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/ 11 Jan 2023

Can the local authority remove my child before a care order is made?

There are three ways in which your child can be removed from your care before a permanent order is made. We are often asked by parents if the Local Authority can remove their children from their care whilst care proceedings are still ongoing. This article will provide a brief outline of the 3 ways in which your child can be removed/placed away from you.

Section 20 Agreement

If you feel unable to care for your child or agree to the Local Authority’s request to accommodate your child, this may be done under a ‘Section 20 Agreement’.  This refers to the section of the Children Act 1989 which sets out that every local authority shall provide accommodation for any child in need within their area who appears to them to require accommodation as a result of—

(a)there being no person who has parental responsibility for the child;

(b)this child being lost or having been abandoned; or

(c)the person who has been caring for the child being prevented (whether or not permanently, and for whatever reason) from providing them with suitable accommodation or care.

This agreement is used to place a child in temporary care when their parents are unable to look after them. There may be many reasons why this may be the case. For example, the relationship between the parent and child may have broken down, the parent may be admitted to hospital, or they may be concerned for their child’s safety due to, for example, involvement in gang activity.  This voluntary accommodation can either be with foster carers or family members approved by the Local Authority.

A Section 20 agreement does not give the Local Authority parental responsibility for your child, and you can withdraw your consent at any time and ask for your child to be returned to your care. However, you should obtain advice before doing so as this may lead the Local Authority to issue care proceedings.

Removal under Police Protection

If police officers believe your child is in imminent danger, they can remove your child from the family home and temporarily house them in a safe location for up to 72 hours, under section 46 of the Children Act 1989. They may place your child with a family member or with accommodation provided by the Local Authority, or they may be kept in hospital if they require medical attention. This does not grant the police parental responsibility over your child. Police Protection cannot be legally challenged, and a court order is not required for this temporary measure. However, this may lead to care proceedings being issued and you should therefore seek urgent legal advice if your child is placed in Police Protection.

A Court Order (Emergency Protection Order or Interim Care Order)

Emergency Protection Order

If the Local Authority considers that your child may be at immediate risk of significant harm, they can apply to the court for an emergency protection order (EPO) under section 44 of the Children Act 1989. These applications are made when the situation is so urgent immediate action needs to be taken which cannot await the commencement of care proceedings. Although anyone can apply to the court for an EPO, almost all applications are made by local authorities.

The court can grant an EPO for a maximum of eight days, which can be extended once for further seven days. During this time the Local Authority will have parental responsibility for your child and can remove them from your care. They can also prevent you from seeing your child whilst the EPO is in place if it’s believed to be in your child’s best interests.

An EPO may be granted during a ‘without notice’ hearing, which means the application for an EPO is made during a hearing which you are not informed about. However, a without notice hearing will only happen in high risk cases where it is believed that your child will be put in danger if you are aware of the application.


Interim Care Order

An interim care order is often made at the start of care proceedings and it will usually last until a final order is made. When this order is made, the Local Authority will share parental responsibility for your child.

When the Local Authority applies for an interim care order, they need to provide a care plan which will need to include details of where your child will live and the proposed contact arrangements with family members. For an interim care order to be made by the court, the Local Authority has to first prove to the court that there are reasonable grounds to believe your child has suffered or was likely to suffer significant harm as a result of the care being given or likely to be given to them not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give. This is known as the Interim Threshold Criteria. If this is satisfied, the court then goes on to consider if it is in your child’s best interests for an order to be granted, taking into account the interim care plan prepared for the child. This is known as the ‘Welfare Test’.

However, unlike a police protection order, as a parent you have the right to challenge an interim care order.

How can Hanne & Co’s child care law team help?

The matters above can be very complex, if your child has been removed from your care,  we always advise that you instruct and consult a solicitor.

Our child care law team are here to help, please contact us on 020 7228 0017 to speak with our specialist care solicitors.

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Call us on +44 20 7228 0017