guest blog from heaney watson: social services involved with your family?

Referrals to social services

If you have children, and the Police have become involved with your family, it is likely that a referral will have been made to your local authorities social services department. Sometimes, such recommendations or referrals come from another professional body such as the children's school, your family doctor or a health visitor. Sometimes referrals are made by someone who knows your family, for example a neighbour or friend, or it can even be someone anonymous.

It depends on where you and your children live as to which local authority will deal with the referral - for example in Greater Manchester there are 10 local authorities including Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan, whereas in Merseyside there are only 6 local authorities including Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens, and Wirral. Heaney Watson have family solicitors available to support you in each of those areas should the need arise.

When the local authority receives a referral it has a duty to investigate whether or not your children are at risk of significant harm. Significant harm can fall under different categories including neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse or sexual abuse.

In order to investigate, the local authority must undertake an initial assessment within 10 days of receiving the referral. The purpose of the initial assessment is to gather as much information as possible about the needs of your children and make an initial decision as to whether as parents you can meet the needs of your children. This will involve speaking with you and any other family members who can assist with the investigation together with any professionals involved with your family.

Following on from this, the local authority will hold a strategy meeting to decide whether any further investigation is necessary. Parents are not allowed to attend this meeting. If the local authority decide that no further action is required they will close their case.

However, if a more detailed investigation is required they must complete a full assessment within 35 working days. In addition, within 15 days of deciding that a full assessment is required the local authority will set up a Child Protection Conference.

For more information and advice contact a specialist family advisor at Heaney Watson at mailto:enquiries@heaneywatson.com or by visiting http://www.heaneywatson.com/site/services/care-proceedings-solicitors/ .