Emergency protection order

This order only applies to children where there is reasonable cause to believe that the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm if they are not removed to accommodation provided by, or on behalf of, the applicant or they do not remain in the place in which s/he is presently being accommodated. Emergency Protection Orders are intended to be made when there is an emergency and it can be shown that unless emergency action is taken the child will be at risk of significant harm during the period of the EPO.  The test as per 'Re: X' is that 'imminent danger' must be 'actually established'.  

It can be used by a local authority if they are being frustrated from carrying out an investigation under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989.

An emergency protection order can last for up to 8 days and, in exceptional circumstances, extended for a further 7.

A parent or person with parental responsibility may apply for a discharge of the emergency protection order after 72 hours, providing that they were not present at the original hearing. The parent should not be given notice of the application if to do so would put the child at further risk.

It is good practice to advise parents or those with parental responsibility to seek immediate legal advice when a decision has been made to apply for the order and when an emergency protection order is served.

In a situation where a child is subject to an EPO, Children's Social Care wish to remove the child and that removal is obstructed the department can consider an application for a Recovery Order; under S50 Children Act 1989.

The decision to make an ex parte application must take account of the rights of the parent/s as well as the child although it is the rights of the child which are paramount.

A decision to apply for an emergency protection order should be taken by a team manager or above.

The child's wishes and feelings are ascertained as soon as possible.

The social worker should consult with the local authority's legal services prior to applying for the order. This discussion may take place over the telephone.

The child's parents, anyone with parental responsibility, or anyone with whom the child was living prior to the emergency protection order being made, should be notified that application is to be made for an EPO unless it is not in the child's best interests to inform parents.  It will be very rare for an ex-parte application to be made.

The social worker applying for the order must have clear plans regarding the duration of the order.

All steps and decisions must be clearly recorded and placed on the child's file.

Any social worker making an application for an emergency protection order shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that notice of the application is given to:

  • the child's parents,
  • any person who is not a parent but has parental responsibility,
  • any other person caring for the child,
  • the child, before the hearing of the application.