Child Assessment Orders

What is a Child Assessment Order?  

A Child Assessment order is available for the local authorities to apply when leading an investigation into the Welfare, health and development of a Child. A Child Assessment order will be the first step when an authority is considering issuing a section 8 court order, whether this be a residence order, contact order, specific issue order or supervision order.

Who can apply for a Child assessment order to be carried out and on what grounds?

S43(1) Children Act 1989:

  • When a local authority or an authorised person makes an application for an order to be made under this section with regards to the welfare of the child in question, the court may make an order, if, and only if, it is satisfied that;

  • The applicant has reasonable cause to suspect that the child is currently suffering or likely to suffer significant harm,

  • An assessment of the child’s welfare, health and development and treatment they receive day-to-day, is needed to allow the applicant to make a decision as to whether or not the child in question is suffering or likely to suffer any harm in the future,

  • It is very unlikely that a child assessment order will be requested without the application for a further order by the court.

  • The Child assessment order is most commonly used and most appropriate where the harm suffered by the child is long term and collective rather than harm that is sudden and severe.  

Why a court will not make a child assessment order

  • No court shall make a child assessment order if they are satisfied that there is reasonable grounds for making an emergency protection order with regards to the child in question and that it should make such an emergency protection order instead of a child assessment order. 

  • A court may in the appropriate circumstances treat an application for a child assessment order as an application for an emergency protection order.  

Effects of a Child Assessment order

  • Where a child assessment order has been granted by the courts and then becomes the duty of the person in a position to produce the child, to produce the child to the person named in the order as the leading figure and to comply with such directions relating to the assessment of the child as the court believes is appropriate to specifically name in the child assessment order. 

  • A Child assessment order authorises any person carrying out the child assessment, or any specific part of the assessment order, to do so in accordance with the terms and conditions of the order.

  • If the Child who is subject to the Child Assessment order is of sufficient understanding to make an appropriate informed decision he may refuse to submit to a medical or psychiatric examination or any other assessment.  

  • This appears to give the child absolute refusal and control over their treatment. However, this does not rule out the courts ability to override a child’s decision not to consent to treatment, if they feel it is necessary for the child’s welfare for the appropriate tests to be carried out.

Duration of a Child Assessment order

  • The maximum duration of a child assessment order is seven days from the date specified in the order with no power of extension. 

  • This gives the local authorities very little time to make their enquiries and so must be very well prepared before the commencing date in order to obtain all the appropriate correct information.

  • No further application for a child assessment may be made within six months of the disposal of the previous Child Assessment order without the leave of the court.