Section 37 Report

Posted on Monday, 31st Aug, 2015 at 11:42:50 PM
A Section 37 investigation is an enquiry in to a childs circumstances by a Social Worker.

When is a Section 37 investigation necessary?

Under section 37 of the Children Act 1989 a court may direct a local authority to investigate a childs circumstances if it appears that a Care Order or Supervision Order would be appropriate. In most cases involving Social Services a Guardian will be appointed to represent the child. In some circumstances the Official Solicitor may be asked to act.

The local authority Social Services department, if so directed, must consider whether to take any action, such as applying for a Care or Supervision Order or providing services or assistance to the child or the family. If the authority decide not to apply for an order they must report their decision to the court, giving reasons and details of any action they are taking or propose to take, normally within eight weeks. They must also consider whether the child's circumstances should be reviewed and when any review should begin.

Where a child is thought to be at risk a local authority may apply for a Care or Supervision Order, or take emergency protection action. If the court has already directed an investigation then the local authority must give reasons for any decision not to apply for an order.

Local authorities must act to protect children from any harm arising from family breakdown or abuse within the family, but avoid unwarranted intervention. They must have regard to the wishes and feelings of the child, parents, and any other person with parental responsibility. They must also consider the childs religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background.

When a child is in care the local authority may determine the extent to which any other person with parental responsibility for the child may act in relation to the child.

A local authority must take such steps as are reasonably practicable to promote a child's welfare, where the child is in need. The steps include promoting contact between the child and their family.

Local authorities are required to actively promote contact between a child in care and all those who are connected with the child unless it is not reasonably practicable or is inconsistent with the child's welfare. In stark contrast to 'private law' cases, it is recognised that if contact with the parent is not maintained then re-unification becomes less likely. The definition of 'parent' includes unmarried fathers and other persons who have care of the child.

The Section 37 report should contain the following:
(a) family composition;
(b) background/chronology (including Social Services experience of the family);
(c) details of the work undertaken during the investigation;
(d) details of who was seen/contacted and documentation considered;
(e) assessment of risk and protective factors;
(f) welfare checklist;
(g) the reasons for the decision not to apply for a care or supervision order;
(h) the details of any service or assistance provided or which it is intended to provide, for the child and family;
(i) any other action taken or proposed with respect to the child;
(j) whether the case will be reviewed at a later date, and if so the date on which the review is to begin.

The social worker or Guardian who undertakes the report needs to:
- See and speak to each child alone, or with siblings and also with parents, unless there is enough information on which to base a decision.
- Consider the suitability of seeing the parties separately or together at home,
- See partners of parents
- Check with housing, health and any other local authority (who are obliged to assist unless it would be unreasonable to do so in all circumstances of the cases ).
- See anyone else who may be relevant.

Social worker or Guardian has 8 weeks to complete report....

Do Co-operate with the enquiry Be child centred Show that you understand your exs concerns Remain calm, confident and relaxed Focus on the present and future arrangements Remember the long term Be prepared to compromise Mention the wider family Respect race, religion and culture

Dont Challenge the Guardian or Social Worker Be overly defensive Concentrate on the adult's relationship Run down your ex or sling mud Appear obsessive about your child Be afraid of offering to modify your proposals Seek to prove every point by reference to documentary 'evidence' Be petty or melodramatic Issue ultimatums

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