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Social Services Statutory Framework:-


Child Assessment Orders (CAO)

This is essentially a non-emergency option. A CAO does not confer parental responsibility on the successful applicant.  Either the local authority or the NSPCC may apply for this order.  A child assessment order can be made for a maximum of 7 days.

The court will only grant a CAO if satisfied that:

• The applicant has reasonable cause to suspect that the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm; and

• An assessment of the child’s health or development, or the way in which the child has been treated, is required to enable the applicant to determine whether or not the child is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm; and

• It is unlikely that such an assessment would be made, or be satisfactory, in the absence of a child assessment order.

Emergency Protection Orders (EPO’S)

An EPO gives authority to urgently remove a child from risk or keep a child in a safe place and can be obtained at any time of day or night and with the Legal Adviser’s permission it can be applied for without notice and heard by one magistrate.  An Application must be to the family proceedings court and the Magistrate(s) who hears the application must be a member of the Family Panel.

Grounds for an EPO
The general ground available to any applicant is if there is any reasonable cause to believe that the child is likely to suffer significant harm if he is not removed from where he is or does not remain where he is being accommodated.  One point to note is that evidence of past harm is not sufficient – it has to relate to future harm.


Proceedings may be commenced under s.31 seeking an order committing the child to the care of the local authority or placing the child under supervision of the local authority.  Only a local authority or an authorised person (at present the NSPCC) can commence proceedings under s.31.

Where the court is considering a full care or supervision order the court must be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the threshold criteria in s.31 (2) exists:

(a) That the child concerned is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm;

(b) that the harm, or likelihood of harm, is attributed to:-

(i) the care given to the child or likely to be given to him if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give to him; or

(ii) the child’s being beyond parental control.


Care Orders:

A care order will last until the child reaches the age of 18 or it is discharged at an earlier date.  The local authority acquires parental responsibility for the duration of the care order (subject to the restrictions listed below).  Parents who had parental responsibility prior to the care order retain it, sharing parental responsibility with the local authority.  The Local Authority are under a duty to provide accommodation and maintenance for a child in care.  A care order confers power on the local authority to remove the child from the parents and decide where to place the child.

Supervision Orders:

Where a supervision order is made the child remains with the parent(s).  The local authority does not acquire parental responsibility.  The supervisor’s role is to befriend the child and advise the parents.  The parents have to allow access to the child.  A Supervision Order can be granted for a period of up to 12 months.  It can be extended by a further 12 month periods up to maximum of 2 years in total.

Kate Monk, Paralegal