Section 7 and 37 Reports
1. Public Law v Private Law Applications
There are two types of proceedings in Court regarding children; Public law and Private law. Public law applications are this brought by a Public body (e.g. us for care) and Private ones are those brought by private individuals (e.g. parent / grandparents e.g. Child Arrangements Orders).
2. Private Law Applications
Types of Private Law Application
Section 8 of the Children Act 1989 introduced four private law orders - Residence (to specify where a child will live), Contact (to direct a parent or carer make a child available for contact), Specific Issue (to decide a specific question on the exercise of Parental responsibility (e.g. schooling, medical treatment, religion etc) and Prohibited Steps (an order to prohibit a step in relation to the exercise of the parental responsibility being exercised).
A father could also make an application for Parental responsibility (under Section 4 Children Act 1989).
Child Arrangements Orders were introduced in April 2014 by the Children and Families Act 2014 (which amended section 8 Children Act 1989). They replace Contact Orders and Residence Orders.
A Child Arrangements Order means a court order regulating arrangements relating to any of the following:
- With whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact; and
- When a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.
The 'residence' aspects of a Child Arrangements Order (i.e. with whom a child is to live/when a child is to live with any person) can last until the child reaches 18 years unless discharged earlier by the Court or by the making of a Care Order.
The 'contact' aspects of a Child Arrangements Order (with whom and when a child is to spend time with or otherwise have contact with) cease to have effect when the child reaches 16 years, unless the court is satisfied that the circumstances of the case are exceptional.A person named in the order as a person with whom the child is to live, will have Parental Responsibility for the child while the order remains in force. Where a person is named in the order as a person with whom the child is to spend time or otherwise have contact, but is not named in the order as a person with whom the child is to live, the court may provide in the order for that person to have Parental Responsibility for the child while the order remains in force.
The Parties to Private Law Application
Most often, this is the parents. Parents and people with Parental Responsibility can apply automatically. Others can apply if they first get leave (permission) from the court first. Grandparents need leave to apply. The application form (a C1) usually sets out who the applicant and respondent (s) are. Local Authorities are not parties to Private Law applications. Our role is not as applicant or respondent and as such, we are not entitled to all of the papers either,
The Usual Course of a Private Law Application
On issue, the Court fixed a directions appointment, which the applicant and respondent should attend. It may be that some progress or orders can be made then, and the case finished. It may be that a "for now" position can be established and the case reviewed again at a date in the future. It may be that the court need assistance in making their decision and need a report to do so.
The court can therefore make direction regarding the filing of reports. CAFCASS have Court Welfare Officers who are employed specifically for this purpose. However, if there is a history of involvement from us (or indeed, we have encouraged a person to apply) then we may be asked to report. We may also be asked to report if it appears that there may be harm suffered or a risk of harm.
After reports, the court usually sees the Parties again, and the case is either concluded or listed for a final hearing.
It is important to remember that all cases are different and may take a different course and have many more court appointments that this too.
3. The Types of Report
The statutory provisions the court makes orders under are section 7 and 37 of the Children Act 1989.
Section 7 says:-
The court may ask the local authority for a welfare report when they are considering any private law application under the Children Act 1989; The report will consider the welfare of the children and make recommendations as what would be best for the children.
Section 37 says:-
37 Powers of court in certain family proceedings
- Where, in any family proceedings in which a question arises with respect to the welfare of any child, it appears to the court that it may be appropriate for a care or supervision order to be made with respect to him, the court may direct the appropriate authority to undertake an investigation of the child's circumstances;
- Where the court gives a direction under this section the local authority concerned shall, when undertaking the investigation, consider whether they should:
- Apply for a care order or for a supervision order with respect to the child;
- Provide services or assistance for the child or his family; or
- Take any other action with respect to the child.
- Where a local authority undertake an investigation under this section, and decide not to apply for a care order or supervision order with respect to the child concerned, they shall inform the court of:
- Their reasons for so deciding;
- Any service or assistance which they have provided, or intend to provide, for the child and his family; and
- Any other action which they have taken, or propose to take, with respect to the child.
- The information shall be given to the court before the end of the period of eight weeks beginning with the date of the direction, unless the court otherwise directs:
- The local authority named in a direction under subsection (1) must be:
- The authority in whose area the child is ordinarily resident; or
- Where the child does not reside in the area of a local authority, the authority within whose area any circumstances arose in consequence of which the direction is being given.
- If, on the conclusion of any investigation or review under this section, the authority decide not to apply for a care order or supervision order with respect to the child:
- They shall consider whether it would be appropriate to review the case at a later date; and
- If they decide that it would be, they shall determine the date on which that review is to begin.
The main difference in the two types of report is that with a Section 37 report you are asked to consider if the child should be subject to a care or supervision order and why, and whether you intend to apply for an order. Section 37 Reports are ordered in the more serious cases and as such, there is statue specified time constraints to respond (8 weeks). The court can in fact order an interim care order whilst a section 37 report is being completed without us even applying for it (and they have done so in the past!).
A social workers role is as an expert - your reports should have a conclusion regarding what you feel should happen. You are also a Witness.