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Duties to investigate

Children Act 1989, section 47

Concerns about a child who is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm may arise in the process of providing services to a child or family, or may result from the local authority receiving information about a child who lives, or is found in its area.

If a local authority:

  • is aware or is informed that a child who lives, or is found, in their area is the subject of an emergency protection order or is in police protection, or
  • it has reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm,
the authority shall make, or cause to be made, such enquiries as it considers necessary to enable it to decide whether it should take any action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare. (Such action could result in the local authority seeking to secure the agreement of the child’s placement in local authority arranged accommodation (in accordance with section 76 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 or the local authority seeking to secure a care order under section 31 of the Children Act 1989)).

"Harm" is defined in section 31(9) of the Children Act 1989 as "ill-treatment or the impairment of health or development, including, for example, impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another".

It is broader than physical violence and includes sexual abuse and forms of ill-treatment which are not physical. Any harm a child suffers because a parent is being harassed or intimidated is caught by the definition of  "harm".

Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, section 126

Section 126 of the 2014 Act places a duty on a local authority to carry out an investigation where it suspects that a person is an “adult at risk”.

An adult at risk is one who is experiencing or at risk of abuse or neglect, has needs for care and support and is unable to protect himself or herself against the abuse or neglect (or the risk of abuse or neglect) as a result of those needs.

“Abuse” and “neglect” are defined in section 197(1) of the 2014 Act (interpretation).

“Abuse” means physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or financial abuse (and includes abuse taking place in any setting, whether in a private dwelling, an institution or any other place), and “financial abuse” includes—

(a) having money or other property stolen;

(b) being defrauded;

(c) being put under pressure in relation to money or other property;

(d) having money or other property misused;

“Neglect” means a failure to meet a person's basic physical, emotional, social or psychological needs, which is likely to result in an impairment of the person's well-being (for example, an impairment of the person's health or, in the case of a child, an impairment of the child's development);

The local authority must make whatever enquiries it thinks necessary to help it decide whether action should be taken. Such action could include the provision of care and support under this Act or taking steps to protect the adult under other legislation, such as the Mental Health Act 1983 or theMental Capacity Act 2005.

If the local authority decides that action should be taken, it is expected that it will ensure that an action plan is drawn up. Regulations made under section 54 of the 2014 Act (care and support plans) must provide for the conclusions of the local authority's enquiries (for example, its decision to take the action recorded in the action plan) to be recorded as part of the adult's care and support plan.

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