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Children: Care

Volume 712: debated on Monday 5 October 2009


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government in relation to the article by Mr Christopher Booker in the Sunday Telegraph on 5 July entitled “Is the state guilty of child kidnap?”, whether they will review the system whereby social workers remove children from their parents. [HL4995]

If the local authority has concerns about a child’s welfare, it cannot take any action to remove a child from the care of his or her parents or other adults with parental responsibility without first obtaining a court order. The Children Act 1989 sets out the extent of the local authority's powers and the limitations on them in these circumstances. Where there is risk to a child’s life or a likelihood of serious immediate harm, under Section 44 of the Act the local authority may apply to the family court for an emergency protection order (EPO). This would be to ensure that either the child remains in a safe place or is removed to a safe place. The order will be time limited—the EPO may last for up to eight days, providing time for the local authority to investigate the child’s welfare and obtain the evidence it needs to decide whether further protective action is needed, if any. In addition, under Section 31 of the Children Act 1989 the local authority can apply to the court for a care order. As it may take some time for the proceedings to be concluded, the court has power to make an interim care order whenever the proceedings are adjourned. Before making an interim order the court must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the child’s circumstances fulfil the criteria for a care order, i.e. that the child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm due to inadequate parenting or the child is beyond parental control. In any court proceedings of this type, the court’s decisions must be made in accordance with Section 1 of the Act—popularly known as the welfare checklist. The child's welfare must be the court’s paramount consideration throughout and an order should be made only if the court considers that doing so would be better for the child than making no order at all.