What is a social services Section 47 enquiry?

If there are concerns about the safety or welfare of a child or children, a social worker may decide that a child protection investigation is needed and they will conduct what is called a Section 47 enquiry. This means that a social worker will carry out a full investigation because there is reasonable cause to believe that a child or children living in that home has been abused or neglected or is likely to be abused or neglected in the future unless steps are taken to safeguard the child’s welfare. (The legal term they will use is ‘significant harm’). 

If you have heard that a social worker is going to carry out a Section 47 enquiry, then again, please do not panic. This is to determine the child’s needs are being met. The social worker will also use this enquiry to decide whether further action may be needed to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare. 

You will be interviewed and the child will be seen, and depending on the age and circumstances may be formally interviewed on their own. The social worker is likely to ask you and an older child to agree to a medical examination by the GP. Social services must seek your views and consider the child’s wishes and feelings when deciding what action should be taken in the Section 47 enquiry. Other information might be gathered from schools, GPs, or other professionals who know you and your child well. If there is someone you think they should talk to, to get a better understanding of your family you should tell them. 

Once the child protection enquiry has been carried out, social services will be in touch about the outcome.  If the social worker decides that there has been no cause for concern then no further action will be taken.  If the social worker considers the child has probably been abused or neglected or is likely to be unless changes are made, then a child protection case conference will be arranged. This may be because they think you or someone else in your family has done something to harm the child, or because of something you haven’t done, such as getting necessary medical treatment, or making sure your child is properly supervised.


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Who will do the assessment?

A social worker from the referral and assessment service will assess your children and families' needs. Sometimes the social worker will ask other specialists to help us, such as a health specialist for children under five. The social worker may also visit you with other professionals known to you. Sometimes the social worker can complete an assessment when you visit them at thier office. It may then be possible to help you straight away.

Alternatively the social worker may need to make an appointment to see you at home. The government requires the social worker to complete assessments within strict timescales, so once the social worker has set a time to see you and your children you should try and keep this appointment. 

What you can expect from the assessment?

The social worker will speak to you in detail about your situation and the difficulties you may be having and how you manage these. The social worker will explore with you what other services can do to help. They will also ask you questions about your culture and ethnic background and whether you have any disabilities, so that they can fully understand your family's needs. The social worker wants to hear from all members of your family so if your children are old enough, they would want to give them the opportunity to talk as well. This helps the social worker build a clear picture of what issues that they can help you with.

What happens after the assessment?

When the assessment is complete the social worker will talk to you about the outcomes of our assessment. You will be given a copy of the assessment. The social worker will discuss with you what services could be helpful and whether you are happy for them to approach them.

If you feel your situation has changed or you are still worried about your children you can contact the social worker again.

If your family has more complex needs, or the social worker think children are at risk of harm or abuse, you will receive help from an allocated social worker in one of our other specialist social work teams for as long as is necessary.

Do social workers take children away?

This rarely happens as the first aim of the social worker is to help you look after your child yourself.  The social worker will always consider alternative options. If the social worker is worried about your care for your child, they will work hard with you to improve the situation, which may include your child living with other family members or friends for a period of time.

A child coming in to care is very unlikely unless he or she would be at serious risk if they were to remain living with their family.​