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Child abuse - supervision orders

This advice applies to England

If the local authority is concerned about a child, they can apply to court for a number of orders to protect the child. One of these orders is called a supervision order and this page tells you more about supervision orders.

What is a supervision order?

A supervision order gives the local authority the legal power monitor the child’s needs and progress while the child lives at home or somewhere else. A social worker will advise, help and befriend the child. In practice, this will mean they give help and support to the family as a whole. Conditions can be attached to a supervision order, for example, you, as the parent, may have to tell the supervisor if you change your address and you may have to allow the supervisor to visit the child at home.

A supervision order doesn’t give the local authority parental responsibility and doesn’t allow them any special right to remove the child from their parent. The parents keep parental responsibility but mustn’t act in any way against the supervision order.

How is a supervision order made?

The local authority may apply for an order if they have concerns that a child is suffering significant harm, or is likely to suffer significant harm, and the harm is because:

  • of the care being provided by the parent, or
  • the child is beyond parental control.  

If there is no evidence to show that this is the case, the court can’t make an order. But if there is the evidence, the court goes on to decide whether it should make a supervision order, a care order or no order at all.


The first court hearing is called a case management hearing and this should happen no later than 12 days after the date the papers are sent to the parents. A timetable for future hearings will be worked out and the parents will be told of these dates. You, as a parent, have the right to go to court and put your views to court about whether a supervision order should be made. A legal representative can speak on your behalf at court and you would get legal aid.

How long does a supervision order last

A supervision order is made for one year, but it can be stopped (discharged) earlier or extended for a total of up to three years.

Appealing against a supervision order

It’s possible to appeal against a supervision order, but in practice this is very rare. If a supervision order is made, you, as the parent, will have to work closely with the local authority and appealing against an order could make this more difficult. If you want to appeal against a supervision order, get specialist legal advice. You could get legal aid.

What happens if you break the conditions in a supervision order

If you break the conditions set out in a supervision order, it doesn’t mean that the order will automatically be changed into a care order.  There are no specific consequences if you break the conditions of a supervision order but the local authority could go on to ask the court for a care order if they think the child is at significant risk.

Getting help

If the local authority has applied to, or are about to apply to the court for a supervision order, you should get legal advice from a solicitor experienced in child care law. If you’re a parent, you should get legal aid.


If you’re unhappy with the way that the local authority has applied for supervision order, you may be able to complain.  For example, you could complain if you feel that they did not take certain evidence into account or if they have acted in a discriminatory way.  Get specialist advice about making a complaint.

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