Can Social Services take my child?

Posted: 14 December 2023

Social Services, known as the Local Authority, will only be able to remove your child if one of the following apply:

  1. They have your consent; or
  2. They obtain a Court Order known as an Emergency Protection Order which can last for 8 days
  3. They obtain a Court Order known as an Interim Care Order; or
  4. The police exercise emergency powers known as a Police Protection Order which can last for 72 hours.

For information about giving your consent, please see our article here

Can Social Services take my child

What do Social Services need to do?

The Local Authority will need to apply to the Court for an Order if they wish to remove your child. They will need to clear set out the reasons why they think that your child is at risk of significant harm in your care. The most common reasons why Social Services state a child is at risk of significant harm is due to physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect or abandonment.

Often the Local Authority will be involved with a family for some time through a child in need plan, child protection plan or public law outline meeting (“PLO meeting”). The reasons why the Local Authority wish to remove a child have usually been discussed in those meetings. The Local Authority may state that not enough improvement has been made in the time that they have been involved with your family.

If Social Services seek to issue Care Proceedings for an Interim Care Order, then in their application to the Court will state in a document, called the ”threshold document”, all of the reasons why they believe your child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm whilst in your care. They will set out your individual circumstances that led to their decision to issue Court proceedings.

You will have the opportunity to respond to their application in a written statement, and if necessary, challenge their views at Court. Our team of dedicated children’s solicitors can assist with the Court process, as you will be entitled to receive free Legal Aid if you are a parent or have parental responsibility for a child.

What happens at Court?

The Court will issue the application by Social Services and often an urgent hearing is listed. The Court will also appoint a Guardian for your child. This means that your child has someone in the proceedings who is independent from the Local Authority representing their interests. Your child is also legally represented by a specialist children’s solicitor, who assists by providing the Guardian and/or your child with advice depending on their age. The children’s solicitor speaks to the Judge and sets out what action they believe is necessary in the case to protect a child’s interests, and will state whether they agree with the Local Authority or a child’s parents.

The Judge will be asked to decide whether there are reasonable grounds for believing your child is likely to suffer significant harm in your care. The Judge will also be asked to grant an Order to state that the Local Authority can remove your child under an Emergency Protection Order, or that the Local Authority shares Parental Responsibility with you under an Interim Care Order. As well as be asked to determine whether it is the right plan for your child to be taken into care.

Legal advice is vital

It is very important that if Social Services seek to remove your child that you get independent legal advice at the earliest opportunity. Care Proceedings can be very complicated and it is vital that your rights and interests are protected throughout the process.

If you need assistance with Care Proceedings, or any matter involving the Local Authority with your children, then do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our specialist children’s solicitors on 01245 493959 option 3, or send an email

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