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Child abuse - child assessment orders

This advice applies to England

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

What is a child assessment order?

Social workers from the local authority or the NSPCC may want any or all of the following assessments of a child they are concerned about:

  • a medical assessment
  • a psychiatric assessment
  • a social work assessment.

If you, as a parent, refuse to agree to the child being assessed, the local authority or NSPCC could apply to the court for a child assessment order. They would normally apply for an assessment order if there’s no immediate risk to the child. They will need to show the court that:

  • they have a good reason to suspect that the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm, and
  • a satisfactory assessment can’t be made without a court order.

You, as the parent, should be informed that the local authority is applying for a child assessment order.

A child assessment order means that the child must be made available for the assessment, for example, that you, the parent, will take them for a medical appointment.

The local authority rarely applies for a child assessment order because there’s nothing they can do to force you to obey the order. But if you refuse to obey it, they could apply for an emergency protection order on the grounds that your refusal to obey a child assessment order is evidence of likely harm to the child.

Can the child refuse to be assessed?

Even if a child assessment order is granted, the child is allowed to refuse to be assessed if they understand enough to make an informed decision. But a refusal could cause the local authority to be concerned about the child and they could then apply for a care order.

How long does the order last for?

The order lasts for a maximum of seven days, starting from the date given by the court.

Can the child be taken away from home?

The court can order that the child is taken away from home if that’s the only way they can be assessed. If the child is to be taken away from home, the court must set out what contact the child can have with you as the parent. For example, arrangements could be made for you to stay with the child if they are going to be kept away from home.

Challenging a child assessment order

If you as the parent don’t agree with any aspect of the order, you may be able to make an application to the court to challenge it. You should get legal advice from a specialist solicitor. Legal aid may be available.

Complaints

If you as a parent are unhappy with the way the local authority is dealing with your child’s case, you may be able to make a complaint. For example, you may feel that the social workers have not looked at all the relevant evidence before applying for a child assessment order. Or you may feel that social workers have acted in a discriminatory way. Get specialist advice about making a complaint.

Next steps

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