It is essential that any determination i.e. decision made:
has a multi-agency focus;
is aimed at ensuring the child’s care and support protection needs are met.
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:
Determination 1: concerns are not substantiated;
Determination 2: concerns are substantiated but the child is not judged to be at continuing risk of significant harm although they may have care and support needs;
Determination 3: concerns are substantiated, and the child is judged to be experiencing or at risk of abuse, harm or neglect and a child protection conference should be convened.
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.
Practitioners should draw on:
their specialised knowledge;
relevant past and present information obtained from records, the child and the family;
relevant information obtained during the s47 enquiry assessment.
and use this to:
analyse the information;
make a practitioner judgement about the child and their circumstances
consider the likelihood of successful interventions based on clear evidence;
make a decision regarding the appropriate determination;
be mindful of over-optimism and other subjective influences that may inform decision-making.
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.
Practitioners should also consider the All Wales Protocols for Safeguarding Children in specific circumstance.
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:
the need for care and support and whether an assessment under Part 3 section 21 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) 2014 Act should be completed, with the consent of the parents;
whether the family may benefit from signposting to early help services;
if the child's health and development should be re-assessed regularly against specific objectives. In this situation a decision should be taken as to who has responsibility for doing this;
any arrangements for management of future reports, if appropriate.
A record should be made which includes:
the reason why s47 enquiries have concluded and why the concerns about harm are unsubstantiated;
any actions to be taken considering information obtained during the enquiries, for example, signposting to early help services or a care and support assessment.
The social worker who led the s47 enquiries should ensure the following actions are completed:
the child and their family are informed that the concerns are not substantiated;
the social worker discusses the case outcome with the child, parents and other practitioners and determines whether early help services may be helpful;
a no further action letter is sent to the family. Letters should be accessible, sensitively worded and acknowledge the distress and anxiety caused by the enquiry process but draw attention to the legal duty of the statutory agencies to make enquiries;
the original report-maker is, as far as possible, and with respect to confidentiality and data protection (clickable link to relevant part of section 3 part 1) be informed about the outcome of the enquiries. They should also be encouraged to make further reports if there is a change in circumstances which would indicate the child is experiencing or at risk of harm.
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 evidence indicating that there is no continuing risk of significant harm;
a shared view by the agencies that have been involved in the s47 enquiries that there is no risk of continuing significant harm;
that a plan for ensuring the child’s future safety and well-being can be developed and implemented outside of safeguarding procedures. For example, the parent, carer, or members of the child’s wider family agree to co-operate with actions to ensure the child’s future safety and well-being and the child is therefore not at continuing risk of significant harm. In these circumstances, there should be a process for checking that any plans and agreements put in place are being followed in a way that ensures the child’s safety and well-being;
The child’s views (taking account of age and level of understanding and Gillick competence) are commensurate with that of the practitioners and that the child has not been coerced into this decision.
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.
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.
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.
child protection s47 enquiries into an incident or suspicion of child abuse and or neglect indicates that the concerns are substantiated and that further action under the child protection procedures is necessary to safeguard the child’s well-being;
situations where suspicions of the likelihood of abuse and/or neglect have developed over time, based on a variety of concerns, such as neglect and emotional abuse, and a decision has been made the child is now at continuing risk of harm.
a child is found to be living in a household that includes, or is visited, by a person who poses a risk to children or who is believed to have abused a child, this includes young people exhibiting harmful sexual behaviours towards other young people or children;
a child moves into the area and is the subject of registration in another area.
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.