What to Expect: Child Protection Investigations (Section 47 Enquiries)
What's involved in a Child Protection Investigation, also called a Section 47
A Section 47 Enquiry might also be referred to as a Child Protection enquiry, a Child Protection Investigation, or an S47. These investigations are carried out to assess if there is the risk of significant harm to a child (or children). As part of the investigation, professionals will consider what needs to happen to help ensure that children are safe.
When Children's Services, or the police, receive information that a child might have suffered significant harm, or is likely to suffer significant harm, they have a statutory duty to investigate this information.
Section 47 enquires can be led by either Children's Services or the police, or by both working together.
What happens during a Section 47 Enquiry
The first step in any enquiry is to gather information to clarify what has happened.
Unless the professionals are very concerned about the information they have received, it is likely that in the first instance you will be contacted and asked what has happened. This discussion can be carried out either by telephone or during a formal meeting.
If it is unclear if there is a risk to a child, or professionals are still concerned about any of the information they have received, a strategy meeting will need to take place.
The purpose of the strategy meeting is to allow the sharing of any information that is known by the professionals working with a particular child. These professionals might be social workers, the police, health professionals, teachers or any other relevant professionals.
Strategy meetings help Children's Services to build as full a picture as possible of what has happened.
Family members are not invited to attend strategy meetings. However, unless a decision has been made that sharing information after the strategy discussion would place a child at greater risk of harm, any information that has been shared by professionals during a strategy discussion will be shared with appropriate family members.
During the strategy meeting, the professionals will assess:
- If any criminal investigation needs to be undertaken
- If any immediate safeguarding measures need to be put in place
- If a Section 47 Enquiry needs to be started, either by Children's Services, by the police, or by both working together
If it has been decided that the concerns identified require the need to progress to an S47 Enquiry, Children's Services will always try to work with the people who have Parental Responsibility (PR) and get agreement from them before starting to collecting information.
However, in line with legislation, information can still be gathered even if those with PR have not given agreement.
The possible outcomes of an S47 Enquiry could be:
- If, following information gathering, there is evidence that any of the concerns which have been raised can be substantiated, and a child (or children) are considered to be at risk of significant harm, it is likely that Children's Services will recommend that an Initial Child Protection Conference takes place.
- If it is assessed that it would be helpful for a family to be offered additional support, Children's Services are likely to continue their assessment using the Child in Need guidelines. This enables Children's Services to work with a family to agree a plan of support (This might also be called a CIN plan or a S17).
Once the support needs have been identified, Children's Services will make a referral to the most appropriate service or organisation. This support does not have to come directly from Children's Services.
- If there are no identified risks, and no requirement for ongoing support, Children's Services will cease their involvement. You will receive a letter that confirms no further action and closure.
You should not be surprised by any information that is shared with you following a Section 47 Enquiry. Your child's social worker should keep you up to date and informed about the decisions or recommendations that are being and made.
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