Child Protection Enquiries - Section 46 Children and Young Person's Act 2001
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTERThis chapter provides the steps for how to undertake a strategy discussion / meeting and how to conduct Section 46 Enquires.
1. Duty to Conduct Section 46 Enquiries
The duty to initiate enquiries is discharged through Manx Care, Children and Families Division:
- Qualified and experienced social workers and their Managers lead the Enquiries and assessment of risk.
- The social worker with management oversight is responsible for the coordination and completion of enquiries.
- The Team manager for the social worker has responsibility for authorising Section 46 Enquiries.
There are 2 principal documents to consider prior to determining whether or not Needs Assessment, Robust Risk Analysis, Timely Effective Support (NARRATES) S46 should be undertaken:
- The Children and Young Persons Act 2001;
- The Isle of Man Integrated Continuum of Needs (see NARRATES Professional Operational Guidance pages 7-8).
Section 46 of the Children and Young Persons Act 2001 sets out the duties of the department to investigate the circumstances of children with safety and protection needs.
A Section 46 enquiry is initiated to decide whether and what type of action is required to safeguard and promote the welfare of a child who is suspected of, or likely to be, suffering significant harm.
Once the social worker has received the referral and has gathered all available multi- agency information and providing there is sufficient concern to believe that a child is suffering, or likely to suffer significant harm, then Section 46 of the Children and Young Person's Act 2001 should be applied. See NARRATES Professional Operational Guidance (2016) for additional information.
The purpose of a multi- agency enquiry and assessment is to enable agencies to decide whether any action should be taken to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child. The decision to initiate an enquiry under Section 46 must be taken following a Strategy Meeting/Discussion.
The duty to undertake Section 46 enquiries and further investigation lies with the Children and Families Division in the area where the child lives or is found. 'Found' means the physical location where the child suffers the incident of harm or neglect (or is identified as likely to suffer harm or neglect), e.g. nursery or school, boarding 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 area in which the child lives, is called the 'home authority', the Isle of Man and the Local Authority Children's social care in which the child is found is the child's 'host authority' For example this could be outside of the Jurisdiction of the Isle of Man, such as a residential placement, hospital or educational provision, or being on holiday.
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 it may:
- Be prejudicial to the child's welfare;
- Have serious concern about the behaviours of the adult;
- Have serious concern that the child would be exposed to immediate risk of harm.
Where permission is sought from parents and carers and denied, the manager must determine whether to proceed, and record the reasons for the decision they make.
The legislative requirements of the Isle of Man Safeguarding Act 2018 determine that each agency has a duty to cooperate, assist and provide information in support of child protection enquiries when requested to do so by assisting the Department to carry out its functions. 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 should be asked for their assessment of the child in the light of information presented.
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 and Families Division) should act quickly to secure the immediate safety of the child.
When considering 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 usually take place following an immediate Strategy Discussion/Meeting between Police, Children and Families Division, health professionals and other agencies as appropriate.
If it is necessary to remove a child from their home, the department must, wherever possible and unless a child's safety is otherwise at immediate risk, apply for an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) Section 42 Children and Young Persons Act 2001.
Police Powers of Protection, Section 45 Children and Young Persons Act 2001 should only be used in exceptional circumstances where there is insufficient time to seek an EPO (i.e. Out of Hours) or for reasons relating to the immediate safety of the child.
3. Section 46 Thresholds and the Multi Agency Assessment
A Section 46 Enquiry must always be commenced immediately following a Strategy Discussion/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;
- Following an EPO or the use of Police Powers of protection is initiated.
The threshold criteria for a Section 46 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 NARRATES assessment.
All statutory agencies and professionals from other agencies (as required) should support and assist with the undertaking of enquiries alongside social workers and managers. A NARRATES (including S46) process is the means by which Section 46 Enquiries are carried out. The assessment could have commenced at the point of receipt of referral and it must continue whenever the criteria for Section 46 Enquiries are satisfied. The conclusions and recommendations of the Section 46 NARRATES should inform the next steps. The S46 Narrates should be completed within 15 working days of the strategy. See Isle of Man Children's Services Procedures, NARRATES (including NARRATES S46) discussion where the decision was made to initiate it.
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.
4. Strategy Discussion / Meeting
The strategy discussion/meeting should be co-ordinated and chaired by a Team Manager.
The strategy discussion/meeting should involve Children and Families Division 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/meeting this should involve the midwifery services.
Professionals participating in strategy discussions/meetings must have all their agency's information relating to the child available to be able to contribute to the discussion/meeting, and must be sufficiently senior to make decisions on behalf of their agencies.
Discussions by telephone or Microsoft Teams is appropriate to plan an enquiry and must include the agencies directly involved with the child. For telephone and Microsoft Teams 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 Team Manager should be circulated as soon as practicable to all parties to the discussion.
Some examples of circumstances where a strategy discussion/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 the Children and Families Division 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 or criminally exploited; undergoing FGM 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 to the Isle of Man 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 there will need to be a decision made as to whether a Child Protection Conference should be held in respect of both children.
There are some examples where only face to face strategy meetings should take place:
- Where the child is disabled;
- In situations where fabricated illness is suspected;
- In situations of complex abuse some, but not all will involve adults who work or who have worked in the children's workforce. Where this is the case the Senior Independent Reviewing Officer should be consulted and the MASM procedure should operate in conjunction with the Complex Abuse guidance. See Organised and Complex Abuse Procedure;
- Where allegations are made against staff, carers, volunteers or anybody professionally involved with a child the Managing Allegations Strategy Meeting and Process (MASM) should be instigated. This meeting should be chaired by a manager from Children and Families independent of the case – The Safeguarding and Quality Assurance Unit usually manage these meetings;
- Where there has been an unexplained death of a child.
NARRATES Professional Operational Guidelines
A strategy discussion/meeting should have a clear purpose and should be used to:
- Confirm the details of concern;
- Share available information;
- Agree the conduct and timing of any criminal investigation;
- Decide whether a NARRATES assessment under Section 46 of the Children and Young Persons Act 2001 should be initiated, or continued, if it has already been initiated following an earlier Strategy discussion/meeting;
- Consider the assessment and the key action points, if already in place;
- Plan how the Section 46 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 by the social worker. During the course of these enquiries methods should be agreed to establish how the child's wishes and feelings will be ascertained so that they can be taken into account when making decisions;
- Consider any impairment (child or family) and any assistance required to enable communication, particularly for a disabled child;
- In the 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/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/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 the allocated social worker (within 5 working days).
Strategy discussions/meetings should be convened as soon as possible, bearing in mind the needs of the child and must take place within 24 hours of child protection concerns being identified, except in the following circumstances:
- For allegations/concerns indicating immediate risk of harm to the child (e.g. serious physical injury or serious neglect) the strategy discussion/meeting should be held on the same day as the receipt of the referral;
- For allegations of penetrative sexual abuse, the strategy discussion/meeting should be held on the same day as the receipt of the referral, if it is required to ensure forensic evidence;
- Where the concerns are particularly complex (e.g. fabricated/induced illness/ organised abuse/ child sexual exploitation or allegations against staff) the strategy discussion/meeting must be held within a maximum of 24 hours, but sooner if there is a need to provide immediate protection to a child.
The NARRATES S46 must be completed within 15 days of the Strategy Discussion/Meeting where the decision was made to initiate it. Where the outcome of the NARRATES S46 is that an Initial Child Protection Conference is required, this must be held within 25 working days of the start of the NARRATES S46.
Refer to NARRATES Professional Operational Guidance .
Whenever Children and Families Division have concluded that an Initial Child Protection Conference is not required but professionals from other agencies remain seriously concerned about the safety of a child, the professional should in the first instance seek further discussion with the social worker, their manager and/or the designated safeguarding professional lead to understand the rationale and threshold for the proposed action. 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 Escalation of Concerns Procedure.
In exceptional circumstances, enquiries may be more complicated and may require more than one strategy discussion/meeting. If the strategy meeting concludes that a further 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 25 working days of the start of the NARRATES S46. If the conclusion of the strategy discussion/meeting is that there is no cause to pursue the Section 46 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 with complex needs.
5. The Section 46 Enquiry
When undertaking enquires the social worker must consult with other agencies involved with the child and family 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 the 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.
The Section 46 Enquiry should begin by focusing on the information identified during the referral/assessment and strategy discussion, which appears most important in relation to the risk of 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 capacity of the parents 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;
- Potentially suggest a higher level of vulnerability in the family and risk of significant harm such as parental mental health difficulties, parental substance misuse, and domestic violence or combinations of these;
- Determine the level of intervention required to improve the outcome 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 46 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, 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 information that may be held in the United Kingdom, or other countries, if it is believed that the child and family was known to other Local Authorities prior to residing in the Isle of Man.
6. Single Agency and Joint Agency Section 46 Enquiries
The Police and Children and Families Division are standard attendees at every strategy meeting. They must co-ordinate their activities to ensure the parallel process of a Section 46 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/Meetings.
The primary responsibility of police officers is to undertake criminal investigations of suspected or actual crime and to inform the allocated social worker when they are undertaking such investigations. Where appropriate the Designated Officer (Senior Independent Reviewing Officer) and the social worker should be informed by the police in specific cases where there are allegations made against people working, in a paid or voluntary capacity, with children.
At the strategy discussion/meeting the police officers should share current and historical information with other services where it is necessary to do so to ensure the protection of a child.
No agencies should take independent action where there is an allegation or reasonable suspicion that a criminal offence has been committed. There are occasions when Police single agency investigations are appropriate where:
- An adult makes an allegation of childhood abuse;
- The alleged offender is not known to the child or family i.e. stranger abuse. However even then following discussion between the Police and Children and Families Division it may be agreed that a joint investigation is appropriate;
- On occasions the Police may conduct single agency investigations out of hours reflecting their duty to respond and take initial action to protect a child and criminal evidence. Children and Families Division must be informed of this as soon as possible and if appropriate a joint enquiry will be commenced.
There is criteria for the Children and Families Division to conduct single agency investigations however this will require careful consideration with the decision to proceed agreed within a strategy discussion. The criteria to consider are:
- Emotional abuse alone;
- Physical abuse resulting in minimal or no injury (except for pre mobile babies);
- Oversexualised behaviour of a child;
- Neglect where there is insufficient evidence for prosecution.
If at any point during the Children and Families single agency enquiries it becomes apparent that joint enquiry criteria are met and if a crime has been committed, then immediate contact with the police must be made and a joint enquiry should be initiated.
The intention of the Safeguarding Act 2018 is for all Government, third and private sector services that provide services to children and vulnerable adults to uphold their duty to cooperate; more importantly the duty to safeguard children and vulnerable adults. Therefore, even if it is determined during the course of any investigation there are concerns about the welfare of a child, whether or not a crime has been committed the police should assist and support other agencies to carry out their responsibilities.
7. Involving Children, Parents and Other Significant Family Members
Children who are the subject of Section 46 Enquiries should always be seen and communicated with alone by the social worker. All children within the household must be directly communicated with during Section 46 Enquiries 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.
If the child is the subject of ongoing court proceedings, legal advice must be sought about obtaining permission from the court to see the child.
The social worker and the police should ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place to support the child through the Section 46 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 ethnic, 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).
It may be necessary to provide information to the child in stages and this must be taken into account in planning the enquiries.
Explanations given to the child must be provided as the assessment and the enquiry progresses. In no circumstances should the child be left wondering what is happening and why.
If the whereabouts of a child subject to Section 46 Enquiries are unknown and cannot be ascertained by the social worker, the following action must be taken within 24 hours:
- A strategy discussion/ meeting with the police;
- Agreement reached with the Team manager responsible as to what further action is required to locate and see the child and carry out the enquiry.
Refer to the Contents for further guidance depending upon the current legal status and circumstances of the child.
If access to a child is refused or obstructed, the social worker, in consultation with their manager, should co-ordinate a strategy discussion/meeting including legal representation, to develop a plan to locate or access the child/ren and progress the Section 46 Enquiry.
The parents and other significant family members:
In the majority of cases, parents should be enabled to participate fully in the assessment and enquiry process, which must be explained to them verbally and also in writing. It is important that sufficient information is provided, including any available leaflets according to the current circumstance. If a parent has a specific communication difficulty or English is not their first language, an interpreter should be provided.
The social worker as the lead worker has the overall responsibility for engaging and clearly communicating with parents and other family members to explain why concerns have arisen and what needs to happen next. By doing this the social worker should then be able to assess the capacity of the parents to safeguard the child and meet their identified needs.
Parents 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 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 the partners of the parents.
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, who assumes the care of a child during a Section 46 Enquiry.
An explanation of their rights as parents 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 during a Section 46 Enquiry, and the response to these objections or complaints, must be clearly recorded.
8. Medical Assessments
Strategy discussions/meetings must consider, in consultation with the Designated/ Named Doctor/ On Call Pediatrician (if not part of the strategy discussion/meeting), the need for and the timing of a medical assessment. Medical assessments should always be considered necessary where there has been a disclosure or there is a suspicion of any form of abuse to a child.
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:
- Secure forensic evidence;
- Obtain medical documentation;
- Provide reassurance for the child and parent;
- Inform treatment follow-up and review for the child (any injury, infection, new symptoms including psychological).
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.
The following may give consent to a medical assessment:
- A child of sufficient age and understanding;
- Any person with parental responsibility, providing they have the capacity to do so;
- The Children and Families Division when the child is the subject of a Care Order (though the parent should still be informed);
- The Children and Families Division when child is accommodated under Section 25 of the Children and Young Persons Act 2001, and the parent/s have abandoned the child or are assessed as lacking capacity to give such authority;
- A Family Proceedings 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. Wherever possible the permission of a parent should be sought for children under sixteen prior to any medical assessment or medical treatment. 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.
A young person aged 16 or 17 to provide consent to surgical, medical or dental treatment and, unless grounds exist to say that there is doubt relating to their mental capacity no further consent is required.
Where circumstances do not allow permission 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;
- Decide to proceed without consent.
In these circumstances, parents 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 permission is not obtained, the social worker and manager must consider whether it is in the child's best interests to make an application to the court for an Order.
Arranging the Medical Assessment
In the course of Section 46 Enquiries, appropriately trained and experienced practitioners must undertake all medical assessments:
- If the child needs urgent medical attention, they should be taken immediately to Accident and Emergency Department to be assessed;
- In a non- emergency situation when it has been agreed that a medical assessment is required then a referral for such an examination will need to be made by the social worker, police officer or their manager, depending on the child's needs and island provision, to the consultant pediatrician;
- When planning the examination consideration must be given to whether photographic evidence is required particularly for use in care proceedings or criminal proceedings. Where such arrangements are necessary the child and parents must be informed beforehand with careful consideration given to the impact of this on the child;
- In cases of severe neglect, physical injury or recent sexual abuse where there is a possibility of forensic evidence being available, the examination should be undertaken on the day of the referral, giving due consideration to the welfare of the child;
- In non-acute sexual abuse, less severe neglect, emotional abuse and in some cases of minor physical injury (in the latter, only after consultation with a pediatrician), examination should take place as a planned appointment, not necessarily on that day. However, if it is considered that the child protection plan for the child might need to be altered by the outcome of the examination, this should take place on the day of the referral.
In all cases of suspected sexual abuse an appropriate examination should be carried out in accordance with best practice in order to secure forensic evidence. GPs must not perform a detailed examination. In such cases:
- Examinations are carried out by forensically trained Force Medical Examiner (FME). Best practice guidance is available from the Royal College of Pediatrics and Association of Police Surgeons Child Health Guidelines (UK) It may be necessary for younger children to have a joint examination with a pediatrician present, led by the FME;
- The police officer leading the enquiry will ensure that the doctors are briefed and possession is taken of evidential items;
- Single examinations will only be undertaken if the person has the requisite skills and equipment;
- Single examination by an FME should preferably only be undertaken on older children (at least 10 years or older) and this will usually be in the case of acute (recent) sexual abuse or alleged rape;
- The FME or pediatrician has the discretion to recommend that a child is referred to a recognised UK sexual abuse centre. This can be for initial examination or for a second opinion. The circumstances will vary on the island depending on the availability and the experience of the FME and the pediatrician;
- It is acknowledged that no FME or pediatrician on the Isle of Man will be able to undertake colposcopy examination and this will influence the decision regarding examination at a UK centre;
- The need for a specialist examination by a child psychiatrist or psychologist should be considered.
A report should be provided by the named/designated doctor to the social worker, the GP and where appropriate, the police. The timing of a letter to parents should be determined in consultation with the Social Worker, Team Manager and the police. In most cases it will be appropriate to provide a report within 24 hours, to be followed up with a more detailed report as soon as practicable. In some cases, further investigation or assessment may mean it takes longer to provide a definitive opinion.
The report should include:
- A verbatim record of the carer's and child's accounts of injuries and concerns noting any discrepancies or changes of story;
- Documentary findings in both words and diagrams;
- Site, size, shape and where possible age 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, 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 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 (Home Office 2011). All events up to the time of the video 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 46 Enquiries, subsequent civil childcare proceedings or disciplinary proceedings against adults, where allegations have been made.
Where a child is deemed to be particularly vulnerable and/or has communication difficulty, consideration should always be given as to whether an intermediary should be involved at the early stages of the investigative process.
The police will be primarily responsible for interviewing the alleged perpetrator(s). They must keep the social worker informed about the progress of the investigation in order to ensure that the child remains adequately protected once the alleged perpetrator hears the allegations against them or if, having been charged with the offence, they are subsequently released on bail.
10. The Outcome of Section 47 Enquiries
Children and Families Division responsible for deciding how to proceed with the enquiries and risk assessment based on the strategy discussion/meeting and taking into account the views of the child, their parents 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 46 Enquiry, the social worker and manager must evaluate and analyse all the information gathered to determine if the threshold for significant harm has been reached.
The outcome of the Section 46 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 with complex needs;
- Substantiated and the child is judged to be suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm convened.
Concerns are not substantiated
Social workers with their managers should:
- Discuss the case with the child, parents and other professionals;
- Determine whether support from any services may be helpful and help secure it; and
- Consider whether the child's health and development should be re- assessed regularly against specific objectives and decide who has responsibility for doing this.
All involved professionals should:
- Participate in further discussions as necessary;
- Contribute to the development of 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 Team Manager 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 managers should:
- Convene an initial child protection conference. Where the outcome of the NARRATES Section 46 is that an Initial Child Protection Conference is required this must be held within 25 working days of the start of the NARRATES Section 46;
- Refer to NARRATES Professional Operational Guidance.
The procedure for requesting a Child Protection Conference must be followed.
- 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;
- 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 according to procedural timescales, setting out the nature of the agency's involvement with the child and family using the professional template for Child Protection Conferences;
- 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.
Feedback from Section 46 Enquiries
The Children's social worker is responsible for recording the outcome of the Section 46 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 manager.
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 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 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 ongoing 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 is placed in a residential home and where an allegation of harm has been made against a member of staff within the home and S46 Enquiries have been initiated, the process and outcome should be reported and included as a part of the MASM process. Children's homes have a designated senior manager responsible for managing the allegations. The designated manager should immediately report any allegation to Registration and Inspections with immediate effect. The outcome of the MASM will be shared with all relevant parties.
Refer to Standard 20 Handling Allegations and Suspicions of Harm for additional details. Children's Homes and Child (secure) Accommodation Minimum Standards (last reviewed January 2016)
Where the decision about the outcome of the Section 46 Enquiry is disputed
Where it is concluded that an initial child protection conference is not required but professionals from 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 and Families Division convene an initial child protection conference. Children's and Families Division 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 Escalation of Concerns Procedure should be implemented.
The strategy meeting and the S46 NARRATES will include all of the relevant information provided by agencies, this will be clearly recorded on the case file and within the NARRATES and will form the basis of the outcome of the investigation.
The NARRATES will be authorised and signed off by the responsible manager within the Children and Families Division.
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 S46 NARRATES, the social work manager should ensure that the concerns and outcome have been entered in the recording system including on the child's chronology. All other agencies should have been informed.
Children and Families Division recording of enquiries should include:
- Agency checks;
- Content of contact cross-referenced with any specific forms used;
- Strategy discussion/meeting notes;
- Details of the enquiry;
- Body maps (where applicable);
- S46 NARRATES 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.
Isle of Man Safeguarding Board Inter-agency Child Protection Procedures can be accessed online:
Escalation of Concerns Procedure
NARRATES Professional Operational Guidance