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1.3.7 Private Law Proceedings

SCOPE

The Court may require the Local Authority to provide information concerning a child’s welfare in private law proceedings. This procedure explains the role of social workers in providing this information

FURTHER INFORMATION

Reporting to Court Under the Children Act (HMSO publication) must be referred to and used in conjunction with this procedure. This should be available in the Addendum File.

See also Section 7 and Section 37 Protocol Flowchart


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Section 7 Reports
  3. Section 37 Investigations


1. Introduction

There are four circumstances in which information may be sought for private law proceedings:

  1. Requests for disclosure of information held on case files. These requests should be handled in line with the procedure for Disclosure of Records to Court Procedure;
  2. Requests for access to personal information. These requests should be handled in line with the User Access to Personal Files Procedure;
  3. Request by a solicitor to provide a statement or evidence in support of a particular party in private law proceedings. The solicitor should be referred to the legal officer;
  4. Direction from court to provide a ‘Section 7 report' or a ‘Section 37 investigation’. These should be carried out using the following procedures.

Requests for Section 7 reports or Section 37 investigations will usually be sent to the Legal Section who will in turn pass the request on to the appropriate team manager.

If a request is received directly by the team manager or a social worker, Legal Services should be notified.


2. Section 7 Reports

This section should be read alongside Reporting To Court.

The court may ask a probation officer, the local authority or other appropriate person such as the NSPCC to report to the court on the welfare of the child.

The social worker should check whether the request is for a written or oral report.

The social worker may be invited to the directions or the hearing to make an oral report.

A written Section 7 report should be succinct (short enough to be read within 15 minutes), and typed on 1 side only of each A4 page used. It is not expected to be as comprehensive as an assessment.

The report should cover the following matters:

  • The enquiries undertaken, including who was seen, when and where;
  • The nature of the application which gave rise to the court-ordered enquiry;
  • The details of issues in dispute;
  • Whether there is any agreement between the parties;
  • Whether there is any prospect of agreement being reached without the continued involvement of the court;
  • The present arrangements for the child;
  • The wishes and feelings of the child;
  • The child’s emotional, physical and educational needs;
  • Likely effect on the child of changes in circumstances;
  • Age, sex, background and characteristics of the child;
  • Capability of parents in meeting the child’s needs;
  • The ‘no order’ principle;
  • Reasoned assessment of the parties’ proposals and their likely consequences;
  • If you have formed a view about the appropriate course of action, your recommendation should be included.

Consideration should be given by the social worker to who should be seen and what records to consult as reflected in Reporting to Court.

The format and content should reflect the guidance given in Reporting to Court.

Advice can also be sought by the social worker from Legal Services.

Written reports must be approved by the Team Manager before being sent to the court and to Legal Services.

The social worker should attend the hearing if the legal officer thinks it is appropriate or the court requests this.


3. Section 37 Investigations

This section should be read alongside Reporting To Court.

The court has the power to direct the local authority to undertake an investigation of a child’s circumstances.

The investigation should involve the social worker in the following:

  • Seeing the child alone unless there is enough information already held on which to base the report;
  • Consulting, if appropriate, with housing, health, education, any other local authority about previous and current involvement;
  • Making any other enquiries necessary to enable a decision to be made about any action that may be needed to safeguard the child’s welfare.

The Local Authority is required to consider whether they should:

  1. Apply for a Care Order or Supervision Order with respect to the child;
  2. Provide services or assistance for the child or family;
  3. Take any other action with respect to the child.

If a decision is made to apply for a Care or Supervision Order the Care Proceedings – Information for Social Workers Procedure, should be followed by the social worker.

If the investigation identifies that the child is at risk of Significant Harm the child protection procedures must be followed - see the West Yorkshire Consortium Inter Agency Safeguarding Procedures Manual. The Court should be advised of this by the social worker and the Section 37 investigation suspended pending further directions from the court.

The Section 37 report should be brief but comprehensive, covering the following matters

  • Work undertaken for the investigation;
  • If the Local Authority decides not to apply for a Care Order or Supervision Order, their reasons for deciding not to apply for an order;
  • Details of any service or assistance they have provided or intend to provide to the child and their family;
  • Any other action taken, or which it is proposed to take, with respect to the child;
  • Whether it would be appropriate to review the case at a later date, and if so, the date on which the review would begin.

The format and content should reflect the guidance given in Reporting to Court.

Advice can also be sought by the social worker from Legal Services.

Written reports must be approved by the Team Manager before being dent to the court and to Legal Services.

The social worker should attend the hearing if the legal officer thinks it is appropriate or the court requests this.

End