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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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Enquiries and assessment

Child protection enquiries are carried out by children’s services. The assessment of the situation and needs of the child and their family will be done by a social worker. Other agencies and practitioners should provide information to help with the enquiries. Examples include a child’s school (teacher), health services (GP, health visitor) and the police.

Sometimes child protection enquiries are carried out jointly by children’s services and the police. Whether the enquiries should be done jointly is discussed in a strategy discussion.

Are there ‘rules’ that children’s services have to follow when carrying out assessment as part of the child protection process?

When doing assessments, children’s services should follow:

  • Government statutory guidance about how to do ‘high quality’ assessments
  • Their local protocol about how assessments in their area are to be done, and
  • Their local threshold document which should clearly explain how they should respond to the assessed needs of a child.

It is a good idea for parents and carers to ask the social worker doing the assessment for a copy of the local threshold document and the assessment protocol being used.

How long do child protection enquiries and assessment take?

A child protection conference must be held within 15 working days of the strategy discussion at which the need for child protection enquiries was agreed. Enquiries may not be complete by then and may be continuing.  The assessment itself must not take long than 45 working days. This is about nine weeks (see Working Together 2018 at page 34, paragraph 82).

For more information about how children and their families will be involved in the child protection process, see How children’s services should work with families during the child protection process.

Can professionals share information about a child and family between them?

Yes, in some circumstances. When an assessment is carried out, professionals will want to share information about the child and family between themselves to really understand the child’s needs.  The Government has issued guidance on this called Information Sharing Guidance.  It applies to practitioners such as social workers, health care practitioners and teachers. It says how and when confidential information can be shared by practitioners to protect children at risk of harm.

The general rule is a family’s information should not be shared without the parent or carer’s agreement (or the child’s agreement where they are mature enough to understand). However if information needs to be shared in order to protect the safety and ensure the wellbeing of a child, then practitioners are able to do this.

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