Section 35 enquiries
Social Care are the lead agency when s35 enquiries are being undertaken. These enquiries may run on their own or concurrently with police investigations. When joint enquiries do take place the welfare of the child is paramount.
If, during the course of s35 enquiries further concerns arise of a different nature to those already being assessed, then a further strategy meeting must be held to discuss these and plan how to ensure they are adequately addressed.
The assessment should:
- be led by a suitably qualified and experienced social worker
- be informed by the police whether or not police investigations reveal grounds for instigating criminal proceedings
- ensure each agency and the family understand the reasons for concerns about the child's safety and welfare
- assess the needs of and risk to other children in the household or other children who may also be exposed to risk
- see the child, the parents or caregivers, and consider whether anyone else with parental responsibility should be involved or informed
- include information shared by the police, health professionals, education/early years and any other involved agencies. The child and family's right to confidentiality should be considered, but not impede enquiries necessary to protect children from significant harm.
- consider whether the child has suffered a criminal injury and may be entitled to compensation
- in joint investigations follow the guidance in Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings: Guidance on interviewing victims and witnesses, and guidance on using special measures.
Below is an overall summary of s35 enquiries with identification of roles and responsibilities.
If there is to be an child protection case conference then this must happen within 15 working days of the strategy discussion / meeting.
Involvement of children and relevant family members
Section 47 enquiries should always be carried out in such as way as to minimise distress to the child, and to ensure that families are treated sensitively and with respect
London Child Protection Procedures (2010; 7.71)
The way in which a case is initially approached can affect the entire subsequent process, if handled well there can be a positive effect on the eventual outcome for children. Parents (or carers) should be informed and involved at the earliest opportunity unless there is a clear reason not to (e.g. place the child at risk of significant harm), with care being taken to ensure that they understand what they are being told (i.e. there is consideration of their language needs, impact of factors such as race, culture, religion and the fact that such conversations can cause significant anxiety).
As a part of s47 enquiries the child should always be spoken to alone, with the consent of the parents (unless there is clear reason not to seek consent, in which case legal advice may need to be sought). Initial detailed conversations with the child may be in specific circumstances (e.g. Achieving Best Evidence interviews) which will require specially trained staff. Communication must be in the first language of the child which may mean that an independent interpreter is required. If the child is not able to communicate verbally due to a communication impairment, then alternative means should be sought utilising the advice of those who know the child well. Where the child is a young baby observations of their interaction with others will provide an indication of their relationships with others.
All decisions should be ratified by the relevant line manager who should provide their own analysis of the information and reasons for the decision they have made.
Concerns of significant harm not substantiated
If the decision is not to proceed with a child protection conference then other agencies can still request an Initial Child Protection Conference if they have serious concerns that a child remains at risk.
1. discuss the case with the child, parents and other professionals
Before decision finalised 2. determine whether support from any services may be helpful and help secure these services. This may include the Social Worker continuing ti support the child as a child in need All agencies Before decision finalised 3. Decide whether there should be on-going reassessment against specific objectives and who should do this All agencies Before decision finalised
Significant harm substantiated and child judged to be suffering or likely to suffer significant harm
1. Convene an Initial Child Protection Conference Social Worker By 15 days from strategy discussion that began s47 enquiry or sooner if required 2. Ensure the child & parents understand the purpose of conference and who will attend Social Worker Immediate 3. Give information about advocacy agencies to the child and family and explain the family may bring an advocate, friend or supporter Social Worker Immediate 4. help prepare the child if he or she is attending or making representations through a 3rd party Social Worker Ahead of conference 5. consider whether any professionals with specialist knowledge should be invited to participate Social Worker In time for attendance at conference 6. share report with the family ahead of the conference. If the report should not be shared the chair must be consulted All agencies 2 days ahead of conference
- Child protection
- Youth Offending
- Children with Disabilities