Public Law Proceedings – Emergency
‘A person’s a person, no matter how small.’ Dr Seuss
The right to make decisions about a child is the responsibility of those who hold parental responsibility.
However, Social services may take a number of steps to protect your child in an emergency.
Section 20 – ‘Voluntary Accommodation’
Section 20 Children Act 1989 provides the local authority with the power to provide accommodation for a child, without a court order, when they do not have somewhere suitable to live, no person exercising parental responsibility for the child, being lost or abandoned or where the person who has been caring for the child is prevented from providing suitable accommodation or care.
Under Section 20 Children Act 1989, the local authority has a duty to provide accommodation for ‘children in need’. This accommodation can be either in foster care, residential care or within the family. The child is placed with your consent or the consent of another with parental responsibility.
The parent(s) of the child retain parental responsibility. The parent or guardian of the child can withdraw consent at any time. When consent is withdrawn then the local authority should return the child immediately, however, if the Local Authority feel the child would be at risk of harm place back with the parent/guardian they may issue care proceedings.
Here at Berkson Family Law, we would advise that you seek legal advice urgently regarding section 20.
Emergency Protection Order
These are commonly referred to as an EPO.
If the Local Authority believe a child to be in immediate danger, it can ask the court to make an Emergency Protection Order. This gives the local authority parental responsibility to allow it to make certain decisions for a child, for example, to be removed to other accommodation or to remain in a foster placement/hospital.
Under Section 44 Children Act 1989, the local authority (or any person) can apply to the family court for an Emergency Protection Order where:
(1)Where any person (“the applicant”) applies to the court for an order to be made under this section with respect to a child, the court may make the order if, but only if, it is satisfied that—
(a)there is reasonable cause to believe that the child is likely to suffer significant harm if—
(i)he is not removed to accommodation provided by or on behalf of the applicant; or
(ii)he does not remain in the place in which he is then being accommodated;; or
(2)Section 47 Enquiries are being frustrated by unreasonable refusal of access to the child, and the local authority has reasonable cause to believe that access is needed as a matter of urgency.
Subject to certain exceptions, an EPO can last up to eight days, but the local authority can ask the court to extend this for up to seven more days if they feel it is necessary.
Applications are usually made on short notice due to the nature of the order and the emergency circumstances.
An Emergency Protection Order is a very serious application and the Court must be satisfied that the EPO is necessary and proportionate.
Here at Berkson Family Law, we would advise that you seek legal advice urgently when learning of the EPO.
Police Protection Order
A Police Protection Order is an emergency measure taken when a child is considered to be at immediate risk of harm.
This is an emergency situation, no court order is required.
Under s46 Children Act 1989:
(1)Where a constable has reasonable cause to believe that a child would otherwise be likely to suffer significant harm, he may—
(a)remove the child to suitable accommodation and keep him there; or
(b)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
A Police Protection Orders last for 72 hours and enables the police to remove a child form the care of their parent/guardian and be placed in alternative accommodation. In this 72 hours, the Local Authority will decide whether to issue care proceedings.
Here at Berkson Family Law, we would advise that you seek legal advice urgently when a Police Protection Order has been issued.
At Berksons we can provide you with legal advice, support and assistance regarding Social Service involvement.
If you are eligible we may be able to advise you for free under the Legal Help scheme.
Our team are specialists in Public Law and will treat your matter with trust, empathy and expertise.