3.6 Implementing the Child Protection Plan, Core Group and Lead Social Worker
In September 2014 a number of amendments were made in Section 3, Formulation of Child Protection Plan.
- Core Group
- Formulation of Child Protection Plan
- Lead Social Worker Role
- Children's Services Team Manager Role
- Further Assessment
- Professional Disagreement about Implementation of a Child Protection Plan
- Possible Injuries of Health Concerns to Children who are Subject to a Child Protection Plan
- Unallocated Child Protection Cases
- Death of a Child Subject to a Child Protection Plan
The Integrated Children's System provides for the use of a 'child's plan' for all Children in Need who are not being looked after or leaving care. Children's Services is responsible for ensuring these plans are developed and implemented.
A child's plan should identify how the following will be addressed:
- Identified developmental needs of the child;
- Attributes which impact on the parents' / carers' capacities to respond to the child's needs;
- Wider family and environmental factors which may have an impact on the child and family.
The plan should be specific about the actions to be taken, identifying who is responsible for them, services / resources required, planned outcomes and agreed time-scales.
An initial child's plan or a child's plan should be developed for those children in need where
- An Assessment has identified the need for agency service provision;
- A Child Protection Conference has decided not to implement a (or to discontinue the) Child Protection Plan, but recommends that further support or intervention is provided.
Refer to the Children's Services Child in Need and Looked After Children procedures for information on initial and child's plans for those children in need who are not subject to a Child Protection Plan.
When a Child Protection Conference has been held and an outline Child Protection Plan agreed for a child, a Child Protection Plan must be implemented, see Section 3, Formulation of Child Protection Plan.
A Lead Social Worker (see Section 4, Lead Social Worker Roles) from Children's Services is appointed to co-ordinate and lead all aspects of the Child Protection Plan and the forum to undertake this co-ordinated multi-agency work is the Core Group.
Family Group Conferences (FGCs) must be used both as part of a Child in Need Plan and as part of a Child Protection Plan and must be considered at every initial conference (see Family Group Conferences (FGCS) Procedure).
The multi-agency Core Group chaired by a Team Manager (whose membership will have been identified at the Child Protection Conference) is responsible for the formulation and implementation of the detailed Child Protection Plan, previously outlined at the Conference.
All members of the Core Group are jointly responsible for:
- Collecting information to assist the Lead Social Worker in compiling and completing the Assessment;
- Formulation and implementation of the Child Protection Plan as a detailed working tool;
- Monitoring progress of the plan against specified objectives;
- Making recommendations to subsequent Review Conferences about the need for and content of any future protection plans;
- Identifying possible further assessments that are required, and referring to locally available services, and/or to management within partnership agencies for consideration of the core group’s suggestion. Each agency is responsible for taking requests back to their own agency for consideration.
If any member of the Core Group is aware of difficulties implementing the protection plan due to changed or unforeseen circumstances, the Lead Social Worker must be informed immediately and consideration given to recalling the Core Group meeting to re-consider the protection plan.
Circumstances, about which the Lead Social Worker should be informed, include inability to gain access (for whatever reasons) to a child subject to a Child Protection Plan.
If the difficulty in implementing the plan impacts on the child's safety the Lead Social Worker and all Core Group members should consider:
- A Section 47 Enquiry (if criteria are met due to a new incident or changed circumstances; -and / or
- Bringing forward the Review Child Protection Conference; and / or
- Immediate legal action.
If members are concerned that there are difficulties implementing the protection plan arising from disagreement amongst professional agencies or a Core Group member not carrying out agreed responsibilities this must be addressed by:
- Firstly, discussion with Core Group members;
- Secondly, if required, refer to the Principal Officer who is the Chair of the Conference.
See Section 8, Profession Disagreement for additional procedures to be followed for professional disagreement about implementation of a Child Protection Plan.
"Where a parent is excluded from participating in a Core Group Meeting, the social worker must take responsibility for enabling the that parent to contribute and should advise the parent that (s)he can make a written submission to the Core Group meeting."
Membership of the Core Group will have been identified at the Child Protection Conference.
The Lead Social Worker's Team Manager must chair the first Core Group and subsequent meetings will be chaired by the Lead Social Worker.
Membership will include parents / carers, child (if appropriate) and other relevant family members.
Professionals and foster carers in direct regular contact with the child should also be included.
The date of the first Core Group meeting must be within ten working days of the Initial Conference and the date arranged at the end of the Initial Conference. The Conference should provide an indication of the required frequency of subsequent meetings.
Good practice would be for subsequent Core Group meetings to be held at least every six weeks. More regular meetings may be required according to the needs of the child.
Review conferences must set the date of the next Core Group meeting and subsequent required timescales.
Working Together 2013 states that:
The overall aim of the Child Protection Plan is to:
- Ensure the child is safe and prevent her / him from suffering further significant harm;
- Promote the child's health and development i.e. her / his welfare; and
- Provided it is in the best interests of the child, to support the family and wider family members to safeguard and promote the welfare of their child.
Parents must be enabled to understand:
- Causes for concern which resulted in the decision to formulate a Child Protection Plan;
- What needs to change in the future; and
- What is expected of them as part of the plan for safeguarding the child.
All parties must be clear about the respective roles and responsibilities of family members and different agencies in implementing the plan.
The Core Group will, as described above, regularly review and when necessary modify the child's protection plan which will constitute an agenda item at each Review Conference.
The Child Protection Plan should be used to clarify expectations and assist in joint working towards shared goals. It can also be used as evidence, in any legal proceedings of the efforts made to work in partnership (this must be made clear to parents).
Outline Child Protection Plan
An outline plan, for each child, must be drawn up at Initial and Review Conferences, following any decision that a child should become or remain the subject of a Child Protection Plan, see Child Protection Conferences Procedure.
The aim of the outline plan is to assist the Core Group to form a clearer focus of work with the family and to explicitly define individual professional responsibilities.
Child Protection Plan
Most Child Protection Plans will be finalised in the Safeguarding Locality and Family Support or Disabled Children’s Teams. Team Managers will ensure that any Child Protection Plan effectively addresses the risks identified at the Initial Child Protection Conference and subsequent Review Conferences. There should be no reduction in service level or significant change to the plan without Child Protection Conference approval.
The plan should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (SMART) and cover:
- The domains of the Assessment;
- Specific and achievable services or actions, including urgent actions designed to respond to the identified needs and risks;
- Start date, frequency and length of each input;
- Person / agency responsible for all actions, including family members;
- Roles and responsibilities of professionals in routine contact with family, including specialist resources. If involvement of the Family Safeguarding Service has not yet happened consultation by the social work team with one of the FSS Managers should occur before FSS are included in the Child Protection Plan;
- Explicit description of the nature (i.e. frequency, location, presence of parents) of contact with the child and parents / carers of each Core Group member;
- Planned outcomes of each intervention within specified timescales, including required progress to be achieved and how and when this will be judged;
- References to Operation Protector;
- Convening a Family Group Conference as soon as possible;
- Frequency of reviews of the plan and the date of the next Core Group meeting.
Planned interventions should additionally address:
- Ethnic / cultural / religious considerations - e.g. necessity for an interpreter, avoidance of appointments with family on significant religious festivals;
- Issues arising from any disability;
- Identification of risks to the child and means of protection;
- Identification of parenting strengths (consider all parents / carers);
- Identification of what needs to change to reduce the likelihood of the child suffering significant harm;
- Identification of actions to promote the child's health and development and actions to support the family and wider family members in promoting the welfare of the child;
- Identification of any further Core and/or specialist assessments;
- Establishment of specific short and long term aims and objectives, with clear time scales;
- Identification of measurements for success (how will the family and professionals know there has been change?)
- Method of monitoring and evaluating progress, including identifying professional(s) responsible;
- Consideration of a contingency plan if circumstances change quickly, or if insufficient change occurs.
Where there appears to be a proposed commitment of significant resources in a Child Protection Plan or where there is inter-agency dispute about how, or by whom, a Child Protection Plan should be delivered; issues should be escalated by the child’s social worker to the relevant Group Manager, Specialist and Safeguarding Services, in a timely way.
If the plan's contents have not been discussed with any of the parties / agencies concerned, the reasons must be stated on the plan.
Any dissent about the plan, by family or professionals, must be recorded, with reasons.
The Child Protection Plan should be recorded on ICS by the child’s social worker and shared in writing at the first core group with the relevant professionals.
Agreeing the Plan with the Child
The Plan must consider the wishes and feelings of the child. The social worker must explain it to her/him (in accordance with age and development), using an interpreter if required.
The social worker should give the child a copy of the Plan written at a level appropriate to her/his understanding and in her/his preferred language and (s)he should be provided with the opportunity to record her/his comments, including areas of disagreement. If the child wishes to have a copy of the Written Agreement (with the parent/carer) consideration should be given to him/her having an amended copy of it. Such options will be discussed with NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service), Hertfordshire County Council’s commissioned advocacy service.
Agreeing the Plan with the Parent / Carer
The Plan must consider the views of the parents, insofar as they are consistent with the child's welfare. If family preferences are not accepted about how best to safeguard the child, the reasons should be explained.
Family members should be clear about the evidence of significant harm, what needs to change and what is expected of them and professionals as part of the plan. The results of non - compliance with the plan should be made clear.(see Non Compliance by Parents or Carers Procedure)
The family should be given a copy of the Plan and a separate Written Agreement, where appropriate this should be in their preferred language. Signed copies of the documents should be kept on file.
The family must be told about its right to complain and the procedure for so doing.
Circulation of Child Protection Plan to Core Group
The Lead Social Worker must record the Child Protection Plan and circulate it to all Core Group members, Conference Chair and Practice Manager at the first Core Group Meeting.
Use of Written Agreement
As soon as a child is subject of a Child Protection Plan, the allocated social worker should draw up CS0288F1a Child Protection Agreement of Work to Safeguard Children by the first Core Group.
The Core Group should agree the content and members should all sign, and take a copy from the meeting.
If a member of the Core Group is not present then a copy should be sent to him/her.
The signed agreement will be attached in the appropriate folder on LiveLink.
Subsequent Core Groups may change the content of the Agreement, but not the content of the Child Protection Plan, as only the Child Protection Review conference is able to do this.
The social worker should report on the progress of the Agreement in reports to Child Protection Review Conferences
Agency and Professional Responsibility
All agencies are responsible for the implementation of the Child Protection Plan and all professionals must ensure they are able to deliver their commitments, or if not possible, that these are re-negotiated.
At every Initial or pre-birth Conference, where a decision is made that a child should be the subject of a Child Protection Plan, the conference record will identify the Lead Social Worker, an experienced and qualified social worker. This section includes information on statutory visits.
Note: The lead social worker should see the child, alone when appropriate, in accordance with the CP plan
The Lead Social Worker should:
- Convene and chair second and subsequent Core Group meetings;
- Ensure the outline plan is developed, in conjunction with Core Group members into a detailed multi-agency protection plan;
- Clearly note and include in the written record any areas of disagreement;
- Ensure Core Group members, child (where appropriate) and family have the opportunity to sign the protection plan and that it is copied and circulated to all signatories and maintained on the child's social care record;
- Attend MAPPA and LRMP meetings as required and contribute to assessment and plan;
- Obtain a full understanding of the family history (which must involve reading Children's Services records, including those relating to other children who have been part of any households including the current carers of the child - additional information should be obtained from relevant other agencies and local authorities);
- Complete the Assessment of the child and family (if not previously completed), securing contributions / information from Core Group members and any other agencies with relevant information;
- Co-ordinate the contribution of family members and all agencies in putting the plan into action and reviewing the objectives stated in the plan;
- Ensure the child(ren) are seen at least every ten working days by the Lead Social Worker or by another professional member of the Core Group;
- Ensure the child(ren) are seen at least every four weeks by the Lead Social Worker;
- Ensure that the Lead Social Worker her/himself sees the child at home at every visit and/or in accordance with the requirements of the Child Protection Plan;
- Ensure that the child's bedroom is seen at least once between each conference or as defined in the Child Protection Plan;
- Ensure (s)he sees the child alone (with parent's agreement) or babies awake at every visit (if parents refuse permission the Children's Services line manager must be informed). For this purpose a child under 18 months is a baby and the focus should be on his or her interaction with, and attachment to his or her main carer. A child of 18 months old or a little older may not want to leave their main carer, but the social worker should attempt to engage him/her in some sort of play to see if they are capable of sustaining this. This may also give indications as to whether there are injuries/difficulties in movement;
- You must discuss with a manager any concerns or lack of cooperation from parents/carers.
The frequency of Lead Social Worker and other professional contact above is the minimum standard and depending on the degree of concern, the Child Protection Plan may provide for more frequent visiting and provide additional requirements e.g. unannounced visits, ensuring all rooms in house are seen.
In exceptional circumstances the Principal Officer chairing the Conference may decide that the required contact level should be less frequent that stated in Section 4, Lead Social Worker Role, Bullet List. This should be clear in the outline plan agreed at the Conference.
If the Lead Social Worker has difficulty obtaining direct access to the child through non-compliance by parents / carers, the Practice Manager must be informed, as well as other Core Group Members. A report must be provided to the Children's Services Manager for a decision (see Non Compliance by Parents or Carers Procedure).
Routine Written Records
The Lead Social Worker must maintain a complete and up-to-date signed record on the social care record, to include:
- Time and date of every home visit, stating who was present, confirmation that the Lead Social Worker spoke with the child (including if alone), or providing a clear reason why not;
- Any information gained or observations made during the visit relevant to the identified risks to the child;
- Circumstances of all family members;
- Specific information about key subjects such as meals and sleeping arrangements (the Lead Social Worker must observe the child's bedroom at least once between conferences);
- Factual reports of child's presentation and behaviour (these should be specific and avoid non-specific labels such as 'disturbed');
- Any new incidents or injuries, which must be subject to full enquiries using the Section 47 Enquiry forms;
- A chronology on the front of the file / in the electronic record to include significant events in the child's life, including incidents, injuries, family changes etc;
- Date, time and content of any communication which relates to the child and family (distinguishing between fact and opinion);
- A clear plan for further action;
- Details of any direct work undertaken with the parent / child.
Responsibility for Convening Conferences
Dates for Review Conferences are set at the previous Conference. If the date has to be changed the Child Protection Unit must send letters to participants.
Consideration should be given to bringing forward the date of a Review Conference in the following circumstances:
- Following a new and significant incident relating to concerns about child protection, usually involving a Section 47 Enquiry;
- When there is a significant change in the circumstances of the child or family;
- When there are plans to return a looked after child home and this is inconsistent with the outline Child Protection Plan agreed at the most recent Conference;
- When there are significant difficulties in implementing the Child Protection Plan e.g. Non Compliance by Parents or Carers Procedure.
The decision to bring forward the date of a Review Conference should be made after discussion with the Practice Manager and authorised by the Principal Officer.
Absence of the Lead Social Worker
It is the responsibility of Lead Social Worker, in liaison with her/his line manager to ensure clear cover arrangements when the Lead Social Worker is absent on planned annual leave, training etc. For unplanned absence see Section 5, Absence of the Lead Social Worker.
Parents and child must be informed of planned absences, cover and contact arrangements.
The Team Manager has a vital role in managing the progress of the case and supporting the Lead Social Worker.
The manager should:
- Read and countersign all significant recordings, assessments and decisions on the child's file / electronic record, including the chronology;
- Chair first Core Group meetings;
- Discuss the progress of the protection plan and any concerns in every supervision, including ensuring that there has been adequate direct contact with the child(ren);
- Ensure supervision and management case decisions are clearly visible and dated in the child's record;
- Read and countersign Conferences reports and the protection plan;
- Review the plan with the Lead Social Worker when unexpected developments or crises occur, and together make a decision whether to recommend that a Review Child Protection Conference date be brought forward;
- Attend all Initial Conferences and as many Review Conferences as possible;
- Confirm the visiting frequency of the Lead Social Worker and the frequency of Core Group meetings.
The manager must arrange cover for the Lead Social Worker in case of sickness and ensure arrangements are in place when the Lead Social Worker is on annual leave and training, including the checking and any necessary action, resulting from post, e-mails and telephone contacts.
If the Lead Social Worker is to be absent from work for an extended period her / his manager should consider reallocating the case.
The social worker and Team Manager must, in every supervision session, consider the risks to the child and whether further Core or specialist assessments should be undertaken.
Further assessments may be helpful in the following circumstances:
- On transfer of a case;
- Prior to consideration of discontinuing the Child Protection Plan;
- When a child has been subject to a Child Protection Plan for a year;
- When consideration is being given to the implementation of care proceedings;
- In particularly complex cases.
Intervention must be provided to give the child and family the best opportunities of achieving the required changes, identifying and developing the strengths within the family.
If a child cannot be cared for safely at home, (s)he will need to be placed elsewhere whilst work is undertaken with both child and family. In these circumstances, consideration must be given to identifying alternative safe placements in the child's family and community.
Intervention should address the child's needs and may involve action to promote her or his health, development and safety, particularly with regard to the need to develop a secure parent-child attachment.
Critically, decision making must consider if the child's developmental needs can be responded to within the family and within timescales appropriate for that child.
See Assessment Framework (DH 2000, now archived) for guidance on decisions about interventions.
Concern or disagreement may arise over another professional's decisions, actions or lack of actions in the implementation of the Child Protection Plan, including Core Group meetings. Additionally, where a professional in any agency has concerns about the response of another agency, it is expected that the individual professional will take responsibility for raising those concerns through their line management and across to other agencies promptly.
The line managers of the professionals involved should first address these concerns and if agreement cannot be reached following discussions between the above 'first line' managers, the issue must be referred without delay through the line management to the equivalent of Children's Services / Detective Inspector / Head Teacher or other Designated Professional.
Alternatively, and more commonly in health services, input may be sought directly from the Designated doctor or nurse for Child Protection.
If professional disagreements remain unresolved, the matter must be referred to the Heads of Service for each agency involved. The Chair of the LSCB may need to arbitrate in individual cases if agreement cannot be reached.
Any policy or practice issues which are raised by such disagreements should be reviewed by the 'Operational Board' with a view to providing further guidance if necessary.
If a child is subject of a Child Protection Plan, all new injuries, or inconclusive conclusions following a Section 47 enquiry, must be discussed with the relevant Conference Chair. Any additional concerns raised by a health professional, during the course of this enquiry must also be shared with the Conference Chair.
On conclusion of the child protection investigation the Team Manager and the Conference Chair must discuss and decide whether the Review Child Protection Conference will be brought forward to consider the context of the new injury.
Where there is any disagreement this should be referred to the Assessment, Locality or Disabled Children’s Service Head of Service for resolution and final decision.
All management decisions and reasons must be recorded in case notes on ICS.
All child protection cases must be allocated to a named social worker and this should be awarded the highest priority.
Directors of Children's Services are professionally accountable for ensuring that there are sufficient human resources to provide the required services and for alerting the LSCB and elected Members to any systemic inability to allocate child protection cases.
Any period without a named social worker arising from staff vacancies or sick leave must be kept to a minimum and monitored for purposes of local management and formal returns to the Department of Education. This will be in the form of a monthly report to Heads of Social Care and Head of Child Protection.
Safeguards Pending Allocation
All professionals relevant to the 'outline' or 'agreed' protection plan, including previous Conferences chairs, as well as family members must be informed in writing by a Children's Services Team Manager if there is no allocated social worker and advised of routine and emergency professional contact arrangements, pending allocation.
Unallocated cases must be:
- Discussed at each allocation meeting;
- Reported to the child protection manager;
- Regularly monitored at management meetings;
The Children's Services Team Manager remains accountable for:
- Ensuring that any statutory or explicit duties - e.g. Looked After Children Reviews or Child Protection Review Conferences, are met, deploying duty staff as required;
- Resolving any immediate issues which arise in the case;
- Ensuring that her/his manager remains aware that a child protection case is unallocated;
- Ensuring that the family are kept updated;
- Ensuring that regular 'duty' visits are undertaken on unallocated child protection cases.
When a child who is subject to a Child Protection Plan dies, from whatever cause, the Lead Social Worker or her/his manager must immediately complete a ''need to know' Children's Services 3645 and inform the Head of Child Protection who in turn will notify the Chair and Business manager of the HSCB