What can I expect from a Section 47 Investigation?
The purpose of section 47 investigations is to decide whether and what type of action is required to safeguard and promote the welfare of a child who is suspected of, or likely to be, suffering significant harm. Referrals may arise from the Police or School which raise concern about the child.
How long do they last?
Section 47 enquiries must be completed by the Local Authority within 45 days of the initial referral. The Local Authority are under a duty to investigate the referral and whilst the investigation is ongoing, they are under a duty to protect and safeguard the child.
In order to complete the assessment, the Local Authority will make wide enquires and liaise with several professionals involved with the child such as police, doctors and school. They will also need to speak to the parents or caregivers of the child along with speaking with the child directly. It should be noted that, before a child is seen or interviewed parental permission must be gained unless there are exceptional circumstances.
What are the potential outcomes?
- Concerns proved – If the outcome of the Section 47 enquiry is that concerns are raised with the Local Authority, they may make the decision to start Court proceedings by making an application for an Interim Care Order or an Interim Supervision Order concerning the child. Please see our short post on care proceedings which appears at https://www.morecrofts.co.uk/service/care-proceedings-1-1/.
- Support to be provided – If the Local Authority do not consider it necessary to make an application to Court, but there are still concerns regarding the safeguarding of the child and their welfare, then they may feel that they have a role in supporting your family in some way. This may include a Child in Need Plan or Pre-proceedings process. Please see our short post on pre-proceedings https://www.morecrofts.co.uk/pre-proceedings-what-you-need-to-know/.
- No Further Action Necessary- The Local Authority may also consider that there is no further role for them, as the initial concerns raised are not substantiated. The child is found to be sufficiently safeguarded and no additional services are required.
What should I do?
You should be given the opportunity to participate fully in the investigations, which should be explained to you. If your social worker has mentioned that they are completing a s.47 investigation, it’s important that you speak with a family law solicitor to make sure that you understand what is happening and the options available to you and your family.
Is legal aid available?
For initial advice regarding social services involvement, you’ll need to undertake a financial assessment which will look at your finances, including your savings, assets and income. This is sometimes referred to as a means assessment. If you’re on Universal Credit you might automatically pass the income assessment. You will need to provide three months of bank statements, a letter setting out which benefits you’re on which is no more than 28 days old, and proof of your rent or mortgage payments. However, every case is unique, and your solicitor will set out exactly which documents are required to ensure the assessment is tailored to your current circumstances.