View Working Together View Working Together

3.4 Section 47 Enquiries and Social Work Assessment


Contents

  1. Duty to Conduct a Section 47 Enquiry
  2. Purpose of the 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 Social Work Assessment
  7. Single Agency or Joint Enquiry / Investigation
  8. Seeing and Interviewing the Child
  9. The Video Interview of the Child
  10. Parental Involvement and Consent
  11. Medical Assessments
  12. Outcome of the Section 47 Enquiry
  13. Discontinuing a Section 47 Enquiry
  14. Recording the Section 47 Enquiry
  15. Feedback on Outcome of the Section 47 Enquiry
  16. Resolving Professional Differences


1. Duty to Conduct a Section 47 Enquiry

1.1

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

1.2 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.
1.3 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 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.


2. Purpose of the Section 47 Enquiry

2.1 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.
2.2 If a decision is made that a Section 47 Enquiry is necessary, it will be conducted by the Children’s Social Work Services alone or jointly with the Police - see Section 7, Single Agency or Joint Enquiry / Investigation.
2.3 The decision and plan to carry out the Section 47 Enquiry will be determined at a Strategy Discussion/Meeting.


3. Decision to Undertake a Section 47 Enquiry

3.1 Children’s Social Work Services Assistant Team Managers and Team Managers have the responsibility, based on available information, to authorise Section 47 Enquiries.
3.2

The decision to initiate a Section 47 Enquiry must be taken at a Strategy Discussion/Meeting. The decision to initiate a Strategy Discussion can be made at any time:

  • At the point of a Referral;
  • During the early consideration of a Referral;
  • During a Social Work Assessment; or
  • At any time in an open case when the criteria are satisfied.
3.3

In reaching the decision as to whether there is reasonable cause to suspect Significant Harm and therefore a Strategy Discussion should be convened, the Team/Assistant Team Manager must consider the following:

  • The seriousness of the concern/s;
  • The repetition or duration of concern/s;
  • The vulnerability of the child (through age, developmental stage, disability or other pre-disposing factor e.g. whether they are Looked After);
  • The accumulation of sufficient information;
  • The context in which the child is living - e.g. whether there is a child in the household already 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 of parent/carer or domestic abuse.


4. Emergency Protective Action

4.1 Where there is a risk to the life of a child or a likelihood of immediate Significant Harm, the social worker and/or Police officer must act to secure the safety of the child.
4.2 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.
4.3 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.
4.4 Responsibility for immediate action rests with Children’s Social Work 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.
4.5

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 Protection;
  • Gaining entry to the household under police powers.
4.6 Children’s Social Work Services should only seek the assistance of the police to use their powers of Police Protection to secure the child’s immediate safety in exceptional circumstances.
4.7 Planned immediate protective action will normally take place following an immediate Strategy Discussion between Police, Children’s Social Work Services and other agencies as appropriate (including the NSPCC where involved). 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. 
4.8 Social workers must refer to the Children’s Social Work procedures for more detailed guidelines on applications for Emergency Protection Orders.
4.9 Legal advice should normally be obtained before initiating legal action, particularly when an Emergency Protection Order is to be sought. The social worker must also seek the agreement of her/his Team Manager/Assistant Team Manager before initiating legal action.
4.10

If the child has links to a foreign country, the social worker should consider whether to inform the relevant Embassy. See the guidance on Working with Foreign Authorities: Child Protection Cases and Care Orders Departmental advice for local authorities, social workers, service managers and children’s services lawyers (July 2014).

Advice can also be sought from The International Child Abduction and Contact Unit.


5. Obligations and Responsibilities of all Agencies

5.1 All agencies have a duty to assist and provide information in support of Section 47 Enquiries.
5.2 Any checks made by Children’s Social Work Services and/or the Police with other agencies should be undertaken directly with involved professionals and not through messages with intermediaries.
5.3 The relevant agencies should be informed of the reasons for the Section 47 Enquiry, whether or not parental consent has been obtained and asked for their assessment of the child, parents/carers and other relevant adults in the light of information presented.


6. Integration With Social Work Assessment

6.1

The Section 47 Enquiry/Social Work Assessment should be led by a qualified and experienced social worker from Children’s Social Work 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 full 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.

See the Social Work Assessments Procedure
6.2 Any contact with the child and family must take into consideration any needs arising from their culture, ethnicity, religion, first language, communication needs and disability, and provision made accordingly.
6.3

The assessment of risk will:

  • Identify the cause for concern;
  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the family;
  • Evaluate the risks to the child or children;
  • Consider the child’s needs for protection;
  • Consider the ability of the parents and wider family and social networks to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare;
  • Determine the level of intervention required both in the immediate and longer term.

The analysis of the child’s needs and the parents’ capacity to meet those needs within the family environment should provide evidence on which to base judgments and decisions on how best to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child. The key questions are:

  • What is likely to happen if nothing changes in the child’s current situation?
  • What are the likely consequences for the child?
The answers to these questions should be used to decide what interventions are required when developing the Child Protection Plan and, in particular, in considering what actions are necessary to prevent the child from suffering harm or to prevent a recurrence of the abuse or neglect suffered.
6.4 Where there is a joint investigation, the Police will have to establish the facts about any offence that may have been committed against a child and collect evidence.
6.5 Enquiries and assessments 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 Section 8, Seeing and Interviewing the Child and Section 9, The Video Interview of the Child
6.6 Where the child is too young to be interviewed or verbal communication is not the child’s preferred communication, 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 is the forum that will be used to decide if enquiries are to be single or jointly undertaken with the police.

Joint enquiries are conducted by Children’s Social Work Services and the Police.

NB Children’s Social Work Services undertake the Section 47 Enquiry and the Police have responsibility for the criminal investigation.

7.1 Joint Enquiries

A joint enquiry must always be undertaken when there is an allegation or reasonable suspicion that one of the criminal offences described below has been committed:

  • Any suspected sexual offence committed against a child aged up to and including 17 - except cases where both parties are under the age of consent and the behaviour is assessed as age appropriate as opposed to being abusive;
  • Serious neglect or ill-treatment or emotional harm actionable under Section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (to be distinguished from minor deficiencies in parenting);
  • Serious physical injury to a child, aged up to and including 17;
  • Offences involving organised or institutionalised abuse, including allegations against teachers, local authority staff, health professionals, foster carers, prospective adopters and volunteers;
  • Offences which involve unusual circumstances such as suspected Fabricated or Induced Illnesses, sexual exploitation through Child Sexual Exploitation, child pornography on the Internet where the offender has ready access to children or children involved in prostitution.

Joint enquiries must also be considered in cases of:

7.2 Children’s Social Work Services - Single Agency Enquiries

Social workers will need to be aware of the need to:

  • Keep accurate and contemporaneous notes of any interviews;
  • Assess the child’s willingness and ability to pursue a criminal complaint.

7.3 Police Single Agency Investigations

Police single agency investigations are usually appropriate where:

  • They relate to the historical allegation of an adult who experienced abuse as a child; or
  • The alleged offender is not known to the child or the child’s family (i.e. stranger abuse). In these situations, Children’s Social Work Services must always be made aware and serious consideration must be given to assessing the child victims needs.

Where the Police undertake a single agency criminal investigation, the Police are responsible for all the associated investigative activities, such as conducting interviews of witnesses and suspects, visiting crime scenes and arranging medical assessments.

During a Police investigation, the investigating Police Officer must assess the risks posed by the alleged offender, consider the ongoing needs of any child victim and his/her family and make a referral to the appropriate service, for example for supportive and therapeutic services.

If during the course of a Police investigation, new information emerges that indicates that the child may be likely to suffer Significant Harm, Children’s Social Work Services should be contacted and the Strategy Discussion reconvened.

If during the course of a Police investigation, a risk of Significant Harm to other children is identified, a referral should be made to Children’s Social Work Services in accordance with the Making Referrals to Children's Social Care Procedure.

Where there have been initial discussions between both agencies but a decision has been taken to pursue a Police single agency investigation, the arrangements for the agencies to feed back to each other should be clarified at the outset.

On occasions, in urgent criminal cases (critical incidents), the Police may conduct a single agency investigation out of hours as a result of their duty to respond and take initial action to protect either a child or criminal evidence. Such rare decisions will be notified to the Emergency Duty Team as soon as possible.

If this occurs, Children’s Social Work Services must be informed as soon as possible and a joint investigation commenced if appropriate.

Following a full assessment of the available facts, the Police and/or Crown Prosecution Service may decide at any stage to terminate a criminal investigation and will inform the social worker of the decision.

Where there have been initial discussions between both agencies but a decision has been taken to pursue the Section 47 Enquiry on a single agency basis, the arrangements for each agency to feed back to each other should be clarified at the Strategy Discussion.

Disputes about the threshold for joint enquiry must be resolved between senior managers of the agencies involved.


8. Seeing and Interviewing the Child

Children should always be seen and communicated with alone by the Lead Social Worker unless to do so would be inappropriate for the child. Children are a key, and sometimes the only, source of information about what happened to them - especially in child sexual abuse cases, but also in physical and other forms of abuse. Accurate and complete information is essential for taking action to promote the welfare of the child, as well as for any criminal proceedings that may be instigated concerning an alleged perpetrator of abuse. When children are first approached, the nature and extent of any harm suffered by them may not be clear, nor may it be clear whether a criminal offence has been committed. It is important that even initial discussions with children are conducted in a way which minimises any distress caused to them and maximises the likelihood that they will provide accurate and complete information. It is important, wherever possible, to have separate communication with a child. Leading or suggestive communication should always be avoided. Children may need time, and more than one opportunity, to develop sufficient trust to communicate any concerns they may have, especially if they have a communication impairment, learning disabilities, are very young or are experiencing mental health problems.

Individuals should always be enabled to participate fully in the enquiry process. Where a child or parent is disabled, it may be necessary to provide help with communication to enable the child or parent to express him/herself to the best of his or her ability. Where a child or parent speaks a language other than that spoken by the interviewer, an interpreter should be provided. If the child is unable to take part in an interview because of age and understanding, alternative means of understanding the child’s wishes and feelings should be used, including observation where children are very young or where they have communication impairments.

Assessing the needs of a child and the capacity of their parents or wider family network adequately to ensure their safety, health and development very often depends on building a picture of the child’s situation on the basis of information from many sources. Enquiries should always involve separate interviews with the child who is the subject of concern and - in the great majority of cases - interviews with parents and/or care-givers and observation of the interactions between parent(s) and children. Enquiries may also include:

  • Interviews with those who are personally and professionally connected with the child;
  • Specific examinations or assessments of the child by other professionals (e.g. medical or developmental checks, assessment of emotional or psychological state); and
  • Interviews with those who are personally and professionally connected with the child’s parents and/or care-givers.

Exceptionally, a joint enquiry team may need to speak to a suspected child victim without the knowledge of the parent or care giver. Relevant circumstances would include the possibility that a child would be threatened or otherwise coerced into silence; a strong likelihood that important evidence would be destroyed; or that the child in question did not wish the parent to be informed at that stage and is competent to take that decision. In all cases where the Police are involved, the decision about when to inform the parent or care giver will have a bearing on the conduct of police investigations, and the Strategy Discussion should decide on the most appropriate timing of parental participation.

The objectives in seeing the child are to:

  • Record and evaluate her/his appearance, demeanour, mood state and behaviour;
  • Hear the child’s account of allegations or concerns and gain their wishes and feelings;
  • Observe and record the interactions of the child and her/his carers;
  • See and record the circumstances in which the child is currently living and sleeping and, if different, her/his ordinary residence;
  • Evaluate the physical safety of the environment including the storage of hazardous substances e.g. bleach, drugs;
  • Ensure that any other children who need to be seen are identified;
  • Assess the degree of risk and possible need for protective action;
  • Meet 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 if a video interview is required (see Section 9, The Video Interview of the Child).

Where a video interview is to take place, in order to avoid undermining any subsequent criminal case, any contact with a child prior to the interview must 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. This should include agreement as to what further action is required to:
    • Trace the whereabouts of the child (if unknown);
    • See the child and carry out the Section 47 Enquiry.


9. The Video Interview of the Child

9.1 Criteria for Video Interviews

Video interviews involving Children’s Social Work Services and the Police should proceed if all the criteria in Part I are met and any of the criteria in Part II are met:

Part I

  • The child is under 17; and
  • The child is able, or can be facilitated, to give a clear account; and
  • It is clearly in the child’s best interests to proceed.

Part II

Where there has been:

  • A direct statement by a child of sexual abuse made to a chosen adult or another child (even if the identity of the perpetrator unknown);
  • A confession by a person about sexual abuse/serious assault on a named child;
  • A direct statement by a child of serious physical abuse (single event or ongoing);
  • A paediatric opinion following assessment that the child has experienced sexual abuse or has a serious injury/condition where there are concerns regarding its causation;
  • The child is witness to a grave/serious criminal activity (the Police will recommend a Strategy Meeting with an Achieving Best Evidence trained social worker where it is considered that the child’s needs warrant Children’s Social Work Services involvement).

Contra-indications for conducting a video interview are:

  • Where the child’s religion forbids the making of videos;
  • If the abuse to the child involved the use of videos, care should be taken that s/he gives an informed agreement to the video and that the interview does not place her/him under greater stress.

9.2 Conduct of Joint Video Interviews

The aim of the video interview is to obtain a truthful account from the child in a way which is fair, in the child’s interests and acceptable to the Courts.

In all cases where it is agreed to conduct a video recorded interview of a child, the Achieving Best Evidence 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.

Consideration should also be given to the gender of interviewers, particularly in cases of alleged sexual abuse.

The video interview must only be undertaken following and within the parameters agreed at a Strategy Discussion, unless there are reasons for altering the plan which have been agreed by the investigating officers and their managers, and the changes to the plan are recorded with reasons.

Those conducting the interview must meet to agree and record a plan for the interview, which must be signed off by a line manager either from the Police or Children’s Social Work Services. A copy of the plan must be placed on the child’s file.

In planning the interview, consideration must be given to the child’s race, culture, language, gender and religion as well as disability or communication needs, and advice should be taken as required from appropriate specialists (see Section 8, Seeing and Interviewing the Child)

Generally, by adhering to the Achieving Best Evidence guidance, a video interview of a child witness should be acceptable in criminal proceedings and may spare the child from having to recount their evidence in Court. The child will have to be available to attend Court for cross-examination, which is usually conducted by way of video link to the Court. This spares the child witness from the ordeal of giving evidence in the presence of the alleged offender, while preserving the right of the defence to question the child and give the jury the opportunity to observe the child’s demeanour when being cross-examined. The video interview may also be used in family proceedings.

9.3 Consent to the Video Recording of an Interview

9.3.1 The Child’s Consent

The video recording of interviews of children may only be carried out with the consent of the child her/himself.

Prior to the interview taking place, the child must be provided with sufficient information at a level appropriate to her/his understanding to enable her/him to give informed consent.

Such information would include the fact that the video could be shown to a Court instead of the child having to give his/her evidence directly and that, whether a video recording is made or not, he or she might have to attend court to answer questions directly.

In the case of a child who is too young to understand fully, a parent or a person with Parental Responsibility must usually be asked to give consent on behalf of the child - see para 9.3.2 below.

9.3.2 The Parents Consent

The consent of a parent or a person with Parental Responsibility is required for video interviews of children under 16, unless the following exceptional circumstances exist:

  • When a child of ‘sufficient understanding’ requests it;
  • Where a Court has made an order (Child Assessment Order, Care Order, Interim Care Order or an Emergency Protection Order) with a condition authorising a video interview;
  • When police are able to evidence that contacting a parent would undermine a criminal investigation;
  • In urgent situations where no parent or carer can be contacted.

In the latter three cases, video interviews must not take place until all other means of seeking consent have been eliminated and then only after a joint decision between the Detective Inspector and the relevant team manager in Children’s Social Work Services. A record must be made of any decisions taken and the reasons for it.

The short-term gains of such an approach must be set against the possible consequences to the professional relationship with the family and considered in the context of the Human Rights Act 1998 and its requirements for a ‘proportionate’ response by public authorities. 

In all cases, legal advice should be sought where there is any doubt about the issue of parental consent.

9.3.3 The Courts Consent

In all cases where there are on going Court proceedings in relation to the child, legal advice should be obtained as to the obtaining of the Courts consent to the video interview.

9.3.4 Ownership and Storage of Video Tapes

Where joint interviews are conducted, responsibility for the storage of the tapes will be undertaken by the Police who will ensure that video tapes are sealed and stored safely. Members of staff who need to view the tape in connection with a Court Hearing or subsequent therapeutic work can arrange this by contacting the Child Abuse Investigation Unit.


10. Parental Involvement and Consent

10.1 Parental Involvement

Children’s Social Work Services have the prime responsibility to engage with parents/carers and other family members to ascertain information about the situation causing concern and to assess the capacity of the family to safeguard the child.

In most cases, parents/carers should be enabled to participate fully in the assessment and enquiry process, which should be explained to them. Where a parent has additional needs, e.g. where a parent is disabled, they should be offered support to participate in the assessment. If English is not their first language, an interpreter must be provided. 

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 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 10.2, Parental Consent);
  • An explanation of their rights as parents including the need for support and guidance from an advocate whom they trust (advice should be given about the 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.

10.2 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.

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

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 and/or arrange a medical assessment of the child without seeking the consent of the parents, the decision must be endorsed by the social workers line manager. Legal advice must be taken as to whether any legal action is required before an interview and/or medical assessment can take place, for example, an application for a Child Assessment Order or in more urgent cases, an Emergency Protection Order.

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, Children’s Social Work Services have a duty to apply for:

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


11. Medical Assessments 

11.1 When a Medical Assessment is Necessary

Strategy Discussions will consider, in consultation with the paediatrician (if not part of the discussion or meeting), the need for and timing of a medical assessment.

Medical 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 penetrative sexual abuse, the assessment should be undertaken on the day of the referral, where compatible with the welfare of the child.

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

11.2 Purpose of Medical Assessment

The purpose of a medical 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.

11.3 Consent for Medical Assessment / Treatment

The following may give consent to a medical assessment:

The social worker must consult his/her manager about whether parental consent should be sought for a medical assessment of a child.

Where the child is the subject of ongoing Court proceedings, legal advice should be obtained about obtaining the Courts permission to the medical assessment.

It is generally good practice to seek wherever possible the permission of a parent for children under 16 prior to any medical 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 medical assessment for child protection purposes (the parent/carer still has full parental responsibility for the child).

A child who is of sufficient understanding may refuse some or all of the medical 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.

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 10.2, Parental Consent.

11.4 Arranging the Medical Assessment

Medical assessments must take into account the need for both specialist paediatric expertise and forensic requirements in relation to the gathering of evidence.

Only approved paediatricians, Police Surgeons or other suitably qualified specialists may undertake medical assessments carried out as part of a Section 47 Enquiry.

There should be only one medical examination of the child which in exceptional circumstances may involve more than one doctor.

Consideration should be given to the gender of the examining doctor in consultation with the child and the parents.

Referrals for medical assessments should be made by the social worker or the Child Abuse Investigation Unit, who should ensure that the doctor concerned is aware of the circumstances of the case. The extent of any questioning of the child by the doctor will depend on the type of abuse and the age and understanding of the child.

In planning the medical assessment, the social worker, the manager responsible, the Child Abuse Investigation Unit and relevant doctor must consider whether it might be necessary to take photographic evidence for use in care or criminal proceedings. Where such arrangements are necessary, the child and parents must be informed and prepared and careful consideration given to the impact on the child.

If the child refuses to be examined or becomes distressed during the examination, consideration must be given to arranging a further examination.

11.5 Post Medical Assessment

At the conclusion of the medical 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 within 72 hours.

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;
  • 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 needs, speech problems etc.;
  • Confirmation of the child’s developmental progress (especially important in cases of neglect);
  • Time examination ended;
  • 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 doctors written report will be filed and served as the doctors statement of evidence. The doctors attendance at subsequent Court hearings may also be required.

The social worker/Police Officer in conjunction with the Doctor will agree how to feed back to the child (where age appropriate) and to the parent/carer the outcome of the Medical Assessment. Appropriate consideration should be given to help the child to emotionally process the experience.


12. Outcome of the Section 47 Enquiry

12.1 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 at continuing risk of Significant Harm or not. 
12.2

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 at continuing risk of Significant Harm, in which case an Initial Child Protection Conference will be convened.

    The Child Protection Conference must take place within a maximum of 15 days of the Strategy Discussion, or where more than one Strategy Discussion took place, of the Strategy Discussion at which the Section 47 Enquiry was initiated;
  2. Child Protection concerns are substantiated but the child is not judged to be at continuing risk of Significant Harm, for example because the family circumstances have changed since the harm occurred and/or an alleged perpetrator has permanently left the household.

    In these circumstances, the child may still be regarded as In Need and a plan required for the provision of services and/or further assessment by Children’s Social Work Services;

  3. Child Protection concerns are not substantiated but the enquiries have revealed the child requires services under the Early Help Strategy

  4. Child Protection concerns are not substantiated, the child is not in need of any additional services and no further action is required. 
12.3 In all cases, the outcome should be authorised by the Line Manager in Children’s Social Work Services who should decide if the Social Work Assessment should be or has been completed or should be continued. If the outcome of a Section 47 Enquiry is that the concerns are substantiated but the child is judged not to be at continuing risk of Significant Harm, this decision must be endorsed by a suitably experienced and qualified social work manager.
12.4 Decisions must be recorded in the ‘Outcome of Section 47’ report on the ICS template.
12.5 In relation to 2.) and 3.) above, a meeting of involved professionals and family members must be convened at the end of the Section 47 Enquiry/Social Work Assessment under the Early Help Strategy to agree what actions should be undertaken by whom and with clear outcomes for the child’s health and development. Where services are provided, a Child’s Plan will be needed for ensuring the child’s future safety and welfare are addressed and kept under review and a Lead Professional will need to be identified.
12.6 Such a meeting is also important to inform children and parents about the nature of any ongoing concerns and promote their participation in planning services.
12.7 Whatever process is used to plan future action, the resulting Child’s Plan should be informed by the Section 47 Enquiry/Social Work Assessment findings. It should set out who will have responsibility for what action, including a time scale for review of progress against planned outcomes.
12.8 If the outcome of the Section 47 enquiries determines that an Initial Child Protection Conference is required, this must be agreed by either the Manager of the Child Protection and Review Unit or a Team Manager/Assistant Team Manager within Children’s Social Work Services. Consideration should be given by the date of the Initial Child Protection Conference where one is convened to whether the Social Work Assessment has been completed or what further work is required before it is completed.
12.9

Where an Initial Child Protection Conference is to be held, the Assistant Team Manager/Team Manager must ensure that the conference is convened within 15 working days of the Strategy Discussion, or where more than one Strategy Discussion took place, of the Strategy Discussion at which the Section 47 Enquiry was initiated. In the meantime, an interim Child Protection Plan must be prepared and implemented giving due consideration to the following:

  • Can the child be protected at home?
  • If so, can the interim Child Protection Plan be agreed with the child/ren and parents?
  • If not, can the child be placed with relatives with parental consent?
  • If not, can the child be placed in foster care with parental consent?
  • If so, is a voluntary agreement appropriate and sufficient in the circumstances?
  • Should legal action be considered?
  • Should the alleged abuser be asked to leave the family home?
  • What are the contact arrangements, where appropriate?


13. Discontinuing a Section 47 Enquiry

13.1 Any decision to discontinue a Section 47 Enquiry should be taken by the Line Manager in Children’s Social Work Services in consultation with the Police (and where appropriate other involved agencies and in particular the referring agency) after checks have been completed, and it is clear that the criteria for Section 47 Enquiry are no longer satisfied. 
13.2 The Line Manager who should record the reasons and whether the Social Work Assessment should be completed. In the event of another agency disagreeing with this decision please refer to Dispute Resolution / Escalation Procedures.
13.3 Decisions must be recorded in the ‘Outcome of Section 47’ report on the ICS template.


14. Recording the Section 47 Enquiry

14.1 A full written record must be completed by each agency involved in a Section 47 Enquiry, using the required agency pro-formas, signed and dated by staff.
14.2 Rough notes must be retained by practitioners until the completion of any anticipated legal proceedings.
14.3

Children’s Social Work Services should use the ICS exemplars and 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);
  • Assessment including identification of risks and how they may be managed;
  • Decision making processes;
  • Outcome/Further Action Planned.
14.4 At the completion of the Section 47 Enquiry the social workers Line Manager should ensure that the concern and outcome have been entered on the child’s chronology.


15. Feedback on Outcome of Section 47 Enquiry

15.1 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.
15.2 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.
15.3 Children’s Social Work Services should ensure that parents, children (depending on their level of understanding), professionals and other agencies which have involvement are appropriately notified of the outcome of Section 47 Enquiries.


16. Resolving Professional Differences

16.1 Where there remain differences of views, for example about a decision that an Initial Child Protection Conference is not required, every effort should be made to resolve them through discussion and negotiation. A senior manager from an involved agency may request in writing that Children’s Social Work Services consider convening an Initial Child Protection Conference. 
16.2 This request must be considered by the relevant Team Manager/Assistant Team Manager and his/her response given in writing, with reasons.
16.3 If this fails to achieve resolution, see Dispute Resolution / Escalation Procedures.

End