Back to Responding to a report of a child at risk of harm, abuse and/or neglect

S47 enquiries: key considerations

The s47 enquiries commence once a strategy discussion/meeting decides that the evidence indicates such enquiries are necessary.

Task

The purpose of s47 enquiries is to establish whether a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm and requires intervention to safeguard and promote their well-being.

S47 enquiries are intended to:

Process

To achieve the aims, practitioners should consider:

Pointers for Practice: Questions to Consider as Part of s47 Enquiries Under the Children Act 1989

The role of the social worker

Social services have lead responsibility for the enquiries. The social worker who leads the enquiries must be qualified and have completed the relevant training. They should also receive appropriate supervision.

Other practitioners, such as the police, health, education and other relevant partners have a duty to co-operate and help social services undertake its enquiries.

The overall remit for the social worker is to focus on the well-being and safety of the child and to identify actual and potential risk of significant harm.

The social worker is responsible for:

To keep the focus on the child and their care and support protection needs, it is important to:

Pointers for Practice: Gathering Information as Part of s47 Enquiries Under the Children Act 1989

Pointers for Practice: Capturing the Daily Lived Experience

Pointers for Practice: Chronologies, Genograms and Eco-Maps

Planning s47 enquiries

It is all too easy for busy practitioners, working to tight timescales, to spring into action and begin to gather information without spending time planning the s47 enquiries in detail. This response can result in selective information-gathering that is not child-centred.

Table multi-agency planning for s47 enquiries: who does what? is designed to provide an overview of the tasks and actions that should be considered at the initial strategy discussion/meeting.

Multi-agency information-gathering

To make an informed analysis and professional judgement, about the needs of the child and the risk of significant harm, practitioners, led by the identified social worker from social services, should gather information that includes:

Information-gathering is a process and is likely to be child-centred if practitioners who are engaged in the process are clear about the task and their specific roles and responsibilities.

Pointers for Practice: Chronologies, Genograms and Eco-maps

Pointers for Practice: Gathering Information as Part of s47 Enquiries

Pointers for Practice: Contributing to s47 Enquiries

Pointers for Practice: Seven Golden Rules for Information-Sharing

Information gathering from parent/s

S47 enquiries require practitioners to establish whether the child/ren are at risk of significant harm because of the parenting capacity of their parent/s or carer/s and why this might be the case.

To establish this, practitioners should consider:

Pointers for Practice: Establishing the Daily Lived Experience of Family Members

Pointers for Practice: Managing Resistance to s47 Enquiries

Information gathering from children

The voice of the child is central to understanding the abuse, neglect or harm the child has or is experiencing. It is important, therefore, that their lived experience, wishes and feelings are given due consideration.

The social worker leading the assessment will normally see the child/ren who are the focus of the s47 enquiries. They should be seen alone. If they are not seen alone, who was present and the reasons for their presence should be recorded. The social worker should be sufficiently competent to engage the child, assess the situation and take any immediate action needed to protect the child.

Consideration should be given to the gender of the social worker and consideration of the use of an advocate. This is particularly important in cases of suspected sexual abuse.

‘Seeing’ the child is much more than physically setting eyes on that child

Seeing the child means:

When seeing the child, practitioners should consider the child’s cognitive ability and developmental stage and adapt communication methods accordingly.

Consideration should also be given to any specialist assistance that is required to ensure meaningful communication.

For example, does the child have:

Practitioners should also:

It is important practitioners recognise that even very young children can be given a voice.

Pointers for Practice: Engaging Young Children

Speaking to the child without the knowledge of the parent or caregiver

It may be appropriate to speak to a child without the knowledge of the parent or caregiver. The following are examples of when this may occur. They are not a definitive list.

Gathering information from other agencies

s47 enquiries will include information gathering from those who are professionally involved with the child or the family. This will entail discussions with practitioners from other agencies to gather the relevant information systematically.

Practitioners asked to contribute to an assessment should provide:

For example: a list of dates of a neglected child’s attendance at a GP’s means little. What is relevant is information about attendance in terms of medical conditions, parents’ responses, for example attendance at appointments, engagement in treatment regimes

Pointers for Practice: Contributing to s47 Enquiries

Information-sharing and data protection

Any information provided for s47 enquiries should be:

Necessary and proportionate; This means taking account of the nature of the request and the purpose for which the information will be used.

For example, information about the child’s current behaviour that indicates or could refute concerns that the child is subject to abuse and neglect.

Relevant; This means providing information appropriate for the specific request.

For example, Social services need to know about past concerns an agency may have had about the abuse or neglect of a child.

Adequate; This means information provided is sufficient to ensure it can be understood and relied upon.

For example, specific information about the behaviour that indicates the child is being abused or neglected, such as they begin shaking when a particular carer enters the room. It also includes information that may potentially refute concerns.

Accurate; This means it is based on fact not assumptions.

For example, being specific as to what has been observed, by whom such as the child’s response to a carer has been observed by staff in a family centre or a health visitor. Details of staff who have observed the behaviour should be provided.

Secure; This means information shared is restricted to those with a legitimate need to know and is shared securely.

For example, checking that any information provided will be securely stored and who will can access it.

Timely; This means it is restricted to what is required for a situation at the time.

For example, if the information is required urgently, enabling social services and the police to act to provide immediate protection, it may not be possible to seek the consent of the parent before sharing information.

Recorded; This means recording in writing what has been shared and why.

For example, be clear what information has been shared, with whom and for what purpose in line with agency recording procedures.

Pointers for Practice: Seven Golden Rules for Information-Sharing

Information sharing guidance for children

Statutory-guidance

Working Together to Safeguard People

Sharing information with the family

Each practitioner is expected to take ownership of the information they have contributed to the s47 enquiry and should ensure both the parent/s and child/ren are aware of what has been included. This is to avoid inaccuracies and shocks for family members once they see reports prior to or in the conference room or other arenas.

Confidential information

Confidential information that cannot be shared with the family and/or particular family members should be kept to a minimum and there should be a very clear rationale for not sharing with the family and/or a family member.

Children who move during child protection s47 enquiries

Where a child is the subject of ongoing Child Protection s47 enquiries and moves locality, the social worker will immediately inform their line manager and will be responsible for notifying the new authority without delay. This must be followed up in writing and provide the relevant documentation within two working days. The social worker will also inform the relevant agencies in the area from which the family has moved.