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1.5.2 Emergency Duty Team and Child Protection

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

The Emergency Duty Team ("EDT") receive a range of contacts in relation to child protection and this procedure outlines the action and decision making processes to be considered in safeguarding a child's welfare.

This procedure will be followed for all child protection contacts/information. It identifies:

  1. Key steps to be taken;
  2. Liaison with key professionals including police;
  3. Enquiries and investigation;
  4. Decision making steps;
  5. Handover of contacts/information and recording to appropriate Children’s Social Care Team.

It is recognised that contacts will vary in both degree of involvement needed and priority.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Receiving and Making Referrals
  3. Strategy Discussion and Making Enquiries Under S.47 of Children Act 1989
  4. Medical Examinations
  5. Video Interviews
  6. Emergency Action
  7. Police Protection and Emergency Protection Orders


1. Introduction

The role of EDT in child protection work is to provide advice, investigate allegations of abuse, assess the level of risk and take appropriate action to safeguard a child's welfare until the contact/information can be handed over to the relevant child care team on the next working day. It is recognised that a range of interventions will be considered, including action to safeguard the child's immediate safety.


2. Receiving and Making Referrals

On receipt of a contact/information, the EDT social worker ("EDT worker") must:

  • Check the Child's Electronic Record system to see if the child or family are known and/or on the child is subject to a Child Protection Plan;
  • Checking of the Child's Electronic Record system must be recorded as part of the information taken by the EDT worker;
  • All contacts/information involving child protection should be made using the electronic contact form available on the Child's Electronic Record system or recorded directly on the Child’s Electronic Record system if an open case;
  • If there are problems in accessing the Child's Electronic Record system then this should be recorded, as well as being reported to the IT Helpdesk and an email with all the relevant information should be sent to the relevant Children’s Social Care Team.

Contacting Referrer

It is important to contact the referrer as soon as is practicable in order to establish the exact nature of the contact, given that the Council's Emergency Switchboard Operator will only have passed on basic contact details from the referrer. Any referrals about possible child abuse or neglect must be prioritised as urgent.

Information about the allegations, details of the children and family members, their current location, nature of the risk or incident of abuse, frequency, severity and description must be fully recorded.

The wishes of referrers choosing to remain anonymous must be respected, as will those referrers who give their identity but do not wish it to be disclosed to the family. It is important to record these wishes carefully on the referral, e.g. by bolding the font, underlining or use of CAPITALS. In discussions with the referrer it may become apparent to the EDT worker that there is a significant likelihood that the referrer's anonymity may be breached as a result of the type of information given to the family. If the EDT worker considers this to be the case then they should forewarn the referrer as to this possibility so as to avoid any possible confusion in the future.

Agency Checks

The EDT worker should make all appropriate agency checks whilst it is acknowledged that not all agencies will be available because of the out-of-hours nature of the work. Likely checks will include GP, hospital and particularly the police.


3. Strategy Discussion and Making Enquiries Under S.47 of Children Act 1989

Whenever there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, there should be a Strategy Discussion with the police and other agencies as appropriate, for example, consultant paediatrician. The Police Child and Public Protection Unit ("CPPU") Officer on duty must be contacted by phone, If there is no officer available, then the EDT worker should phone the Wakefield Police Control Room onto speak to the duty child protection officer. 

A Strategy Discussion may take place at any time following a referral depending on the information presented to suggest 'reasonable cause'. The strategy discussion may take place at a meeting (e.g. police station or hospital) or by telephone. 

The discussion should be used to:

  • Share available information;
  • Agree the conduct and timing of any criminal investigation;
  • Plan how the Section 47 Enquiry should be undertaken (if one is to be initiated), including the need for medical treatment or assessment, and who will carry out what actions, by when and for what purpose;
  • Agree what action is required immediately to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child. If the child is in hospital, decisions should also be made about how to secure the safe discharge of the child or whether the child should be discharged;
  • Determine what information from the strategy discussion will be shared with the family, unless such information sharing may place a child at risk of significant harm or jeopardise police investigations into any alleged offence;
  • Determine if legal action is required.

Relevant matters will include:

  • What further information is required and is realistic to be gathered by EDT workers;
  • Agreeing who should be interviewed, by whom, for what purpose, and when. It may be the case that an interview is arranged to take place during the next EDT worker's shift;
  • Agreeing how the child's wishes and feelings will be ascertained so that they can be taken into account when making decisions under S.47;
  • In the light of the race and ethnicity of the child and family, considering how this should be taken into account, and establishing whether an interpreter will be required;
  • Considering the needs of other children who may be affected, for example, siblings and other children in contact with alleged abusers.

Parental Consent - General

Where a S.47 Enquiry is pursued, the issue of parental consent, in relation to speaking to the child on their own and also medical examinations, must be considered and if action is taken without consent then this has to be justified in writing. A child's need for protection takes priority over the need for parental consent. However, the general rule is that parents will always be given clear information about the nature of allegations or concerns and their views and responses sought and considered at the outset of the enquiry (subject to the strategy discussion below).

Consultation with the Duty Service Manager can be made at any time (see Emergency Duty Team (EDT) Procedure, Decision Making).

Other Important Practice Issues

It is important to emphasise that the EDT worker is responsible for initiating and undertaking a S.47 enquiry. This is not just about gathering information. It is important that the child is seen by the EDT worker. It would only be in exceptional circumstances that the child is not seen. The decision not to see the child can only be made in discussion with the police and after consultation with the Duty Service Manager.

There may be a referral about a child whose name is subject to a Child Protection Plan. The EDT worker must appraise themselves of as much information as possible available on the Child’s Electronic Record System.

The EDT worker must use the Section 47 pro-forma, wherever possible.


4. Medical Examinations

A decision about a medical examination will be taken during the Strategy Discussion. Those people involved in the discussion will be the EDT worker, police and duty consultant paediatrician.

In the majority of cases involving alleged physical and sexual abuse and neglect, a medical examination may be necessary both to seek medical opinion about the alleged harm, but also to seek information about the general physical health and well being of a child.

Consideration will also be given to the need to arrange medical examinations for siblings and other children of the household. This will depend on the nature of the allegations and other circumstances of the case.

Whenever a medical examination is required, it will be:

  • Planned in a way which will avoid the need for any repeat examinations;
  • Undertaken by a specialist, normally a consultant paediatrician. If forensic evidence is a consideration, examination by a police surgeon may be appropriate, either acting alone or alongside a consultant paediatrician.

Whilst information from a medical examination will form part of the decision making process, decisions will not rely solely on medical evidence or opinion, but on a holistic assessment.

The EDT worker should attend the medical examination wherever possible, and normally with the parents or those with Parental Responsibility; and will ensure that the consultant paediatrician is fully aware of any information that has been gathered, the explanations given for any injuries and the events leading up to the injury. This also applies to information to be given to the police surgeon in cases of alleged sexual abuse. If it is agreed that the EDT worker does not attend the medical examination then the reason for this should be clearly recorded.

Judgement must be made about the timing of a medical examination. It may be necessary because of individual circumstances to arrange the medical for the following day. This should not be arranged to take place before 11am so that either the subsequent EDT worker has adequate notice to prepare for attending the medical, or likewise for the social worker from the Children's Assessment Team (CAT) or allocated worker from another team to attend.

The appropriate Team Manager should ensure that a social worker is able to attend the arranged appointment made by the EDT worker with the consultant paediatrician.

Medical consent

In general terms only a parent or others with Parental Responsibility can give consent to medical treatment or examination involving a child. In relation to a child looked after, the parents should already have given written medical consent on the Placement Plan. Where practicable, it is good practice to inform the parents or others with Parental Responsibility that the child is or will be undergoing a medical examination.

Consideration must always be given to the child being able to make an informed decision about medical intervention. This will depend on the age and understanding of the child as per the Fraser guidelines derived from the Gillick case.


5. Video Interviews

A decision about a video interview will be taken during the Strategy Discussion. If a video interview is considered necessary (for example, to ensure the immediate protection of a child or danger of loss of evidence or seriousness of abuse) then the appropriateness of parental attendance will have to be decided. EDT workers will only undertake video interviews if necessary. Apart from those exceptional circumstances as detailed above, video interviews would normally be arranged in a planned manner consistent with the child's needs and circumstances.


6. Emergency Action

Where there is a risk to the life of a child or a likelihood of serious immediate harm, then action needs to be taken quickly to secure the immediate safety of the child. Emergency action might be necessary and consideration should also be given to whether action is also required to safeguard and promote the welfare of other children in the same household, the household of an alleged perpetrator or elsewhere. See Section 7, Police Protection and Emergency Protection Orders.

Planned emergency action will normally take place following an immediate Strategy Discussion with the police. If the child(ren) cannot remain in the parent/carers care and accommodation into the Local Authority is being considered, there must be further consultation with the Duty Service Manager before any action is taken. See Section 7, Police Protection and Emergency Protection Orders.

Agreement with the parents should be attempted if possible and the principles of the Children Act 1989 followed, that is, working in partnership, and also looking at extended family networks for support in protecting the child and/or offering alternative accommodation.

If the child needs to be looked after and this has been authorised by a Duty Service Manager then a suitable placement needs to be found. Unless there are safety issues for the child and/or carers, then parents should be given the placement details. There may be situations where the placement address has to be withheld from parents, but the telephone number can usually be given out unless there are exceptional circumstances.

There should also be consideration of arranging for the alleged perpetrator to leave the family home as an alternative to removing the child. This will need to be discussed with the police and Duty Service Manager.


7. Police Protection and Emergency Protection Orders

Where a police officer has reasonable cause to believe that a child would otherwise be likely to suffer significant harm, they may under S.46 of the Children Act:

  • Remove the child to suitable accommodation and keep him there; or
  • Take such steps as are reasonable to ensure that the child's removal from any hospital, or other place, in which he is then being accommodated is prevented.

In the event of the police exercising their powers of police protection in respect of a child, it is expected that the police officer would have consulted with their relevant senior officer and the EDT worker.

No child may be kept in Police Protection for more than 72 hours. See S.46 of the Act for all the provisions.

It is acknowledged that it would be impractical for an EDT worker to apply for an Emergency Protection Order ("EPO") (S.44) out of hours in most circumstances. But, there may be times, for example, over a Bank Holiday weekend, when the evidence and timescales are such that a Police Protection of 72 hours would not be long enough. Therefore, an application for an EPO will need to be made. The telephone numbers for Court Officers are available to EDT workers to enable them to make contact with a magistrate so their application can be heard. Before any action is taken there must be further consultation with the Duty Service Manager.

In those situations where child care teams are referring on cases for EDT to make an application for an EPO, then the full documentation must be provided by the child care team in order for the application to be made. 

Judicial opinion in recent case law reminds us that an EPO, summarily removing a child from his/her parents, requires 'exceptional justification'. Separation is only to be contemplated if immediate separation is essential to secure the child's safety. 'Imminent danger' must be 'actually established'.

Save in exceptional cases, parents must be given adequate prior notice of the date, time and place of an application by a local authority for an EPO. They must also be given proper notice of the evidence the local authority is relying upon.

Where the application for an EPO is made ex parte, the local authority must make out a 'compelling case' for applying without first giving the parents notice.

End