Emergency action might be necessary as soon as a report is received or at any stage of the child protection process. The report-taker must establish whether a child/ren needs immediate protection action because there is a risk to the life of a child, or a likelihood of serious immediate harm. If this is the case, social services and/or the police must use their statutory powers to act immediately to secure the safety of the child.
When considering whether emergency action is necessary the needs of other children at risk in the same household or in the household of an alleged abuser should always be given due consideration.
It may be necessary to ensure that the child remains in a safe place or that the child is removed to a safe place, either with agreement of the parent (or person(s) with parental responsibility), or if they disagree, and/or obtaining this consent would place the child or others at risk of harm, by obtaining an Emergency Protection Order.
Emergency action will normally take place following an immediate strategy discussion however, if a single agency must act immediately, a strategy discussion should take place as soon as possible after the emergency action has been taken.
Social services or police taking the emergency action must:
seek advice from the appropriate manager;
obtain legal advice;
the results of these consultations must be carefully recorded in writing alongside a record of the emergency action taken.
The need to seek advice must not delay any necessary action to secure the safety and well-being of any child believed to be at imminent risk of significant harm.
N.B. Emergency action addresses only the immediate circumstances of the child(ren). It should be followed immediately by s47 enquiries.
The agencies primarily involved with the child and family should also assess the needs of the child and family and agree action to safeguard the child in the longer-term.
Prior to the use of any compulsory power to protect a child, there should always be consideration of alternative arrangements/actions. These could be;
The alleged abuser agreeing to leave the household. Local services may be required to provide practical help and assistance on matters such as accommodation;
Parents/caregivers making safe arrangements for the child to be cared for within the extended family, subject to safeguarding checks being made to their suitability;
Local authority providing accommodation for the child under s76, Part 6, Social Services & Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 with the agreement of those with parental responsibility.
If the above cannot be achieved in a manner that secures the child’s immediate safety, then compulsory powers must be considered.
It is important that practitioners recognise the no order principle underpinning The Children Act 1989. Compulsory powers should only be considered if there is a risk to life or a likelihood of serious immediate significant harm and there are no alternatives that enable practitioners to secure the child’s immediate safety.
The decision should be taken by a senior manager in line with local arrangements and the rationale for this decision recorded.
There are several compulsory orders that can be made including:
Emergency Protection Orders (EPOs) An Emergency Protection Order is an Order from the Court that allows the child to be removed from home if there is reasonable cause to believe that the child is likely to suffer significant harm if they are not removed and grants parental responsibility to the local authority. An Emergency Protection Order lasts up to 8 days, but can be extended once, for a maximum of 7 days.
Exclusion Orders These allow for a perpetrator to be removed from the home, instead of removing the child. They can be used in conjunction with an Emergency Protection Order
Police Powers of Protection Police Powers of Protection can be used without reference to a Court and should only be used in emergency situations where a delay in an Emergency Protection Order may put a child at risk. Police Powers of Protection lasts up to 72 hours.
The local authority in whose area a child is found (the first authority) is responsible for taking emergency action. Social services should apply to the Court for an Emergency Protection Order. Social services should not seek to use Police Powers of Protection for this purpose. This is based on the principle that only a court should decide on removal of a child from home.
Legal advice must be sought in relation to any consideration of Emergency Protection Order applications. If the child is subject to a Care Order from another local authority or is subject to a child protection registration, discussions with the two authorities needs to take place immediately. Agreement needs to be reached as to who and how actions are taken.
Where an Emergency Protection Order applies the local authority will act in line with the conditions of the Order.
The following are examples of situations when an Emergency Protection Order should be considered if:
access to the child is being refused unreasonably and there is a risk to the life of the child or serious immediate significant harm;
parents refuse consent to the medical examination of a child suspected of being abused and/or neglected and it is believed the child needs urgent medical attention:
Parents deliberately frustrate or delay the enquiries in other ways.
The needs of other children or adults at risk who may also be at risk to their life or immediate serious harm must also be considered.
The Court may be asked to add a requirement for a medical examination, as a direction, as an Emergency Protection Order does not include an automatic direction for this.
When refusal relates to medical examination and/or treatment, the examining paediatrician should also be consulted as to whether this requires an Emergency Protection Order with directions or, if not potentially life threatening and/or likely to cause significant harm, whether a Child Assessment Order may be more appropriate.
An Exclusion Order may be appropriate using a range of powers under the Family Law Act 1996, which allows a perpetrator to be removed from the home, instead of removing the child.
For a Court to include an exclusion requirement in an Order, such as an Emergency Protection Order, it must be satisfied:
of the likelihood of a child suffering harm attributable to the conduct of the respondent;
there is reasonable cause to believe if the person is excluded from the child’s home the child will no longer be at risk or suffer significant harm;
that another person living in the home can care for the child in a manner one would reasonably expect of a parent and consents to the order.
The police have Powers of Protection to remove a child to a place of safety, where they have reasonable grounds to believe that he/she is at risk of significant harm under s46 of the Children Act 1989.
This enables the Police to:
Remove a child to suitable and safe accommodation. This usually means a hospital or Local Authority care;
Take reasonable steps to ensure a child’s removal from hospital or another place is prevented, because of concerns that if removed the child is likely to suffer significant harm.
Only the Police have statutory authority to use reasonable force to gain entry to premises. The Police must therefore be involved in strategy discussions about any situation where access to a child has been refused.
The Police should not use their Powers of Protection unless and until this has been approved by an Inspector or a higher-ranking Officer and the child has been seen by a police officer who has judged that the child will be or is at imminent risk of suffering significant harm unless the Police remove the child immediately. There may be occasions where the attending officer has to utilise their Powers of Protection where an Inspector is not readily available to authorise the use of the powers. In these circumstances, authorisation must be retrospectively sought as soon has the child has been removed.
If the Police do have to use their Powers of Protection, a strategy meeting/discussion should be held as soon as practicable and in any event within one working day, and a decision made as to whether the Local Authority needs to apply for an additional Order.
Legal advice must be sought, and the decisions taken, together with their reasons, should be recorded and fulfil the requirements and principles of the Children Act 1989. All available information from the current enquiries, as well as any historical information, should be considered.