Court orders if a child is at risk

If we believe a child's in danger or at risk of significant harm, we can apply for one of the following orders to help us protect them. We'll do this through a magistrates court.

If you're worried about a child, follow this link for advice.

Child protection order

We can apply for an emergency child protection order which allows us to remove the child from their home. This also gives us parental responsibility for them. Courts will only make these orders if they’re satisfied that the child is likely to suffer significant harm. This may be where they’ll be in danger unless they’re removed to a place of safety.

A child protection order lasts for eight days, although it’s possible to extend it for a further seven days. 

Child assessment orders

We can apply to the magistrates' court for a child assessment order if:

  • We or the NSPCC have concerns about the child's welfare
  • And, the child's parents refuse to allow their child to be examined

Courts will only grant an assessment order if they’re satisfied that:

  • we have reasonable cause to suspect that the child’s suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.
  • we need an assessment of the state of the child's health and development, or of the way they’ve been treated. This will help us determine whether or not they’re suffering, or are likely to suffer, significant harm.
  • it’s unlikely that, without an assessment order, a satisfactory assessment will be made.

As with all orders under the Children Act 1989, the court must regard the child's welfare as paramount. They must be satisfied that making the order would be better for the child than no order at all.

When a court grants an assessment order, it specifies the date by which the assessment should begin. We’ll have seven days to make the assessment. This will usually involve an initial assessment of the child’s medical, intellectual, emotional, social and behavioural needs.

Care orders

A care order is a court order that places a child in our care. We'll then share parental responsibility for the child with the parents. We'll make most of the important decisions about the child's upbringing, such as where they live and how they’re educated.

Only the council or the NSPCC can apply for a care order. And only children under 17 can be placed under a care order. The court will only make an order if they’re satisfied that:

  • the child concerned is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm. 
  • and, the harm or likelihood of harm is a result of:
    • the care given to the child, or likely to be given to them if the order were not made.
    • the care not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give.
    • the child being beyond parental control.

Supervision orders

The conditions for making a supervision order are the same as for care orders. The effects of a supervision order are different from care orders.  Supervision orders don’t give us the responsibility of looking after the child, nor do they give us parental responsibility.

A supervision order puts the child under the supervision of a designated council officer or a probation officer. They'll be expected to:

  • advise, help and befriend the child.
  • take all reasonable steps to see that the order takes effect.
  • consider applying for variation or discharge of the order. This would happen if it’s not being complied with or if they feel it’s no longer necessary.

A supervision order will usually last for one year. It can last for as long as three years if the supervisor decides to apply for the order to be extended.

Secure accommodation orders

Apart from certain juveniles remanded to council accommodation, children can’t be placed or kept in accommodation that restricts their freedom. The exception is if they have a history of absconding and are likely to abscond, suffer significant harm, or injure themselves or others if placed in alternative accommodation.

Such children may be placed in secure accommodation for a maximum period of 72 hours without court authority. If we want to keep them in secure accommodation beyond that period, we have to apply to court.  The maximum period a court can authorise a child to be kept in secure accommodation is three months for a first application.  If further applications are made to keep the child in secure accommodation this can be up to six months.