Social Services Child Protection is designed to safeguard children who may be at risk of harm, be it from members of their own families or from others. Under the Children Act 1989, social services have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of vulnerable children. In order to discharge this duty, they provide a number of different services to children and parents, coordinated by the family’s social worker. Unfortunately in recent times, social services have earned themselves a bad reputation for acting either too heavy-handedly, or even totally unnecessarily. Cries of “Social services took my child” have unfortunately become all too common in today’s media. This has led to a not-totally-misplaced anxiety at any involvement from social services in a family. So while there are many aspects of social services support that are valid, these are not necessarily what comes to the forefront of the mind when social services come calling.
How Can Social Services Child Protection Begin?
Social services may become involved in your family affairs in a number of ways:
- You can request help yourself by calling your local social services
- Referrals can be made by other professionals who are working with your family or children, including schools, GPs, health visitors, and more.
- If there are concerns that a child is being abused or neglected, professionals, family members or anyone else who is concerned can approach social services, the police or the NSPCC directly for advice.
As covered above, social services have a duty under law to become involved if they have reason to believe your child to be at risk of receiving significant harm or to be in need of help. They are bound to fully investigate the situation and, based upon that investigation, assess what actions should be taken to safeguard or better secure the welfare of your child. It is important to work alongside social services as much as possible and cooperate as best as you can; however this does not mean you must agree to everything they say. When social services begin child proceedings, they will call you to a pre-proceedings meeting. You must attend this. Here they will lay down changes you must make in the care of your child. It is important that you agree to theses changes and keep to the agreement. However, do not agree to put your children into “voluntary accommodation” or agree to an interim care order. Here is where you have to fight. To agree to either of these is to put your child in the hands of social services. Where you want your children is where they belong – with you. The first thing to do – or not to do rather – is don’t panic! It is perfectly reasonable to to feel anxious or frightened at the prospect of having social services take a child; but you must keep a level head. The second thing to do is to contact a care proceedings solicitor who understands the law as it applies to social services child protection. They will advocate for you in meetings and in court. They will make sure you understand what is happening. They will fight for you and your family.