What has happened?
The Highland Council has a legal duty to look into situations where a child may be in need of compulsory measures of supervision. In most cases this follows on from somebody contacting the Social Work Service saying that they are concerned about the child's welfare. Sometimes the staff who then look into the situations think that the child is suffering, or will suffer, significant harm unless there is action taken to protect the child. This action is called an "emergency protection measure".
This action has been taken in respect of your child.
One of three emergency protection measures has been taken (the person giving you the leaflet from which this information is taken will have explained which one is has been):
- Because a Sheriff was not available to consider an application for a Child Protection Order, a Justice of the Peace was contacted and has decided to authorise emergency protection measures.
- A Police Officer has decided that your child was suffering, or would suffer significant harm unless he/she took immediate action to protect your child by removing him/her to a place of safety. It was not practical for them to contact a Sheriff to apply for a Child Protection Order.
- A Sheriff has made a Child Protection Order. The Sheriff may have given certain directions at the time of the Child Protection Order. These could have to do with your child's contact with you or any other person; or could be about a wide range of other things. The person who gave you a copy of the Order will have told you about any directions given by the Sheriff.
Please contact a Solicitor quickly for legal advice. We encourage you to do so.
What happens next?
That depends on which of the above three emergency protection measures has been taken:
- If it is the first (involving a Justice of the Peace) then the authorisation he/she has made only lasts for a maximum of 24 hours. You cannot appeal against the decision of the Justice of the Peace to grant the authorisation for emergency protection measures. If the Social Work Service believes that your child requires emergency protection beyond 24 hours then it must apply to a Sheriff for a Child Protection Order.
- If it is the second measure this again can only last a maximum of 24 hours. You cannot appeal against the decision of the Police Officer to take your child to a place of safety. If the Social Work Service and/or Police believe that your child requires emergency protection beyond 24 hours then they must apply to the Sheriff for a Child Protection Order.
- If a Sheriff makes a Child Protection Order, either following on from one of the above two things happening, or the application was made by the Sheriff in the first place, then one of three things can happen:
- You can apply to a Sheriff to set aside (cancel) or change (vary) the Child Protection Order. You need to do this very quickly. A Solicitor will be able to advise you. If you make such an application you have to tell the Children's Reporter (47-49 Academy Street, Inverness, Tel: 01463 245301). The Reporter could decide to call a Children's Hearing so that the Hearing could then decide if it wants to provide advice to the Sheriff to assist him/her in deciding your application.
- The Children's Reporter will be told that a Child Protection Order has been made by the Sheriff. At any time during the two working days following the Child Protection Order being put into effect, the Reporter could decide that the conditions for making the Order are no longer satisfied. The Reporter will notify the person who implemented the Order and the Order will end. If your child has been removed from your care under the Order then he/she will be returned forthwith. The Reporter could make this decision if there is a change in circumstances or he/she has received further information about your child's circumstances.
- If the Reporter, after having been told about the Order being made by the Sheriff, does not exercise his/her powers to discharge the Order, then there will be a Children's Hearing on the second working day after the Order was implemented. (Please note "working day" means that if the Order was implemented on a Monday, the Hearing would be held on Wednesday. If the Order was implemented on a Friday, the Hearing would be the next Tuesday. Saturdays, Sundays, 25th and 26th December, 1st and 2nd January are not "working days"). The Children's Hearing held at this time would decide whether or not the Child Protection Order should continue. The Hearing can decide that it should not, in which case the Order ends. Or it can decide that the Order should continue. If it continues the Order, the Hearing can then decide whether any directions the Sheriff gave when making the Order should be kept, dropped or changed.
What then happens if the Hearing continues the Child Protection Order?
Again you have a choice; whether you want to appeal against the Hearing's decision to a Sheriff. If you do, you must lodge your application to the Court within 2 working days of the Hearing making it's decision. The Sheriff must then decide upon your application within three working days of you application being made.
If you do not wish to apply to the Sheriff to set aside or vary the Order made by the Children's Hearing, or if you do go ahead with an application but the Sheriff does not find in your favour and continues the Order, then another Children's Hearing will be held on the eighth working day after the Order was first implemented. [Note that this is not the eighth working day after the first Children's Hearing referred to above. It is the eighth working day after the Order was first implemented].
The main purpose of this Hearing on the eighth working day is to present the Grounds of Referral. This means that the person chairing the Hearing will read out the Grounds of Referral that the Reporter has compiled. You and your child, if they are old enough to understand, will be asked whether you accept the Grounds of Referral. This Hearing will also decide whether or not the Child Protection Order needs to remain in place and, if so, whether any of the directions attached to it need to be kept, varied or dropped. A Social Worker will be present at the Hearing and will have written a report for the Hearing. The Social Worker will have given a recommendation about what decision should be made.
There are rules about how Children's Hearing are organised and take place. These cover, for example, who can or cannot be at a Hearing, who has to be there, what information you need to get before the Hearing, what you have to be told once you are there and much more. Your Solicitors, the Reporter or the Social Worker who gave you the leaflet from which this information was taken can give you more information about Hearings.
If this Child Protection Order has meant that your child is not living with you at the moment then the goal of the Social Work Service is to have you living together again as soon as possible. You may wonder if that is true, especially if it was the Social Worker who applied for the Child Protection Order in the first place.
The Social Work Service wants to work with you and your family to sort out the problems that led to the Child Protection Order in the first place. We want to try and make sure that both you and the Social Work Service are doing what we agreed to be best for your child's welfare and development. This work might not be easy and we might not agree about what the problems are. The Social Work Service believes that unless we do talk about these issues the problems will not go away.
For as long as you and your child are not living together because of the Child Protection Order, the Social Work Service will, subject to whatever directions may be attached to the Order concerning contact between you, seek to promote appropriate contact for your child with you.
If, because of this Child Protection Order, your child is being looked after by the Highland Council, then the Council has legal duties towards your child. The Social Worker or your Solicitor will explain these to you if you wish.
The Child Protection Order does not remove your legal parental responsibilities or the parental rights that you hold so you can meet your parental responsibilities. Again you are encouraged to discuss this with a Solicitor.
Research carried out shows that the outcomes for children are much better when parents and Social Workers work together in partnership.
This information has been produced by the Highland Council's Social Work Services.
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