Immediate action

Where the life of a child is at risk, or there is an imminent risk of serious harm, children's services or the police must act quickly to secure the immediate safety of the child.

Emergency action may be necessary as soon as an enquiry 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 other forms of abuse can pose such a risk of serious 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.

Is the need proportionate?

All workers should balance the need to take immediate action with the aim of building a good relationship with the parents and the child. It is best to consider several options for action and decide which one is best, taking into account:

If parents refuse permission for the social worker to see the child, consider the guidance under assessment .

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

Lessons from research

Most families where risk factors are identified will not go on to abuse their children. Early indicators of maltreatment such as unexplained patterns of minor injuries, frequent presentation for medical treatment, fractures, excessive punishment, parental negativity or emotional unavailability are all indications, but not proof, of maltreatment.