Whilst parents do not need to consent to s47 enquiries they should be consulted and where possible engaged as active participants in the process.
treated with respect, empathy and warmth – whatever they may have done they are human beings;
listened to and given time to digest and respond to information;
spoken to honestly with the power differences between the family and practitioner recognised;
given an opportunity to discuss factors that may inform the assessment such as religious observances, cultural practices.
The child and family should always be empowered to participate fully in the enquiry, unless this is inconsistent with the protection of the child.
The following should be considered:
where a child or parent has a disability, the means of communication should be in their preferred medium to maximise their opportunity to participate in the process;
be mindful that some family members have varying communication needs;
an independent interpreter must be provided where the child or parent’s language of choice is not the same as that of the interviewer;
if the child is unable to participate in an interview because of age or understanding, alternative means of understanding the child’s perspective should be used;
the enquiries should always be carried out in such a way as to minimise distress to the child, and to ensure that families are treated sensitively and with respect.
The following process should be followed:
Social services must explain the purpose of the s47 enquiries to the parents, having regard to their level of understanding and be prepared to answer questions openly, unless doing so would affect the safety and welfare of the child.
It is particularly helpful for families if social services provide written information about the purpose, process and potential outcomes of child protection s47 enquiries.
be written in simple language in English and Welsh and avoid the use of jargon (information should also be available in other languages depending on the ethnic mix of the population);
explain how to access advice, advocacy and support from independent sources;
indicate how to access complaints procedures.
The parents or caregivers should be involved throughout the s47 enquiries as far as possible, subject to this being in the best interests of the child.
The social worker and/or police officer undertaking the enquiries should:
explain the reasons for concern about the child/ren;
ensure the family understand the purpose of the enquiries, those contributing, meetings they will need to attend and professional only meetings such as strategy discussions/meetings. This should be done in a manner that reflects individual family member’s needs;
For example: a parent may be on medication that slows down their ability to process information, so they may require information repeated a number of times. Alternatively, if English is not their first language, they may require an interpreter.
outline the actions that are proposed and why;
provide information about the enquiry process and which practitioners will be involved;
explain that relevant information might have to be shared with professional colleagues who also have responsibility for the child’s welfare;
obtain parental consent in writing where possible. (informed consent for a medical examination will be taken by the examining paediatrician);
if appropriate, encourage parent/s to accompany the child for interview and medical assessment. However, care must be taken to avoid action that might prejudice any criminal investigation, particularly where the parent/caregiver is an alleged perpetrator or witness.
As the police lead all criminal investigations it will be their responsibility to inform the parents/caregivers about criminal investigations.
It is the responsibility of the social worker leading the s47 enquiry to inform the family of the outcome of the enquiries i.e. the ‘determination’ and the implications of that decision.
Every effort should be made to secure the co-operation of parents who will need reassurance about the s47 process. However, in some cases, caregivers will refuse to co-operate and practitioners may need to draw on protocols to assist in working with these types of situation. Most Regional Safeguarding Boards have protocols for managing these situations.
Emergency action should be considered where parents refuse to co-operate or take a particular action, and this is likely to cause the child harm.
Emergency action might be necessary as soon as a report is received or at any stage of the process.
Legal actions that can be taken are:
Where consent is not readily available or is refused by a parent, the matter should be discussed with social services regarding the need for legal advice and action to obtain a valid consent.
It should be noted that neither Section 47 Enquiries, Emergency Protection Orders nor Police Powers of Protection include consent for a medical examination. When applying for an Emergency Protection Order and a medical examination is required, directions for a medical examination need to be requested. However, a Child Assessment Order may be more appropriate.
It is the responsibility of participants at the strategy meeting/discussion to decide:
by whom, when and where, children who are subject to s47 enquiries will be seen;
if there are any circumstances when this should be without the permission of the parent/s.
When involving children and young people practitioners should recognise that they often have a clear perception of what needs to be done to ensure their safety and well-being.
The child should:
be helped to understand how child protection procedures work, how they can be involved and how they can contribute to decisions about their future;
be given information about how to access advocacy services and other sources of support;
be listened to at every stage of the child protection process and kept informed appropriately about decisions being made.
Throughout the s47 enquiries consideration must be given to the immediate safety of the child and any other children at risk.