Care and Supervision orders were created by Part IV of the Children Act 1989.

On the application of the local authority (LA) or the NSPCC the court can consider making either order if the provisions of section 31 are made out. This requires the judge to be satisfied that a child has suffered or is at risk of significant harm.

The key distinction between care and supervision orders is found under section 33(3) of the Children Act 1989. Only a care order can gives the LA parental responsibility and the power to decide how any one else can exercise their parental responsibility. It is often said that a care order allows the LA to ‘share’ parental responsibility but the more realistic description is that the LA is now in the driving seat when it comes to making decisions about the child.

However, under section 33(4) the LA can only use their powers to control other people’s parental responsibility if to do so is necessary to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare. Together with the considerations of Article 8 of the ECHR and the need to act proportionally, the LA will need to think seriously about whether or not what it proposes is ‘necessary’.

A supervision order does not give the LA parental responsibility for a child but allows them to appoint a ‘supervisor’ who will ‘advise, assist and befriend the supervised child’ and take whatever steps are necessary to make the supervision order work.