Where the life of a child is at risk or there is a likelihood of serious immediate harm, Children and Young People’s Services or the police 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. [WTSC 2010 5.51]
How to do it
It is a good idea to go through the suggestions under practitioner has concerns about child’s welfare as this will ensure that more than one person is involved in the decision. Remember that all workers should balance the need to take immediate action with the aim of building a good 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 workers will build with them and their parents.
If parents refuse permission for the social worker to see the child, consider the guidance under initial assessment.
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.
Lessons from research
Most families where risk factors are identified will not go on to abuse their children. Early indicators of maltreatment such as unexplained patterns of minor injuries, frequent presentation for medical treatment, fractures, excessive punishment, parental negativity or emotional unavailability are all indications, but not proof, of maltreatment.