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1.4.4 Child Assessment Order


  1. Introduction
  2. Legal Considerations of the Order
  3. Action after a CAO is made
  4. During the Child Assessment Order
  5. Following assessment

1. Introduction

  1. The Child Assessment Order can be briefly described as a multi-disciplinary assessment in a non-emergency, which will normally comprise at least a medical and social work assessment. It will usually have been preceded by an investigation under Section 47, Children Act 1989 and is by way of an inter-parties hearing. It is intended to enable an assessment to be made of a child where there is a continuing concern about his/her health and development or neglect and all attempts to engage the parents in a voluntary assessment of the child have demonstrably failed. It is appropriate where there is insufficient concern to warrant the child’s removal from parental care.

    It is not intended for use in an emergency or as a substitute for an Emergency Protection Order.

    In concluding an application, if the Court feels that grounds for an EPO are met, the court should make such an Order.

2. Legal Considerations of the Order

  • Reasonable cause to suspect that the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm and
  • An assessment of the child’s health or development or the way in which the child has been treated is necessary to determine whether or not the child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm and
  • It is unlikely that an assessment will be made or be satisfactory without an Order and
  • The welfare principle is satisfied (Section 1) and
  • Making the Order is better than no Order (Section 1(5))

Harm (Section 31(9)) is defined as:

  1. Physical or non-physical ill-treatment including sexual abuse.
  2. Impairment of physical or mental health.
  3. Impairment of physical intellectual emotional social or behavioural development.

Significance is established in terms of the seriousness of the harm or its implications. When looking at impairment of health or development the test of “what could reasonable be expected of a similar child” must be applied (Section 31(10)).

  1. Duration

    Maximum of 7 consecutive days. The Court directs the date on which the Order is to begin (Section 43(5)).
  2. Directions

    The Court has wide powers to prescribe who, when, what and how long the assessment or any part of it should take. The Court can direct that the child is kept away from home for all or any part of the assessment, if it does so it must also direct what contact the child should have with other persons whilst away from home (Section 43(9)(10))

    The child, if he/she is of sufficient capacity to make an informal decision, may refuse to submit to the assessment (Section 43(8)).
  3. Restriction

    The court may not make a Child Assessment Order if:
    1. There are grounds for an Emergency Protection Order, and
    2. It ought to make an EPO instead (Section 43(4)).
  4. Effect of Order
    1. Authorises any person carrying out the assessment or any part of it to do so in accordance with the terms of the Order (Section 43(7))
    2. Requires any person in a position to do so to produce the child
      1. To any person named in the Order, and
      2. To comply with any directions in the Order (Section 43(6))
    Note: A Child Assessment Order does not transfer Parental Responsibility to the Local Authority.
  5. Variations or Discharge

    The Order can be varied or discharged on application by the Local Authority or persons specified in Section 43(11) in accordance with Court Rules (Section 43(12)).
  6. Appeals

    The same persons who can apply for variation or discharge may appeal against the making or the refusal to make the Order. There is no appeal if the Court makes an EPO.
  7. Children’s Guardians

    Children’s Guardians may be appointed in these proceedings. Where there is a conflict between the child and the Children’s Guardian, both can be legally represented.
  8. Evidence

    Any statement made concerning the upbringing, maintenance or welfare of a child is admissible notwithstanding any rule against hearsay. Children (Admissibility of Hearsay Evidence) Order 1991 (S1.91 / 1115).
  9. Child Assessment Orders are very rarely ever applied for.

3. Action after a CAO is made

The social worker must discuss the proposed application with the Safeguarding Team Manager and Area Manager and they should review:

  1. Whether any other child in the household needs to be considered
  2. That it is not necessary to seek the child’s removal and that a Child Assessment Order is more appropriate
  3. That the local authority has made reasonable attempts, with clearly outlined arrangements, to carry out an assessment by voluntary agreement
  4. That the parents have not offered an alternative assessment which would be acceptable to all parties
  5. That the parents are aware of, and understand the powers and duties of the Local Authority and their own responsibilities
  6. That the parents have been notified in writing and the possible consequences of an application if they continue not to co-operation with voluntary assessment

If no order is thought applicable, the Safeguarding Team Manager should ensure that an adequate child protection plan is discussed and implemented in accordance with East Riding Safeguarding Children Partnership’s Guidelines and Procedures.

  1. Grounds for a Child Assessment Order exist.
  2. Decision is made to apply for a Child Assessment Order.
  3. Preparation for Child Assessment Order application.
  4. Completion of application form.
  5. Lodging of application and preparation of notices.
  6. Notices served
    1. In person
    2. Post or fax
  7. Application is heard and order is made or not as applied for or amended by the court.

4. During the Child Assessment Order

  1. Ensure assessment is done as planned
  2. If parents refuse to co-operate an application for an EPO must be made unless the Safeguarding Team Manager and Area Manager are satisfied that it is not needed

5. Following assessment

A decision must be made as to the future plans required or not to safeguard the child.

Legal Services must be consulted concerning a discharge or variation of order.