Concerns about child’s immediate safety

Key points

Where the life of a child is at risk or there is a likelihood of serious immediate harm, social work services or the police must act quickly to secure the immediate safety of the child. Emergency action may be necessary as soon as a referral is received, or at any point during involvement with children and families. The need for emergency action may become apparent only over time, as more is learned about the circumstances.

Neglect as well as abuse can pose such a risk of significant harm to a child that urgent protective action is needed. When deciding whether emergency action is required, workers should always consider whether action is also needed to protect other children in the same household (for example, siblings), in the household of an alleged perpetrator, or elsewhere.

When, as a result of a child protection investigation, the social worker and their manager  believes that a child is in need of compulsory measures of supervision, the social worker must make a referral to the reporter who will decide if grounds exist for the case to be referred to a children’s hearing.

If a child is being so badly treated or neglected that he or she is suffering or may suffer significant harm and the parents will not agree to secure the child’s safety, then the social work services department or police may make application to employ compulsory child protection measures.

Legal advice should always be sought.

If you are in disagreement about the future action agreed please refer to the disagreement protocol


How to do it

Social workers and police officers must consider the immediate safety of the child or children and act accordingly. It is best to consider several options for action and decide which one is most appropriate, taking into account:

      • the needs of the child
      • the child’s views, and
      • the long term relationship that workers will build with them and their parents.

If it is decided that emergency action is necessary, there are the following possibilities:

      • the alleged perpetrator of abuse could leave the home and have no, or only supervised, contact with the child
      • the child could be removed using police powers to take a child to safety, under section 61(5) Children (Scotland) Act 1995 or a Child Protection Order under section 57 (1) of the Act
      • parents could be told that the child may not be removed from a safe place, for example a hospital under a Child Protection Order.
      • there could be an agreement that the child moves to another member of the family, or
      • the child could be placed in foster care or a children’s home with the agreement of the parents.