Multi Agency Guidance for Working with Children in Need
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This guidance is for members of the multi agency Care Team working with children assessed by Doncaster Children’s Services Trust as being In Need under S17 Children Act 1989. Children in Need and their families will require support from a number of agencies in order to meet the child’s needs and support the family. Although the Children’s Services Trust will be the lead agency providing services to Children in Need, good outcomes can only be achieved through multi-agency co-operation and partnership working between all agencies working with the child and their family
In February 2020, Section 4, The Role of Social Work Team Managers was updated to explain the steps to be taken when a family withdraws consent to work with Child in Need Services.
1. Working with Children in Need – Introduction
The Children Act 1989 places a duty on local authorities to “Safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need and, so far as is consistent with their welfare, promote the upbringing of children by their families by providing a range and level of services to meet their needs”. In Doncaster this responsibility is delegated to Doncaster Children’s Services Trust.
In the event a professional working with the child and family has concerns for a child based on the Multi Agency Levels of Need a referral should be made to Doncaster Children’s Services Trust using the online referral form.
2. The Assessment of Children in Need
If it is agreed that the child is a ‘Child in Need’ as defined by the Children Act 1989, the referral will be accepted and transferred to the appropriate locality service within Doncaster Children's Services Trust, or to the Children with Disabilities Team for a Children and Families Assessment:
- A child who is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or have opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision of services by a local authority;
- A child whose health or development is likely to be significantly impaired or further impaired, without the provision of services; or
- A child who has a substantial and permanent disability.
3. The Role of Social Workers
Some cases that are referred may not be considered to meet the threshold for a Child in Need intervention but may be require either a new or a further episode of Early Help support. The decision to follow the ‘Early Help’ pathway could be made either before or after the completion of a Children and Families Assessment (CAFA). If the decision is made to complete a Children and Families Assessment, the allocated worker / team manager will:
- Follow the procedure to complete a ‘Children and Families Assessment’ this assessment will be completed no later than 45 days from the date of the referral;
- Ensure within 24 hours of allocation, there is a plan of work / safety plan on the child’s file;
- Contact all agencies who have been or are currently in contact with the family to gather historical and current information; including any previous assessments and plans which will then be used to inform the assessment, analysis and plan for the child / family;
- Speak to all family members including absent parents to gather historical information and understand the family dynamics;
- Speak to children alone using appropriate direct work materials where possible (where there is a communication barrier, alternative methods of communication should be used);
- Upon completion of the CAFA determine the pathway of the case (i.e. step up/down or remain open at CIN level);
- If the child is to be subject to a CIN plan, the worker will convene and chair CIN planning and review meetings at 4 weekly intervals and coordinate with other planning and review processes that may already be in place for example Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) to prevent duplication;
- Identify the most appropriate members of the Care Team and ensure they are invited to attend CIN planning meetings and actively engage in the development, review and implementation of the CIN plan;
- Ensure all agencies contacted for information are aware of the outcome of the assessment whether they are to be part of the Care Team or not;
- Maintain regular contact with the Care Team to ensure good communication and effective and appropriate information sharing;
- See the child at a minimum of every 20 days or at a frequency agreed within the plan and their views obtained. If at the 20 day point a visit is failed, this must be completed within 72 hours and recorded on the child’s file within 24 hours;
- Ensure visits to the child and the family are purposeful and linked to the CIN plan;
- Update the Children and Families Assessment as and when appropriate.
4. The Role of Social Work Team Managers
In order to ensure a high standard of social work practice and multi-agency working, the Team Manager should:
- Provide an appropriate level of high standard professional oversight to the case, including supervision;
- Keep informed of all developments in the case, including difficulties in implementing the CIN plan;
- For any CIN case which remains open for 6 months, the Social Work Team Manager will chair the next Review Meeting in order to provide management direction to the case;
- Authorise decisions on case closure and step down;
- If a family withdraws consent and declines to engage in Child in Need services, they are within their rights to do so. However the Team Manager, in conjunction with the social worker, should consider what the reasons are for this. Professional curiosity needs to be exercised to determine whether the withdrawal of consent increases the risk to the children and, if so, consideration needs to be given to whether the case should be escalated to Section 47/child protection level;
- Legally the case cannot continue at Child in Need level once consent has been withdrawn. Where the social worker and their manager determine that risk is, or may be increased through withdrawal of consent to Child in Need services, a multi–agency strategy meeting should be called to examine the risks to the children with a view to making a decision regarding whether the case remains open and Section 47 enquiries are pursued;
- The process will only apply to families where withdrawal of consent leads to an increase in risk to children.
5. The Role of The Care Team
To ensure a high standard of co-operation, partnership working and integrated service delivery, professionals in the child’s Care Team should:
- Contribute to the Children and Families Assessment and updates of the assessment as required by the social worker;
- Work with the child and family to implement the CIN plan;
- Attend CIN Reviews and take part in decision making for the child;
- Share information in a lawful and appropriate way and keep the social worker informed of developments;
- In the case of any increase in concerns or levels of risk, contribute to the development of a safety plan (see Section 8, Safety Plans);
- Contribute to any decision to step down the Child In Need plan when the aims of the plan have been achieved or to escalate / step up the plan if concerns about the child increase.
6. Child in Need Planning Meetings
A Child in Need planning meeting will be convened within 15 days of the CAFA being completed and all agencies identified as being essential to be effective members of the Care Team will be expected to attend.
The Child in Need planning meeting will take place at a venue appropriate to the needs of the child and their family who will be expected to be fully involved in the process.
The Child in Need planning meeting will be chaired by the social worker or the social work team manager. A minute taker will be identified at the start of the meeting. The chair of the meeting will facilitate introductions and make note of attendees and apologies.
In the unexpected event a member of the Care Team is not available to attend the CIN planning meeting, a written update will be provided to the key social worker at least 2 working days in advance of the meeting.
At the first CIN Planning meeting the Social Worker will be invited to provide an overview of the case and explain what has been agreed with the family needs to happen to help reduce the concerns for the child / family.
The child/family and all members of the Care Team will be invited to contribute to the discussion and a SMART plan will be formulated.
7. The Child in Need (CIN) Plan
A Child in Need Plan is a multi-agency plan that will be developed no later than 15 days following completion of the CAFA in the following circumstances:
- Whenever a social worker has completed a Children and Families Assessment that identifies the child as being in need under s17 of the Children Act 1989 and where a coordinated response from more than one agency is needed in order for the child's needs to be met;
- As part of ‘step down support’ following the decision to remove a child from a Child Protection plan at a Review Child Protection Conference where it is identified that the child, whilst no longer suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, is in need of multi-agency support to safeguard and promote their welfare;
- As part of ‘step down support’ following the decision at a Looked after Child Review that a child is no longer to be Looked After but it is determined that the child is in need of multi-agency support to safeguard and promote their welfare;
- When a child who has been looked after under s20 Children Act 1989 for more than 20 days ceases to be looked after;
- Following a specialist social work assessment ordered by the court in private law proceedings such as a Section 7 or Section 37 welfare report when such work identifies that a child is in need of multi-agency support to safeguard and promote their welfare;
- From a Final Care Plan for a Section 31 Supervision Order, or a Family Assistance Order or where support is required to a child subject to a Special Guardianship Order.
The Child in Need plan must:
- Have SMART outcome focused objectives delegated to named individuals;
- Identify the lead professional and other members of the Care Team;
- Clearly state how frequently the child will be visited by the social worker (at a minimum of every 20 working days);
- Specifically relate to the needs identified by the CAFA; and
- Be contributed to by the child, the family and all members of the Care Team.
The Chair of the Child in Need planning meeting (usually the social worker or their manager) is responsible for the distribution of the Child in Need Plan. A copy of the Child in Need plan and minutes of the meeting should be provided to the parents, child (if old enough) and the agencies or other professionals involved in the provision of services under the plan within one week of completion along with a copy of the minutes of the meeting.
The social worker will be responsible for overseeing implementation of the Child in Need plan; however workers from individual agencies are responsible for ensuring that any agreed actions to be delivered by their agency are progressed.
Where it becomes necessary to make minor adjustments to the plan and services provided, these must be made in consultation with the parents and the child (where appropriate) and the Care Team.
Most Child in Need plans will envisage that the Children’s Services Trust intervention will end within 6 months. Exceptions to this include, children subject to Supervision Orders, homeless 16 and 17 year olds, 16 and 17 year olds living independently, young offenders and young carers (where needs are not met by alternative services) and children with disabilities.
8. Safety Plans
If, while working with a Child in Need, information is received in relation to additional safeguarding concerns and a decision is made to convene an Initial Child Protection Conference, the social worker will develop a Safety Plan with the safety network (family, friends and the Care Team involved with the family). The purpose of the Safety Plan is to identify the immediate measures that all parties will take to ensure the safety of the children until such a time as a Child Protection Plan or other protective measures (for example an application to court) can be actioned.
9. Family Group Conference (FGC)
Family Group Conferences are an important way to reduce need by helping families to develop their own solutions to the difficulties they are facing.
The Family Group Conference is a meeting in which the child’s family and wider family network are brought together to discuss concerns and plan how the child will be supported. This can be used to create a Safety Network and help the family with longer term Safety Planning.
The social worker and the Care Team should consider whether it would be appropriate to make a referral to the Doncaster Children's Services Trust FGC Team when working with Children in Need. See also Doncaster Children’s Services Trust Procedures Manual, Family Group Conference Procedure.
10. Child in Need Statutory Visits
All children who are subject to a Child in Need plan must be visited by their social worker at least once every 20 working days but should be visited and seen more frequently if indicated in the CIN plan or as agreed by managers in the Children’s Services Trust.
Visits should be a combination of announced and unannounced visits. If a social worker undertakes a visit and is unable to see the child, this should not be recorded as a CIN Statutory Visit. Instead, it should be recorded as a “case contact” and the statutory visit completed within 72 hours.
Where the Care Team agree that the level of need is such that visits can be undertaken on a monthly basis, the current level of need should be reviewed to determine if the case still warrants a CIN Plan or whether it can be stepped down to a Team Around the Child (TAC).
11. Multi Agency Review of Child in Need Plans
Regular review of a Child in Need Plan enables the Care Team to come together with the family in order to discuss any changes in circumstance and to review progress whether the actions being taken to support the family are resulting in improved outcomes for the child as identified within the plan. CIN planning meetings must:
- Take place 4 weekly;
- Be attended by the family and where appropriate the child;
- Be attended by all members of the Care Team;
- Review progress of the CIN plan;
- Consider ‘step up/step down’; and
- Update the SMART plan.
If any CIN case remains open for 6 months, the Social Work Team Manager will chair the next Review Meeting in order to provide management direction to the case.
All decisions made at the Child in Need Review made should be recorded on the child’s children’s social care electronic record. A copy of the record/minutes will be sent to the child (if old enough), parent and all other participants in the Review process within 1 week of the review meeting. Copies of the record / minutes should be noted in the child’s file.
12. “Stepping Down/Stepping Up”
Stepping down from a Child Protection Plan to a CIN plan
If the child has been subject to a Child Protection (CP) plan and agreement has been reached with the review conference that the child no longer meets threshold for CP intervention, but is still assessed as a Child in Need; a CIN meeting must be convened within 15 working days of the RCPC and a SMART CIN plan agreed with the family and the Care Team (as described above). It is expected that if a case is stepped down to CIN following a period of CP, the case will remain open for a period of 3 months unless there is an updated assessment to evidence reasons for early closure.
Stepping down from a CIN plan to a TAC
The transfer of a case from Child in Need (CIN) to Early Help should happen when the team manager and social worker, after consultation with the Care Team, and the family, are satisfied that the case no longer meets the threshold for specialist services intervention (level 4), but does meet the threshold for Early Help (level 2/3).
After discussion and agreement with the team manager, the social worker must meet with the child / young person and family to explain the TAC process and seek their consent before the transfer can take place.
If the case is assessed as reaching the threshold for Early help, and informed consent has been obtained, the social worker will arrange a final CIN Review meeting within 15 working days which will also effectively become the first TAC meeting. The family, Care Team and social worker will attend the meeting. The procedure to “step down” the case to Early Help can now be followed. Please refer to Early Help Practice Handbook.
When the case has been stepped down to Early Help, the social worker will update their electronic records and note the Child in Need involvement has ended.
Stepping Up – If the multi-agency Care Team has concerns that the level of risk has escalated at any point during the life of the child, the matter may need to be stepped up to appropriate child protection or looked after status. The social worker should discuss their concerns with their team manager, and agree the next steps.
13. 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 area. The principles apply to local authorities / Children’s Trusts 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 area can be positive option. However, where moves appear unplanned, or children and their families have moved on more than one occasion in a short space of time, 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 as being vulnerable in some way, 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.
- 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.
Appendix 1: Involving General Practitioners (GPs)
GP’s and their practice teams are not a statutory child protection agency and as such are not responsible for investigating child abuse and neglect. GPs do however have a responsibility for raising concerns, sharing information and working together with other services and agencies to contribute to the Early Help, Child Protection and Child in Need processes.
GP services have a duty under Section 11 Children Act 2004 to ensure that the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children is considered throughout their journey of care and beyond. Section 10 of the same Act places a responsibility on GP services to effectively cooperate with the local authority / Children’s Services Trust in discharging their duty to protect all children from harm.
Once a decision is made that a child is In Need, Doncaster Children’s Services Trust will engage with the child’s GP as follows:
- The social worker will contact the family (or child depending on their age and level of understanding) to obtain and clarify the GP details for the child, family and significant others. It is important that the GP details of all those that are significant within the child’s life are sought, this may involve a number of GP practices;
- The social worker will then send a standard letter to each GP service that has been put forward by the child and family. This letter will inform the GP that the child has been assessed as In Need. Copies of the consent to information sharing forms which the parents / carers signed at the start of the assessment process should be included with the letter;
- The GP letter includes a return slip; this slip should be used by the GPs to acknowledge receipt of the letter and make an initial indication as to whether they have any information which may be relevant. The GP should return the completed acknowledgement slip to the social worker. The GP is not expected to offer specific information on the return letter and but should await further contact from the social worker. If the GP feels there is significant information to be shared that is seen to impact on the safety and wellbeing of the child, they should be proactive and make immediate contact with the allocated social worker or their Team manager;
- If the return slip sent by the GP indicates that the GP does hold relevant information in respect of the child or family members, the social worker will initiate telephone communication with the most appropriate person given by the GP on the completed slip;
- Regardless of whether the GP holds any information at the time of notification, the social worker will ensure a copy of the completed Children and Families Assessment and Child in Need Plan is sent to the GP with whom the child is registered;
- The social worker is responsible for coordinating the Children and Families Assessment and Child in Need (CIN) meetings and will send an invitation to attend or contribute to any CIN meetings taking place. The GP has a responsibility to cooperate with the Children and Families Assessment and CIN process, and will be expected to ensure that all relevant information is shared at all stages of professional intervention and involvement;
- Regardless of whether the GP holds any information at the time of the CIN meeting, the social worker will ensure a copy of the meeting minutes are sent to the GP with whom the child is registered.
For more information please see: Notifying GPs where a Child is the Subject of an Early Help Assessment (EHA), Team around the Family (TAF), or Child in Need (CIN).