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1.3.5 Children in Need / Step Down

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

The aim of this procedure is to ensure that all Portsmouth's children who are known to Children's Social Care and Safeguarding Services receive a consistent and seamless service that promotes best possible outcomes. We believe that the best way to ensure the welfare and protection of children and young people is to provide support to families at the earliest opportunity so that children and young people's well-being is promoted. This is best achieved through collective action by all agencies, which both maximises resources and the potential for effective support and enables families to experience help in a co-ordinated way.

The Multi-Agency Matrix: Thresholds of Risk and Need has been developed to help inform decision-making amongst partner agencies about when to refer a child to Children's Social Care and Safeguarding Services and what to expect in terms of who should receive a service and with what level of priority.

Tiers one and two indicate the circumstances in which Children's Trust partner agencies would be expected to intervene and provide support to a child and family in order to prevent the need for a specialist service. Tiers three and four identify the point at which Children's Social Care and Safeguarding Services will become involved and provide a specialist service.

RELEVANT PROTOCOL

Portsmouth Childrens Trust and Portsmouth Safeguarding Children Board, Embedding Inter-agency Early Help and Safeguarding Practice across Portsmouth

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in March 2014 to clarify a new timescale for a plan to be developed by the CIN team following referral; clarifies the requirement that all children aged 5 or older be involved in the plan and requires that a planning meeting will be convened within 4 weeks of the plan being formulated. It also clarifies who will chair review planning meetings following step down from Child Protection Plans and identifies who will be the lead professional at that meeting.


Contents

  1. The Assessment and Allocation of Children in Need at tiers 3 and 4
  2. Child in Need Plans
  3. Review of Child in Need Plans
  4. StepDown
  5. Children's Social Care and Safeguarding Service Provision for Children in Need
  6. The Children's Social Care and Safeguarding Specialist Children in Need Teams
  7. Children who no longer require a Child Protection Plan or a LAC Plan or who are the subject of a Supervision Order
  8. Quality Assurance


1. The Assessment and Allocation of Children in Need at tiers 3 and 4

1.1 The role of the I&A Team

Allocation as a Child in Need for children who do not fulfil the criteria listed above will come through the I&A Team and will follow a thorough, good quality Single Assessment which contains sufficient contextual information to provide an informed evaluation of need in which the assessment has concluded that a package of family support is required from Children's Social Care and Safeguarding Services to meet the child's needs.

Examples of specific areas of concern or issues that indicate that multi-agency child in need planning will best meet the child's needs are:

  • A child has been the subject of child protection enquiries following which the Assessment has indicated that the family have acknowledged the risk and cause of harm, are co-operating to reduce any further risk and the child has been identified as a child in need of services and support;
  • A child has been the subject of child protection enquiries, which have not been substantiated, but the child has been identified as in need of services and support;
  • A child has been the subject of an initial Child Protection Conference and has been identified as a child who does not need a protection plan but is in need of services and support;
  • A child is at risk of becoming looked after;
  • A child is disabled and has significant needs;
  • Complex needs/family dynamics have been identified.

N.B. The Transfer and Allocation of Work between the MASH, Targeted Early and Children’s Social Care Teams Protocol states that cases will not go to Family Support where recent Section 47 Enquiries have not resulted in an Initial Child Protection Conference but the risk is assessed as high and an Assessment is required to further explore the known risks.

1.2 Child in Need Transfer and Planning Meetings

Planning Meetings will follow an Assessment completed by the I&A Team where the assessment has concluded that the child's needs are within the definitions given above and that a package of family support is therefore required.

An initial plan will be developed within 15 working days following transfer to the CIN Team. The plan will initially be formulated between the allocated social worker and the family. It will involve the child where the child is aged 5 and over. A planning meeting will be convened within 4 weeks of this initial plan so as to agree the relevant services following completion of the Assessment.

Planning meetings are an opportunity for a child and his or her parents/carers, together with key agencies, to identify and agree the package of services.

All Planning Meetings should be attended by the parents, other significant family members, the child (depending on age and understanding) and by those agencies whose potential/actual contribution has been indicated within the assessment.

It is important that those agencies and individuals invited to attend are the ones that the parents and/or the child consider are able to help, support or assist them and/or those who can best promote the well being of the child.

The assessing children's social care worker should discuss potential attendees for the Planning Meeting with the parents/carers and/or the child prior to arrangements being made for the meeting.

It will be important that appropriate venues suitable for the child and his or her family are used for the meeting. Consideration must be given to location (which may mean reimbursing bus fares), timing and any child care issues.

The allocated worker is responsible for convening the meeting and arranging for invitations to be sent.

All Planning Meetings should be chaired by a senior practitioner, a consultant practitioner or a Team Manager.


2. Child in Need Plans

A Child in Need Plan will be developed in a Child in Need Planning Meeting.

The Child in Need Plan will identify the allocated worker as Lead Professional, and must identify the resources or services that will be needed to achieve the planned outcomes within the agreed timescales and who is responsible for which action and the time-scale involved.

In particular, the Child in Need Plan should:

  • Describe the identified developmental needs of the child, and any services required;
  • Include specific, achievable and measurable child-focused outcomes intended to promote and safeguard the welfare of the child;
  • Include realistic strategies and specific actions to achieve the planned outcomes;
  • Include a contingency plan to be followed if circumstances change significantly and require prompt action;
  • Included timescales that are not too short or unachievable;
  • Not be dependent on resources which are known to be scarce or unavailable;
  • Clearly identify the roles and responsibilities of professionals and family members, including the nature and frequency of contact by professionals with children and family members;
  • Lay down points at which progress will be reviewed and the means by which it will be judged;
  • Clearly identify possible sanctions in cases where;
    • There are concerns that the child may not be receiving consistent care that is "good enough"; and
    • If progress is not made and sustained and it is likely that Child Protection Procedures will be implemented.

The Plan will be copied to all those involved, including the child and parent/s, who will need to sign their agreement. This will be recorded in ICS by the allocated worker who will also upload the plan.

The Chair of the Child in Need Planning Meeting is responsible for the distribution of the Child in Need Plan. Within five working days a copy of the Child in Need Plan should be provided to the parents, child (if appropriate to their age and understanding) and the agencies or other professionals involved in the provision of services under the Plan.

The allocated worker (as Lead Professional) will be responsible for implementing the plan including making referrals to appropriate agencies for services as described in the plan.

Any child protection or safeguarding issues which arise during the course of a Child in Need Plan must be responded to in line with Safeguarding Board Procedures.

Where it becomes necessary to make minor adjustments to the plan and services provided, any changes to the plan must be made in consultation with the parents and the child (where appropriate) and key professionals from other agencies.

Most Child in Need Plans will envisage that Specialist Services intervention will end within twelve months. However, some children and families may require longer term support, for example families where the main carer has significant long term mental health needs.

2.1 Home visits to children in need

To determine the appropriate frequency of visiting children in need agreement should be reached with the Supervising Manager. In reaching this decision, consideration will be given to the specific issues relating to the child/ren concerned.

It is good practice to visit at least every 4 weeks. There should be no more than 6 weeks between visits. The circumstances and frequency between visits should be discussed, agreed and reviewed monthly during supervision with the Supervising Manager. This should be sooner if there is cause for concern. For example: if the family is resistant or does not engage with the allocated worker.

The frequency of visits and timescales for review should be recorded on the Children's Plan.


3. Review of Child in Need Plans

The Plan will be reviewed within the first three months from the date of the end of the Assessment, the second and subsequent reviews will be held every six months. The child/young person, family and key professionals will be invited to contribute to and attend the review.

If there are significant changes in the family circumstances, an early review should take place.

Within 5 working days of the date of the review, the allocated worker (as Lead Professional) will provide a copy of the report for the review to the chairperson and all those involved, including the child/young person and family.

Key professionals, the parent/carer and the child/young person will be involved in the review process and in constructing the revised plan. Consideration and support must be given to ensure children and young people with disabilities can contribute to their plan and review.

The review Planning Meetings should be chaired by a senior practitioner, a consultant practitioner or the Team Manager or in the case of StepDown from Child Protection, The Chair of the Child Protection Conference.

The purpose of the Review is to ensure that the services provided contribute to achieving the agreed outcomes within the time-scales set in the plan.

Where it is proposed that a complex package of support being provided under a Child in Need Plan should continue beyond 12 months there should be a specific review chaired by the Team Manager. Exceptions to this will be those cases where the plan acknowledges the need for longer term support, for example in relation to children who meet the criteria for the Children with Disabilities Team, see Children with Disabilities Procedure.

The child/young person, parent/carer and key professionals will be invited to contribute to the review either by attendance at the meeting or by providing  written information that gives an update of their involvement and planned outcomes since the last review.

The Child/Young Person must be seen and spoken to alone by the allocated worker prior to the review in order for their views to be sought and recorded.

The child/young person's wishes, feelings and views will be sought and taken into consideration in the review. Where the child/young person does not agree to being seen on their own a report from their teacher or other relevant professional will be sought to confirm that a further assessment under Section17 is not required.

At the review meeting the chairperson will:

  • Ensure that every thing is working effectively;
  • Review the services against the planned outcome;
  • Review the child's needs against the planned outcomes;
  • Confirm that the planned outcomes have been met;
  • End services when the planned outcomes are met;
  • Add any identified needs, the services and planned outcomes that do not require an assessment;
  • Agree the date of the next review;
  • Ensure that the services are providing value for money;
  • Ensure services are being provided within a reasonable timescale.

All decisions made should be recorded by the allocated worker on the child's electronic record, together with reasons, and dated.

A copy of the Review Meeting record should be sent to the child (if old enough), parent/s and all other participants in the Review process within five working days of the meeting.

The outcome of a Review will be:

  1. The child is no longer a Child in Need requiring intervention by the Children's Social Care and Safeguarding Service, which will result in a recommendation to the team manager that the case be closed and StepDown arrangements will be agreed between parents/carers, the child/young person and partner agencies;
  2. The child continues to be a Child in Need requiring the same level of services, resulting in the continuing provision of services and minor amendment, as necessary, of the Child in Need Plan;
  3. The child's needs are sufficiently complex and/or s/he requires additional services to safeguard and promote his or her welfare which requires an updated Assessment to be undertaken;
  4. The child appears to be at risk of Significant Harm, resulting in the need for a Strategy Discussion/Meeting and possible Section 47 Enquiry as part of an Assessment.

Where the outcome of the Review is either a new or an amended Child in Need Plan, the child and parent/s, will need to sign their agreement.

This will be recorded in ICS by the allocated worker who will also upload the plan.

The Chair of the Child in Need Planning Meeting is responsible for the distribution of the new or amended Plan. Within five working days a copy of the amended Child in Need Plan should be provided to the parents, child (if appropriate to their age and understanding) and the agencies or other professionals involved in the provision of services under the Plan.

When a case is closed the work undertaken and the areas addressed will be recorded within the closing summary. This should include the views, wishes and feelings of the child/young person and their parent/s and views of the professionals involved. The new lead professional and the Team Around the Child should be identified at the review meeting.

A formal notification of case closure must be sent by the allocated worker to all parties involved within 10 working days.


4. StepDown

Where it becomes clear that a social work practitioner no longer needs to be the Lead Professional co-ordinating the Child in Need Plan StepDown arrangements will be agreed prior to closure i.e. the case holder will complete a CAF and a Team Around the Child (TAC), made up of one or more existing or alternative sources of support (e.g. Children's Centre, school/family liaison, HomeStart) and a new lead professional from outside Children's Social Care and Safeguarding will progress the plan to address any outstanding issues.

This may require a separate multi-agency meeting where the family and new supports can be brought together to agree the arrangements.

When the TAC subsequently reviews progress, where the most recent assessment by Children's Social Care and Safeguarding Services is over 6 months' old, the new lead professional should undertake a CAF to underpin the refreshed TAC plan and identify a new set of outcomes.


5. Children's Social Care and Safeguarding Service Provision for Children in Need

The underpinning principles for the Children in Need service provided by Children's Social Care and Safeguarding are:

  • Children and young people are best brought up in their families, and agencies should work to support this;
  • Services should be provided to meet the identified needs of children and young people;
  • Agencies have a duty to co-operate to promote the well-being of children (section 10 Children Act 2004);
  • Children, young people and their families and carers should receive a consistent, fair and seamless service, and should feel as though they are dealing with one organisation, even if more than one is involved;
  • Children, young people and their families and carers have the right to have their views taken into account;
  • When following procedures and processes, positive outcomes for children and young people should be kept in sight;
  • The earlier needs are identified and addressed, the less likely it is that children and young people will need intensive, high cost interventions, many of which have been shown to have marginally beneficial outcomes;
  • Resources should be most effectively used by maximising the skills, knowledge and expertise of professionals and practitioners;
  • Working in partnership with children, young people and their families and carers is most likely to improve life chances for families;
  • Whilst processes set out a standardised way of working, all agencies must work to ensure that they respond to the diversity of the particular needs of children including young people from black and other ethnic minority backgrounds and disabled children and young people;
  • Where children may be in need of protection action will be taken swiftly to ensure safety.


6. The Children's Social Care and Safeguarding Specialist Children in Need Teams

There are two specialist teams which provide services exclusively to children in need, these are the Family Support Team and the Children with Disabilities Team.

The teams' practice underpinning assessment, planning, intervention and review:

  • Is child centred, giving each child a voice and asking the question "how does this child experience their daily life?";
  • Is rooted in child development;
  • Is holistic in its approach;
  • Ensures equality of opportunity;
  • Involves engaging with children and their families;
  • Invites user consultation and feedback as a routine activity in order to quality assure and improve practice;
  • Builds on strengths as well as identifying difficulties;
  • Is interagency in its approach;
  • Is a continuing process not an event;
  • Involves planned interventions and services being provided in parallel with assessment;
  • Is informed by evidence; and
  • Is timely.


7. Children who no longer require a Child Protection Plan or a LAC Plan or who are the subject of a Supervision Order

Most children and young people will continue to receive services as a CIN from the responsible case holder for up to three months, by which time the case will be closed or, where a specialist service is still required, be transferred to the Family Support Team.

The exception to this will be where a young person is sec 20 and open to the Young Peoples' Support Team immediately prior to a return home. Continuing support for each young person will be determined through an assessment focusing on vulnerability and level of need. The YPST will continue to work with young people with high needs; if the assessment indicates that a lower level of support is still needed after three months the young person may be referred to the Targeted Youth Support Service.

7.1 StepDown from a CP Plan

A number of children who no longer require a Child Protection Plan will StepDown to a Child in Need Plan. The exceptions will be children subject to care proceedings, children who are looked after and those children whom conference members agree are safe, settled and where the family's circumstances indicate that no additional support is required.

Where a Child Protection Conference agrees that a child no longer requires a Child Protection Plan, the Chairperson will ensure that an outline Child in Need Plan is agreed, a date and time are set for the first Planning Meeting, which will take place within 15 working days, and participants are identified. This will be reflected in the minutes. The Chairperson will distribute the outline Child in Need Plan within 5 working days.

The allocated PAC Team social worker will arrange a venue for the first Planning Meeting and send out invitations to all participants. If the child continues to require a Child in Need Plan beyond three months, the case will then transfer to the Family Support Team.

7.2 StepDown when discharging a Care Order (section 31)

Where a LAC review recommends that an application is made to discharge a Care Order, consideration will be given to whether a StepDown to a CIN Plan is required to support the child and family following discharge. The IRO will ensure that an outline CIN Plan is agreed and it will form part of the documentation which is presented to the court.

At the discharge Hearing the outline CIN plan presented to the court will include a date and time for the first CIN Planning Meeting, which will take place within 15 working days of the hearing.

The allocated PAC/CLA Team social worker will arrange a venue and distribute the outline Child in Need Plan with the invitations to the first Planning Meeting. If the child continues to require a Child in Need Plan beyond three months, the case will then transfer to the Family Support Team.

7.3 StepDown for children who return home having been looked after (section 20)

Children who are looked after (section 20) must have an outline CIN plan agreed at the LAC review prior to a planned return home. The allocated PAC/CLA Team social worker will arrange a venue and distribute the outline Child in Need Plan with the invitations to the first Planning Meeting which will be held within 10 days of a return home.

If the child returns home in an unplanned way, a CIN planning meeting must be convened within 5 working days to agree a CIN Plan to support the return home. If the child continues to require a Child in Need Plan beyond three months, the case will then transfer to the Family Support Team.

7.4 Section 31 Supervision Orders

All children on Supervision Orders (section 31) require a CIN plan.

Where Children's Social Care and Safeguarding Services make an application for a supervision order an outline CIN plan will be agreed at the LAC review prior to the final hearing. This will form part of the documentation which is presented to the court. If a supervision order is made the allocated PAC Team social worker will arrange a CIN Planning meeting within 10 working days arrange a venue and distribute the outline Child in Need Plan with the invitations to the first Planning Meeting.

When a supervision order is made in care proceedings and has not been sought, the allocated PAC Team social worker will arrange a CIN Planning meeting within 10 working days, arrange a venue and issue invitations. The case will then transfer to the Family Support Team at the planning meeting.


8. Quality Assurance

In accordance with the Portsmouth Children's Social Care and Safeguarding Services Quality Assurance Strategy, the delivery of services to Children in Need will be quality assured through:

  • Team Score Cards;
  • Audit of case records, including assessments, interventions and plans leading to improved outcomes;
  • Supervision and observation of practice;
  • User feedback;
  • Gathering feedback from partner agencies.

Click here for the CIN Team Workflow: Process Map

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