Concept for What is an Emergency Protection Order?

An Emergency Protection Order (EPO) is an order under section 44 of the Children Act 1989. An EPO may be necessary when the applicant, usually a Local Authority, has grounds to believe that a child is at risk of significant harm due to neglect or abuse.

The Order may be made without notice, although this is very unusual. A Guardian will always be appointed for the child on an application for an EPO.

When would the Court grant an Emergency Protection Order?

The Court may make an EPO if it has reasonable cause to believe that a child is likely to suffer significant harm if:

  • They are not removed to accommodation provided by the applicant; or
  • They do not remain in the place where they are being accommodated.

In circumstance where the Local Authority is making enquiries as it suspects a child is suffering significant harm and believes that access to that child is being unreasonably denied, then the Local Authority may also apply for an EPO.

An EPO is considered by the Court to be a “draconian” order and will only be made if the Court is satisfied that it is absolutely necessary to safeguard a child.

What powers are provided by an Emergency Protection Order?

An EPO gives the applicant parental responsibility for the child, which is limited to what is necessary to safeguard the child and their welfare. During the currency of the Order, the child must be allowed reasonable contact with:

  • His or her parents;
  • Any other person with parental responsibility;
  • Anyone the child was living with prior to the making of the order; and
  • Any person named in a Child Arrangements Order as a person who the child is to spend time with.

The Order can also operate as a direction for:-

  • Any person who is in a position to do so to comply with any request to produce the child to the applicant;
  • The removal or prevention of removal of the child from their present accommodation;
  • Approval for the applicant to enter a specified premises and search for the child.

In the event that there is reasonable cause to believe that if a person is excluded from the child’s dwelling house, the child is unlikely to suffer significant harm, then the Court may include an ‘exclusion requirement’ in the EPO. This direction can exclude the relevant person from the home and specify a designated area around the home within which the relevant person must not enter. A power of arrest can be attached to an exclusion requirement.

How long does an Emergency Protection Order last?

The Order can only be made for a maximum of 8 days. The Court can grant an extension of up to 7 days if there is reasonable cause to believe the child is likely to suffer significant harm if the Order is not extended.

There is no right of appeal against the making of an EPO.

When the Order expires, one of the following will happen:-

  • The child will be returned to the care of the person they were living with prior to their removal;
  • If the child cannot return to the person they were living with prior to the Order, then they will be put with a parent or any person who has parental responsibility for the child; or
  • If the Local Authority believe that the child is likely to suffer harm if they return home, it may apply for a Care Order.

If you need more information or advice on issues surrounding emergency protection orders and parental responsibility, please contact our Children team.

This article is part of a series on parental responsibility. If you would like to learn more about parental responsibility, please click here for the full series.