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8.8 Section 7 and Section 37 Reports

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in October 2014 to take into account the introduction of Child Arrangements Orders.


Contents

  1. Section 7 Reports
  2. Section 37 Reports
  3. Section 8 Orders
  4. Family Assistance Orders


1. Section 7 Reports

  1. A court may ask the local authority for a welfare report when they are considering any private law application under the Children Act 1989;
  2. When compiling such a report, the author should use the headings as outlined below as a framework:

    The report must cover:
    • Background;
    • History of Children’s Services and other agency interventions;
    • Profile of each child;
    • Profile of each adult who is a party to the proceedings;
    • The response of the family members to the current circumstances;
    • A summary of the social worker’s assessment;
    • The social worker’s comments regarding the welfare checklist;
    • The social worker’s comments regarding the ‘no order’ principle and its relevance to this case;
    • The social worker’s conclusions and recommendations, with reasons.
  3. The social worker should discuss the contents of the report with his or her manager. The recommendations should take account of the orders available to the Court under the Children Act 1989 - see sections below on Section 8 Orders and Family Assistance Orders. If there are any doubts about the recommendations that may be made to the Court, the social worker should seek advice from the Legal Department;
  4. As the local authority is not a party to the proceedings, the social worker will not be entitled to legal representation at the Court hearing. However, as indicated above, legal advice may be sought from the Legal Department prior to presenting the report and appearing in court;
  5. The social worker responsible for preparing the report will generally need to be present at Court when the application is heard - and should be prepared to give evidence in support of the information contained in the report. The guidance contained in Care Proceedings, the Legal Framework and Preparation of Evidence Guidance is relevant and should be helpful to any social worker in this situation.


2. Section 37 Reports

  1. When, during any private law proceedings under the Children Act 1989, a question arises about the welfare of the child, and it seems to the court that it might be appropriate for a Care Order or Supervision Order to be made, then it will direct a local authority to undertake an investigation of the child’s circumstances and report to the Court its findings. The timescale for completing this report is 8 weeks;
  2. During the investigation, the social worker conducting the investigation will need to consider:
    1. If the local authority should consider applying for a Care Order;
    2. If the local authority should provide services or assistance for the child and her/his family;
    3. If the local authority should take any other action in relation to the child.
  3. As soon as a request arrives for a section 37 report, the allocated social worker should inform the Legal Department in writing about:
    1. The name of the child or children and their dates of birth;
    2. By when the report has to be completed;
    3. The name of the social worker responsible for the report.
  4. The report must cover:
    1. Background;
    2. History of Children’s Services and other agency interventions;
    3. Profile of each child;
    4. Profile of each adult who is party to the proceedings;
    5. The response of the family members to the current circumstances;
    6. A summary of the social worker’s assessment;
    7. The social worker’s comments regarding the welfare checklist;
    8. The social worker’s comments regarding the no order principle and its relevance to this case;
    9. The social worker’s conclusions and recommendations, with reasons;
    10. The social worker should discuss the contents of the report with his or her manager.  The recommendations should take account of the orders available to the Court under the Children Act 1989 - see sections below on Section 8 Orders and Family Assistance Orders.  If there are any doubts about the recommendations that may be made to the Court, the social worker should seek advice from the Legal Department.
  5. If the conclusion is to initiate Care Proceedings, See Care Proceedings, the Legal Framework and Preparation of Evidence Guidance the detailed procedure to be followed including the convening of a Legal Planning Meeting;
  6. If the conclusion is that the provision of services to the family is required, then a detailed description of those services will need to be added to the report, a Children's Plan will need to be drawn up and appended to the report and an indication of the timescales for the provision of services should be given;
  7. If the conclusion is to take no further action but review the family circumstances, then the report will need to inform the court when this review will take place;
  8. The social worker responsible for preparing the report will generally need to be present at Court when the application is heard - and should be prepared to give evidence in support of the information contained in the report.  The guidance contained in Care Proceedings, the Legal Framework and Preparation of Evidence Guidance is relevant and should be helpful to any social worker in this situation.


3. Section 8 Orders

  1. A Section 8 Order can be made as a result of any family proceedings. The court can make these orders as a result of an application being made by:
    1. A person entitled to apply;
    2. A person who has obtained leave of the court to make an application;
    3. The court considering that an order should be made although no application has been made.
  2. The following people are entitled to apply for any Section 8 order:
    1. Any parent or guardian of the child;
    2. Any person who holds a Child Arrangements Order.
  3. When a child is the one making the application, then the court will need to satisfy itself that the child has sufficient understanding to make the application.The following are Section 8 Orders:
    1. Child Arrangements Order - specifies whom the child is to see and details the type of contact he/she will have with that person;
    2. Prohibited Steps Order - prohibits certain steps (as specified in the order) from being taken by a parent in carrying out his or her parental responsibilities without consent of the court, for example an Order can be made to prevent a parent taking the child abroad on holiday where there is reason to believe a child will not be returned to the UK after the holiday;
    3. Child Arrangements Order - details where the child should live;
    4. Specific Issues Order - directs those carrying out their parental responsibilities in relation to a specific aspect of the child’s care, for example in relation to where the child should be educated where there has been a dispute as to the child’s school.


4. Family Assistance Orders

  1. The court can make this type of order in any family proceedings;
  2. The order is seen as a short-term solution to help the child overcome the difficulties of the separation or divorce of her/his parents. No order shall last longer than 6 months;
  3. The order states that the duties imposed by this order is to:
    1. Advise;
    2. Assist;
    3. Befriend (where appropriate) any person named in the order.
  4. The people who can be named in the order are:
    1. Any parent or guardian of the child;
    2. Any person with whom the child is living;
    3. Anyone who holds a Child Arrangements Order;
    4. The child.
  5. The court can only make an order if:
    1. It is satisfied that the circumstances of the case are exceptional;
    2. It has obtained the consent of every person to be named in the order other than the child.
  6. The court may also order that those named in the order are to keep the local authority informed of any changes of the child’s address;
  7. A court cannot make an order to require a local authority officer to be made available unless:
    1. The local authority agrees;

      or
    2. The child lives within the area.

If the local authority believes that the arrangement is unsatisfactory, or not in line with the Court Order, the matter should be returned to Court.

End