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1.3.7 Joint Enquiries / Investigations between Children’s Social Care and the Police


The following procedures also form part of the Joint Enquiries / Investigations process:


In April 2019, this chapter was updated and should be re-read.


  1. Introduction
  2. The Duty to Make Child Protection Enquiries
  3. The Duty to Investigate Suspected Criminal Offences
  4. Inter-Agency Notification of Child Protection Concerns between Police and Children's Social Care Services
  5. Criminal Investigation

1. Introduction

All agencies have a duty to assist and provide information and advice in support of child protection enquiries and criminal investigations. Assessing the needs of a child and the capacity of their parents or wider family network adequately to ensure his/her safety, health and development very often depends on building a picture of the child's situation on the basis of information from many sources.

The expectations of other agencies include:

  • Collating and sharing all relevant information (see also Information Sharing and Confidentiality Procedure);
  • Attending or contributing information to strategy meetings if called upon to do so;
  • Taking responsibility to update those conducting the enquiries of any developments in the child or family's situation which have a bearing on the child's safety or welfare;
  • Assisting in monitoring the child and providing additional support.

2. The Duty to Make Child Protection Enquiries

Child protection enquiries start when a concern regarding a child is received that suggests there is reasonable cause to suspect a child is likely to suffer harm by Children's Social Care Services concludes that there is "reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found, in their area is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm".

Children's social care has the statutory duty to make, or cause to be made, child protection enquiries and is thus the lead agency for these enquiries.

3. The Duty to Investigate Suspected Criminal Offences

Child protection enquiries will invariably involve the suspicion that a criminal offence has been committed. Some Section 17 (child in need) enquiries will also involve the suspicion of a criminal offence.

The Police are responsible for the gathering of evidence in criminal investigations. This task can be carried out in conjunction with other agencies but the Police are ultimately accountable for the product of criminal enquiries.

The Police have a statutory duty to carry out thorough and professional investigations into allegations of crime, and the obtaining of clear strong evidence is in the best interests of the child, since it makes it less likely that a child victim will have to give evidence in a criminal court. The Police are the lead agency in respect of the criminal investigation.

The Police are also under a duty to record all suspected offences on a crime recording system.

4. Inter-Agency Notification of Child Protection Concerns between Police and Children's Social Care Services

The following information relates to child protection concerns but Children's Social Care Services staff should be aware that some Section 17 cases may involve potential criminal offences against a child and that such cases should follow a similar process and be referred to Police Child Referral Team and a strategy discussion held as necessary. (Examples would include minor injuries and common assaults where there are no injuries. Whenever a concern is raised about such matters this requires proper recording and decision making on the part of the Police).

  • On being notified of a referral, Children's Social Care Services has a duty to decide within one working day whether a single assessment is required. The assessment will be proportionate to the child's needs and take no longer than 45 days;
  • Where Children's Social Care Services have a case referred to them which constitutes, or may constitute, a criminal offence against a child, they should always discuss the case with the Police at the earliest opportunity (but in any event within 24 hours);
  • Where the Police receive information which amounts to an allegation of a suspicion of child abuse, Children's Social Care Services must be advised as soon as possible (but in any event before the end of that working day) for a strategy discussion to be arranged. Note there may be occasions where the police for investigative reasons have progressed an investigation prior to a strategy discussion for instance where a suspect is in custody, where forensic timescales are an issue or where immediate safeguarding is needed;
  • During normal office hours, the Police will notify the relevant children's social care team;
  • During normal office hours, Children's Social Care Services notify the Police Child Referral Team;
  • Outside normal office hours, the Police will notify the Children's Social Care Services Out of Hours Service;
  • Outside normal office hours, Children's Social Care Services will notify the Police force operations room who will make contact with the 'on duty' or 'on call' CAIU detective sergeant;
  • On being so notified, both agencies agree to make immediate checks of their records (including whether the child is subject of a child protection plan) and intelligence systems for previous history and information that is relevant in deciding the level of enquiry that is required. The CAIU has the capability to access national databases of information such as VISOR (the Violent and Sexual Offenders Register) and the IMPACT Police National Database (PND), which can check if there is information held by any other Police force within the UK on any individual. Similarly Children's Social Care Services hold the child protection plans and case files that may contain detailed family background information that assess the risks of a situation;
  • Where there is no suspicion of a criminal offence having occurred then there will not be a requirement for Children's Social Care Services to refer the matter to the Police. However, staff may wish to consider the benefits of speaking with the Police to request a check of Police intelligence databases as this could help inform any assessment of risk. Examples of when there will not be a requirement to refer to the Police:
    1. Issues of neglect and poor parenting skills where there are no deliberate acts of cruelty, ill-treatment or abandonment (Unless concerns reach a level where a Section 47 enquiry is deemed necessary);
    2. Minor injuries to children where the context of the injury and the information available, together with an assessment of the family history, suggests that an accidental explanation is more likely than a non-accidental explanation;
    3. Sexual behaviour by a child with no disclosures of abuse and no concerning family history.
  • If during the course of enquiries evidence of a possible criminal offence emerges the process may develop into a joint enquiry. Social workers will therefore need to be aware of the need to keep accurate and contemporaneous notes of any interview and be alert to the potential for medical and forensic evidence.

5. Criminal Investigation

Interview with Alleged Perpetrator

The Police will have responsibility for interviewing the alleged perpetrator in respect of criminal offences.

The decision to arrest and interview an alleged perpetrator will be a tactical decision by the Police but will take account of the need for Children's Social Care Services to engage with parents where this is in the best interest of the child.

Where the Police have not progressed the investigation to a point where the interview of the suspect is appropriate but Children's Social Care Services need to discuss the concerns with the parents a strategy discussion should take place between the officer in the case and the social worker to agree what information can

Completion of Criminal Investigation

Decisions regarding the outcome of a criminal investigation will be made either by the supervisor of the investigating officer or, in more serious or complex cases, by a lawyer from the crown prosecution service. Where an 'advice file' has to be submitted to the crown prosecution service this can result in significant delays before an outcome is known.e shared with the perpetrator.

Please also refer to: