When local authority social services receive a report about a child at risk of harm, abuse or neglect, they have a duty to respond. If the evidence indicates the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, then S47 enquiries of the Children Act 1989 should be initiated. The aim is to establish the nature of the harm and whether it is significant.
There is no statutory definition of significant harm. Therefore, practitioners must:
‘Where the question of whether harm is significant turns on the child’s health or development, the child’s health or development is to be compared with that which could reasonably be expected of a similar child’ (Section 31(9), Children Act 1989.)
Harm is defined as:
ill treatment this includes sexual abuse, neglect, emotional abuse and psychological abuse
the impairment of physical or mental health (including that suffered from seeing or hearing another person suffer ill treatment).
the impairment of physical intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development (including that suffered from seeing or hearing another person suffer ill treatment).
N.B. THE REFERENCES TO ‘HARM’ IN HANDLING INDIVIDUAL CASES VOL 5, IN THE CONTEXT OF s47 ENQUIRIES, MEAN SIGNIFICANT HARM.