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3.4 Section 47 Enquiries

RELATED NATIONAL GUIDANCE

Chapter 1: Assessing need and providing help, Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015

Flowchart 2: Immediate Protection, Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015

Flowchart 4: Action following a Strategy Discussion, Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015

RELATED GUIDANCE

Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings: Guidance on Interviewing Victims and Witnesses, and Using Special Measures, (2011)

0 to 18 Years: Guidance for all Doctors, General Medical Council (GMC)

Guidance on Paediatric Forensic Examinations in relation to possible child sexual abuse, September 2004, issued by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Association of Forensic Physicians (see the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health Website)

RELATED LOCAL GUIDANCE

Multi Agency Child Protection Chronologies, Blackpool LSCB Guidance (Feb 2007)

Lancashire Guidance on the Use of Written Agreements by Social Care Staff 

Blackburn with Darwen Children’s Social Needs and Risk – Local Assessment Protocol

RELATED CHAPTERS

AMENDMENT

In November 2013, this chapter was updated in line with Working Together 2013 and the Single Assessment Framework.


Contents

  Duty to Undertake a Section 47 Enquiry
  Purpose of a Section 47 Enquiry 
  Decision to Undertake a Section 47 Enquiry 
  Emergency Protective Action
  Obligations and Responsibilities of All Agencies
  Assessment Framework
  Single Agency or Joint Enquiry/Investigation
  Seeing and Interviewing the Child
  Parental Involvement and Consent
  Paediatric Assessments
  Outcome of the Section 47 Enquiry
  Recording the Section 47 Enquiry 
  Feedback on Outcome of Section 47 Enquiry 
  Resolving Professional Disagreements


Duty to Undertake a Section 47 Enquiry

  1. The Children's Social Care have a statutory duty to carry out a Section 47 Enquiry in any of the following circumstances:
  2. The responsibility for undertaking Section 47 Enquiries lies with the local authority for the area in which the child lives or is found, even if the child is ordinarily resident in another local authority's area.
  3. Where a Section 47 Enquiry is to be conducted in relation to a child who is ordinarily resident in the area of another local authority, her/his home authority should be informed as soon as possible, and be involved as appropriate in the Strategy Discussion. In certain cases, it may be agreed that the home authority should undertake the Section 47 Enquiry (for example where the child is Looked After) and in all cases, the home authority should take responsibility for any further support of the child or family identified as necessary.


Purpose of a Section 47 Enquiry

  1. The purpose of the Section 47 Enquiry is to determine whether any further action is required to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child or children who is/are the subject of the Enquiry.
  2. If a decision is made that a Section 47 Enquiry is necessary, it will be led by a Children's Social Care team in parallel with the Police investigation - see Single Agency or Joint Enquiry/Investigation.
  3. The decision and plan to carry out the Section 47 Enquiry will be determined at a Strategy Discussion.


Decision to Undertake a Section 47 Enquiry

  1. Children's Social Care Managers have the responsibility, based on available information, to authorise Section 47 Enquiries.
  2. The decision to initiate a Section 47 Enquiry must be taken following a Strategy Discussion. This may occur whenever the criteria set out in Purpose of the Section 47 Enquiry are met, for example:
    • At the point of a Referral;
    • During the early consideration of a Referral;
    • During Single Assessment; or
    • At any time in an open case when the criteria are satisfied.
  3. In reaching her/his conclusion as to the justification for a Section 47 Enquiry, the Manager must consider the following factors:
    • The seriousness of the concern/s;
    • The repetition or duration of concern/s;
    • The vulnerability of the child (through age, developmental stage, Disability or other predisposing factor e.g. whether they are Looked After);
    • The source of the concern/s;
    • The accumulation of sufficient information;
    • The context in which the child is living - e.g. whether there is a child in the household already who is the subject of a Child Protection Plan;
    • Any predisposing factors in the family that may suggest a higher level of risk e.g. mental health difficulties, substance misuse by parent/carer or domestic violence.
  4. The Section 47 Enquiry may be undertaken in parallel with the Police investigation - see Single Agency or Joint Enquiry/Investigation.
  5. Any decision made after a Strategy Discussion that further child protection action by Children's Social Care and/or the Police is not necessary as there is insufficient evidence of risk of Significant Harm to the child may only be made providing it is agreed by the Manager in the Children's Social Care team and the Officer in Charge of the Police Child and Public Protection Unit (CPPU) and the reasons recorded.
  6. In such circumstances consideration should be given to whether any other service is appropriate for the child under the local Early Help process.


Emergency Protective Action

  1. Also see Flowchart 2: Immediate Protection, (Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015).
  2. Where there is a risk to the life of a child or the likelihood of serious immediate harm, the Police officer and/or social worker must act quickly to secure the immediate safety of the child.
  3. The agency taking protective action must always consider whether action is also required to safeguard other children in the same household or in the household of an alleged perpetrator or elsewhere e.g. a work place involving children.
  4. Emergency action may be necessary as soon as the referral is received or at any point during involvement with children, parents or carers, where there is evidence that the risk to the child is sufficiently acute. The need for emergency action may become apparent only after time as more is learned about the circumstances of a child or children. Neglect, as well as abuse, can pose such a risk of significant harm to a child that urgent protective action is needed.
  5. Responsibility for immediate action rests with Children's Social Care for the area where the child is found, but should be in consultation with the local authority where the child is ordinarily resident, if different.
  6. Immediate protection may be achieved by:
    • An alleged abuser agreeing to leave the home;
    • The removal of the alleged abuser;
    • Voluntary agreement for the child or children to move to a safer place with or without a protective person;
    • Application for an Emergency Protection Order (EPO);
    • Removal of the child or children under Police powers of Police Protection;
    • Gaining entry to the household under police powers;
    • Parental use of Children Act 1989 private law provision e.g. Prohibited Steps Orders.
  7. Planned immediate protection will normally take place following an immediate Strategy Discussion between Police, Children's Social Care and other agencies as appropriate (including the NSPCC where involved). Where a single agency has to act immediately to protect a child, a Strategy Discussion should take place as soon as possible after such action to plan next steps.
  8. The social worker should obtain legal advice before initiating legal action and seek the agreement of her/his Manager before an Emergency Protection Order is applied for.
  9. Children's Social Care should only seek the assistance of the police to use their powers of Police Protection in exceptional circumstances where there is insufficient time to seek an Emergency Protection Order or other reasons relating to the child's immediate safety.


Obligations and Responsibilities of All Agencies

  1. All agencies have a duty to assist and provide information in support of Section 47 Enquiries.
  2. Any checks made by the Children's Social Care and/or the Police with other agencies should be undertaken directly with involved professionals and not through messages with intermediaries.
  3. The relevant agencies should be informed of the reasons for the Section 47 Enquiry, whether parents have been informed and asked for their assessment of the child in the light of the information presented.


Assessment Framework

  1. A Single Assessment must be commenced whenever a Section 47 Enquiry is initiated. The Assessment must be completed within 45 working days of the referral being received.
  2. A Chronology will be included in the Children's Social Care record of any case subject to a Single Assessment. See Multi Agency Child Protection Chronologies, Blackpool LSCB Guidance (Feb 2007).
  3. The Section 47 Enquiry should begin by focusing primarily on any information identified during the referral or from previous early help or single assessment(s) which appears most important in relation to the risk of Significant Harm.
  4. The assessment of risk will:
    • Identify the cause for concern;
    • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the family;
    • Evaluate the risks to the child or children;
    • Consider the child's needs for protection;
    • Consider the ability of the parents and wider family and social networks to safeguard and promote the child's welfare;
    • Determine the level of intervention required both in the immediate and longer term.
  5. Any contact with the child and family must take into consideration any needs arising from their culture, ethnicity, religion, first language - and provision made accordingly.
  6. This will inform the Single Assessment, which should cover all relevant dimensions in the Assessment Framework and be alert to the potential needs and safety of siblings or other children in the household or with whom the alleged offender may have had contact.
  7. The Section 47 Enquiry should be led by a qualified and experienced social worker from Children's Social Care, who will be responsible for its coordination and completion. The social worker must consult with other agencies involved with the child and family in order to obtain a fuller picture of the circumstances of all children in the household, identifying parenting strengths and any risk factors. All agencies consulted are responsible for providing information to assist with the assessment process.
  8. At the same time, where there is a joint enquiry/investigation, the Police will have to establish the facts about any offence that may have been committed against a child and collect evidence - see Single Agency or Joint Enquiry/Investigation.
  9. Enquiries and assessment should always involve separate interviews with the child and, in the majority of cases, the parents, and the observation of interaction between the parent and child. Any discussions with children should be conducted in a way that minimises distress; leading or suggestive communication must be avoided and interviews must follow the Achieving Best Evidence guidance - see Seeing and Interviewing the Child and Parental Involvement and Consent.
  10. Where the child is too young to be interviewed or verbal communication is difficult for any reason, alternative means of understanding the child's wishes and feelings should be used. Specialist services may be required in order to assist in communicating with the child.


Single Agency or Joint Enquiry/Investigation

  1. The Strategy Discussion will decide how the Section 47 Enquiry and Police investigation are to be carried out.


Seeing and Interviewing the Child

Seeing the Child

  1. All children within the household must be directly communicated with during a Section 47 Enquiry by the Police and Children's Social Care, to enable an assessment of their safety to be made.
  2. The children who are the focus of concern should be seen alone, by the Lead Social Worker, subject to their age and willingness, preferably with parental permission (see Parental Involvement and Consent).
  3. Children of an appropriate age and understanding should be told what is to happen and given any written information, such as leaflets, as appropriate. Alternative means of communication to enable understanding of a child's wishes or feelings should be used, including observation where children are very young or where they have communication impairments.
  4. Their agreement to the process should be sought and any non-agreement on their part should be respected.
  5. It may be necessary to provide information to the child in stages and this must be taken into account in planning the Section 47 Enquiry.
  6. Explanations given to the child should be brought up to date as the Section 47 Enquiry progresses. In no circumstances should the child be left wondering what is happening and why.
  7. The Children's Social Care team and the Police must ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place to support the child through the joint enquiry/investigation. An adult - usually a parent, carer, relative or friend - should be identified to accompany and support the child through the process. The most suitable person for the role will be dependent on the circumstances taking into account the wishes and feelings of the child.
  8. Specialist help may be needed if:
    • The child's first language is not English;
    • The child appears to have a degree of psychological and/or psychiatric disturbance but is deemed competent;
    • The child has an physical/sensory/learning disability;
    • Where those investigating do not have adequate knowledge and understanding of the child's racial, religious and cultural background;
    • Where unusual or bizarre abuse is suspected. See Religious Beliefs and Linked Abuse Procedure.
  9. The objectives in seeing the child are to:
    • Record and evaluate her/his appearance, demeanour, mood state and behaviour;
    • Hear the child's account of allegations or concerns;
    • Observe and record the interactions of the child and her/his carers;
    • See and record the circumstances in which the child is currently living and sleeping and, if different, her/his ordinary residence;
    • Evaluate the physical safety of the environment including the storage of hazardous substances e.g. bleach, drugs;
    • Ensure that any other children who need to be seen are identified;
    • Assess the degree of risk and possible need for protective action;
    • Meet the child's needs for information and re-assurance.
  10. The Strategy Discussion must decide where, when and how the child or children should be seen and if a video interview is required.
  11. In all cases where it is agreed to conduct a video recorded interview of a child, the Achieving Best Evidence guidance must be followed and staff conducting the interview must have had appropriate training, unless the need to depart from the guidance has been agreed by the investigating officers and their managers. Any such decisions must be recorded with reasons.
  12. The aim of any such video interview is to obtain a truthful account from the child in a way which is fair, in the child's interests and acceptable to the Courts.
  13. Where a video interview is to take place, in order to avoid undermining any subsequent criminal case, any contact with a child prior to the interview must also be conducted under Achieving Best Evidence guidance and staff must:
    • Listen to the child rather than directly questioning her/him;
    • Never stop the child freely recounting significant events;
    • Fully record the discussion including timing, setting, presence of others as well as what was said.

Inability to Access the Child

  1. If efforts to see and communicate with the child or children within the timescales agreed at the Strategy Discussion are unsuccessful, then the social worker and, where relevant, the Police officer should:
    • Inform the relevant manager, and seek legal advice as appropriate; and
    • In consultation with her/his manager, carry out the contingency plan agreed at the Strategy Discussion; or
    • Arrange a further Strategy Discussion to agree what further action is required, including action to trace the whereabouts of the child (if unknown);
    • See the child and carry out the Section 47 Enquiry.
  2. See Missing Children and Families Procedure.
  3. If a child or family moves suddenly from one local authority area to another during the course of the enquiry, the social worker in the originating authority will inform the Children's Social Care team in the area the child has moved to, of the concerns about the child's welfare and the known family history. This should be done in the first instance by telephone and confirmed by provision of a written case transfer summary, requesting written acknowledgement that the receiving authority has accepted case responsibility.


Parental Involvement and Consent

Parental Involvement

  1. Children's Social Care has the prime responsibility to engage with parents and other family members to ascertain the facts of the situation causing concern and to assess the capacity of the family to safeguard the child.
  2. In most cases, parents should be enabled to participate fully in the assessment and enquiry process, which should be explained to them verbally and also in writing. Relevant leaflets should always be provided to parents and carers. Where a parent has additional needs e.g. where they have a disability, they should be offered support to participate in the assessment. If English is not their first language, an interpreter must be provided and leaflets should be available in a range of languages.
  3. Consideration should be given to the capacity of the parents to understand the information shared in a situation of anxiety and stress.
  4. The parents should be involved at the earliest opportunity unless to do so would prejudice the safety of the child. The needs and safety of the child will be paramount when determining at what point parents or carers are given information. Parents should be kept informed throughout about the enquiry, its outcome and any subsequent action unless this would jeopardise the safety and welfare of the child. In explaining the process of a Section 47 Enquiry to parents, the following points should be covered:
    • An explanation of the reason for concern and where appropriate the source of information;
    • The procedures to be followed; this must include an explanation of the need for the child to be seen, interviewed and/or medically assessed, consultation about the gender of the medical practitioner where time allows and seeking parental agreement for these aspects of the enquiry - (see Parental Consent);
    • An explanation of their rights as parents including the need for support and guidance from an advocate whom they trust (advice should be given about the right to seek legal advice);
    • An explanation of the role of the various agencies involved in the enquiry and explanation of the wish to work in partnership with them to secure the welfare of their child;
    • The need to gather initial information on the history and structure of the family, the child and other relevant information to enable an assessment of the injuries and/or allegations and the continuing risk to the child to be made;
    • In situations of domestic violence, the possibility of working with the parents separately;
    • The provision of an opportunity for parents to be able to ask questions and receive support and guidance Particular consideration must be given to those for whom English is not their first language or who may have a physical/sensory/learning disability and will need the services of an appropriate interpreter or support person. It is also essential that factors such as race, culture, religion, gender and sexuality together with issues arising from their health are taken into account.

Dealing with Angry and Aggressive People

  1. The first and most important point is to keep yourself safe, and remove yourself from any situation that feels unsafe. Check out your agency guidelines about personal safety. But if you find yourself in a situation with an angry person, the following tips may help to calm the situation if it is safe to try:
    • Hear the person out
      • Don't interrupt or try to make your point. Instead, listen attentively, using head nods or short verbal statements like "Uh-huh" or "I see" to encourage the person to continue to talk.
    • Keep asking for elaboration and clarification
      • Keep a cool head. Realize that when you show that you are open to hearing and understanding what the person is saying, this will eventually encourage the individual to calm down. You may ask questions like, "Then what happened?"
    • Consider taking notes
      • In some cases this can be helpful, if you say something like, "I want to be sure that I understand your main points, so would you mind if I take a few notes while you tell me about it?" This sometimes has a way of slowing what the person is saying, and it may tend to cause him or her to be less raging.
      • However, the note-taking strategy must be used with caution, because at times it could make the person even angrier, especially if they're tending toward suspiciousness and paranoia about your motives.
    • Show concern on your face
      • Your facial expressions should be attentive and concerned. Indicate your interest in what the person is saying by maintaining a pleasant, relaxed facial expression and a steady (not staring) gaze.
    • Keep your voice tone soft
      • Never raise your voice volume so that you can be heard over a person who is yelling. This will only make the other person yell more loudly! Instead, lower your voice tone even below your normal range. The natural effect of this is that the other person will also speak more softly.
    • Paraphrase and summarize what the person has said
      • In an attempt to show to the person that you are listening and trying to understand, you might say something like, "Let me see if I have the main points that are important to you..." (then proceed to summarize those in your own words).
    • Do not argue
      • An argument occurs when you listen to what the person is saying with the intent of finding the weakness in it. You then begin to rebut their statements, often interrupting to do so.
    • Empathize with the person's feelings
      • You might say something like, "I can see how you would be really frustrated. In situations before where I felt that I was cut off and my opinions didn't matter, I felt frustrated, too."
    • Ask if the person would be willing to hear some additional information
      • This is where you begin to share your side of the story. You are saying something like, "Would be it all right if I shared with you some other facts that may give us a part of the total picture?"
    • Ask what he or she thinks would make the situation better
      • Very often the person is so consumed with the expression of anger; he or she has not really paused to think about what can be done now to improve the situation. Openly asking the individual for suggestions for improvement can begin to move the situation toward a problem-solving mode.
    • Add your suggestions
      • If the person has not offered constructive suggestions, but insists on continuing the attack, you may want to suggest something that could make the situation better.
    • Make an action plan; restate it for clarity
      • If you have been able to agree on some action steps, be sure that you both restate those steps to ensure that you understand your agreement the same way.

Parental Consent

  1. The social worker must consult her/his manager so that s/he can decide on the basis of available information, whether to seek parental consent to undertake inter-agency checks. This will usually have already been discussed during referral stage and at the Strategy Discussion.
  2. In addition, the social worker must consult his/her manager about whether parental consent should be sought for an interview with and/or paediatric assessment of a child.
  3. See also Consent for Paediatric Assessment/Medical Treatment in relation to parental consent to a child's paediatric assessment.
  4. If a decision is made not to seek parental permission, the reasons must be recorded and this may include:
    • Concern that the child would be at risk of further significant harm;
    • Serious concern about the likely behaviour of the adult, for example that the child may be coerced into silence or vital evidence may be destroyed;
    • The views of the child who does not want his/her parent to be informed and is competent to make that decision.
  5. When it is decided to interview and/or arrange a paediatric assessment of the child without seeking the consent of the parents, the decision must be endorsed by the social worker's line manager and legal advice must be sought.
  6. The parent or carer must be informed as soon as practicable and consistent with the best interests of the child.
  7. Where permission is sought but refused, the social worker's manager must determine whether to proceed, and if so, record the reasons. Where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, Significant Harm, and access is refused, Children's Social Care has a duty to apply for:
Unless it is satisfied that the child's welfare can be safeguarded without doing so.


Paediatric Assessments

When a Paediatric Assessment is Necessary

  1. Strategy Discussions must consider, in consultation with the paediatrician (if not part of the discussion or meeting), the need for and timing of a paediatric assessment. Consideration must also be given as to whether there are any other children in the household who may also require a paediatric assessment.
  2. Paediatric assessments should always be considered necessary where there has been a disclosure or there is a suspicion of any form of abuse to a child.
  3. Additional considerations are the need to:
    • Secure forensic evidence;
    • Obtain medical documentation.
  4. In cases of severe neglect, physical injury or acute (recent) penetrative sexual abuse, the assessment should be undertaken on the day of the referral, where compatible with the welfare of the child.
  5. Only suitably qualified health specialists may physically examine the child for the purposes of a paediatric assessment. Other staff should note any visible marks or injuries on a body map and document details in their recording.

Purpose of Paediatric Assessment

  1. The purpose of a paediatric assessment is:
    • To diagnose any injury or harm to the child and to initiate treatment as required;
    • To document the findings;
    • To provide a medical report on the findings, including an opinion as to the probable cause of any injury or other harm reported;
    • To assess the overall health and development of the child;
    • To provide reassurance for the child and parent;
    • To arrange for follow up and review of the child as required, noting new symptoms including psychological effects.

Consent for Paediatric Assessment/Medical Treatment

  1. The following may give consent to a paediatric assessment:
    • A young person of 16 and over;
    • A child of under 16 where a doctor considers he or she is of sufficient age and understanding to give informed consent and is "Fraser Competent";
    • Any person with Parental Responsibility;
    • The local authority when the child is the subject of a Care Order (although the parent/carer should be informed);
    • The local authority when the child is Accommodated and the parent/carers have abandoned the child or are physically or mentally unable to give such authority;
    • The High Court when the child is a Ward of Court;
    • A Court as part of a direction attached to an Emergency Protection Order, an Interim Care Order or a Child Assessment Order.
  2. Where the child is the subject of ongoing Court proceedings, legal advice should be obtained about obtaining the Court's permission to the paediatric assessment.
  3. It is generally good practice to seek wherever possible the permission of a parent for children under 16 prior to any paediatric assessment and/or other medical treatment even if the child is judged to be of sufficient understanding to give consent in their own right. If this is not considered possible or appropriate, then the reasons should be clearly recorded.
  4. When a child is Looked After and a parent/carer has given general consent authorising medical treatment for the child, legal advice must be taken about whether this provides consent for a paediatric assessment for child protection purposes (the parent/carer still has full parental responsibility for the child). Where the local authority shares Parental Responsibility for the child, the local authority must also consent to the paediatric assessment.
  5. A child who is of sufficient understanding may refuse some or all of the paediatric assessment, although refusal can potentially be overridden by a court.
  6. In emergency situations where the child needs urgent medical treatment and there is insufficient time to obtain parental consent:
    • The medical practitioner may decide to proceed without consent; and/or
    • The medical practitioner may regard the child to be of an age and level of understanding to give her/his own consent and be Fraser Competent.
  7. In these circumstances, parents must be informed as soon as possible and a full record must be made at the time.
  8. In non-emergency situations, when parental permission is not obtained, the social worker and manager must seek legal advice - see Parental Consent above.
  9. For additional guidance to doctors, see the GMC 0 to 18 Years: Guidance for all Doctors.

Arranging the Paediatric Assessment

  1. Paediatric assessments must take into account the need for both specialist paediatric expertise and forensic requirements in relation to the gathering of evidence.
  2. Only approved Consultant Paediatricians, Police Surgeons or other suitably qualified specialists may undertake paediatric assessments carried out as part of a Section 47 Enquiry.
  3. Ordinarily there should be only one paediatric examination of the child.
  4. Where child sexual abuse is suspected, usually two doctors with complementary skills will conduct a joint paediatric assessment. A single doctor may carry out the assessment where he or she has the necessary knowledge, skills and experience for the particular case. No child should be examined unless at a Sexual Assault Referral Centre.
  5. For further guidance, see Guidance on Paediatric Forensic Examinations in relation to possible child sexual abuse, September 2004, issued by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Association of Forensic Physicians (which can be found at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health Website). 
  6. Consideration should be given to the gender of the examining doctor in consultation with the child and the parents.
  7. Referrals for paediatric assessments should be made by the social worker, who should contact the on call senior doctor and also make him/her aware of the circumstances of the case. A senior doctor is available for consultation at all times. The police will arrange attendance of a Police surgeon if required. The extent of any questioning of the child by the doctor will depend on the type of abuse and the age and understanding of the child.
  8. In planning the paediatric assessment, the social worker, the manager responsible, the Police CPPU and relevant doctor(s) must consider whether it might be necessary to take photographic evidence, for example, for use in care or criminal proceedings or where a second opinion may be necessary. Where such arrangements are necessary, the child and parents must be informed and prepared and careful consideration given to the impact on the child.
  9. If the child refuses to be examined or becomes distressed during the examination, consideration must be given to arranging a further examination.

Recording of Paediatric Assessment

  1. At the conclusion of the paediatric assessment, the doctor must give a verbal report explaining his or her findings to the social worker/Police officer attending, followed by a written report as soon as practicable.
  2. Disclosure of the information contained in the report to the parent(s) of the child and/or the child should be agreed in consultation with the Children's Social Care and the Police.
  3. The report should include:
    • Date, time and place of examination;
    • Those present;
    • Who gave consent and how (child/parent, written, phone or in person);
    • A verbatim record of the carer's and child's accounts of injuries and concerns noting any discrepancies or changes of story;
    • Documentary findings in both words and diagrams;
    • Site, size, shape and where possible age of any marks or injuries;
    • Other findings relevant to the child e.g. squint, learning problems, speech problems etc;
    • Confirmation of the child's developmental progress (especially important in cases of neglect);
    • Time examination ended;
    • Medical opinion of the likely cause of injury or harm.
  4. All reports and diagrams should be signed and dated by the doctor undertaking the examination.
  5. If criminal or family proceedings are instituted, the doctor's written report may be filed and served as well as the doctor's statement of evidence. The doctor's attendance at subsequent Court hearings may also be required.
  6. Where there has been a joint paediatric assessment, the doctors involved should agree which of them will provide the report. If they disagree in their clinical findings and interpretations, they should both provide full reports and usually a further independent medical opinion should be obtained. For further guidance, see Guidance on Paediatric Forensic Examinations in relation to possible child sexual abuse, September 2004, issued by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Association of Forensic Physicians.


Outcome of the Section 47 Enquiry

  1. The Section 47 Enquiry is concluded at the point when an informed decision is made taking account of all information available as to whether the child is at continuing risk of Significant Harm or not.
  2. The Section 47 Enquiry will result in one of three possible outcomes:
    1. Concerns are substantiated and the child is judged to be continuing to, or be likely to, suffer significant harm;
      • Child protection concerns are substantiated and the child(ren) is (are) considered to be at continuing risk of Significant Harm, in which case an Initial Child Protection Conference will be convened. The Initial Child Protection Conference must take place within a maximum of 15 working days of the Strategy Discussion/Meeting or, where more than one Strategy Discussion/Meeting has taken place, of the Strategy Discussion at which the Section 47 Enquiry was initiated. For details of the procedure for setting up the conference, see Initial Child Protection Conferences Procedure. In the meantime, an interim plan must be prepared and implemented giving due consideration to the following:
      • Can the child be protected at home?
      • If so, can the plan be agreed with the parents?
      • Should the alleged abuser be asked to leave the family home?
      • If not, can the child be placed with relatives with parental consent?
      • If not, can the child be Accommodated with parental consent?
      • If so, is a voluntary agreement appropriate and sufficient in the circumstances?
      • Should legal action be considered?
      • Whether the Core Assessment has been completed or what further work is required before it is completed.
    2. Concerns are substantiated, but the child is not judged to be continuing to, or be likely to, suffer significant harm
      • Child Protection concerns are substantiated but the child is not judged to be at continuing risk of Significant Harm, for example because the family circumstances have changed since the harm occurred, an alleged perpetrator has permanently left the household or the family is judged to be willing and able to co-operate with actions to ensure the child's future safety and welfare. This decision must be endorsed by a suitably experienced and qualified social work manager.

      In these circumstances, the Single Assessment should be completed and whatever process is used to plan future action, the resulting plan should be informed by the Single Assessment findings.

    3. Concerns are not substantiated
      • Child Protection concerns are not substantiated but the enquiries have revealed services and/or further assessment are required. In these circumstances, the child may still be regarded as In Need and the Single Assessment will continue. In other cases, a meeting may be called under the local Early Help process.

      In relation to 2) and 3) above, the meeting of involved professionals and family members will agree what actions should be undertaken by whom and with what outcomes for the child's health and development. Such a meeting is also important to inform parents about the nature of any on-going concerns. Any plan should set out who will have responsibility for what action, including a timescale for review of progress against planned outcomes;

      • Child Protection concerns are not substantiated and no further action is required.
  3. In all cases, the outcome should be authorised by the Children's Social Care Manager.
  4. The outcome of any Enquiry and the reasons for the decisions must be recorded on the relevant forms. The parents, the child (if appropriate) and the professionals involved should all be informed of the outcome.
  5. Where an Initial Child Protection Conference is to be convened the decisions and outcomes must be included by the social worker in the conference report.


Recording the Section 47 Enquiry

  1. A full written record must be completed by each agency involved in a Section 47 Enquiry, using the required local multi-agency and agency pro-formas, signed and dated by staff.
  2. All notes must be retained by professionals until the completion of any anticipated legal proceedings.
  3. Children's Social Care recording of enquiries should include:
    • The date(s) when the child was seen alone by the Lead Social Worker and, if not seen alone, who was present and the reasons for their presence;
    • Agency checks;
    • Contacts made cross-referenced with any specific forms used;
    • Strategy Discussion notes;
    • Details of the enquiry;
    • Body maps (where applicable);
    • Assessment including identification of risks and how they may be managed;
    • Decision making processes;
    • Outcome/Further Action Planned.
  4. At the completion of the Section 47 Enquiry the social workers manager should ensure that the concern and outcome have been entered on the child's chronology.


Feedback on Outcome of Section 47 Enquiry

  1. Feedback on the outcome of a Section 47 Enquiry should be provided to non-professional referrers in a manner that respects the confidentiality and welfare of the child and family.
  2. Information to parents, children and young people should be relayed in an appropriate format and translated for those people whose first language is not English.
  3. Children's Social Care should ensure that parents, children (depending on their level of understanding), professionals and other agencies which have been involved are notified in writing of the outcome of Section 47 Enquiries of the decision being made at the earliest possible opportunity.
  4. If there are ongoing criminal investigations, the content of the notification should be agreed with the Police.


Resolving Professional Disagreements

  1. Those professionals and agencies who are most involved with the child and family, and those who have taken part in the Section 47 Enquiry, have the right to request that Children's Social Care convene a Child Protection Conference if they have serious concerns that a child's welfare may not otherwise be adequately safeguarded. Any such request that is supported by a senior manager, or a Designated Senior Person or Named Professional, should normally be agreed. Where there remain differences of view over the necessity for a conference in a specific case, every effort should be made to resolve them through discussion and explanation.
  2. See also Resolving Professional Disagreements Procedure.

End