Interim Care Order

Interim Care Order
Interim Care Order
Full Overview Of Interim Care Order

In family law, one of the most crucial mechanisms to ensure the safety and welfare of children is the Interim Care Order (ICO). This legal instrument is pivotal when a child’s immediate safety is at risk, necessitating temporary but decisive intervention by the courts.

Here at DLS Solicitors, we understand the complexities and sensitivities surrounding ICOs and are dedicated to guiding our clients through this challenging process with professionalism and compassion.

What are Interim Care Orders?

An interim care order (ICO) is a temporary measure granted by the family courts in England and Wales under the Children Act 1989. It authorises the local authority to temporarily take responsibility for a child’s care and welfare. The primary aim of an ICO is to protect the child from harm while a more thorough investigation is conducted to determine the long-term arrangements for their care.

The legal framework for ICOs is established under Section 38 of the Children Act 1989. For an ICO to be granted, the court must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, significant harm. This harm could be due to inadequate care or the child being beyond parental control. The court considers whether the threshold criteria are met and evaluates the immediate risk to the child’s safety.

The Application Process

The process starts when a local authority applies to the court for an ICO. This usually happens when professionals like social workers, teachers, or healthcare providers have raised concerns about a child’s welfare. The application needs to include detailed evidence supporting the need for an ICO, including the nature of the harm or risk, and the proposed interim care arrangements.

After the application is submitted, the court schedules an initial hearing, usually within a few days. This quick response shows the urgency and seriousness of situations that require an ICO. During this hearing, all involved parties, including the child’s parents or guardians, have the chance to present their case. If the child is old enough, they may also have a say, often represented by a children’s guardian, an independent advocate appointed by the court.

The Role of the Children’s Guardian

“The Children’s Guardian plays a crucial role in ICO proceedings. Appointed by the court, the guardian is an independent professional, usually a qualified social worker, tasked with representing the child’s best interests. They provide an independent assessment of the child’s situation and make recommendations to the court regarding the care arrangements. The Guardian ensures that the child’s voice is heard and their welfare is prioritised.”

Interim Care Plans

If the court grants an ICO, the local authority assumes temporary parental responsibility and must develop an interim care plan. This plan outlines the proposed care arrangements for the child during the ICO period. It includes details on where the child will live, schooling, medical care, and contact with their family. The plan is designed to provide stability and address the child’s immediate needs while exploring longer-term solutions.

Duration and Review

An ICO is typically granted for a short, defined period, not exceeding eight weeks initially. However, it can be extended by the court in subsequent hearings, each extension lasting no more than four weeks. The need for continued intervention is reviewed regularly, with the court assessing whether the ICO remains necessary and whether the care plan is appropriate.

Parental-Rights-and-Involvement">Parental Rights and Involvement

Even if the local authority is given temporary parental responsibility, the parents’ rights are not completely taken away under an ICO. Parents still have the right to be involved in decisions about their child’s care and can contest the ICO if they think it is unjustified. It’s important for parents to have legal representation and support during this process to make sure that their viewpoints are properly expressed and taken into account.

Balancing Protection and Family Unity

One of the core principles guiding ICOs is to balance the need to protect the child with the importance of maintaining family unity whenever possible. Courts are mindful of the potential trauma and disruption caused by removing a child from their home, and ICOs are seen as a last resort when other interventions have failed or are deemed insufficient to safeguard the child’s welfare.

Challenges and Considerations

The implementation of ICOs is not without its challenges. One of the primary concerns is the emotional impact on the child, who may experience confusion, fear, and a sense of instability. To mitigate this, the child must receive appropriate emotional support and counselling. Another challenge is ensuring that the temporary care arrangements are suitable and do not exacerbate the child’s distress. Finding appropriate foster placements or temporary carers who can provide a nurturing environment is a significant aspect of the local authority’s responsibility.

Long-Term Implications

During the period of an Interim Care Order (ICO), the local authority carries out comprehensive assessments and investigations to guide their recommendations for the future care of the child. These recommendations may involve options such as providing support for the child to return home, placing the child with relatives, or pursuing a permanent care order if it is determined that returning home is not safe.

Navigating the complexities of ICOs requires expert legal advice and representation. DLS Solicitors provides comprehensive support to all involved parties. For parents, we offer strong defence strategies to challenge unwarranted ICO applications and advocate for their rights. For local authorities, we ensure that applications are meticulously prepared and that evidence is robustly presented to justify the need for intervention.


Interim Care Orders (ICOs) are crucial tools within the child protection system. They are designed to ensure immediate safety for children while exploring longer-term solutions. ICOs aim to achieve a delicate balance between protecting vulnerable children and respecting family unity. At DLS Solicitors, we understand the significant impact of ICOs on children and families. We are dedicated to offering compassionate and expert guidance throughout the entire process. Whether you are a parent facing an ICO application, a local authority seeking to safeguard a child, or a professional involved in the care proceedings, our team is here to provide the knowledge, experience, and commitment needed to navigate these challenging circumstances effectively.

DLS Solicitors: Your Trusted Partner in Child Protection Law

Child protection cases are among family law’s most sensitive and complex areas. At DLS Solicitors, our commitment is to ensure that the welfare of the child remains paramount while safeguarding the rights of all involved parties. We provide tailored legal services, recognising the unique circumstances of each case and the profound impact our work can have on families and communities.

Understanding the Nuances

Each ICO case is unique, reflecting the diverse situations in which children find themselves at risk. Whether it involves issues of neglect, abuse, or parental incapacity, our approach is always meticulous and informed by the latest legal precedents and best practices in child welfare.

Collaborative Approach

We believe in a collaborative approach, working closely with social services, medical professionals, and other stakeholders to ensure that every aspect of the child’s welfare is considered. Our multi-disciplinary team is equipped to handle the various facets of ICO cases, from emergency applications to detailed care plan reviews.

Empathy and Professionalism

Our ethos is grounded in empathy and professionalism. We understand the emotional toll these proceedings take on families and strive to provide clear, compassionate guidance. Our goal is to achieve the best possible outcome for the child, ensuring their safety and well-being while respecting their family’s rights and wishes.

Proactive Advocacy

At DLS Solicitors, proactive advocacy is at the heart of our practice. We don’t just react to developments; we anticipate challenges and work diligently to address them. This proactive stance ensures that our clients are always a step ahead, fully prepared for every stage of the proceedings.

Comprehensive Legal Services

Our services extend beyond representing clients in court. We offer comprehensive legal advice, help prepare detailed care plans, and support liaising with local authorities and other involved parties. Our holistic approach ensures that all aspects of the case are covered, providing our clients with the assurance that they are in capable hands.

Continuing Support

Even after an ICO is granted, our support does not end. We continue working with our clients through subsequent reviews and hearings, adapting our strategies to ensure the child’s welfare and stability. Our long-term commitment reflects our dedication to the child’s best interests.

Standing by Your Side

Interim Care Orders, while challenging, are essential to ensuring the safety and well-being of children at risk. At DLS Solicitors, we provide the highest level of legal support and advocacy, ensuring that every child receives the protection they deserve and every family is treated with the respect and care they need during such difficult times. Our experienced team is here to stand by your side, offering expert guidance, compassionate support, and unwavering dedication to achieving the best outcomes for all involved.

Interim Care Order FAQ'S

An interim care order is a temporary court order issued under the Children Act 1989 that places a child under the care of a local authority while care proceedings are ongoing. It grants the local authority shared parental responsibility to ensure the child’s safety and welfare.

A local authority or a children’s services department can apply for an interim care order if they believe a child is at risk of significant harm and needs immediate protection while longer-term arrangements are considered.

An interim care order initially lasts up to eight weeks. The court can extend it every four weeks thereafter until the conclusion of the care proceedings or until a final order is made.

An interim care order is temporary and intended to provide immediate protection while care proceedings are ongoing. A full care order is a long-term arrangement that places the child under the local authority’s care until the child turns 18 or until the order is discharged.

The local authority is responsible for ensuring the child’s safety and well-being, providing suitable accommodation, making decisions about their daily care, and preparing reports for the court on the child’s circumstances and needs.

Yes, parents can challenge an interim care order in court by presenting evidence and arguments to demonstrate that the order is unnecessary or that they can provide a safe and suitable environment for the child.

The court considers the child’s welfare as the paramount concern, the evidence provided by the local authority regarding risk or harm, the parent’s ability to care for the child, and whether the order is necessary to ensure the child’s safety and well-being.

No, an interim care order cannot be extended indefinitely. It is intended as a temporary measure during care proceedings and must be reviewed and renewed by the court every four weeks, if necessary.

Suppose parents do not comply with an interim care order. In that case, the local authority can take further legal action to ensure the child’s safety. Non-compliance can be used as evidence in the ongoing care proceedings and may influence the court’s final decision.

Parents can receive support from the local authority, including access to services such as parenting classes and counselling, and help with improving living conditions. The goal is to address the concerns that led to the order and work towards a resolution that ensures the child’s welfare.


This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 11th July 2024.

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Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

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