Section 47 Report

During the course of child custody and child contact the courts can order many reports to be conducted, one of which may include a section 47 report. These reports may need to be carried out by either Cafcass or the Local Authority. The purpose of these reports is for the welfare and safety of the child to be assessed along with the child’s wishes before making a decision on these cases. Our family specialists will assist you in considering what a section 47 report is and how best to prepare for this report.

Article Contents

What is a section 47 report?

A section 47 report is required where further enquiries are to be made in connection with child protection and child safety. Section 47 of the Children’s Act 1989 governs the Section 47 report. The complaints raised in relation to a child might be in relation to physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse or other actions which have caused the child to be neglected. According to section 47 the local authority has a duty to investigate where a local authority:

  • Are informed that a child who lives, or is found, in their area – Is the subject of an emergency protection order; or Is in police protection
  • Have reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found, in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.

The purpose of the section 47 report is to allow the local authority to make enquiries they consider necessary to enable them to decide whether they should take any action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare.

Why do the Courts direct for a Section 47 Report?

The purpose of the court directing for a section 47 report is to decide whether any action is required to protect, safeguard and promote a child’s welfare. In cases where a section 47 report is directions the child will be suspected of or likely to suffering significant harm. The Family Court may direct for a section 47 report based on what information parents or other people, authorities or institutions connected with a child have provided during the course of child law proceedings.

What happens when section 47 report enquiries are taking place?

Once a referral to the local authority or the social services has been made the social workers, together with their managers, carry out the following:

  • Conduct section 47 enquiries in a way which causes minimal distress to the child and family.
  • Ascertain the wishes and feelings of the child by seeing the child and understand the circumstances.
  • Gather information surrounding the child and the family history
  • Arrange and conduct an interview with the parents or carers of the child. This is to determine the social and environmental factors with might affect the family and the child.
  • Following the initial enquiries and interviews the social works must analyse the findings and what options are likely to be effective to consider the child’s needs and the level of harm faced by the child. The local authority and social services may also consult with other professionals such as schools and healthcare professionals in order to assist their enquiries.

Are parents present when children are seen for section 47 enquiries?

In the course of a section 37 report, the child is usually seen in the presence of a parent. However, for the purposes of a section 47 report enquiry the child must been seen alone by the social worker unless it is contrary to the child’s interests to do so. When recording the enquiries, the social worker must state when the child was seen alone and if not seen alone who was present. The social worker must also specify the reasons why the child was not seen alone.

Prior to seeing a child, the social worker must obtain permission to see the child. Only in the following exceptional circumstances permission will not be required to see or interview the child:

  • Where there is a possibility that important information would be destroyed if permission was sought to see the child;
  • The child would be threatened or silenced if permission for seeing the child or for an interview was obtained, and
  • The child does not wish their parent to be involved in the process.

How long can a Section 47 Investigation last?

Once an initial referral is made to the local authority, they must with 45 days of this referral complete their enquiries and investigation. The Assessment for a section 27 report is to be completed by a qualified social worker.

It is important to note that in exceptional cases where the welfare of the child requires shorter time scales, these must be proposed in which the section 47 report enquiries must be carried out.

What are the likely outcomes of a section 47 enquiry and a section 47 report?

At the conclusion of a section 47 report and enquiries the social worker will be responsible for determining what action should be taken to protect the welfare and the needs of a child.

The section 47 report will usually conclude whether:

  • The original concerns raised at the time of the referral are not substantiated, or
  • Whether the concerns are substantiated, and the child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm.

What happens if the concerns raised for a section 47 report are substantiated?

Where the concerns raised have been substantiated the social works will arrange a child protection conference. This conference should take place within 15 working days of the strategy discussion or when the section 37 enquiries commenced. The social worker together with their manager will be responsible to decide whether any professions and specialists should be invited to participate, ensure the child and the parents understand the purpose of the child protection conference and help the child and family prepare on attending and making representations.

What is the purpose of a child protection conference?

If section 47 report concerns have been substantiated a child protection conference will require to be arranged by the social worker. The purpose of this conference is to:

  • Allow information to be shared between all professionals who are working alongside the family and child;
  • Decide how to keep the child safe and what action is required to be taken and
  • Decide whether a child protection plan should be drawn up.

Where there is a concern raised about one child and this has been substantiated the child protection conference must consider all the children in the family and decide upon whether they are also likely to be affected.

During the child protection conference, the social workers will consider views of everyone involved. This will also include written reports and any evidence which relates to the section 47 enquiries.

What is a child protection plan?

Following the concerns against a child’s safety and wellbeing being substantiated a child protection plan may need to be drawn up. The child protection plan will be drawn up by the local authority and will involve detailing the ways in which a child will be kept safe, include of details of what support the child and the family will require and detail how things can be improved for the family.

The child protection plan will also make clear what the implications will be if the plan is not adhered to. The child protection plan will also indicate what each party will be responsible for that who will be responsible for verifying that the actions outline has been completed. Following a child protection plan being drawn up a further child protection review conference will take place which will allow the plan to be reviewed to ensure it is being followed.

When does a child protection plan end?

A child protection plan will only cease when either of the following takes place:

  • A child attains the age of 18 years
  • The child permanently leaves the United Kingdom; or
  • The local authority and the social worker confirm the child is no longer suffering significant harm and the child protection plan is not needed.

What happens if the section 47 enquiries are not substantiated?

Where the initial concerns raised which directed for a section 47 report cannot be substantiated there are 2 possible outcomes which are:

  • No further action is taken – where the enquiries of a section 47 report do not detail any causes for concern the local authority may take no further action. The case will then be closed unless the family request for further services to be provided to them.
  • Family support to be provided – further support by the local authority and social services may be provided even though the child is not suffering, or likely to suffer significant harm. Where such support is deemed to be required, or specifically requested by a family then a child in need plan may be required.

What is a child in need plan?

Despite the child not suffering from significant harm or is not likely to suffer from such harm the family may need addition support. A child in need planning meeting will follow the section 47 enquires. The purpose of the child in need planning meeting is to ensure families are advised on what their roles and responsibilities are within the child in need plan. The meeting may also involve other professionals who are working alongside the family. A child in need plan is voluntary and not mandatory like the child protection plan. The purpose of the child in need plan is to provide extra support and assistance to a family than what they will normally receive. This is to ensure that a child develops safely without any concerns.  

Can a child protection plan and a section 47 report be challenged?

Upon completion of a section 47 report and a child protection plan the parents will be provided with a copy of the plan and the report. If you are not in receipt of either the section 47 report or a child protection plan you can contact your social worker to obtain the same.

If you are not happy with the contents of the section 47 report then you can look to challenge the local authority or the social worker. You may be unhappy with the report as you may feel that all your information or concerns have not been considered which could have altered the position, or the report contains inaccurate factual information.

You may also be unhappy with a child protection plan if you feel that it isn’t necessary or other services and support is needed which hasn’t been included within the plan. Any factual errors which related to the section 47 report or the child protection plan need to be raised with the local authority and the social worker. In most instances these minor inaccuracies can be resolved without the need of a formal complaint. Where despite you contacting the local authorities, the error remains you can formally raise a complaint with the local authority to correct the report and speak to the manager of the social worker involved.

If the report does not contain factual inaccuracies, but you are concerned the finds of the report are inaccurate and does not take in to account your information or evidence you have provided has not been adequately considered then you can challenge this. A section 47 report can be challenged in one of 2 ways, which are by of an official complaint or by way of a statement where the matter is proceeding through the family court.

A formal complaint can initially be made to the social worker who has had conduct of the section 47 enquiry. At Kabir Family Law, our child law specialists can assist you in preparing a letter of complaint to the social worker. We can work alongside you to assist you in reviewing the report and identifying issues with the report.

Where a social worker does not properly consider your complaint and fails to act upon your complaint, you could make a formal complaint to the local authority or the social services involved. You can specifically request the matter to be considered by a manager or alternatively a new social worker to be provided who will carry out the section 47 enquiries.

Where a matter is being determined by a family court, you can look to provide a statement to the court which outlines the issues you have identified with the section report. This will provide you with an opportunity to outline in detail as to what the issues are and whether the information and evidence provided by you has been adequately considered. As well as assisting you with making a written complaint to the local authority we can also assist you and guide you on preparing a statement to be submitted to the family court.

— Q&A SECTION — 

Is an emergency protection order the same as a child protection plan?

An emergency protection order is not the same as a child protection plan. A child protection plan is issued once section 47 enquiries have been conducted and a report is complete which confirms that further action is needed. On the contrary an emergency protection order is made when a child is subject to ongoing harm or there is an imminent risk of harm where emergency action is needed. An emergency protection order can be applied by the family but other bodies such as the police or the NSPCC.

In order to obtain an emergency protection order an application must be made to the family court. If granted an order is usually made for 8 days. Such an order can have the child to be removed from their home or prevent a child from being removed from a safe place.

Contact Kabir Family Law today to benefit from a free initial consultation

At Kabir Family Law we deal with all types of family and child law matters. Should you be involved in child law proceedings and the courts have directed for a section 47 report, we can assist you and provide you with more advice and information. We can also assist you in challenging a section 47 report where you believe the report is inaccurate. Contact us today on 0330 094 5880 to discuss your options or let us call you back. Our family lawyers in York as well as across Newcastle, Northampton, Oxford and London work around the clock and will be able to provide you with the advice and you need at a time to suit your needs.