Back to Decision making and initial child protection conferences

S47 enquiries determinations

It is essential that any determination i.e. decision made:

The determination should be made following multi-agency discussion between those who have conducted or been significantly involved in the enquiries. It may also involve those who have significant involvement in the child’s life.

Social services are responsible for deciding what action to take and how to proceed following s47 enquiries. Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 is clear that it is for the local authority to decide whether they should take any action.

The views of the child/children and parents themselves should also be considered but the decision is made by managers/practitioners.

The ‘determinations’ to be considered are:

In some circumstances a further strategy meeting/discussion may be the most effective way of discussing the outcome of the s47 enquiries and determining next steps.

Making the decision

Practitioners should draw on:

A record of the discussion should be made in a format agreed by the Regional Safeguarding Board (RSB).

In some situations, the decision may not be clear-cut. Consequently, some Regional Safeguarding Boards have produced threshold documents that can act as a guide to assist decision-making.

When determining whether a threshold has been met, practitioners should consider the signs and indicators of abuse and neglect.

Pointers for Practice: Signs and Indicators of Possible Abuse, Neglect and Harm In a Child

Practitioners should also consider the All Wales Protocols for Safeguarding Children in specific circumstance.

Pointers for Practice: Risk Assessments and Decision-Making

Pointers for Practice: Challenges Reaching Practitioner Agreement Regarding Significant Harm

Determination 1: concerns of significant harm are not substantiated

If, on conclusion of the s47 enquiries and analysis of the information gathered, the concerns about significant harm are unsubstantiated, this decision should be ratified by the relevant manager within social services.

The manager should ratify any decision to end the s47 enquiry and confirm no further action. They should consider:

A record should be made which includes:

Next steps

The social worker who led the s47 enquiries should ensure the following actions are completed:

N.B. In some circumstances whilst concerns about harm may remain; there is insufficient evidence to indicate significant harm. In such circumstances, the family should be offered a care and support assessment Part 3 section 21 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) 2014 Act. If, however, the family refuses, agencies that have continuing involvement with the family need to remain vigilant and report any concerns in the usual way.

Determination 2: concerns are substantiated but the child is not at continuing risk

Where there are substantiated concerns that a child has suffered significant harm, but it is clear from enquiries that there is no continuing risk of harm, the members of the strategy discussion/meeting may agree that a child protection conference is not required. This decision may be made despite an ongoing criminal investigation.

A decision not to hold a child protection conference in such circumstances must be taken carefully and be child-centred and evidence-based.

The following should be considered:

The decision and the reason for this decision must be recorded by the social worker who led the s47 enquiries and include the names of all those involved in the decision-making.

Social services must be cautious about a decision not to proceed to a child protection conference, where it is known that a child has suffered harm and that harm is significant. The social services manager should endorse this decision, or if necessary, overrule it.

A decision may be taken not to proceed to conference if, for example, circumstances have changed, such as the child being cared for by a relative:

For example: A six-year-old child has been living with a lone parent who is mentally ill and experiencing psychotic episodes because they have stopped taking their medication. The parent has recently been hearing voices saying their child is not their birth child and consequently has been rejecting the child who is being emotionally abused, distressed and frightened by their experience. The report was made by the head teacher of the child’s school, after the parent refused to collect the child from school, saying the child was not theirs. The grandparents live nearby and have taken responsibility increasingly for the care and support needs of the child. The parent and the grandparents arrange with practitioners that the child will live with the grandparents, who will supervise any contact with the parent until their health condition has improved. The parent is now attending a mental health day unit.

In this situation the parent and members of the child’s wider family agree to a care and support assessment.

Next steps

The Social Services and Well-Being (Wales) Act 2014 section 21(1) places a duty on social services to assess whether a child has needs for care and support, in addition to those met by the child's family and if so, what those needs are.

When considering whether a care and support assessment is appropriate practitioners should consider whether identified need can be met via signposting to preventative or early help services, for example, by providing information on relevant, available services? (Section 1 Early help and prevention).

If the needs of the child cannot be met in this way, they are eligible for an assessment to consider any care and support needs.

Determination 3: concerns are substantiated, and the child is judged to be experiencing or at risk of harm, abuse or neglect and a child protection conference should be convened.

Where concerns are substantiated, and the child is at continuing risk of significant harm the line manager must endorse the decision that an initial child protection conference is convened to decide on further actions required to protect the child from harm.

Next steps

The conference should be convened by social services within 15 working days of the strategy discussion/meeting, or the last strategy discussion/meeting (if more than one has occurred), which initiated the Section 47 enquiries. Regional Board areas should specify accepted practice in terms of outcome of section 47 strategy meetings/discussions.

The following are examples of situations, following strategy meetings/discussions that may make a child protection conference necessary.

(Section 3 part 1 for further guidance);

(Section 2 the unborn child);

N.B. This is not an exhaustive list

If, prior to the child protection conference, it is thought that the child may require immediate protection, such action must not be delayed because a child protection conference is pending. (Section 3 Part 1 taking immediate action).

N.B. It is important to note a strategy meeting/discussion is not a substitute for a child protection conference.

Pointers for Practice: Assessing Significant Harm

Pointers for Practice: Challenges Reaching Practitioner Agreement Regarding Significant Harm