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The police have the power to remove a child to a place of safety in an emergency. Their power to remove the child is set out in section 46 of the Children Act 1989. The powers can be used in emergencies, where a child might suffer significant harm if they were not removed. For example, this power might be used if police are called to a home and discover that a young child has been left there alone. They may also use this power to keep a child in a specific place. For example, in hospital.
Social workers may ask the police to use police protection if they are worried that a child is in immediate danger, but they do not have time to apply to the court for an emergency protection order. Such a request should only be made if there is no other option.
When a child is removed by the police under police protection, they will ask children’s services to look after the child. If social workers do not think it will be safe for the child to return home after 72 hours, they will apply to the court for an order. Children’s services can only continue to keep the child away from home if the court makes an emergency protection order or interim care order. The other option is if the parents (or whoever has parental responsibility) agree to their child being voluntarily accommodated.
While the child is under police protection, parental responsibility remains with the parents (or anyone else who has parental responsibility). The police or children’s services should allow the parents (or any person the child was living with immediately before being taken into police protection), ‘reasonable’ contact with the child, as long as they believe this is in the child’s best interests.