What is a Section 37 Report?
A Section 37 Report – so called as the provisions are contained in Section 37 of the Children Act 1989 – is prepared by the local authority (Social Services) and is directed by the Court when it appears to the Court that it may be appropriate for a care or supervision order to be made in respect of a child. In these cases the local authority will be asked to investigate the child’s circumstances.
Under Section 37(2) of the Children Act 1989, where the Court gives a direction for a Section 37 Report, the local authority shall, when undertaking the investigation, consider whether it should:-
(a) apply for a care order or for a supervision order with respect to the child;
(b) provide services or assistance for the child or the child’s family; or
(c) take any other action with respect to the child
If, after concluding the investigation, the local authority decides that a care order or supervision order is not necessary it shall, under Section 37(3,) inform the Court of:-
(a) its reasons for that decision
(b) any service or assistance which it has provided, or intends to provide to the child and the family; and
(c) any other action which it has taken or proposes to take with respect to the child
The local authority should also state whether it believes a review of the case at a later date would be appropriate, and if so, give a date on which that review is to begin.
The report should ideally be available for the Court within 8 weeks of it being directed, but it is not uncommon for an extension to be requested, and it will normally be carried out by the local authority in whose area the child would normally live. If the child would not normally be living in the local authority area in which the proceedings are taking place, then the local authority where the child was living when the circumstances arose which has meant a report is needed, will be asked to prepare it. For example, if a child was living in Liverpool but then moved to Manchester with one of the parents or to live with a relative, and the person with whom the child lives issues an application in Manchester, it will be Liverpool Social Services that will be asked to prepare the report.
If the local authority does determine that an application for a care order or supervision order is necessary it will make the application and at that stage the parents can look at obtaining legal aid in order that they are represented.