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1.3.7 Child / Young Person's Plans

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This guidance aims to support social workers to complete child / young person's plans. The plan is an important document to the child or young person and their family because it explains what needs have been identified and what services have been agreed. It is a working tool for checking the success or otherwise of these services and it provides everyone involved with an explanation of the decisions that have been made. The child or young person and parents or carers should be involved in the process of agreeing the plan.

This guidance provides general information about plans as well as specific guidance for children and young people in need, children and young people who are looked after and children and young people who are subject to a child protection plan.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated throughout in December 2013 as a result of local review and should be re-read in its entirety.


Contents

1. Purpose and Aims
2. From Assessment to Plan
3. The Structure of the Plan
4. SMART Principles
5. Involving the Child / Young Person and the Parents / Carers in the Plan
6. Multi-Agency Planning
7. Plan Management
8. Timescales
9. Types of Plan


1. Purpose and Aims

This guidance aims to support social workers to complete child / young person's plans. The plan is an important document to the child or young person and their family because it explains what needs have been identified; what needs to change; and what services have been agreed. It is a working tool for checking the success or otherwise of these services and it provides everyone involved with an explanation of the decisions that have been made. The child or young person and parents or carers should be involved in the process of agreeing the plan. The completion of a plan which involves children, young people and parents or carers, should reduce the need to undertake written agreements.

This guidance provides general information about plans as well as specific guidance for children and young people in need, children and young people who are looked after and children and young people who are subject to a child protection plan.


2. From Assessment to Plan

The assessment framework provides a structure for the assessment of need across three domains - child's developmental needs, parenting capacity, family and environmental factors and risk factors / safety issues. The plan should flow logically from the assessment.

Like the Children’s Social Care Assessment, the child's plan must maintain a focus on the child, even though services may be provided to a number of family members as part of achieving the plan. The plan should build on the strengths of the family.


3. The Structure of the Plan

The overall aim of the plan should be described. If the child is looked after, the plan for permanence (from the second review) and the contingency plan and contact arrangements should be included. The perspective of the child and parents/carers must be included, setting out what they want to achieve or change. The assessment of the social worker about what must change (based on the Children’s Social Care Assessment) should also be included.

The Child / Young Person’s Plan follows a very simple format aimed to focus on the outcomes for that particular child. Included within each outcome should be: what needs to happen, why it needs to happen and how it will be achieved including timescales and who will support.


4. SMART Principles

Plans should be

  • Specific

    The desired outcome should be specific and not a vague statement such as 'child needs to develop in an age appropriate way' or 'mother needs to stick to regular routines'. The services put in place to bring about the change should also be specific;
  • Measurable

    The outcomes need to be measurable otherwise it will not be clear if they have been achieved or not;
  • Achievable

    If outcomes are achievable those involved are more likely to succeed and it is likely to encourage further change;
  • Relevant and realistic

    The outcomes should be relevant to the core issues that have been identified in the assessment. They should also be realistic. For example, not identifying services that are not available;
  • Timely

    The timescales attached to each part of the plan should be carefully considered. See Section 10, Timescales.


5. Involving the Child / Young Person and the Parents / Carers in the Plan

The child, family and network should be integral and contribute to the formulation, development and review of the plan. It should take into account the wishes and feelings of the child and the views of the parents, insofar as they are consistent with the child's welfare. It should be sensitive to the child and family's ethnic, cultural, religious needs.

The plan should be written in clear language and explained to the parents or carers so that they understand the planned outcomes and are willing to work to it. It should be constructed with the family and child or young person in their preferred language and they should receive a copy in this language. Whatever the type of plan, it should be explained to and agreed with the child in a manner which is in accordance with their age and understanding. The parents or carers and the child if old enough should be asked to sign the plan.


6. Multi-Agency Planning

The lead professional for a child or young person in need; in need of protection and a looked after child or young person is the social worker. During the assessment and in the formulation of the plan the social worker should engage other professionals. The plan should reflect a range of tasks undertaken by a number of professionals working together across the outcomes. The roles and responsibilities of professionals including those with routine contact with the child (e.g. health visitors, GPs and teachers) and the nature and frequency of contact by these professionals with the child and family members should be clearly identified.


7. Plan Management

The details of the plan are bench marks against which the progress of the family and commitment of workers are measured. The social worker monitors the general progress of the plan on a day to day basis and should keep parents, carers and children as well as the professionals informed. The progress of the plan is formally monitored in core groups and reviews.


8. Timescales

The main consideration regarding timing is the appropriateness of the timescale to the individual child. When the family situation or an aspect of parenting needs to change, the timescales for this change should fit with the child's needs. If the family situation is not improving or changing fast enough to respond to the child's needs, decisions will be necessary about the long term future of the child. An assessment of the parent or carer's capacity and motivation to change should have been included in a Children’s Social Care Assessment.

The process of decision making and planning including the expected timescales should be as open and transparent to the parents or carers as possible. Practically, this may help to increase motivation to change and also ethically, it is only fair that parents have a very clear understanding of what they are expected to do and by when. It is also necessary for parents and all those involved, to be made aware of what contingency plans are in place in case outcomes are not achieved within the agreed timescales, or in case circumstances change significantly and prompt action is required. In child protection plans this may for example, include initiating court proceedings to safeguard and promote the child's welfare. In the case of a looked after child a contingency plan can reduce delay if a proposed permanence plan for a child is not achieved.

8.1 Avoiding "Drift"

If the child is looked after, it is necessary from the second Looked After Child Review to have a plan for permanence. (See Section 9, Types of Plan) The plan for permanence should have been determined before the review by the social worker and the Team Manager / Consultant Social Worker and shared with the parents and child or young person. The plan is then ratified at the review. A permanence plan is a relatively long term plan: it may not be achieved between one Looked After Child Review and another. Yet it is vitally important that the progress towards the plan is maintained. It is often this sort of long term plan that is vulnerable to "drifting" whilst shorter term outcomes are focused upon.

One way of maintaining the focus on longer term plans is to attach specific shorter term plans to them. For example, if an overall aim is to achieve permanence for a child by rehabilitating the child home to parents, a short term plan might be to complete a specialist assessment within the next three months. The progress towards the longer term plan can therefore be measured by the progress of the shorter term plan. There may be a series of shorter term plans set out to achieve a long term plan. The key to avoiding drift is to remain focused on the overall aim and if progress is not made in the short term plans, the feasibility of the overall aim should be re-evaluated.

Please see Permanence Planning Guidance for looked after children.


9. Types of Plan

The same form is used for Child in Need and Looked After Children. Child Protection Plans are very similar and are based on the Strengthening Families model. Sometimes children and young people's circumstances change and they may move between these categories. Children's plans reflect the needs of the child at the time. But they should be flexible and if the circumstances change then the plan will follow the child and can be amended if necessary within the appropriate decision making arena.

Please refer to Hull Safeguarding Children Board Guidelines and Procedures for detailed guidance on Child Protection Conferences and Child Protection Plans.

A Looked After Child’s plan should also include the plan for permanence (from the second Looked After Review) and include arrangements for contact, the name of the Independent Conference and Reviewing Officer (ICRO), details of the health plan and Personal Education Plan and the arrangements to meet the child’s needs in line with the child’s developmental needs domain of the Assessment Framework. Please refer to full guidance on Care Plans for Looked After children, see Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure.

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