Child in Need Plans and Reviews
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
The aim of this guidance is to support social workers to develop thorough and relevant Child/Young Person's Plans, which are supported through robust and focused reviews. The Child/YP's Plan is not only a document which guides Social Work, but it is also a document that informs children/young people (YP) and their families of identified areas of risk, how this is to be managed and by who. The child or young person and parents/carers should be involved in the process of agreeing the Child/YP's Plan.
AMENDMENTThis chapter was updated in April 2019 when a new Section 8, Children in Need Moving to Another Authority - Principles was added to emphasise the importance of information sharing and communication between the respective local authorities to ensure appropriate services continue for the child and family and, where relevant, any risk of harm is recognised and identified with the receiving local authority.
If, following the completion of a Children's Social Care Assessment there is an identified need under Section 17 of the Children's Act 1989, there will be a requirement to hold a Child in Need Planning Meeting and, following this, further Child in Need Reviews to update the Child in Need Plan.
Although both the Review and the Plan are in relation to the child/YP's needs, and as such must be child focused, there is a requirement to consider the family as a whole when considering any services to offer. Like the Child's Social Care Assessment, the Child in Need Plan should focus on all aspects of the child/YP's life, taking into account any strengths within the family and network.
A child/YP should not remain within the social work arena under s.17 any longer than is necessary. The exception being for a Child with a Disability, whereby services may be required throughout childhood and beyond.
2. Arranging the Child in Need Planning Meeting
The Child in Need Planning Meeting will follow a Children's Social Care (CSC) Assessment. This assessment will have been completed within either the Assessment Team (following a new referral, a case that has been closed for more than 3 months, or a case that has been closed for less than 3 months but involves a new safeguarding concern) or within a Locality Team (for cases closed for less than 3 months and involves no additional safeguarding concerns).
The team that has completed the CSC Assessment and identified a need under Section 17 of the Children's Act 1989, will be responsible for initiating and co-ordinating the Child in Need Planning Meeting, and subsequently the first Child in Need Plan. The Child in Need Planning Meeting must be held within 15 days of the CSC Assessment being completed.
The responsible Social Worker should ensure that invites to the Child in Need Planning Meeting are issued to parent(s), child(ren), and any other family member or advocate that the family have identified. In addition, any professional/service that has been identified within the CSC Assessment as either involved with the family or required to support the family, should also be invited, as should the Social Worker (or a member of their team) that the case will be progressed by (for cases where the Child in Need Planning Meeting has been arranged by the Assessment Team). All invites sent should contain a distribution list.
Prior to the Child in Need Planning Meeting being held, the Social Worker should visit the family in order to explain the purpose of the meeting, and along with the family compile the initial Child in Need Plan, this will be finalised at the multi-agency Child in Need Planning Meeting.
If consent has not already been given by the family to share information with other agencies, this should be requested. If the family refuses to give consent, then thought should be given to either not going ahead with the Multi-Agency Child in Need Planning Meeting, or if the initial concerns in addition to refusal to give consent raise the concerns of professionals, then stepping up to Child Protection should be initiated.
See also: Step Up / Step Down Procedure.
Thought should be given to the location and time of the Child in Need Planning Meeting, with preference given to a venue close to the family home. If this is not possible the family, if they wish to attend, should provided with assistance to attend. If the child(ren) wish to attend then all efforts should be made for the Child in Need Planning Meeting to take place outside of school hours. In addition, thought should be given to any requirements that the family may have, such as disabled access, translator, etc.
3. Holding the Child in Need Planning Meeting
The Child in Need Planning Meeting should be chaired by the Social Worker who has completed the CSC Assessment. If the case is considered to be complex, then it is advisable that the meeting is chaired by the Social Worker's manager.
- All persons present should be introduced, so that the family know who is present, with a brief explanation as to their connection to the case;
- A register of attendee's should also be taken, including contact details;
- If apologies have been sent, these should be voiced also stating if a report has been submitted to be shared at the meeting.
Why are we here
- The social worker is to share the findings in the CSC Assessment that has led to a need under Section 17 of the Children's Act 1989;
- If parent(s) are comfortable to speak to the group, request that they share their understanding of the reason for the concern by services. If parent(s) are uncomfortable with this, the social worker should share information that will have been shared with them during the pre-meeting visit;
- The child should also be offered the opportunity to speak at the meeting. If the child is not present or does not wish to speak, then every effort should be made to convey any wishes or feeling that have already being expressed.
- What is working well? Although still very early in the process, there will be strengths within the family, along with any already implemented changes, however small;
- What are we worried about? What are the main concerns of the group, why are these concerns, what are the consequences of not addressing these?
- Are there any complicating factors? Such as addiction, mental health, isolation within the family.
What needs to happen?
This is formulating the Plan and should consist of the three following components. There are no minimum or maximum outcomes to be recorded, but thought should be given to not overwhelming the family.
What Outcome do we want to achieve?
Outcomes should be made following the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) process. Parent(s) need to be able to understand not only what the desired outcome is, but why this needs to be an outcome. Change is more likely to occur when the reason for change is explicit.
What actions do we need to take to achieve that outcome and why?
Actions may be tasked to the family as a path for achieving change, or they may be tasked to professionals to either be completed independently or in tandem with the family or other professionals. It is important that the family and professionals understand the action that they are been asked to complete, and why.
Who will do this and by when?
Be specific as to who is expected to complete an action, if there are a number of people responsible ensure that they are all named. Generally it will be clear as to who is best placed to complete an action, but on occasion this will not be the case, in such circumstances it is useful to request a volunteer as opposed to dictation. A volunteer will have a greater awareness of their individual capacity and capability. If no volunteer is present, then a personal request will need to be made. When considering the time scale for an action, this should reflect the urgency of the required change to prevent the need for Child Protection, the reality of achieving in the stated time scale, any other variables that may cause delay.
If there is Missing Risk associated with the child, then a Missing Person's Risk Assessment and Missing Person Action Plan must be completed (see Missing Children and Young People Procedure and Guidance).
Prior to the Child in Need Planning Meeting finishing, attendees should arrange a date for a Child in Need Review. Child in Need Reviews should be held at a minimum of 6 monthly.
The chair of the Child in Need Planning Meeting is responsible for completing the Child/Young Person's Plan and dispatching a copy of the completed Plan to all attendee's and also those persons who sent apologies.
4. Child in Need Visits
The frequency of visits to a Child in Need should initially be determined at the Child in Need Planning Meeting. As the case progresses, visiting requirements will be monitored and can be adjusted as necessary, either increasing or decreasing the frequency. In all cases the frequency of visits should be at least every 6 weeks.
Visits should be both announced visits and unannounced visits. The concept of unannounced visits should be explained to the family during the Child in Need Planning Meeting and should not come as a surprise or leave the family feeling that they are being tested in an underhand manner. In addition, the family should be informed that should they need to cancel an arranged visit, they are required to inform Children's Social Care giving the reason for the cancellation and to arrange a further visit. Where a visit has been arranged, Children's Social Care must make every effort to fulfil the visit, if in exceptional circumstances this cannot be achieved the family must be informed at the earliest opportunity, and a further visit arranged.
When a visit is made to the family home Children's Social Care must view the bathroom, kitchen and child's bedroom on at least a 3 monthly basis. The family should be made aware of this requirement at the Child in Need Planning Meeting.
A visit to a child can take place outside of the family home, but the child must be seen within the home environment at least 6 weekly. If seeing the child outside of the home, this should not impact on schooling, the reason for seeing the child outside of the home must be recorded on LiquidLogic.
Following a visit to a child/YP/family, this should be recorded on LiquidLogic at the earliest opportunity. Recording should state clearly whether the child/YP was seen or not, and whether the child/YP was seen alone or not. If the child/YP has not been seen, or not been seen alone the recording should include the reason for this, and in the case of not been seen alone, who else was present.
The recording should also stipulate whether this was an announced or unannounced visit. If an announced visit is unsuccessful, this should be recorded as a Case Note and also added to the child's chronology.
5. Child in Need Review
A Child in Need Review must be held at 6 monthly intervals, or sooner if it is identified that a case is ready to be Stepped Down (see Step Up / Step Down Procedure) or closed, in which case ratification would be sought through the Child in Need Review.
The Child in Need Review will be chaired by the Team Manager. The Social Worker must ensure that consultation forms are sent out to all participants including parents and child/young person, prior to the meeting taking place. Parents and children/YP's views should be sought by the social worker prior to the review in addition to a consultation form being sent. All consultation forms should be available to the Team Manager in advance of the review.
The Child in Need Review will follow the same format as the Child in Need Planning Meeting. This meeting should offer an accumulation and analysis of the last 6 months, and documented in the Social Worker's Report to Review, which should be distributed at the Child in Need Review along with the Child/YP's Plan.
If progress has been achieved on the Child/YP's Plan, this should be recognised and a discussion held as to whether such changes are sustainable or if continued resource needs to be available to the family. If an identified risk was in relation to a third party, is the individual still involved with the family? If not, what were the circumstances of their abstraction? Have lessons being learnt?
If progress has not been achieved on the Child/YP's Plan, or change is not occurring at the necessary pace then discussion should be held as to the viability of the Plan. Can steps be smaller? Is a different approach required? What are the barriers to change?
Following discussion the outcome of the Child in Need Review will be one of the following:
- That the child is no longer a Child in Need, and does not require continuing Children's Social Care intervention. Recommendation will be either to close the case or for the case to be stepped down to Targeted Early Help Services;
- That the child continues to be a Child in Need, requiring continued intervention from Children's Social Care;
- That the level of risk has escalated to a level that may require Child Protection or Looked After status.
The Team Manager is required to document any decision made on LiquidLogic.
If the case is to remain an open case to Children's Social Care, then a further Child in Need Review needs be booked for 6 months. If the case has been open for a year or more, then the Social Worker is required to book a place on the Child in Need Panel. The exception to this, is where a Child is in receipt of services due purely to a having a registered disability.
6. Child in Need Panel
The Child in Need Panel is held weekly and consists of the Group Manager for the specific service area and also a Group Manager from Targeted Early Help services. Cases should be presented to the Child in Need Panel, where the case will be examined to determine the effectiveness of the service offered, any additional services that may be required, and indeed whether unnecessary caution is been taken in keeping the case open.
Panel will be attended by the allocated Social Worker who will provide a copy of the Child/YP's Children's Social Care Assessment and Plan, accompanied by their Team Manager.
Any decision formed at the Child in Need Panel must be recorded on LiquidLogic by the Group Manager. The Social Worker must ensure that any decision made is shared with the family at the earliest opportunity. In addition all Child in Need Review members should be informed.
7. Children in Need Moving to Another Local Authority - Principles
This section deals with children who are subject to Children in Need Plans and who move to another local authority. The principles apply to local authorities in the circumstances of both transferring out and receiving in Children in Need.
In a number of situations, a move by children and their families to another local authority may be a positive option. However, and particularly where children and their families have moved on more than one occasion in a short space of time or at short notice, any assessment should consider whether the child is subject to trafficking or modern slavery.
- When a Child in Need moves from one local authority area to another, the Children Act 1989 is clear that the responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the child lies with the local authority where the child is to be found;
- Given the child has already been identified as having particular needs or is vulnerable in some way, or urgent consideration/assessment should be given as to the impact of the move for the child in respect of their vulnerability, for example, through changes in the protective factors, increased risk with known perpetrators or whether they might be subject to trafficking or modern slavery;
- Given the circumstances, and in line with the above, a timely response should be made with regard to levels of assessed risk;
- The parent/carer should be made aware of their responsibility to ensure the child receives appropriate education and health support in the area they plan to move to, together with any other specialist service required for the child;
- The social worker should assist and promote the family accessing relevant and appropriate services with regard to meeting the child's needs. Any deficits in services to meet specific needs by the receiving local authority should be noted;
- The local authority Children's Social Care Services where the child and family are moving to should be formally notified and all relevant information should be shared:
- Social work assessment;
- Child in Need Plan;
- Minutes of latest Child in Need Review;
- A summary/case report.
- Parent/carer's permission should be sought to share this information with the receiving local authority in line with Information sharing advice for safeguarding practitioners (GOV.UK).
However, the Data Protection Act should never be a barrier to 'sharing information where the failure to do so would result in a child or vulnerable adult being placed at risk of harm' or indeed on those occasions where seeking consent might increase the risk of harm.
Otherwise, the social worker or team manager, should consider seeking advice from their Caldicott Guardian or their Legal Services;
- The social worker should ensure that other agencies involved in the Child in Need Plan are made aware and prepared to ensure that their relevant information is shared as soon as possible with their respective counterparts in the area the family have moved to, (for example school and GP records, etc.);
- The social workers and team managers of the respective authorities should ensure there is clear and good communication during any transition and any risks are clearly communicated and understood.
Where possible, the social worker should seek to meet their counterpart and where geography allows, to consider a joint visit and attendance at the Child in Need Meeting, so that the issues can be fully shared. The process should reflect the family's needs and any associated risks;
- Where there is dispute about case responsibility; delay in the receiving local authority accepting responsibility of the case, or a dispute about Children in Need thresholds, the team manager should promptly notify the Service Manager who should make a decision regarding next steps, including, where necessary, to take legal advice;
- The family should be kept informed of any respective responsibilities during a transition stage and when the receiving local authority, (where the family reside), take full responsibilities;
- Receiving local authorities should seek to convene a Child in Need Meeting within 20 working days of the family being resident in their area and include all relevant agencies and, where possible, the social worker and other specialist staff where the child and family have moved from;
- All actions, decisions and arrangements should be fully recorded on the child's case record during this process. This should include management decisions, which should identify the rationale for any decisions made, especially where specific services cannot be provided and/or it is considered the child is no longer a Child in Need.
8. Case Closure
Children's Social Care can close a Child in Need case in either of the following circumstances:
- Closure has been endorsed at the Child in Need Review meeting;
- Closure has been agreed following attendance at the Child in Need Panel.
When closure takes place through the Panel process, the social worker will notify all Child in Need Review members, the child/YP (if appropriate), and other relevant family members.
A closure letter should not come as a surprise to any of those involved, appropriate discussion and, if necessary, preparation must have already taken place. The formal closure letter must always point out to the service user how to contact the service again if required, and also provide details of other appropriate support agencies.
Whenever a Child in Need case is closed, consideration should be given to whether the child/YP/family will continue to need support from Early Help services as part of a Step Down (see Step Up / Step Down Procedure) process.
Not all children who have received help and support from Children's Social Care will need to access Targeted Early Help support once safeguarding concerns have been addressed, in this situation children's social care will close the case with appropriate signposting to universal support or with consent from the child/YP or family make a referral into a specific targeted or specialist service as appropriate.
If the family do not consent to any ongoing support and safeguarding concerns have been addressed children's social care will close the case. The family will be signposted to appropriate universal services, and it will be the family who will decide whether or not they utilise these services.
The Social Worker must complete the Case Closure on LiquidLogic.