Concerns about child's immediate safety

Concerns about child's immediate safety

Key points

Where the life of a child is at risk or there is a likelihood of serious immediate harm, the police or Children’s Social Care must act quickly to secure the immediate safety of the child. Emergency action may be necessary as soon as a referral is received, or at any point during involvement with children and families. The need for emergency action may become apparent only over time, as more is learned about the circumstances. Neglect as well as abuse can pose such a risk of significant harm to a child that urgent protective action is needed. When deciding whether emergency action is required, workers should always consider whether action is also needed to protect other children in the same household (for example, siblings), in the household of an alleged perpetrator, or elsewhere.

Where the life of a child is at risk or there is likelihood a child is at risk the police need to be contacted immediately because they are the only agency that can respond immediately using police protection The police can be contacted by telephoning 999. The police will liaise with Children’s Social Care.

If a social worker is concerned about the immediate safety of a child they will alert their team manager who will make a decision about what immediate protective steps need to be taken. In extreme circumstances Children’s Social Care may need to contact the police for a child or children to be taken in to police protection. If circumstances allow the social worker should also check whether the child is subject to a child protection plan by telephoning the Children’s Safeguarding Standards Unit on 0191 2774636,or the Emergency Duty Team out of hours on 0191 2328520 and a strategy discussion can be held.

How to do it

Police and social workers and police officers must balance the need to take immediate action with the aim of building a reasonable working relationship with the parents and the child. It is best to consider several options for action and decide which one is best, taking into account

  • the needs of the child
  • the child’s views, and
  • the long term relationship that the social worker will build with them and their parents.

If it is decided that emergency action is necessary, there are the following possibilities:

  • the alleged perpetrator of abuse could leave the home and have no, or only supervised, contact with the child
  • the child could be removed using police protection or an emergency protection order
  • parents could be told that the child may not be removed from a safe place, for example a hospital, under police protection or an emergency protection order
  • there could be an agreement that the child moves to another member of the family, or
  • the child could be placed in foster care or a children’s home with the agreement of the parents under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989.