SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter only applies to children in need and does not apply to children who are the subject of a Child Protection (Safety) Plan.
For children who are in receipt of Short Breaks, see also the Short Breaks Procedure.
This chapter was updated in October 2017 by adding a link to ‘Revised Process for Child Protection Conferences: CP consultations from front door to conference/Re-referrals for Initial Conferences/Child in Need Reviewing’ in the Local Resources section of the manual. Pease ensure familiarity.
1. Children in Need
Statutory guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children sets out:
A child in need is defined under the Children Act 1989 as a child who is unlikely to achieve or maintain a reasonable level of health or development, or whose health and development is likely to be significantly or further impaired, without the provision of services; or a child who is disabled. Children in need may be assessed under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, in relation to their special educational needs, disabilities, as a carer, or because they have committed a crime.
To determine whether a child is ‘in need’ according to the above definition a Child & Family assessment will need to be carried out by a qualified social worker. For assessing children in need see Assessments Procedure.
For assessing Children in need who are disabled, see Children and Young People Aged 0-25 with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Procedure.
2. Child in Need (Support) Plans
A Child in Need Support Plan must be developed with the family and not solely by the social worker and professionals. To develop the plan, the social worker should organise a Child in Need Planning meeting with the family network and key professionals who could support the family. The social worker’s role is to assist the family to explore problem solving solutions and develop a plan that sets out clearly what the worries are, what needs to change and how the family network can make those changes, with the support of services. The plan should act as a written agreement with the family and other professionals.
A good plan will be clear and specific about:
- What we are trying to achieve (the outcome being sought);
- What needs to happen/change to reduce worries and reach those outcomes;
- What’s working well that can be built on to increase support around the child;
- How we will know when we have achieved those outcomes, how will the child’s experience look different, how will we measure it;
- Ensuring the changes being sought are realistic and achievable in the child’s timescale;
- Who in the family can help support and motivate the parents/carers/family to make the necessary changes and what will they do;
- What services are needed to help the family achieve the outcomes;
- Who will do what, by when, setting out clear timescales for action, change to be achieved and review of the plan.
Child in need support plans have three columns, in writing the plan the social worker should use avoid jargon, writing in a language that everyone can understand and is unambiguous, using the following guidance:
|Describe what is currently happening for the child. The worries and what needs to change, or a strength that needs to be maintained and/or enhanced.||Describe what the family and professionals want to achieve for the child (outcomes). How will the child’s experience be different, what will that look like and how will everyone know when those outcomes have been achieved.||Who needs to do what and by when, to achieve the outcomes and meet the child’s needs to keep them safe and well. This refers to what everyone in the family network will be doing and what services will support.|
Where other services are involved, e.g. Staying together, where a Family Group Conference has been held, or where a child a Education, Health & Care plan (EHCP) that the plans are brought together and integrated so that the family does not have multiple plans either duplicating each other or requiring different things.
3. Child in Need Planning & Review Meetings
The initial child in need planning meeting
All child in need planning and review meetings should be attended by the child (depending on age and understanding), parents/carers, the family network and those agencies who can support the family. The social worker should discuss and agree who should attend with the family, prior to arrangements being made for the meeting.
It will be important that an appropriate venue suitable for the family are used. 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.
The social worker is responsible for convening the meeting and arranging invitations. The first meeting should take place within 10 days of the completion of the Child & Family assessment. The initial child in need planning meeting should be chaired by a manager.
The purpose of the initial child in need planning meeting is for the child and family network together with key agencies to:
- Reflect on the outcome of the assessment;
- Share information between all those involved;
- Explore worries and consider possible solutions;
- Agree the outcomes for the child;
- Outline the actions needed to make the changes necessary;
- Develop a support plan together to meet the outcomes that addresses the needs identified in the assessment;
- Agree next steps;
- Agree the frequency that the social worker will visit the child & family, this should be no less than every 4 weeks.
It may be that the social worker and family do not share the same worries, or want to achieve the same outcomes. In these situations, the social worker must clearly explain to a family any ‘bottom lines’ they may have and why, i.e. what is essential and therefore non-negotiable to prevent moving from support to safety. The social worker will also need to explain to the family what action may be taken if the plan is not successful and the child’s needs are not met.
Child in need review meetings
All subsequent review meetings will be conducted at intervals agreed between the social worker and family, they should be held a minimum of every 3 months, unless in exceptional circumstances. If there are significant changes in the family circumstances, an early review should take place.
Child in Need review meetings should be chaired by a qualified and experienced social worker, or a manager.
The purpose of the review meeting is to:
- Monitor the progress of the plan;
- Share information between all those involved on any changes and significant events;
- Ensure that the tasks are being completed within the timescales set;
- Acknowledge progress and steps towards reaching the outcomes;
- Review the outcomes and make necessary adjustments;
- Consider whether or not the child continues to be ‘in need’ and review that the services provided are explore changes or any other services required;
- If the child’s circumstances have not improved and/or have deteriorated, then consideration must be given to whether there is risk of Significant Harm, resulting in the need for a Strategy Discussion/Meeting and possible Section 47 Enquiry;
- Agree next steps.
Minutes of the meeting will need to be taken and the record along with the updated plan will need to be distributed to all those present within 10 working days of the meeting. If there are other’s who need copies of the record but are not present at the meeting, this should be agreed at the meeting.
If at the meeting it is agreed that the child’s needs are being met, outcomes have been achieved and the family no longer require a social work service, the meeting can recommend to the team manager that the social work service can end. The manager will review the case and make a decision. The social worker should notify the family of this decision within 5 working days. If this decision is in dispute this should initially be discussed with the team manager and if resolution cannot be reached, it should be escalated to a service manager for review.
All children with a child in need support plan will be subject to either an audit or case mapping reflective discussion, facilitated by a practitioner in the independent professional standards service, to provide a quality assurance check that the child’s needs are being met by the support plan and outcomes are being progressed within the child’s timescale.
Practice guidance on chairing meetings can be found here:
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