Section 47 Investigation

 

Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 places a duty on LAs to investigate and  make inquiries into the circumstances of children considered to be at risk of ‘significant harm’ and, where these inquiries indicate the need, to decide what action, if any, it may need to take to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare. The investigation will form a core assessment, which is an in-depth assessment of the nature of the child’s needs and the capacity of his or her parents to meet those needs within the wider family and community context.

The results of that assessment will form part of the LA’s evidence if it commences proceedings for a Care or Supervision order

Duties to make inquiries under Section 47 arise in the following circumstances: -

  • Where the Local Authority has already obtained an Emergency Protection Order in relation to the child or
  • Where the Local Authority is informed that a child who lives or is found in its area is the subject of an Emergency Protection Order, is in Police Protection or has contravened a ban imposed by a curfew notice under s.14 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and has reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives or is found within its area is suffering, or likely to suffer significant harm.

The LA must then make, or cause to be made, such inquiries as it considers necessary to enable it to decide whether it should take any action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare.

Where the LA is informed of a child contravening a curfew notice it must initiate its investigation as soon as is practicable and, in any event, within 48 hours of receiving the information.

Emergency proceedings may be required to protect the child at any stage where it becomes apparent that the child is at immediate risk of serious harm, and normally it is expected that there will be a ‘strategy discussion’  between Children’s Services, the police and other agencies involved before action is taken.  Where the immediate removal of a child is needed, Working Together indicates that the LA should rely on an application for an EPO and not Police Protection powers.

The outcome of the investigation should be recorded in writing and a copy given to the parents and any professionals and agencies involved in advance of any Child Protection Conference that is convened.  In exceptional cases, the police can interview a child without informing his or her parents.  This is likely where a child does not yet wish his or her parents know about the allegations or there is a risk that the parents will threaten the child or otherwise coerce the child into silence.

The child’s welfare must remain paramount in the minds of those undertaking the investigation and consideration of the child’s short and long term best interests will govern all decisions and actions.

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Children Act 1989