What can Social Services Do and Not Do

Social Services
Legally reviewed by: Jonathan Pollard In: Child Care

What can Social Services Do and Not Do

When social services get involved with the care of your child it can feel like your world is flipped upside down. It will likely not be clear exactly what can social services do and not do, and you likely won’t know exactly what rights you have.

We always recommend you contact a solicitor specialised in dealing with social services matters. Legal Aid is likely available to you, regardless of your financial position. This means you won’t need to worry about the financial implications of getting legal help. Your solicitor can offer you the guidance and support you need to help you.

Our children’s law solicitors are based across the UK and have a long history of helping parents with social services matters and care proceedings. We can provide you with advice and support and represent you during care proceedings.

What Social Services Can Do

Social services can take action to safeguard a child if it is believed that the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer in their current circumstances. They will likely get involved with the care of a child if they receive a request/ referral. This will need to be from a member of the family or a third party such as a GP, teacher, or the police.

When they receive a referral, social services will investigate how a child is cared for. From there social services will take steps to ensure that child is healthy, safe, and looked after.

What social services can do and not do is outlined in the Children Act 1989 and explained further below.

Starting Care Proceedings

If social services believe there is a reasonable cause to suspect a risk to a child’s safety or wellbeing, they can carry out an in-depth assessment into how the child is cared for. If they find that further action must be taken, they can start care proceedings.

Care proceedings can take up to 26 weeks and involve multiple hearings. During the hearings, social services must provide the findings of their in-depth assessment. Recommendations should be made to the court regarding what should happen to the child. The court will then decide if the child can remain with the parents, or if the child is placed in foster care.

Immediate Removal

If social services believe that your child needs to be removed from your care immediately, they can:

  • Apply for an Emergency Protection Order (EPO)

Under Section 44 of the Children Act 1989, an Emergency Protection Order can be granted for up to 8 days, with a potential to be further extended for 7 more days.

In most cases, you would get 1-day notice of the application for an emergency order. However, where there it is believed that the child could be significantly harmed during this time no notice may be given.

You are entitled to seek our legal advice and representation during any point in these proceedings. Additionally, you can request Legal Aid regardless of your means.

  • Apply for an Interim Care Order (ICO)

Under Section 38 of the Children Act 1989, it states that if it can be reasonably believed that the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering significant harm an application for an Interim Care Order can be made. This Order will last until the final hearing of the care proceedings is concluded. The aim being to  protect the children while investigations and proceedings are ongoing.

Under the Children Act, care proceedings must be concluded within 26 weeks.

  • Request the Police to Remove the Child Under a Police Protection Order

Under Section 46 of the Children Act 1989, the police can remove a child from their home for a period of up to 72 hours under a Police Protection Order. The police may suspect that a threat to the child remains. Therefore returning the child home to the parents would be a risk to the child’s safety and wellbeing. In this case an application for an Interim Care Order or Emergency Protection Order will be made.

When Social Services Can Remove a Child from Your Home

When a protection order is granted, social services may be permitted to enter your home to search and remove the child. Even where you disagree, it is always important you comply with court orders. You should allow social services to take action where they have been granted permission to do so.

What Social Services Cannot Do

Social services cannot remove your child from your home without an order by the court, your consent, or a Police Protection Order. Additionally, social services cannot decide what will happen to your child or place your child in permanent foster care without a court’s decision.

Social services can remove your child from your care with your consent if you agree to a Section 20 Agreement. This is a voluntary agreement, and you do not need to sign if you do not agree. You are also allowed to speak with your solicitor before signing a Section 20 Agreement. As it is a voluntary agreement you can withdraw your consent at any stage.  Social services cannot force you to sign this agreement. However, if you do not consent, they may apply for a court order. This would remove the child from your care instead.

We can provide you with expert advice and support before you agree to a Section 20 agreement.

When social services get involved with the care of your child, you can contact us immediately, regardless of which actions have been taken.

What Social Services Can Do and Not Do – Find out More

For more information on what social services can and can’t do regarding the care of your child, get in touch.

Our children and care proceedings solicitors can advise you on all matters relating to social services and represent you throughout care proceedings.

Get in Touch

Our family law solicitors are based across the UK and can provide support throughout the area. Legal Aid will likely be available to you, regardless of your means.

Legal Disclaimer.

All advice is correct at time of publication.