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What does a Care Order do in the UK?

Updated: Mar 26, 2023


What is a Care Order?

What is a Care Order?

A care order is an order issued by the court in which the local authority is provided parental responsibility of the child, allowing them to take the child into care.

The local authority will share parental responsibility with the existing parental responsibility holder (generally the parents).

However, the local authority can exercise their Parental Responsibility over and above the parents if it is in the wellbeing of the child.

What is an Interim Care Order?

An Interim Care Order refers to the order which places the child temporarily under the supervision and care of the local authority while the care proceedings are ongoing.

An Interim Care Order will be issued only under certain threshold criteria.


  • Interim Care Orders last up to 8 weeks and can be extended an additional 28 days, however, there is no limit to how many interim care orders can be made in a row.

  • An Interim Care Order acts in the same way as a normal care order in that the local authorities will gain parental responsibility for the child for the duration of the order.

Who can apply for a care order?

Who can apply for a care order?

Only a “Authorized Person” or a “Local Authority” can apply for a Care order.

Currently, the only Authorized Person is NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children). References and Referrals can be made to the NSPCC by other authorities and also by people.

It is to be noted that the court cannot initiate the care proceedings themselves however if they believe care proceedings are suitable they can direct local authorities to conduct an investigation under Section 37 Order, which can lead to care proceedings being initiated by the local authority.

When will a Care Order be made?

A Care Order will be made if the court believes that the child in question is suffering significant harm (or is likely to suffer significant harm). The court must also be convinced that the harm is because of either the fact that:

  • The care that is given or is likely to be given by the parents (if the care order is not made) is not what is acceptable for a parent to give to their child

  • The child is beyond parental control

The above-mentioned conditions are known as ‘threshold criteria’ under Section 31 of the Children's Act 1931.

It is the duty of the local authority to ensure that one of the threshold criteria has actually been fulfilled.

Once a child is 17, a care order cannot be made,

What are the duties of the Local Authority under a care order?

What are the duties of the Local Authority under a care order?

So once a Care Order is made, what do the local authorities have to do?

  • Provide maintenance and accommodation of the child ( Section 22G, Children Act, 1989)

  • Promote and Safeguard the welfare of the child ( Section 22(3), Children Act, 1989)

  • Keep the child into its care as per the duration of the Care Order (Section 33(1), Children Act 1989)

  • Review of the situation and consider whether to apply for discharge of care order

  • Care Plan arrangements have to be reviewed by an Independent Reviewing Officer

  • May have to appoint an Independent Visitor for a child (adults who provide support for young people in Foster Care Services)

Prior to making any decisions regarding the child, a local authority have to take note of the:

The care authorities must then give consideration to these wishes and feelings, even if it does not necessarily mean that they abide by them.

What are other effects of a care order?

Though the above mentioned effects of a care order are important ones to note, there are a few more to take into consideration:

  • The local authority is the responsible for looking after the child and has parental responsibility for the child

  • The local authority who look after the child must not cause the child to be brought up under religious persuasion that they wouldn’t have originally been brought up under if the order was not made

  • The child can not be taken from the UK for more than 28 days and cannot have their name changed without the consent of everybody with parental responsibility or the leave of the court

Who will the child live with under a care order?

Who will the child live with under a care order?

Once a Care Order is issued, the local authority will decide where the child will live.

The child can be placed at either:

  • Children’s home

  • Relatives

  • Foster parents.

In some (rarer) cases, the child can be placed with the parents while still being under a care order.

However if any worries arise local authorities can place the child in any alternative accommodation at any time. If the circumstance is urgent, local authorities are free to do so immediately without giving parents any prior notice.

Who can have contact with a child under a care order?

Section 34 of the Children's Act 1989 stipulates that the local authorities also have the duty to provide children with a reasonable amount of contact with their parents or any other individuals (i.e. those with significant roles in the child's life, others with parental responsibility).

However this amount of contact can vary heavily from case to case depending on what is in the best interests of the child.

Can a care order be discharged?

Can a care order be discharged?

Applications for the discharge of a care order can be made by those with parental responsibility, the parent of the child or the local authorities.

However the applicant has to be able to prove in the application that there has been a significant change in the situations since the care order was initially granted.

If the applicant is able to demonstrate this and has reasonable grounds to discharge the care order then the relevant form to fill would be the C110a.

If you are considering making an application to discharge a care order, we strongly recommend contacting CHL, a family law firm who can help you draft documents and explain difficult situations and legal jargon to you. Contact us here by filling in this form and we can get back to you rapidly, or call as at 073 75 757510

What is the difference between a Child Arrangement Order and a Care Order?

Though both orders make changes about where a child will live and can change who has parental responsibility of a child, these orders themselves are actually rather different to each other.

Most importantly, a Care Order at its base gives the parental responsibility of a child to local care authorities. Where a child lives because of this is a result of this order but is decided by the local authorities. The local authorities now have responsibility regarding the child's upbringing.

A Child Arrangement Order however is a private order (often made between Divorcing Parents, or Parents and Grandparents) which do not involve local authorities. Instead the order itself will detail arrangements regarding the child.

Child Arrangement Orders do not have to give anyone parental responsibility of a child but can give it to involved individuals (but not local authorities.).

Child Arrangement Orders are incredibly broad and can span from who the child will live with to what school they will go to to what handover between divorced parents will look like.

We at Court Help Limited can also help you with Child Arrangement Orders and can draft them and help explain courses of action for an incredibly low fee. Contact us here by quickly filling in this form.

How can we help you with the Family Law Matters?

We at Court Help Limited are specialized in family court matters by drafting statements and applications. Our legal team has rich experience and knowledge to assist you in the documentation and paperwork involved in such cases. We also specialize in various family law matters such as child custody, divorce settlement, domestic violence, etc.

To know more about family law matters in England, check out some of our other related articles which are available here.

In case you are facing any such issues concerned with family law matters, do not hesitate to contact us. You can read our reviews here. At the bottom of the page, there is a Quick Contact Form, you can fill it out or email us at or call us at 07375757510.

Note: This article is not legal advice and must not be treated as legal advice.


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