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.

Is the consent of parents required for a section 47 investigation?

A need for a section 47 investigation would usually warrant urgent enquiries and would mean that a child may suffer or has suffered significant harm. It is up to the discretion of the social worker involved whether they feel the need to obtain consent from a parent before commencing a section 47 investigation.

Parental consent during the course of a section 47 investigation maybe bypassed where there is serious concern that the child is likely to suffer significant harm, there are serious concerns about the behaviour of a parent or an adult or when the child involved does not want their parents to be informed of the section 47 investigation providing the child is mature and competent enough to take this decision.

Consent will not generally be obtained where there are serious concerns regarding the behaviour of an adult or there is a risk of an adult tampering with any evidence, destroying any evidence, or attempting to coerce the child into reaming silent and not providing any information which may support the section 47 investigation. 

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.

Can a parent refuse to provide consent for a section 47 interview and refuse access to a child?

Quite often a parent may not provide their consent for a section 47 investigation on the basis of them feeling that there is no cause of concern for their child and their child has not suffered any harm or are not likely to suffer any harm. In such instances a parent may refuse permission for either themselves or the child to engage in the section 47 interview.

Where there is a refusal of consent the social workers manager must determine whether they need to proceed with the section 47 investigation without the consent of the parent. The social worker manager will usually proceed without the consent of the parent where they reasonably believe a child is suffering from or is likely to suffer significant harm. The social workers will need to apply to the court for an Emergency Protection order, a Child assessment Order or an Interim care order where consent from a parent is not forthcoming or access to a child is being consistently denied.

What does obtaining an Emergency Protection Order during a section 47 investigation mean?

An Emergency Protection Order may be obtained by the police, the local authority or the NSPCC. An application for an emergency protection order is usually made where parents may refuse to provide access to a child or consent to the section 47 investigation. In such a scenario where the Emergency Protection Order is granted the Local authority will obtain parental responsibility for the child. An Emergency Protection order is granted where there is an immediate risk of significant harm to a child and where a section 47 investigation and enquiry is to commence.

What happens where the local authority obtain a child assessment order?

A child assessment order is usually made in cases where there is no firm evidence that a child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm. The Local authority and social workers will usually have concerns but without any firm evidence they may not be able to deem the matter as urgent. Furthermore, parents may refuse to participate in the section 47 investigation or refuse to provide access to the child.

A child assessment order will be useful in these situations as it allows for the child to be produced to ensure an assessment can take place and the relevant enquiries can be made. In terms of a section 47 investigation where a child assessment order is obtain the parents must make sure the child is accessible to allow the enquiries to take place and comply with the requirements of a section 47 enquiry.

When may an interim care order be used during a section 47 investigation?

An interim care order is an order granting the local authority parental responsibility of the child. This would usually last for a period of 8 weeks initially but can be extended where required. Where a parent refuses to consent for a section 47 investigation to commence or refuses access toa  child the Local authority may make an application for an interim care order to acquire parental responsibility over the child in order to act accordingly and have access to them when making their section 47 investigation.

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.

During the course of a section 47 investigation the social workers may decide that there is no need for an application to be made to the court, however concerns surrounding the welfare and the safeguarding of the child may remain. It is in this instance when an initial child protection conference will take place. The initial child protection conference at the conclusion of the section 47 investigation will be headed by an Independent Reviewing Officer. In attendance will also be the parents and professionals associated with the child. The purpose of the initial child protection conference will be do the discuss the issues from the section 47 investigation. Following discussions once details of the section 47 investigation are presented to the parties in attendance it will be decided whether a child is to be made subject to a child protection plan.

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 commence?

Following the conclusion of a section 47 investigation and more specifically at or after the child protection conference the Local Authority may outline the child protection plan. In most scenarios a child protection plan will commence straight away once the section 47 investigation identifies that a child is suffering from or is likely to suffer significant harm.

The social worker would be acting as the main worker and will co-ordinate the plan and the group of people which will include the professionals involved such as teachers, doctors, health workers as well as the family members. A first initial meeting will be set for within 10 days of the child protection conference to discuss the plan further to ensure everyone involved is aware of what steps are needed to protect the child and discuss the responsibility for each individual involved. 

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.

Should I seek legal advice if a section 47 investigation is commencing?

When a section 47 investigation is being commenced you will usually be provided with reasons for the section 47 enquiries and should be given the opportunity to participate fully in the investigations. You should be explained in detail the concerns that are raised and what potential evidence is available.

You should consider legal advice as soon as you become aware of the social workers intention to conduct a section 47 investigation. Family lawyers will often be able to ensure you understand the reason behind the investigation, understand the procedure and be able to advise you on the options available to you.

Family lawyers can often assist you in preparing for your interview which you may need to take part in as being a parent during the course of the section 47 investigation. Parents can be interviewed as part of the section 47 enquiries to gather information as well as to ascertain what if anything has gone wrong and whether there are other external factors that might impact the parent and their child.

Where you feel that a section 47 investigation is being conducted wrongfully or based on inaccurate information, our family lawyers can assist you in obtaining evidence to challenge the enquiries as well as assist you in presenting such evidence to the social workers either before or during your interview. We can assist you in preparing for your interview to ensure you are able to provide your reasons and evidence where the investigation is based on lies or false information and misrepresentation. Contact our family lawyers today to discuss how we can assist you better within a free initial consultation.

What can I do if I am concerned about my child being abused?

Quite often a non-resident parent may have serious concerns in relation to their child suffering abuse. Abuse can be in the form of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. If you as a parent or any one related to a child have reasons to believe a child is suffering harm or are likely to suffer harm then you should not stay quiet. You should attempt to reach out to the Children Social Care services or the police protection team. They will then be able to conduct some initial enquiries and be able to decide whether a section 47 investigation needs to be carried out.

What if a malicious referral has been made to the social services?

It is quite possible for a parent who is not involved with their child or some other individual to make a false or a malicious referral. This can be done out of spite to cause disruption to a former partner. In such instances the matters are taken seriously, and the parent may be entitled to take legal action. An example can be seen in the case of AB and CD and the London Borough of Haringey.

In this case an anonymous referral was made to the child protection team about the parents. The social worker considering the matter approached the child’s school an GP without the consent or without notifying the parents. The mother in this matter reacted angrily and despite this a full section 47 investigation was conducted. The investigation found no concerns and the original referral was deemed to be made maliciously. The parents took action by of a judicial review and were awarded compensation. If you are a concerned parent and believe a malicious referral has wrongly lead to an investigation then contact our family lawyers today who can provide you with tailored advice from the outset and advice you how best to challenge such an investigation and to ensure no disruption is caused to the living arrangements for you or your child.


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.