Care Proceedings: What if the council thinks my child is in immediate danger?
If the council thinks your child is in immediate danger and needs to be made safe straight away, it can take certain steps to protect your child. It can:
- ask the person it believes is a danger to your child to leave the home or keep away from your child;
- discuss with you having your child looked after by the council in a way you agree to (known as ‘voluntary accommodation’);
- ask the police to take your child into ‘police protection’ for up to 72 hours (three days); or
- apply to the court for an ‘emergency protection order’.
If the person who the council believes is a danger to your child agrees to leave the home for the time being while further enquiries and plans are made, then the council can help that person to find somewhere else to stay, including providing them with money to pay for temporary accommodation.
What is ‘voluntary accommodation’?
If it is not possible for this person to move out, the council can ask you to put your child in ‘voluntary accommodation’ under its care, normally in a foster home or with other family members. It might also do this if it has other concerns about your child remaining at home. You will still have parental responsibility.
You should always seek legal advice before agreeing to voluntary accommodation. If you do agree to it, the council must draw up a plan about how your child will be cared for. First it must discuss and agree with you the details of this plan. The council should not make you agree to plans you are not happy with. If you feel under pressure to agree to its proposals, make sure you take legal advice before you do agree.
What is ‘police protection’?
If you do not agree to have your child placed in voluntary accommodation, but the council believes that your child needs urgent protection, it can ask the police to take your child into ‘police protection’. This means the police can:
- take your child from your home; or
- stop your child being taken from where they are living.
If the police take your child from your home, the council must then find your child somewhere to stay while under police protection. This would normally be with foster carers or with other family members. Your child can be taken into police protection for, at most, 72 hours. If the council thinks your child should be taken away from home for longer, it must ask the court for an order.
What is an ‘Emergency Protection Order’?
The council can ask the court for an ‘emergency protection order’ or EPO. This gives it some parental responsibility, including the right to:
- take your child into its care;
- keep your child from returning to your care – for example, by keeping him or her in hospital or with foster carers; or
- see your child when, without a good reason, you or someone else with parental responsibility have refused to allow this.
An EPO lasts up to eight days, but the council can ask the court to extend this for up to seven more days. However, if you are the parent and you were not present when the EPO was made, you can apply for it to be lifted (‘discharged’) 72 hours after it was made.
Under an EPO, the court can also make an ‘exclusion requirement’. This means that the court orders the person who the council believes is a danger to your child to leave the home, instead of your child having to leave their home. But this kind of order can be made only if you agree, and you must make sure that the person leaves and stays away.
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