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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). For Textphone dial 18001 followed by the advice line number. Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

Discuss on our forums

Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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Emergency protection order

Social workers sometimes consider that a child is in urgent need of protection. In this scenario, children’s services can ask the court to make an emergency protection order.

An emergency protection order lasts for up to eight days and can be extended by the court for a further seven days. It can only be extended once. The order allows children’s services to:

  • Remove a child from the family home and take them into care. They may be cared for by foster carers for this short period.
  • Prevent a child returning to their parents for a period of time. For example, by keeping them with a foster carer who had started caring for the child with the parents’ agreement
  • See a child without the parents’ permission. This might be when social workers are carrying out child protection enquiries, but the parents have not been allowing them to see the child.

When making the emergency protection order, the court may also:

  • Specify what the contact arrangements between the child and the parents and family should be.
  • Instruct that the child should have a medical or psychiatric examination.
  • Exclude someone from the child’s home by adding an exclusion requirement to the emergency protection order.

An emergency protection order can only be made if the court decides that it is reasonable to believe the child will suffer significant harm if the order is not made.

An emergency protection order can sometimes be made at a hearing the parents haven’t been told about. This is called a ‘without notice’ hearing. This is rare. The court will only do this if it is not possible to notify the parents or if the court thinks the child could be in danger if the parents were told. If this happens, once they receive notice of the application and order, the parents can ask the court to end (‘discharge’) the order. They should get legal advice from a specialist solicitor who is a member of the Law Society’s children law accreditation scheme.

For more information see our advice pages on:

Care (and related) proceedings

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