals;
  • Determine whether support from any services may be helpful and help secure it; and
  • Consider whether the child's health and development should be re-assessed regularly against specific objectives and decide who has responsibility for doing this.

All involved professionals should:

  • Participate in further discussions as necessary;
  • Contribute to the development of a Child in Need Plan;
  • Provide services as specified in the Child in Need Plan for the child; and
  • Review the impact of services delivered as agreed in the Child in Need Plan.

Outcomes may be:

  1. No Further Action
    Enquiries have revealed that there are no causes for concern. The child may be a Child in Need but the family do not wish for services to be provided, in which case the case will be closed;
  2. Family Support to be provided
    Enquiries have revealed that there are no causes for concern but that there are needs that could be met by the short term provision of services either under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 or by signposting the family to another agency. The family are willing for a short-term package of support to be provided, or continue to be provided.

    Where services are to be provided under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, the social worker/team manager should convene a Child in Need Planning Meeting within 7 working days to agree a Child in Need Plan – see Child in Need Plans and Reviews Procedure;

4.2 Concerns Of Significant Harm Are Substantiated And The Child Is Judged To Be Suffering, Or Likely To Suffer, Significant Harm

N.B. Where immediate protective action is required, the advice of Legal Services should be sought.

Social workers (with appropriate management oversight) 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. It should take place within 15 working days of a Strategy Discussion, or the Strategy Discussion at which section 47 enquiries were initiated if more than one has been held. The request to convene the conference must be supported by a team manager;
  • 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 should be shared with the parents unless there is a good reason not to do so, and if so when; and
  • Attend the conference and take part in decision-making when invited.

For the detailed procedure in relation to Child Protection Conferences, see the website for South West Child Protection Procedures.

Refer to theStep Up Step Down Guidance - Local Guidance for further details.


5. Recording Section 47 Enquiries

The social worker should record their actions/information gathered during the course of the enquiry and its outcomes on a Record of Section 47 Enquiries, which should be approved by the team manager.


6. Dispute Resolution

If the local authority decides not to proceed with a Child Protection Conference, then other professionals involved with the child and family have the right to request that a conference be convened, if they have serious concerns that a child's welfare may not be adequately safeguarded. In the event of a continued difference of opinion, the Local Safeguarding Children Board’s Escalation procedure should be followed.

End