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2.1.6 Child Protection (Section 47) Enquiries


  1. Duty to Undertake a Section 47 Enquiry 
  2. Purpose of a Section 47 Enquiry    
  3. Decision to Undertake a Section 47 Enquiry  
  4. Emergency Protective Action 
  5. Obligations and Responsibilities of All Agencies 
  6. Integration with Child and Family Assessment
  7. Single Agency or Joint Enquiry/Investigation 
  8. Seeing and Interviewing the Child 
  9. Parental Involvement and Consent 
  10. Paediatric Assessments 
  11. Outcome of the Section 47 Enquiry  
  12. Recording the Section 47 Enquiry  
  13. Feedback on Outcome of Section 47 Enquiry  
  14. Resolving Professional Disagreements

    Appendix1: Body Maps

Also see Flowchart 4: What Happens After the Strategy Discussion?

1. Duty to Undertake a Section 47 Enquiry

The local authorities Children’s Social Care Services have a statutory duty to carry out a Section 47 Enquiry in any of the following circumstances:

The responsibility for undertaking Section 47 Enquiries lies with the local authority for the area in which the child lives or is found, even though the child is ordinarily resident in another local authorities area.

Where a Section 47 Enquiry is to be conducted in relation to a child who is ordinarily resident in the area of another local authority, her/his home authority should be informed as soon as possible, and be involved as appropriate in the Strategy Discussion. In certain cases, it may be agreed that the home authority should undertake the Section 47 Enquiry (for example where the child is Looked After) and in all cases, the home authority should take responsibility for any further support of the child or family identified as necessary. 

See also Children Moving Across Local Authority Boundaries or Abroad Procedure.

2. Purpose of a Section 47 Enquiry

The purpose of the Section 47 Enquiry is to determine whether any further action is required to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child or children who is/are the subject of the Enquiry. 

If a decision is made that a Section 47 Enquiry is necessary, it will be led by a Children’s Social Care Services team in parallel with the Police investigation - see Section 7, Single Agency or Joint Enquiry/Investigation.

The decision and plan to carry out the Section 47 Enquiry will be determined at a Strategy Discussion.

3. Decision to Undertake a Section 47 Enquiry

Children’s Social Care Services Managers have the responsibility, based on available information, to authorise Section 47 Enquiries.

The decision to initiate a Section 47 Enquiry must be taken following a Strategy Discussion. This may occur whenever the criteria set out in Section 2, Purpose of the Section 47 Enquiry are met, for example:

  • At the point of a Referral;
  • During the early consideration of a Referral;
  • During a Child and Family Assessment; or
  • At any time in an open case when the criteria are satisfied.

In reaching her/his conclusion as to the justification for a Section 47 Enquiry, the Manager must consider the following factors:

  • The seriousness of the concern/s;
  • The combination of concerns;
  • The repetition or duration of concern/s;
  • The vulnerability of the child (through age, developmental stage, Disability or other predisposing factor e.g. whether they are Looked After);
  • The source of the concern/s;
  • The accumulation of sufficient information;
  • The context in which the child is living - e.g. whether there is a child in the household already who is the subject of a Child Protection Plan;
  • Any predisposing factors in the family that may suggest a higher level of risk e.g. mental health difficulties, substance misuse by parent/carer or domestic abuse;
  • The impact on the child’s health and development.

The Section 47 Enquiry may be undertaken in parallel with the Police investigation - see Section 7, Single Agency or Joint Enquiry/Investigation.

Any decision made after a Strategy Discussion that further child protection action by Children’s Social Care Services and/or the Police is not necessary as there is insufficient evidence that a child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, Significant Harm may only be made providing it is agreed by the Strategy Discussion that reviews the outcome of the Child Protection enquiries. This must include a representative from Health Services.

In such circumstances consideration should be given to whether:

  • No further action should be taken;
  • To undertake an in-depth Child and Family Assessment under S17 of the Children Act 1989 to provide services as a Child in Need; or
  • Other services are appropriate for the child from universal services.

4. Emergency Protective Action

Also see Working Together to Safeguard Children, Flowchart 2: Immediate Protection.

Where there is a risk to the life of a child or the likelihood of serious immediate harm, the Police officer and/or social worker must act quickly to secure the immediate safety of the child.

The agency taking protective action must always consider whether action is also required to safeguard other children in the same household or in the household of an alleged perpetrator or elsewhere e.g. a work place involving children.

Emergency action may be necessary as soon as the referral is received or at any point during involvement with children, parents or carers, where there is evidence that the risk to the child is sufficiently acute. The need for emergency action may become apparent only after time, as more is learned about the circumstances of a child or children. Neglect, as well as abuse, many cause a child to suffer, Significant Harm such that urgent protective action is needed.

Responsibility for immediate action rests with Children’s Social Care Services for the area where the child is found, but should be in consultation with the local authority where the child is ordinarily resident, if different. Or the “home” authority where the child is looked after or subject to a child protection plan in another authority.

Immediate protection may be achieved by:

  • An alleged abuser agreeing to leave the home;
  • The removal of the alleged abuser;
  • Voluntary agreement for the child or children to move to a safer place with or without a protective person;
  • Application for an Emergency Protection Order (EPO);
  • Removal of the child or children under Police powers of Protection;
  • Gaining entry to the household under police powers.

Planned immediate protection will normally take place following an immediate Strategy Discussion between Police, Children’s Social Care Services, Health and other agencies as appropriate. Where a single agency has to act immediately to protect a child, a Strategy Discussion should take place as soon as possible after such action to plan next steps and within one working day.

The social worker must obtain legal advice before initiating legal action and seek the agreement of her/his Manager before an Emergency Protection Order is applied for.

Children’s Social Care Services should only seek the assistance of the police to use their powers of Police Protection in exceptional circumstances where there is insufficient time to seek an Emergency Protection Order or other reasons relating to the child’s immediate safety.

5. Obligations and Responsibilities of All Agencies

All agencies have a duty to assist and provide information in support of Section 47 Enquiries.

Any checks made by the Children’s Social Care Services and/or the Police with other agencies should be undertaken directly with involved professionals and not through messages with intermediaries.

The relevant agencies should be informed of the reasons for the Section 47 Enquiry, whether parents have been informed and asked for their assessment of the child in the light of the information presented.

6. Integration with Child and Family Assessment 

A Child and Family Assessment must be continued/completed whenever a Section 47 Enquiry is initiated. The Child and Family Assessment must be completed within 45 working days of the Referral being received.

The Section 47 Enquiry should begin by focusing primarily on the information identified during the Common Assessment, Referral and that proportion of the Child and Family Assessment which had been completed when the Section 47 Enquiry was initiated which appears most important in relation to whether the child is suffering, or likely to suffer Significant Harm.

The assessment of risk will:

  • Identify the cause for concern;
  • Tell the story from the child’s perspective including identifying the risk and protective factors within the family and the child’s wider network;
  • Seeing the child alone and establishing their wishes, feelings and views on the concerns identified. Evaluate the balance of risk and protective factors, including what the consequences of taking no action might be;
  • Develop a proposed plan, including the:
    • Child’s needs for protection;
    • Level of intervention required both in the immediate and longer term.

Any contact with the child and family must take into consideration any needs arising from their culture, ethnicity, religion, first language - and provision for use of interpreters made accordingly.

This will inform the Child and Family Assessment, which should cover all relevant dimensions in the Working Together to Safeguard Children Assessment Framework and be alert to the potential needs and safety of siblings or other children in the household or with whom the alleged offender may have had contact.

The Section 47 Enquiry/Child and Family Assessment must be led by a qualified social worker from Children’s Social Care Services, who will be responsible for its coordination and completion. The social worker must consult with other agencies involved with the child and family in order to obtain a fuller picture of the circumstances of all children in the household, identifying parenting strengths and any risk factors. All agencies consulted are responsible for providing information to assist with the assessment process.

At the same time, where there is a joint enquiry/investigation, the Police will have to establish the facts about any offence that may have been committed against a child and collect evidence - see Section 7, Single Agency or Joint Enquiry/Investigation.

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. Any discussions with children should be conducted in a way that minimises distress; leading or suggestive communication  must be avoided and interviews must follow the Achieving Best Evidence guidance - see Sections 8, Seeing and Interviewing the Child and Section 9, Parental Involvement and Consent

Where the child is too young to be interviewed or verbal communication is difficult for any reason, alternative means of understanding the child’s wishes and feelings should be used. Specialist services may be required in order to assist in communicating with the child.

7. Single Agency or Joint Enquiry/Investigation

The Strategy Discussion will decide how the Section 47 Enquiry and Police investigation are to be carried out.

8. Seeing and Interviewing the Child

8.1 Seeing the Child

All children within the household must be seen and directly communicated with during a Section 47 Enquiry by the Police and Children’s Social Care Services, to enable an assessment of their safety to be made.

The children who are the focus of concern should be seen alone, by the Lead Social Worker, subject to their age and willingness, preferably with parental permission (see Section 9, Parental Involvement and Consent).

Children of an appropriate age and understanding should be told what is to happen and given any written information, such as leaflets, as appropriate. 

Their agreement to being spoken to alone should be sought and any non-agreement on their part should be respected and documented. 

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

Explanations given to the child should be brought up to date as the Section 47 Enquiry progresses.  In no circumstances should the child be left wondering what is happening and why. 

The Children’s Social Care Services team and the Police must ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place to support the child during the joint enquiry/investigation. An adult - usually a parent, carer, relative or friend - should be identified to accompany and support the child through the process. The most suitable person for the role will be dependent on the circumstances taking into account the wishes and feelings of the child.

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 an physical/sensory/learning disability;
  • Where those investigating do not have adequate knowledge and understanding of the child’s racial, religious and cultural background.

The objective in seeing the child is to understand their story. Information to support this comes from:

  • Recording and evaluating his/her appearance, demeanour, mood state and behaviour;
  • Hearing the child’s account of allegations or concerns;
  • Observing and recording  the interactions of the child and her/his carers;
  • Observe and record any injury where appropriate;
  • Seeing and recording the circumstances in which the child is currently living and sleeping and, if different, her/his ordinary residence;
  • Evaluating the physical safety of the environment including the storage of hazardous substances e.g. bleach, drugs;
  • Ensuring that any other children who may need to be seen are identified;
  • Assessing  the degree of risk and possible need for protective action;
  • Meeting the child’s needs for information and re-assurance.

The Strategy Discussion must decide where, when and how the child or children should be seen and how best evidence might be achieved, for example by a recorded interview.

In all cases where it is agreed to conduct a recorded interview of a child, the Achieving Best Evidence Guidance must be followed and staff conducting the interview must have had appropriate training, unless the need to depart from the guidance has been agreed by the investigating officers and their managers. Any such decisions must be recorded with reasons.

The aim of any such video interview is to gather evidence for criminal proceedings in cases which might result in prosecution or alternatively to be used in family proceedings.

Where a recorded interview is to take place, in order to avoid undermining any subsequent criminal case, any contact with a child prior to the interview must also be conducted under Achieving Best Evidence guidance and 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.

8.2 Inability to access the child

If efforts to see and communicate with the child or children within the timescales agreed at the Strategy Discussion are unsuccessful, then the social worker and, where relevant, the Police officer should:

  • Inform the relevant manager, and seek legal advice as appropriate; and
  • In consultation with her/his manager, carry out the contingency plan agreed at the Strategy Discussion; or
  • Arrange a further Strategy Discussion to agree what further action is required, including action to trace the whereabouts of the child (if unknown), and to see them and carry out the S47 Enquiry.

If parents continue to refuse access to a child but concerns are not so urgent as to require an Emergency Protection Order, Children’s Social Care may apply to the court for a Child Assessment Order.

See also Missing Children and Families Procedure.

9. Parental Involvement and Consent

9.1 Parental Involvement

The Children’s Social Care Services have the prime responsibility to engage with parents and other family members to ascertain the facts of the situation causing concern, and to assess the capacity of the family to safeguard the child.

In most cases, parents should be enabled to participate fully in the assessment and enquiry process, which should be explained to them verbally, written information should also be  provided to parents and carers if requested. Where a parent has additional needs e.g. where they are disabled, they should be offered support to participate in the assessment. If English is not their first language, an interpreter must be provided and leaflets explaining the s47 and assessment process should be available in a range of languages. 

Consideration should be given to the capacity of the parents to understand the information shared in a situation of anxiety and stress.

The parents should 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 should be kept informed throughout about the enquiry, its outcome and any subsequent action unless this would jeopardise the safety and welfare of the child.

In explaining the process of a Section 47 Enquiry to parents, the following points should be covered:

  • An explanation of the reason for concern and where appropriate the source of information; 
  • The procedures to be followed; this must include an explanation of the need for the child to be seen, interviewed and/or medically assessed, consultation about the gender of the medical practitioner where time allows and seeking parental agreement for these aspects of the enquiry – (see Section 9.2, Parental Consent);
  • An explanation of their rights as parents including the need for support and guidance from an advocate whom they trust and advice about their right to seek legal advice);
  • An explanation of the role of the various agencies involved in the enquiry and explanation of the wish to work in partnership with them to secure the welfare of their child;
  • The need to gather initial information on the 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 abuse, the possibility of working with the parents separately;
  • The provision of an opportunity for parents to be able to ask questions and receive support and guidance.

9.2 Parental Consent

The social worker must consult her/his manager so that s/he can decide on the basis of available information, whether to seek parental consent to undertake inter-agency checks. This will usually have already been discussed during the Child and Family Assessment and at the Strategy Discussion

In addition, the social worker must consult his/her manager about whether parental consent should be sought for an interview with and/or paediatric assessment of a child.

See also Section 10.3, Consent for Paediatric Assessment/Medical Treatment in relation to parental consent to a child’s paediatric assessment.

If a decision is made not to seek parental permission, the reasons must be recorded and this may include:

  • Concern that the child would be likely to suffer further Significant Harm;
  • Serious concern about the likely behaviour of the adult, for example that the child may be coerced into silence or vital evidence may be destroyed;
  • The views of the child who does not want his/her parent to be informed and is competent to make that decision.

When it is decided to interview the child without seeking the consent of the parents, the decision must be endorsed by the social workers line manager, and the parent or carer must be informed as soon as practicable and consistent with the best interests of the child. 

Where permission is sought but refused, the social workers manager must determine whether to proceed, and if so, record the reasons. Where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, and access is refused, the Children’s Social Care Services have a duty to apply for:

Unless it is satisfied that the child’s welfare can be safeguarded without doing so.

9.2 Inability to access the child

If efforts to see and communicate with the child or children within the timescales agreed at the Strategy Discussion are unsuccessful, then the social worker and, where relevant, the Police officer should:

  • Inform the relevant manager, and seek legal advice as appropriate; and
  • In consultation with her/his manager, carry out the contingency plan agreed at the Strategy Discussion; or
  • Arrange a further Strategy Discussion to agree what further action is required, including action to trace the whereabouts of the child (if unknown), and to see them and carry out the s47 enquiry.

If parents continue to refuse access to a child but concerns are not so urgent as to require an Emergency protection Order, Children’s Social Care may apply to the court for a Child Assessment Order.

See also Missing Children and Families Procedure.

10. Paediatric Assessments 

10.1 When a Paediatric Assessment is necessary

Strategy Discussions must consider, in consultation with the paediatrician (if not part of the discussion or meeting), the need for and timing of a paediatric assessment. Consideration must also be given as to whether there are any other children in the household who may also require a paediatric assessment.

Paediatric 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.

Additional considerations are the need to:

  • Secure forensic evidence;
  • Obtain medical documentation.

In cases of severe neglect, physical injury or acute (recent) penetrative sexual abuse, the assessment should be undertaken on the day of the referral, where compatible with the welfare of the child.

Only suitably qualified health specialists may physically examine the child for the purposes of a paediatric assessment. Other staff should note any visible marks or injuries on a body map and document details in their recording.

10.2 Purpose of Paediatric Assessment

The purpose of a paediatric assessment is:

  • To diagnose any injury or harm to the child and to initiate treatment as required;
  • To document the findings;
  • To provide a medical report on the findings, including an opinion as to the probable cause of any injury or other harm reported;
  • To assess the overall health and development of the child;
  • To provide reassurance for the child and parent;
  • To arrange for follow up and review of the child as required, noting new symptoms including psychological effects.

10.3 Consent for Paediatric Assessment/Medical Treatment

The following may give consent to a paediatric assessment:

  • A young person aged 16 and over unless they lack the mental capacity to do so;
  • A child under 16 where a doctor considers he or she is of sufficient age and understanding to give informed consent and is “Fraser Competent”;
  • Any person with Parental Responsibility;
  • The local authority when the child is the subject of a Care Order (although the parent/carer should be informed);
  • The local authority when the child is Accommodated and the parent/carers have abandoned the child or are physically or mentally unable to give such authority;
  • The High Court when the child is a Ward of Court;
  • Court as part of The Family Proceedings direction attached to an Emergency Protection Order, an Interim Care Order or a Child Assessment Order.

Where the child is the subject of ongoing Court proceedings, legal advice should be obtained about whether to obtain the Court's permission to the paediatric assessment.

It is generally good practice to seek wherever possible the permission of a parent for children under 16 prior to any paediatric assessment and/or other medical treatment even if the child is judged to be of sufficient understanding to give consent in their own right. If this is not considered possible or appropriate, then the reasons should be clearly recorded.

When a child is Looked After and a parent/carer has given general consent authorising medical treatment for the child, legal advice must be taken about whether this provides consent for a paediatric assessment for child protection purposes (the parent/carer still has full parental responsibility for the child). Where the local authority shares Parental Responsibility for the child, the local authority must also consent to the paediatric assessment.

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

In emergency situations where the child needs urgent medical treatment and there is insufficient time to obtain parental consent:

  • The medical practitioner may decide to proceed without consent; and/or
  • The medical practitioner may regard the child to be of an age and level of understanding to give her/his own consent and be Fraser Competent.

In these circumstances, parents must be informed 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 seek legal advice - see Section 9.2, Parental Consent.

For additional guidance to doctors, see the Protecting Children and Young People - the Responsibilities of all Doctors' (GMC 2012).

10.4 Arranging the Paediatric Assessment

Paediatric assessments are the responsibility of the consultant paediatrician but may be conducted by an appropriately trained Specialist Registrar, Staff Grade or Associate Specialist. Exceptionally a Forensic Medical Examiner (FME) may, depending on expertise conduct the assessment on her/his own, if this has been agreed by the strategy meeting.

Referrals for child protection paediatric assessments from a social worker or a member of the Police Combined Safeguarding Unit should be made to the local paediatric service (local pathways should be followed: hospitals to provide official point of contact – see local contacts in appendix 1).

The paediatrician may examine the child her/himself, or arrange for her/him to be seen by a member of the paediatric team in the hospital or community.

When there is a potential criminal investigation a Combined Safeguarding Unit officer should directly brief the doctors, before the paediatric assessment, and afterwards take possession of evidential items.

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 Child Health and Association of Forensic Physicians (Paediatric Forensic Examination in relation to Possible Sexual Abuse October 2007).

In cases of severe neglect, physical injury or penetrative sexual abuse, the assessment should be undertaken on the day of referral, where compatible with the welfare of the child. Timing of the paediatric assessment should be agreed at the strategy meeting / discussion and consider whether the investigative interview should take place before or after the paediatric assessment.

The social worker should, (unless this would cause undue delay and where there is the possibility to offer a choice) consider in consultation with the child / parents whether the specific circumstances of the case indicates a paediatrician of a particular gender prior to the examination being conducted.

The need for a specialist assessment by a child psychiatrist or psychologist should also be considered.

10.5 Recording of Paediatric Assessment

At the conclusion of the paediatric assessment, the doctor must give a verbal report explaining his or her findings to the social worker/Police officer attending, followed by a written report as soon as practicable.

Disclosure of the information contained in the report to the parent(s) of the child and/or the child should be agreed in consultation with the Children’s Social Care Service and the Police.

The report should include:

  • Date, time and place of examination;
  • Those present;
  • Who gave consent and how (child/parent, written, phone or in person);
  • A verbatim record of the carer’s and child’s accounts of injuries and concerns noting any discrepancies or changes of story;
  • A verbatim record of information shared by Police and Children Social Services / Children’s Social Care also to be included;
  • Documentary findings in both words and diagrams;
  • Site, size, shape and where possible age of any marks or injuries;
  • Other findings relevant to the child e.g. squint, learning problems, speech problems etc;
  • Confirmation of the child’s developmental progress (especially important in cases of neglect);
  • Time examination ended;
  • Consideration of previous medical and family history;
  • Summary of all the findings (history, examination, any investigations undertaken), to be followed by a professional opinion;
  • When applicable, to include recommendations for future health care needs and other non-health care needs where relevant. Details of any follow-up arrangements to be made;
  • Medical opinion of the likely cause of injury or harm.

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

If criminal or family proceedings are instituted, the doctor's written report may be filed and served as well as the doctor's statement of evidence. The doctor's attendance at subsequent Court hearings may also be required.

Where there has been a joint paediatric assessment, the doctors involved should agree which of them will provide the report.  If they disagree in their clinical findings and interpretations, they should both provide full reports and usually a further independent medical opinion should be obtained.  For further guidance, see Guidance on Paediatric Forensic Examinations in relation to possible child sexual abuse, September 2004, issued by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Association of Forensic Physicians.

Body Charts / Photo Documentation

Agreed body charts should be used for both physical and sexual abuse and appended to the report.

Photographs should whenever possible be taken by a trained photographer and originals may be shared with the police as part of the medical report. Photographs taken by the scenes of crime officer should be made available to the paediatrician for comment in the medical report.

Photo documentation, including DVDs and videos, in sexual abuse, etc should be sealed in an envelope in the notes and /or retained separately from the child’s details in a safe store. Photographs are usually only disclosed from one doctor to another following guidance (examining doctor to the defence expert or under the direction of the court (Child Protection Companion – April 2006).

Each organisation should have a written policy on archiving / storage of photographs and other related documents / formats.

Forensic Medical Examinations of Children

Unlike holistic examinations of children, the decision to hold a forensic medical examination of a child must be the decision of the Strategy Discussion. Any disagreement around the need for such an examination must be escalated in line with these procedures.

The Strategy Discussion must determine the timing, the purpose and the content of the medical examination in line with Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings (Ministry of Justice).

The medical should only be carried out by suitably qualified and experienced clinicians, and should not be confined solely to examination of the child’s genital and/or anal areas. A child who is concerned that abuse may have damaged them in some way can be reassured by a sensitive examination. Conversely, children who do not allege penetration should not receive unnecessary medical examinations.

Children age 0 to 12 years inclusive (i.e. up to 12 years and 364 days) require a medical examiner with paediatric experience to conduct examinations relating to reports of sexual abuse. Therefore a paediatrician and a Forensic Medical Examiner (FME) will conduct a joint medical examination, unless the FME possesses such paediatric expertise or the paediatrician is trained in forensic capture. In any event, the Police will have the responsibility of arranging the FME aspect of the medical. 

An FME may conduct forensic medical examinations on children aged 13 years and over without the need for this to be conducted jointly with another clinician. These single agency medical examinations also will be arranged by the Police.

Forensic medical examinations are required where there is a potential criminal investigation. The Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) in conjunction with the FME will determine the evidential requirements to be sought via the medical. A CAIU officer must be present at the medical and will take possession of any evidential items.

11. Outcome of the Section 47 Enquiry

The Section 47 Enquiry is concluded at the point when an informed decision is made taking account of all information available as to whether the child is likely to suffer, Significant Harm or not. The decision as to the outcome of a Section 47 Enquiry should be taken at a Strategy Discussion.

The Section 47 Enquiry will result in one of four possible outcomes:

  1. Child protection concerns are substantiated and the child(ren) is (are) considered to be suffering, or likely to suffer, Significant Harm, in which case an Initial Child Protection Conference will be convened. The Initial Child Protection Conference must take place within a maximum of 15 working days of the Strategy Discussion/Meeting or, where more than one Strategy Discussion/Meeting has taken place, of the Strategy Discussion which instigated the s47 enquiry. For details of the procedure for setting up the conference, see Initial Child Protection Conferences Procedure. In the meantime, an interim plan must be prepared and implemented giving due consideration to the following:
    1. Can the child be protected at home?
    2. If so, can the plan be agreed with the parents?
    3. Should the alleged abuser be asked to leave the family home?
    4. If not, can the child be placed with relatives with parental consent?
    5. If not, can the child be Accommodated with parental consent?
    6. If so, is a voluntary agreement appropriate and sufficient in the circumstances?
    7. Should legal action be considered? The District/Service Manger must be informed and decision taken to convene a legal planning meeting.
    8. Whether the Child and Family Assessment has been completed or what further work is required before it is completed.
  2. Child Protection concerns are substantiated but the child is not judged to be suffering, or likely to suffer, Significant Harm, for example because the family circumstances have changed since the harm occurred, an alleged perpetrator has permanently left the household or the family is judged to be willing and able to agree with and implement a plan to ensure the child’s future safety and welfare. This decision must be endorsed by a suitably experienced and qualified social work manager.

    In these circumstances, the Child and Family Assessment should be completed and whatever process is used to plan future action, the resulting plan should be informed by the Child and Family Assessment findings;
  3. Child Protection concerns are not substantiated but the enquiries have revealed services and/or further assessment are required. In these circumstances, the child may still be regarded as In Need and further work on the Child and Family Assessment should  continue.

    In relation to 2) and 3) above, a planning meeting of involved professionals and family members will agree what actions should be undertaken by whom and with what outcomes for the child’s health and development. Such a meeting is also important to inform parents about the nature of any on-going concerns. Any plan should set out who will have responsibility for what action, including a timescale for review of progress against planned outcomes;
  4. Child Protection concerns are not substantiated and no further action is required.

In all cases, the outcome should be authorised by the Children’s Social Care Services Manager.

The outcome of any Enquiry and the reasons for the decisions must be recorded on the Outcome of S47 record. The parents, the child (if appropriate) and the professionals involved should all be informed of the outcome.

Where an Initial Child Protection Conference is to be convened the decisions and outcomes must be included by the social worker in the second section of the Child and Family Assessment being used as the conference report.

12. Recording the Section 47 Enquiry

A full written record must be completed by each agency involved in a Section 47 Enquiry, using the required local multi-agency and agency pro-formas, input onto the electronic case record or signed and dated by staff.

All notes must be retained by practitioners until the completion of any anticipated legal proceedings.

Children’s Social Care Services 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;
  • Contacts made cross-referenced with any specific forms used;
  • Strategy Discussion notes;
  • Details of the enquiry;
  • Body maps (where applicable);
  • Chronology
  • Assessment including identification of risks and how they may be managed;
  • Decision making processes;
  • Record of Outcome/Further Action Planned.

At the completion of the Section 47 Enquiry the social workers manager should ensure that the concern and outcome have been entered on the child’s chronology.

13. Feedback on Outcome of Section 47 Enquiry

Feedback on the outcome of a Section 47 Enquiry should be provided to non-professional referrers in a manner that respects the confidentiality and welfare of the child and family

Information to parents, children and young people should be relayed in an appropriate format and translated for those people whose first language is not English.

The Children’s Social Care Services should ensure that parents, children (depending on their level of understanding), professionals and other agencies which have been involved are notified in writing of the outcome of Section 47 Enquiries of the decision being made at the earliest possible opportunity.

If there are ongoing criminal investigations, the content of the notification should be agreed with the Police.

14. Resolving Professional Disagreements

Children’s Social Care Services should take carefully any decision not to proceed to a Child Protection Conference, where it is known that a child has suffered Significant Harm.

Those professionals and agencies who are most involved with the child and family, and those who have taken part in the Section 47 Enquiry, have the right to request that Children’s Social Care Services convene a Child Protection Conference if they remain seriously concerned about the safety of the child. Any such request that is supported by a senior manager, or a Designated Senior Person or Named Professional, should normally be agreed.  Where there remain differences of view over the necessity for a conference in a specific case, every effort should be made to resolve them through discussion and explanation.

See also: Kent Escalation and Professional Challenge Policy and the escalation of professional concerns.

Appendix 1: Body Maps

Click here to view Appendix 1: Body Maps.