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What is a section 7 report?

View profile for Nicola Horrocks
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A report under Section 7 of the Children Act 1989 is directed by the court when an application has been made under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989 and there are either welfare concerns for a child or the parents cannot agree matters in respect of their child.

These applications are usually for a child arrangement orders (to determine who the child should live and spend time with), prohibited steps order (to stop a parent taking a specific step) or a specific issues order (to require a parent to do something).

Section 7 reports give a full background of the circumstances of the child, responds to any specific questions the court want answering and lays out any safety or welfare concerns that the court needs to be made aware of. The report will also provide recommendations for the child with regards to the application made which the court will consider when making their decision.

These reports can be done by CAFCASS or the local authority if they are involved with the case. The report can take between 12 to 16 weeks to complete. This will involve the author of the report speaking to the child (depending on their age and understanding) about their wishes and feelings, parents of the child, family members and any professionals involved in the child’s life for example a school or GP.

The author of the report will also have to consider the factors contained in the Welfare Checklist under S1(3) of the Children Act 1989:

(a)        the ascertainable wishes and feeling of the child concerned (considered in the light of the child’s age and understanding);

(b)        the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs;

(c)        the likely effect on the child of any change in his/her circumstances;

(d)        the child’s age, sex, background, and any other characteristic which the court considers relevant;

(e)        any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering;

(f)        how capable each of the child’s parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting the child’s needs;

(g)        the range of powers available to the court under the Children Act in the proceedings in question.

After making enquiries and considering the welfare checklist, the author will write a report setting out what they think should happen in the case and what they think is in the child’s best interests in relation to the application which has been made. Parties in the case will then be given the time to consider and respond to the report. The court will consider the contents of the report and its recommendations as well as the other parties positions before making its decision as to the outcome of the application. The court’s decision will be set out in a court order which must be complied with.

If you would like to speak to a member of our specialist family law solicitors team please call us on 0333 009 3799.