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Myth busting

It is important to understand the roles and responsibilities of agencies involved in the safeguarding of children. Below are some examples of myths and the facts from both Children’s Services and Police about what they can do in relation to child protection.

Working with families where children live at home

 Myth: Social workers can insist on entering a home.

  • Social workers cannot insist on entering a family home – only the Police can do that. We do undertake joint visits where it is necessary to gain access to a child but if families do not give permission for a social worker to enter the property only the police can go into the home, and this is only when there are credible concerns that a child is at immediate risk of serious harm. ​

Myth: Social workers can decide to remove a child from their home/family.

  • Social workers cannot make the decision to remove children from their home – only the Court can do that (or the Police under their powers of Police Protection). Court decisions are based on the evidence that social workers present. Rightly, given the gravity of the situation, the threshold for removal of children is very high and a large amount of complex information and evidence is required to be submitted to Court. Timescales for the Public Law Outline (pre-proceedings) averages at around 5 – 6 months therefore this is not a quick or a simple process and gives the parents the opportunity to make the changes required to care for their children. Once a decision has been made by the court the social worker will attend the home to support the  child(ren) and to take them to their care placement.​
  • Social workers can apply for an Emergency Protection Order (which can only apply where there is significant concern that a child is at imminent risk of harm). This allows a Local Authority to temporarily share parental responsibility with a child’s parents so that the Local Authority can act to give immediate short-term protection to the child by either removing the child from their parent(s) care or to prevent the child from being removed form a particular place.  An EPO can last up to 8 days and be extended for a further 7 days.
Interim care orders
  • During the Court proceedings children can be subject to an Interim Care Order. During this time, Children’s Services share Parental Responsibility for the children with their parent / carers.​
  • Children’s Services will not normally ask or recommend to the court for an Interim Care Order with the children placed at home. The risks considered for the child(ren) would remain the same as before the court application was made.​

Myth: Children at home subject to Interim Care Orders can be removed by social workers without returning the case to Court.

Children at home subject to Interim Care Orders can only be removed without returning to court in the event that there is evidence to support that the children are at imminent risk of harm.  In other situations where there are concerns in relation to the children remaining at home, social workers would seek an urgent Hearing asking for the Court’s permission to remove the children from home.  ​

Myth: Social workers have right of access to children who are subject to Interim Care Orders placed at home.

  • When children are subject to Interim Care Orders at home, Children’s Social Care  do not have the right of access to the home or to see the children. This makes it very difficult for the department to exercise our Parental Responsibility easily or conduct our statutory responsibilities.
Care orders
  • At the end of proceedings if the Court orders a Care Order placed at home, this can be granted but would be in exceptional circumstances. ​
  • Due to the constraints outlined above, if this happens, Children’s Social Care may return to court either at the 6 month review stage, or within 12 months seeking a discharge of the order made.
Children In Need
  • Myth: Child in Need (Section 17 Children Act 1989) is statutory, and families must engage.
  • Child In Need (also known as Section 17 Children Act 1989). Whilst Children’s Social Care have a statutory responsibility to assess children’s needs and co-ordinate services where the threshold has been met, engagement on the part of the family is made on a voluntary basis. Social workers cannot insist a family engage with them for an assessment or agree to sharing information with all agencies involved. Families can decide to refuse consent to share information with all or some agencies. Consent can be overridden in some circumstances. See information exchange
  • If the family will not engage, social workers will undertake as full an assessment as  is possible with the information available from the initial referral, any existing information that is held plus any information that partner agencies are able to share. This assessment is used to consider whether the child requires a child protection plan. If not, and the family continues to refuse to engage with our enquiries or support offered and we have no significant concerns for the child, social care will often need to close the case as no meaningful work can take place, and the threshold for statutory child protection investigations/ planning has not been met.
Child Protection Investigations

Myth: Social workers can insist on entering the family home to see the child/ren.

Child Protection Investigations (known as Section 47 investigations, Children Act 1989) are instigated when there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm. Children’s Services will agree with the police which agency will lead or if both will be involved – this is known as a ‘joint investigation’. ​

If a s.47 child protection investigation is underway, Children’s Services can insist on seeing the child and may need the Police to assist if parents refuse. As outlined before Children’s Services do not have right of access to the home.​

  • If a child becomes subject to a Child Protection Plan (CPP), Children’s Services cannot insist we are able to get into the home, police support may be required.

 The number of available fostering and residential placements for children has not kept pace with the need for them as numbers of children coming into care continue to grow (both nationally and locally).​

Recruitment of foster carers is an absolute priority continues to prove a challenge.​There has rightly been a national challenge to the profit that some private providers make but this has restricted new investment in the sector. ​

Other myth busting information

Myth: Once a social worker is involved, they support the child and family.

  • All Children in Need and Child Protection Plans are multi-agency. Children’s Social Care is rightly the lead agency, but all partners have a duty to contribute. 

Myth: When a child is Looked After by the Local Authority the Local Authority always shares Parental Responsibility with parents/carers.

  • Looked After Children as outlined under Section 20 Children Act 1989. This is where parents retain full Parental Responsibility. This is important in this voluntary arrangement agreed by the family or the child when they are age 16yrs and over. The family, or the child themselves when 16yrs, can withdraw their consent at any time. Children’s Services cannot prevent this without going to Court.

Myth: Children at significant risk of exploitation are always better placed outside the local authority area.

  • Children’s Services generally try not to place adolescents at significant risk of exploitation out of the local authority area. This is not safer for them and can place them at more risk and reduce our ability to have proper oversight. We would prefer to reduce the risk factors locally where this is possible.​

Myth:  Children’s services could place more very high risk children in secure accommodation? ​

This is the most draconian Order that Children’s Services will seek in respect of a child.  ​

The grounds for seeking such an Order are as follows:-​

  • That the child has a history of absconding and is likely to abscond from any other description of accommodation and if he absconds he is likely to suffer significant harm; or ​
  • That the child may injure himself or herself or other people if he is kept in any other form of accommodation (s.25 Children Act 1989).  ​
  • A short-term emergency placement up to a maximum of 72 hours can be authorised by an Assistant Director of CSD or above.  ​
  • With children under 13 years old, the Secretary of State must give approval to the placement.  ​
  • Over the last two years (May22-Apr24) there have been on average approx. 55 young people requiring a secure welfare bed on any one day, with there being on average less than one available bed each day (0.65).  This illustrates the extreme demand in the system alongside limited provision.



Myth: Police officers can remove any child from their parents/carers

Police protection should only be used in emergency situations and only when absolutely necessary to ensure the immediate safety of the child. The decision to exercise police protection powers under Section 46 Children Act 1989 stipulates where an officer has reasonable cause to believe a child would otherwise be likely to suffer significant harm the officer may remove the child to suitable accommodation and keep the child there or take reasonable steps to ensure that the child’s removal from any hospital, or other place, in which they are being accommodated is prevented. A police station is not considered suitable accommodation and so a coordinated multi-agency response is needed to suitably accommodate a child. This can be problematic is there is a lack of availability of suitable accommodation, particularly outside of normal office hours and during the night. No child can be kept in Police Protection for more than 72 hours. These factors need to carefully considered when evoking police protection powers and may account for alternative measures being taken to protect a child.

Myth: Police can be called to enter a property if parents are refusing to engage with professionals

To enter a premises, officers must have a search warrant or utilise powers under Section 17 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. This provides police with power to enter for the purpose of saving life and limb (or prevent loss or serious damage to property). Other reasons to enter under this power include to arrest a person for an offence.

Myth: If someone is subject to a police investigation, they must regularly report to a police station When the police have arrested and detained a suspect but do not have the evidence to charge them, the suspect must be released. They can be released either on pre-charge bail (also known as police bail), “under investigation” (RUI) or with “no further action”. Pre-charge bail can involve specific conditions and time limits set by the police to manage risks and ensure compliance during the investigation process. Pre-charge bail can also be unconditional where conditions are not likely to assist in safeguarding any victim or witness, but the suspect is still required to answer their bail on a specific time, date and location. The initial bail period is usually 3-6 months. Any extension beyond this would require Superintendant authorisation (6-9 months) or extension via a Magistrates Court for any pre-charge bail exceeding 9 months. There would need to be substantial evidence of ongoing risk to extend pre-charge bail beyond 6 months. Being released under investigation (RUI) is different from being released on bail because it has no time limits or conditions attached to it. RUI should only be used in circumstances where the pre-conditions for bail are not met and there is little or no risk identified.

Myth: Breaching pre-charge bail is a criminal offence

A breach of pre-charge bail conditions is not a criminal offence in itself. However officers can arrest someone for breaching pre-charge bail conditions and consider if a separate offence (such as assault or witness intimidation) has been committed. Post-charge bail is when there is sufficient evidence to charge a suspect with an offence and they are bailed until their first court appearance. The court will then decide if court bail is required to ensure future appearances at court hearings or conditions need to be applied to prevent the suspect hampering the judicial process.

Myth: “No further action” means a crime was not committed

No further action indicates no charge will be brought and the police are no longer actively investigating the case. It does not mean that a person has not committed the offence, but that there is insufficient evidence to meet the threshold for charging.

Myth: Police make the decision whether to charge someone

The police are responsible for investigating a crime and if the Full Code Test is met, then the case will be presented to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The CPS decides which cases should be prosecuted and determines the appropriate charge. The Full Code Test has two stages that must be met: the evidential stage (whether there is enough evidence to bring a suspect to trial and obtain a conviction) and the public interest stage (how serious is the case, is a conviction a proportionate response, level of culpability). The police do have the authority to make charging decisions in less serious cases without consulting CPS. These are called ‘summary only’ offences which are typically heard at Magistrates Court (eg shoplifting or criminal damage).



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