Types of legal order

Andrew Martin - July 2018

Under family law, children can be subject to a number of different types of legal order as a result of various court proceedings.  The effect of these orders can be to determine who has parental responsibility for the child, where the child should live and who the child should have contact with.  Here we explore the types of legal order there are and what each means for the child, their carers and the school. We also consider some of the other terms that you may hear when working with children, young people and social workers.

What type of order?

The legal orders that we are going to cover are split into two categories, private law and public law.

Private law relates to court proceedings where a person has gone to court to resolve an issue within their private lives and the court has made an order relating to a child.  Court proceedings as a result of private law applications do not necessarily involve either the local authority or CAFCASS, however the court may ask for them to be involved.  Equally there may be no ongoing involvement from the local authority.

Public law relates to court proceedings where the local authority has made an application to court because of concerns about the care that a child is receiving.  In these cases there should be an allocated social worker and it is likely that there will be ongoing involvement from the local authority once the court order is made.

Police Powers of Protection

Sometimes referred to as Police Protection Orders or by the acronyms PPO or PPP, this is not a legal order in the same way as those discussed above are.  Police Powers of Protection are a way by which the Police, if they consider a child or children to be in imminent danger, can act to protect them.  The powers allow a police officer to remove the child to suitable accommodation and prevent any person from removing them from there.  This may be a foster placement, but may equally be the home of a relative of the child, a family friend of the child or hospital.  Police Protection can last for up to 72 hours, however it can be revoked sooner than that.  Police Protection does not give anyone parental responsibility, this remains with the people who already have it.

s7 and s37 reports

As a school you may get either the local authority or CAFCASS approach you asking for information as they have been ordered to submit a s7 or s37 report to the court.  What does this mean?

s7 reports are welfare reports which the court may request when they are hearing an application for a private law order.  They will often cover the background of the family, details of any involvement that the local authority has had with the child / children and an assessment of each child, along with recommendations as to whether the order that is being sought should be made.  The aim of the report is to aid the judge in their understanding of the family dynamics and the needs of the child to which the application relates.

s37 reports are similar in nature to s7 reports, however these are only completed by the local authority.  As part of a s37 report the local authority has to specifically consider whether an application should be made for a care order or supervision order, whether there is need for the local authority to provide assistance to the child (i.e. child in need), or whether any other action should be taken in relation to the child.  s37 reports are often requested where the judge is hearing an application for a private law order but is concerned about the welfare of the child.

Section 20 accommodated

Although not a legal order, you may work with or hear of children who are “s20 accommodated”. S20 refers to the part of the Children Act 1989 that covers the local authority providing accommodation to children in need. Whilst every attempt is made to keep children with their family, there are times when a child cannot be cared for in their family and the local authority work with the family to provide an alternative arrangement. As with children subject to care orders, this can be with foster carers or in residential care, however when a child is s20 accommodated the parents retain all decision making powers and the local authority does not share parental responsibility with the parents.

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