Child in Need Plans and Reviews
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter does not apply to children who are the subject of a child protection plan. Where the child is subject to a Child Protection Plan, this will be drawn up in outline at the initial child protection conference and in detail at the core group meeting(s). It will be reviewed by a child protection review conference. Please see the Gloucestershire Safeguarding Children Procedures in relation to the implementation of the Child Protection Plan.
For children who are in receipt of Short Breaks, see also the Short Breaks Procedure.
AMENDMENTIn October 2020, a link to the procedure for Placing and Visiting Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities or Health Conditions in Long-Term Residential Settings Procedure was added.
Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 imposes a general duty on Local Authorities to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of Children in their area who are 'in need' and to promote the upbringing of such children by their families by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children's needs. Other agencies have a duty to co-operate with Social Care in carrying out their duty to assess the needs of children and to provide services as necessary.
Children in Need have the universal needs of all children and more complex additional needs than those requiring an Early Help Assessment but they do not require child protection measures at this time. (See Threshold Document - Continuum of Help and Support Procedure).
In order to determine the needs of a child and the support that they and their family may require, a qualified Social Worker will carry out a Child and Family Assessment by a qualified Social Worker. The assessment will involve finding out and giving due regard to the child's wishes and feelings regarding the provision of those services (as age and understanding appropriate). The assessment will also involve talking to parents, other family members where relevant, and professionals involved in the child's life such as the health visitor or school.
Specialist Children's Services works with children in need and their families on the basis of consent. From the first referral those with parental responsibility should be informed of the referral and asked for consent to undertaking a child and family assessment. Parents agreement to any social work intervention or to services for their child is necessary. Young people of an age of understanding, particularly those aged 16 or over should be asked for their consent as well.
If parents refuse consent after the Social Worker has made sure that they have been given full information about the benefits of assessment and support, this refusal should be accepted and recorded. If it is considered that the child is likely to suffer significant harm without social work intervention, then assessment should be carried out under Section 47 in accordance with the procedures. Consent is then not required, but parents should be informed of the change of approach and the reasons for the concerns.
These procedures relate to children who meet the tier for intervention under section 17 of the Children Act 1989. To be eligible for a service children will meet the threshold as described in Threshold Document - Continuum of Help and Support Procedure).
Children who do not meet the threshold for Specialist Children's Services intervention but require more than universal services should be offered an early help assessment and support where required (see Early Help Framework Procedure).
Children in Need procedures are likely to be appropriate in the following situations:
- Where an Assessment has clearly identified that the threshold for a service is met and a Child In Need Plan of services or support is required in order to meet the identified needs and prevent escalation into a higher tier of intervention. Interventions should be time limited with the aim of reaching a point where services are no longer required or where a lower level of support through Early Help or universal services are safe and sufficient;
- In some cases the assessment will have established that a child has suffered, or is likely to have suffered, Significant Harm but it is judged that the child's carers have acknowledged the risk and are effectively working in partnership with the Local Authority to manage this risk to a degree that the child is not currently at risk of Significant Harm. In such circumstances professional judgment should be used to determine whether a Child in Need Plan will be sufficient to promote the child's welfare. This decision should be made by the relevant Team Manager in consultation, if unsure, with the Integrated Families Service Manager and any other relevant professionals, and ratified, where appropriate, at a Child In Need Planning Meeting. The rationale for this decision should be clearly recorded on ICS as a Manager's comment;
- Where a child is identified as being at risk of coming into care, plans must explicitly state what has been or what is being done to avoid the need for the child entering care services and consideration to holding an early placement planning meeting must be given;
- Where a child has been subject to a Child Protection Plan and work has been undertaken to reduce the level of risk sufficiently for the child to no longer require a Child Protection Plan. In these cases, the child will remain subject of a Child In Need plan for a minimum of three months. Any exceptions to this must be agreed in writing by an Assistant Director and clearly recorded on the child's case file;
- Where a child who has been Looked After by the Local Authority has returned home and is not subject to a Care Order or a Child Protection Plan;
- Where a child is presenting with significant risk taking behaviour and/or offending behaviour;
- Where a child may be presenting mental health difficulties, such as self harm or suicidal thoughts and requires a referral to Children and Young People's Mental Health Service;
- Where a child's education is significantly disrupted either by chronic non-school attendance or being subject to exclusion combined with other social factors to indicate complex needs.
The Children in Need procedures are also relevant when:
- Services are being provided to a child with a severe or profound disability or complex sensory needs where the following factors are indicated;
- Imminent risk of family breakdown;
- Sudden and catastrophic trauma resulting in need for urgent multi-agency input;
- Carers/parents capacity to parent impaired by health/mental health problems or substance misuse;
- Complex family needs impacting on the parent/carers' ability to care for the disabled child;
- Child Protection concerns;
- Where the child has regular overnight short breaks as part of their Child In Need plan away from the family home;
- Where the child has regular overnight short breaks as part of their Child In Need plan away from the family home;
- Where support and serviced are being provided to a child with a disability on a short term on longer term basis and there are no concerns about the parental capacity this can be provided through early help assessment, support and services as outlined in the Warwickshire judgement 2015.
2. Purpose and Principles
These procedures are intended to ensure that there are clear plans of intervention in place for those children receiving Specialist Children's Services involvement.
The principles and values that underpin these procedures are that:
- Social Workers should not be involved in the life of children and families unnecessarily;
- The approach to Child in Need work should always be informed by a determination to actively promote change. Child in need meetings should never be used simply as a way of monitoring without intervention. The work undertaken should be creative and innovative and informed by what is going to work best for this particular child in this particular family. There is no one size fits all;
- The welfare of the child should remain the focus at all times;
- Specialist Children's Services works with Children In Need and their families on the basis of consent. Parental agreement to any social work intervention or to services for their child is necessary. Young people of an age of understanding, particularly those aged 16 or over should be asked for their consent as well; Children with additional/complex needs are likely to benefit from support and practical help even if original concerns of a Child Protection nature are unsubstantiated. Indeed such intervention should be designed to prevent escalation of risk/need;
- A holistic approach must be adopted. The child's needs must always be seen in the context of their family and their community;
- The best outcomes for vulnerable children are achieved when constructive relationships exist between professionals and family members;
- It should be assumed that children, young people and their families and friends come with their own solutions and they must be empowered to assume as much control over their lives as possible;
- Social Workers will only be able to work effectively with children and families as required if they themselves are facilitated and enabled through the highest quality supervision and professional support;
- A decision to end Specialist Children's Services involvement with a child and their family should only be made at formal Child in Need meetings.
3. Administration Child in Need Meetings
The Child in Need Meeting should be chaired by a Social Worker.
A Team Manager should Chair the first Child in Need meeting following a child being “stepped down” from Child Protection. A Child In Need Plan will be made at the Child Protection Conference. A Child In Need Meeting should be held to review the progress of this plan within four weeks.
If a case is being considered for closure or being stepped down to Early Help Services, the Team Manager should review the case and record the rationale for agreeing the plan.
A Team Manager is required to chair all child in need meetings where the timescale for planning has exceeded a 6 month period from the initiation of the child in need process.
A member of the meeting will take minutes, record discussions and decisions and seek agreement regarding content from the Chairperson and a copy of the plan will be recorded on the child's social work record within 5 working days.
Minutes of Child In Need Meetings should be sent out to all parties within 10 working days.
4. Membership and Attendance
A Child In Need Meeting will include the people most able to contribute to an effective plan in order to promote change. It is likely that the members will consist of professionals already known to the family and the family and friends safety network.
Children and young people should be encouraged to attend part of or all of these meetings to share their thoughts and feelings. Should they not wish to attend or where there are specific reasons as to why it would not be appropriate, they should be supported by their Social Worker to share their thoughts and feelings in other ways (i.e. via an advocate/trusted adult etc.).
The Child/Young Person must be seen and spoken to alone by the allocated Social Worker prior to the meeting whether the child/young person will be attending the review or not, in order for their wishes, feelings and views to be sought, recorded and taken into consideration. If the child/young person does not agree to being seen on their own a report from another relevant professional should be sought.
The Child In Need Meeting Child Participation forms should be used to encourage and facilitate the child or young person's involvement.
In those circumstances when children do not attend their meetings it is important that the discussions and plans are shared with the child in a manner that is appropriate to their age and understanding. The most appropriate person to do that should be agreed within the meeting.
Where English is not the first language of one or more of the family members attending interpreting services must be offered and made available.
5. Timing and Venue
The Social Worker should ensure that an initial Child in Need Meeting is arranged as soon as the child is identified as in need of services under Section 17. This may be before the completion of the Assessment.
The family may require the provision of resources before the assessment is completed. These should be offered as soon as the need is recognised.
The Social Worker should consult with the child/young person and their family about the most convenient time for them to attend, and, where appropriate and feasible, provide options as to where the meeting could take place.
It is important that an appropriate venue suitable for the child and his or her family is used for the meeting. It will be the responsibility of the Chairperson to ensure that the meeting provides an environment that is designed and intended to be helpful and supportive and to build on strengths in the family rather than expose deficits. Consideration must be given to transport, timing and any child care issues. Where a child is attending a meeting and is of school age the meeting should be held outside of school time, wherever possible.
Where a parent or carer has been identified as having specific learning difficulties or mental health needs and other professional supports are not considered appropriate to advocate for them, they should be consulted about whether or not they would like to be supported by an independent advocate. In some cases a referral should be made to the Resources Panel to ensure the child/family has every opportunity to access support.
6. The Initial Child in Need Meeting
To ensure the best outcomes there needs to be a commitment from all agencies to attend the Child in Need Meeting, to come prepared to share information and to work to develop the most appropriate plan with the family which may include the provision of support and services. Information shared at the Child in Need Meeting will also inform the Child and Family Assessment.
The Social Worker will prepare a harm statement (reasons for the Child In Need meeting) and a draft danger statement, along with the existing strengths and protective factors and any complicating factors already in place to give reasons for the Child In Need meeting.
The Social Worker will prepare the child/young person and their family for the Child in Need Meeting and ensure that any completed assessments/statements have been shared with them at least 5 days before the Child in Need Meeting takes place, unless the meeting has been arranged at very short notice (e.g. in circumstances where a child is identified as being at risk of coming into care;).
The professional group and family and friend network will make a plan to make progress towards the identified safety goals and agree the final danger statement to ensure that everyone is clear about why professionals are worried and what everyone is responsible for doing to reduce risk.
Scaling questions should be used in order to explore the strengths and safety within the family network.
It will be important to be clear about any level of risk the child/young person may be exposed to. In some cases the information shared at the meeting may lead to a recommendation that Child Protection procedures are instigated as a means of best promoting the child's welfare.
A child's plan will be drawn up which will clearly specify:
- How often the child and family will be visited by professionals and the family safety network to support the plan moving forward (the Social Worker will visit no less than 20 working days);
- Where a disabled child in need to in receipt of regular overnight breaks away from the family home with child will be visited by their Social Worker as below;
- One visit per annum will be in the child's short breaks placement/s;
- Within the first seven placement days then within 3 months of the first placement day;
- Intervals of no less than six months after the first visit;
- Unannounced at least once a year if placements interval is more than six months;
- At least annually the child's sleeping arrangements will be seen;
- Expected timescales and planned trajectory of case closure;
- Contingency plans;
- The method of considering the progress of the plan using scaling to measure the effectiveness of support being offered and any improvements being made by the family;
- How often Child in Need meetings should be held (the Child in Need review meeting will take place within three months of the initial child in need meeting and then no less than three monthly, dependant on the level of concern). N.B. Children who have been identified as at some level of risk and/or needing a high level of support and services should be reviewed at a Child In Need meeting more often.
Any disagreements with the plan need to be recorded with reasons for disagreement. (The Social Worker must ensure that the child/young person and their family are informed about the Local Authority's Complaints Procedures and how to access them).
7. The Review Child in Need Meetings
The purpose of the review Child in Need Meeting is to ensure that the Child in Need Plan is progressing and will consider:
- The progress of the family plan against what was agreed needed to happen and whether the child/young person's needs are being met;
- Whether the level of support and services being offered by professionals and the family and friends network is making a positive difference to the family circumstance;
- Whether the desired timescales (trajectory) are being met and, if not, whether these need to be reconsidered;
- Whether all those involved need to continue to offer support services and share information (including the family and friends safety network);
- Whether or not the Child in Need Plan needs adjusting and, if so, how and who will be responsible for implementing any changes;
- Whether the agreed contingency plan remains appropriate;
- Whether the needs of the child and family warrant a Child in Need Plan or whether a decision should be made to close the case to Specialist Children's Services;
- When a child has an Education, Health and care plan (EHCP) or an assessment for an EHCP the identified needs, outcomes, support and services provided for a child in need should be shared with education for review;
- Where the needs and outcomes are linked with the child achieving their educational outcomes the relevant child in need support and services should be included in Section H of the EHCP;
- When a child has an education, health and care plan (EHCP) the child in need meeting should be held in conjunction with the annual review of this plan or sooner if an early review is called.
Where there have been or where there still remain, issues of a Child Protection nature, consideration will always need to be given to the level of need and whether or not Child Protection procedures would best meet that need.
For continuity, review Child in Need meetings should be chaired, wherever possible, by the same person who chaired the previous Child in Need Meeting in respect of the same child.
N.B. Decision to end Specialist Children's Services involvement should only be made at Child In Need meetings. Therefore if it is likely that a case will be closed, a Child In Need meeting should be convened early if necessary.
For those occasions when there is no longer a need for Specialist Children's Services intervention, formal letters of closure will be sent to all involved parties.
When the plan ends and the case is closed to Children's Services, the case summary and chronology of significant events, as well as all case recording, must be completed and up to date. The record should evaluate the success and impact of the Child in Need Plan, including the views of the child and parents on how helpful the social work intervention was to them. Child and parent views should be recorded within the closure summary.
If a child no longer needs a Child In Need Plan, consideration should be given as to whether further support is needed from Early Help Services. This should be discussed with the family and if they agree, the case will be taken to the weekly allocations meeting.
8. Children in Need who Move to Other Local Authority Areas
In all cases, where a child subject to a Child in Need Plan moves to a different locality within Gloucestershire, the allocated team manager must contact the new team manager and inform them that the family have moved/plan to move to their District, providing information relating to their involvement and any concerns held. The case should then be allocated to a Social Worker within the new district and a joint 'handover' visit be completed.
A transfer summary on ICS should be completed by the initial Social Worker prior to the family moving and the allocation of a new Social Worker (or within 5 working days of the family moving to a new district if the move is unplanned).
Children in Need who move to other Local Authority Areas
In all cases, where a child subject to a Child In Need Plan moves to a different Local Authority area, the allocated Social Worker must contact the Children's Social Care Department of that Local Authority (where this is known) and inform them (by way of a referral) that the family have moved into their area, providing information relating to our involvement and to any concerns held.