Immediate Protective Action

Where there is a risk to the life of a child or the possibility of serious immediate harm, the police officer or social worker must act quickly to secure the safety of the child.

Emergency action may be necessary as soon as the referral is received or at any point during involvement with the child(ren), parents or carers.

Responsibility for immediate action rests with the authority where the child is found, but should be in consultation with any ‘home’ authority.

Immediate protection may be achieved by:

  • An alleged abuser agreeing to leave the home
  • Removal of the alleged abuser
  • Voluntary agreement for the child(ren) to move to a safer place with / without a protective person
  • Application for an Emergency Protection Order
  • Removal of the child(ren) under powers of Police Protection
  • Gaining entry to the household under Police powers

The social worker must seek the agreement of her/his first line manager and obtain legal advice before initiating legal action.

Children’s Social Care should only seek police assistance to use their powers in exceptional circumstances where there is insufficient time to seek an Emergency Protection Order or other reasons relating to the child’s immediate safety.

The agency taking protective action must always consider whether action is also required to safeguard other children in

  • The same household,
  • The household of an alleged perpetrator or elsewhere.

Planned immediate protection will normally take place following a Strategy Discussion (see Strategy Discussions Procedure). Social workers, the police or NSPCC should:

  • initiate a strategy discussion to discuss planned emergency action. Where a single agency has to act immediately, a strategy discussion should take place as soon as possible after action has been taken;
  • see the child (this should be done by a practitioner from the agency taking the emergency action) to decide how best to protect them and whether to seek an EPO; and
  • wherever possible, obtain legal advice before initiating legal action, in particular when an EPO is being sought.

Related information: Related information: For further guidance on EPOs see Chapter 4 of Court orders and pre-proceedings: For local authorities (April 2014).

Where an agency has to act immediately (prior to a Strategy Discussion) to protect a child, a Strategy Discussion should take place within 1 working day of that emergency action, to plan the next steps.