Social services, also known as Children’s Services, do not have the power to take your children away without a correct and legally issued Court Order.
The only individuals who can take a child from their parents in the absence of such a court order are the police under the police protection provisions. This is often referred to as a police protection order but there is, in fact, no order involved. This only occurs where officers have to act on their own initiative as there is reasonable cause to believe that the child would otherwise be likely to suffer significant harm.
Section 20 accommodation
S.20 children Act 1989 requires the local authority to provide accommodation for a child who requires accommodation where:
There is no person who has parental responsibility for the child
The child is lost or abandoned
The person who has been caring for him/her is prevented (whether or not permanently and for whatever reason) from providing him with suitable accommodation or care.
He/she is over 16 and his local Authority considers his/her welfare is likely to be seriously prejudiced without accommodation.
If the above apply and the parent/s ( with parental responsibility) of a child can consent to the local authority accommodating the child. This is normally done as a short-term measure to allow the child to be safely cared for whilst a matter within the home is resolved, this should not be used as a long term measure. A parent can withdraw consent to this arrangement and ask that the child is returned home, if the local authority is concerned about the safety of the child it may choose to issue proceedings.
Child Protection Procedure
Following a referral to social services, the procedure by which your case must be pursued is:
They will make an initial assessment to decide if there is any situation in need of address. This assessment should take no more than a number of days.
Should their initial assessment give rise to serious concerns over the safety or welfare of a child or children, the next step to be undertaken is a Section 47 enquiry. This represents a full investigation of your home and family life and is only undertaken where there is reasonable cause to believe that a child or children living in that home may be at risk of significant harm.
You and your partner will be interviewed. The child will be seen, but will only undergo a formal interview where their age and level of comprehension allow, and where circumstances dictate that this is necessary. You and your child, if older, may be asked to consent to medical examination by a GP. Other information may be gathered from teachers, your GP, etc.
The results of this enquiry will be used to determine what further action is necessary to safeguard the child and promote his or her welfare.
If the outcome is that there is no real cause for concern, there will be no further action. Where it is felt that the risk of significant harm to the child is very real, a child protection case conference will be called.
The child protection conference is a meeting to assess all information with regard to the case and to coordinate with various agencies a plan to safeguard the child and promote his or her welfare.
You should attend this meeting and you should do so accompanied by your care proceedings solicitor will provide support, advice and explanations as well as speaking on your behalf if necessary.
It is at this meeting that it will be decided whether or not the child is at risk of significant harm and whether a formal child protection plan should be put in place.
If it is decided a formal child protection plan is needed, there will be a record of the agreements made and a detailed statement of the protection services to be provided will be given to the parents and the professionals as a Child Protection Plan.
A formal child protection plan will be continued for as long as it is deemed necessary, as determined at child protection review meetings, held every six months.