Children Subject to Section 47 Enquires and Child Protection Plans when Travelling Abroad


This is the required procedure when children who are the subject of Child Protection Plans travel abroad.

This chapter was added to this manual in June 2019.

1. Overview

Children travel abroad for different reasons such as:

  • To go on holiday;
  • To have a short stay with extended family;
  • To move abroad permanently.

This guide applies to all three of these travel plans.

The social worker and the core group will discuss the likely impact of any planned change in a child's circumstances. They will have to consider whether the child is at increased risk of harm if the planned trip takes place. They inform parents of the outcome of their discussions and what arrangements will need to be in place so that they can make sure the child is safe if the trip does go ahead.

The social worker must consult with the following:

  • Each parent, so that they can explain how they intend to keep the child safe during their time abroad;
  • The child, to seek their views about the plans to travel;
  • The core group of professionals working closely with the family to make sure the child is safe;
  • The conference chair in order to seek their views about the travel plans;
  • The Head of Service, to seek their agreement to the trip.

Please note that as part of the child protection plan there may be a requirement that parents submit the child's passport(s) to the Local Authority if it is deemed that child may be at risk if they travel abroad.

After the social worker has consulted with all the people above, Children's Services will inform the parents whether they think the planned trip abroad is in the child's best interests or if they have concerns about their safety.

2. Action

2.1 Children Taken Abroad when Section 47 Enquiries are Being Undertaken

If the child is taken abroad when Section 47 enquiries have commenced, but are not yet completed, the investigating social worker should inform the relevant authorities in the country of destination, seeking advice from Children and Family Services Across Borders (CFAB) - formerly International Social Services) - as necessary.

If the Section 47 enquiry is accompanied by a criminal investigation, police should inform the relevant Police force abroad.

Strategy discussions should be held and legal advice sought to determine known or likely risk of harm and what action should take place to safeguard the children from harm.

2.2 Children Going Abroad on Holiday

The Social Worker will:

  • Ascertain the address where the child will be staying;
  • Ascertain the exact dates of travel;
  • Ask for evidence of travel and accommodation arrangements;
  • Notify the relevant Head of Service and the Chair of the Child Protection Conference;
  • Agree with the parents how they can be contacted e.g. mobile phone number, contact numbers of travel agent;
  • To recommend more frequent contact depending on the risk and no less than every ten 10 days during their trip;
  • Arrange to see the family and child within 2 days of them returning home;
  • Discuss the fact that you fear they may flee and ask for the child's passport to be held by the Local Authority as part of a plan of protection;
  • Discuss applying for a Prohibited Steps Order with the legal services.

The core group members also have a responsibility to flag the case to their managers for oversight within their agency.

2.3 Children Going Abroad for a Temporary Stay with Friends/Family

  • Social worker must undertake all of the points listed in the actions to take when children go abroad on holiday (Section 2.2, Children Going Abroad on Holiday);
  • All professionals in the core group must inform their respective counterpart agencies abroad;
  • The social worker must inform the national embassies and consulates in London for the country concerned. Details are available from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website;
  • The social worker must consider requesting an assessment of family or friends from CFAB on 0207 773 8941;
  • The social worker should consider requesting PNC checks for family and friends whom the child/young person will be residing with.

The social worker and the core group remain responsible for implementing the child protection plan until the above actions have been completed. They will resume responsibility for implementing the child protection plan when notified of the children's return.

2.4 Children Moving Abroad Permanently

The social worker and the core group must undertake all steps outlined in Section 2.2, Children Going Abroad on Holiday and Section 2.3, Children Going Abroad for a Temporary Stay with Friends/Family.

Having received any assessment information from CFAB and other relevant agencies, the core group should form a view regarding the continuing risk of significant harm for the child and convene a review child protection conference. All those notified in section 3 should be notified by the relevant core group member of the outcome of the Child Protection Conference and of any recommendations for further action.

2.5 Review Child Protection Conferences and Child/ren Going Abroad

If the move is temporary a Review Child Protection Conference should be held at the scheduled time. Consideration should be given for bringing forward the date of this conference.

If the child does not return before the time of the Review Child Protection Conference is due, it must go ahead with information gathered from agencies abroad, as detailed in Section 2.4, Children Moving Abroad Permanently, when children move abroad permanently. A decision whether the child should remain subject to a Child Protection Plan will be made and if so a revised Child Protection Plan must be formulated.

On the rare occasion where the child has moved abroad permanently and all relevant agencies abroad have been notified that it is the view of the core group that no further work can be undertaken, the chair of the child protection conference will write a brief report to the Head of Service for Safeguarding in Children's Social Care requesting that the child is no longer the subject of a Child Protection Plan.

Please also refer to the following Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire and Luton Safeguarding Children's Board Procedures if necessary: