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Outline of the most used (by Children's Services) Sections of the Children Act 1989 - taken from The Osiris Guide to Legislation, page 22 (updated 2011 but not shown below).

Section 1:   The child’s welfare is paramount. The No Order principle. Must consider if no order is better than an order


Section 2/3:   Parental responsibility (PR) is automatically granted to the mother and is retained in all cases unless the
court makes a special order under Section 34. In the case of all Care Orders, including EPO, parents share
Parental Responsibility with the Local Authority. Since September 2003, Father has parental responsibility if
his name appears on Birth Certificate. A father may also acquire PR by Order of the Court or via a legally
drawn up and witnessed / dated agreement with the mother.


Section 7:  Court ordered “Welfare Report” in effect a to-the-point S17 child in need report. This means that the Magistrates
or Judge upon hearing a case is concerned that the child at the centre may be a "child in need" and hence the
request for a Report. See also Section 37.


Section 8:   There are 4 Orders within this Section . Note that  1) & 2) cannot be used by Children's Services.

1)      Residence Order; defining with whom a child should live. It also confers Parental Responsibility.

2)      Contact Order; specifying when and how a child should see a named person

3)      Prohibitive Steps Order; the court’s permission is required for a specific step such as being in
    proximity to where the child lives. Such an Order expressly forbids something.  

4)      Specific Issue Order; an order giving directions for determining specific issues affecting a child, e.g.
     inheritance of disputed money, schooling for the child, extended trips abroad etc. 


Section 17    Child in Need / Family Support. Child With Disability automatically included. Need is determined on the
ground of “further impairment” to health or development if a service is NOT provided and "significant
impairment" would result.


Section 20: Accommodation. The Local Authority must accommodate a child (under no order) if the child’s welfare
would otherwise be ‘seriously prejudiced’. This is normally at the request of a parent or could be at the
request of a 16 year old and subject to assessment. Unaccompanied or abandoned children / young people
are also accommodated. Those with parental responsibility (PR) retain full PR.


Section 24   Duties to children leaving the care system. Now supplemented by the Leaving Care Act 2000 and Children
    Act 2008. This latter Act extends duties toward all children in care.


Section 25   Secure Accommodation Order: serious risk to self or others + absconscion risk  - must be both. The
    removal of the right to liberty is very serious and many safeguards are built into the Secure process,
    including the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem (see below Sections 41 and 42)

Section 26   Complaints: right to complain built into Children Act and right of advocacy for Looked After Children


Section 31: Full Care Order or full Supervision Order: this continues until a child is 18 or unless the court rescinds it
after an application.  The application can be made by LA, Parent, child or another adult seeking Adoption or a
Residence Order.  Note implications of the Leaving Care Act 2000.

Section 34: Contact Order: This is the order defining contact with a child subject to a care order / supervision order.

Section 35: Supervision Order duty to advise, assist and befriend. S35 also covers Education Supervision Orders.


Section 37 Court ordered full Assessment (in effect a S47 Enquiry). This means that the Magistrates or Judge hearing a
case is concerned that the child in question may be a child in need of protection hence the request for this much
more serious type of Report.


Section 38:    Interim Care Order (ICO) or Interim Supervision Order. To obtain a ICO the threshold criteria of Section 31
must be met:

                     - That the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm   and

                           - That the harm or likelihood of harm is attributable to:

a)      The care given to the child, or likely to be given to him if

the Order were not made, NOT BEING WHAT WOULD BE REASONABLE to expect a parent to give to him; or

b)      The child being beyond parental control

                S38 also covers Interim Supervision Order (ISO)


Section 31 also contains a clause added by Section 120 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 to the effect:


"In section 31 of the 1989 Act (care and supervision orders), at the end of the definition of “harm” in subsection (9)
there is inserted: “including, for example, impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another”."


This is normally interpreted to mean the child witnessing domestic violence but, as you can see, it actually goes
much wider than that and would include Bullying for example.


S38 can be granted for up to two months (8 weeks) on initial application and then is renewable monthly.

Sections 41 and 42 Appointment of Guardian ad Litem and the powers of the Guardian ad Litem.  Since CAFCASS
now controls this service, Guardians are sometimes known as Family Court Advisors.

Section  43: Child Assessment Order (by order of Court). Care Order not necessary. 7 days to complete the

Section 44:     Emergency Protection Order. This can be 8 days in the initial instance. Renewable once only for a
further 7 days.


Section 46: Police Protection. Note that it is NOT an "Order" it is a Police "power". The police can remove a child from
a situation where they believe a child has or is likely to suffer significant harm or prevent a child being
removed from a place where a child is being accommodated e.g. a Hospital. This is for 72 hours. Parents retain
parental responsibility but Police have duty to take “reasonable” steps to protect.


Section 47: Child Protection Enquiries (NOT investigation – which is what the Police do). If you don't understand
    this then please read Working Together to Safeguard Children. It is unfortunate that the title to Section 47
    in the Act is "Investigate" as this leads many people up the wrong garden path as to what it is about. See
    Osiris User Information on the Child Protection Process.

                   The Local Authority has a mandatory duty to make enquiries if it is alleged that a child found in its area (it doesn't
    have to live in the area) has suffered or is likely to suffer "significant harm". The purpose of such enquiries is
    to determine whether action should be taken to safeguard or promote the child's welfare. Note
    also the emphasis is as much on "promote welfare" as it is on "safeguarding". Action which is simply
    "safeguarding" and which doesn't "promote welfare" would be of doubtful validity.


Section 48  Warrant to see a child or obtain entry to premises – Police put into effect. Social worker has no power of
independent of the Court, Section 48 and the Police.

Section 50 Recovery Order: used to instruct Police to recover a child snatched from public care. See also S49 (page 10) re abduction or incitement to run away. The time of greatest risk is when a Care Order has just been issued in fiercely contested Care Proceedings.

Section 100 Wardship (High Court). Very rarely used nowadays except in special issue cases.

See also our User Information Pages on: Child Protection History and Child Protection Process

You might also wish to explore our training options on Child Protection.

Social Work Information Pages.

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