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Emergency Protection Orders (EPOs)

Legal aid is available free of charge automatically for a parent in care proceedings when an emergency protection order is being applied for by the local authority.


In certain circumstances if the local authority (often referred to as social services or children’s services) believe that it is absolutely necessary to remove the child from the care of a parent or parents to keep that child safe (and if there is no other alternative) then the local authority will apply to the Court for an Emergency Protection Order.

The local authority could ask the Court to remove a child or young person on an urgent basis either without notice to a parent or very short notice which can make it difficult to find a solicitor. If the Court granted an Emergency Protection Order this would allow the local authority to remove a child for up to eight days allowing them time to apply for an interim Care Order. During the eight day period the local authority will be able to exercise parental responsibility rights over the child and in exceptional circumstances can be extended by a further seven days if the child is still deemed to be at risk by the Court.

In some circumstances the police can exercise what is called police protection powers to remove a child or children in an emergency without first going to Court for an EPO. These powers can only be used by the police for up to 72 hours. If the police have used these powers or being involved to remove a child from a parent or carer then specialist legal advice will be needed as soon as possible as the next step could be an urgent application to Court by the local authority.

When a Court grants an EPO this allows the social worker to make an attempt to gain access to the residence where the child may live and to take the child. If the social worker perceives there to be difficulties in getting the child to safety the police can seek a warrant for the child to be removed with the police in attendance. Any one seeking to obstruct the warrant or removal of the child could face consequences and punishment under the criminal law.


If you did not attend the initial hearing then you do have an opportunity to challenge it however very tight time limits (usually 72 hours from being given notice of the EPO) would apply. This is a complex legal process that requires specialist advice as soon as possible. If as a parent or carer you did attend the initial hearing for the EPO it could then only be challenged through a subsequent appeal. Tight time limits to appeal would apply and the merits and circumstances would need careful consideration by a child law specialist.

CONTACT US For advice on any aspect of the law and consequences of an Emergency Protection Order or to apply for legal aid for urgent representation please speak to the expert child law solicitors at Ramsdens. Call us today on 01924 431 774 or email us at

Alternatively, fill out an online contact form and we will return your call at a time convenient for you.