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3.8 The Child Protection Plan - including Lead Social Worker and Core Group Responsibilities

NB This chapter should be read in conjunction with the Recording Principles.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in May 2016. In Section 5.5 Recording Core Group Meetings the Core Group Meeting Outcomes Template has been updated.


Contents

  1. The Child Protection Plan
  2. Explaining the Child Protection Plan to the Child and Parents
  3. The Role of Lead Social Worker
  4. The Role of Lead Social Worker's Line Manager
  5. The Core Group
  6. Looked After Children and Child Protection Plans


1. The Child Protection Plan

1.1 Each child considered to have suffered or be likely to suffer Significant Harm must have a Child Protection Plan, which is recorded on the agreed ICS exemplar.
1.2

The Child Protection Conference which decides that the child should be the subject of a Child Protection Plan must:

  • Outline the proposed plan, making sure it is detailed enough to protect the child until the first Core Group meeting;
  • Suggest in outline the areas the continuing assessments should cover;
  • Identify the Lead Social Worker and who will be members of the Core Group;
  • Obtain agreement to the date for the first Core Group meeting.
1.3 The details of the plan will then be developed in the Core Group - see Section 5, The Core Group.
1.4

The overall aim of the Child Protection Plan is to:

  • Ensure the child is safe and prevent him or her from suffering further harm by supporting the strengths, addressing the vulnerabilities and risk factors and helping meet the child’s unmet needs;
  • Promote the child’s welfare, health and development; 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.
1.5 If the Child Protection Plan is not successful in achieving these objectives, the Child Protection Conference must be reconvened.
1.6 The Child Protection Plan must make clear to the child, family, and all relevant professionals the exact nature of the concerns which resulted in the child requiring a Child Protection Plan.
1.7

The Plan should set out what work needs to be done, why, when and by whom. The Plan should:

  • Describe the identified developmental needs of the child, and what therapeutic services are required to meet these needs;
  • Include specific, achievable, child-focused outcomes intended to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
  • Include realistic strategies and specific actions to bring about the changes necessary and to achieve the planned outcomes;
  • Include when and in what situations the child will be seen by the child’s Lead Social Worker, both alone and with other family members or caregivers present;
  • Child Protection Plans (including Outline Child Protection Plans) must explicitly state the frequency of social work visits to the child/young person as well as the frequency of visits to the child/young person by all other professional members of the Core Group;
  • Include a Contingency Plan to be followed if circumstances change significantly and require prompt action (including initiating family court proceedings to safeguard and promote the child's welfare);
  • Clearly identify and set out roles and responsibilities of family members and professionals, including those with routine contact with the child (for example, health visitors, GP's and teachers) and 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 progress will be judged; and
  • Set out clearly the roles and responsibilities of those professionals with routine contact with the child - e.g. health visitors, GP's and teachers - as well as those professionals providing specialist and targeted support to the child and family and specify the frequency and nature of their contact.
1.8 It is important that services are provided to give the child and family the best chance of achieving the required changes. If a child cannot be cared for safely by his or her parent(s), he or she will have to be placed elsewhere whilst work is being undertaken with the child and family.
1.9

Irrespective of where the child is living, interventions should specifically address:

  • The developmental needs of the child;
  • The child’s understanding of what has happened to him or her;
  • The parent's capacity to respond to the child’s need;
  • The relationship between the adult caregivers both as adults and parents;
  • Family relationships; and
  • Possible changes to the family’s social and environmental circumstances.
1.10

Interventions may have a number of inter-related components:

  • Action to make a child safe;
  • Action to help promote a child’s health and development;
  • Action to help a parent in safeguarding a child and promoting his or her welfare;
  • Therapy for an abused child; and
  • Support or therapy for a perpetrator of abuse.
1.11 The development of secure parent-child attachments is critical to a child’s healthy development. The quality and nature of the attachment will be a key issue to be considered in decision making, especially if decisions are being made about reuniting a child with his or her birth family or placing a child permanently away from the family. 
1.12 If the plan is to assess whether the child can be reunited with a parent responsible for maltreatment, very detailed work will be required to help the parent develop the necessary parenting skills.
1.13 A key issue in deciding on suitable interventions will be whether the child’s developmental needs can be responded to within his or her family context, and within timescales that are appropriate for the child. These timescales may not be compatible with those for the parent in receipt of therapeutic help. Where the family situation is not improving or changing fast enough to respond to the child’s needs, decisions will be necessary about the long-term future of the child. In the longer term it may mean it will be in the best interests of the child to be placed in an alternative family context.
1.14 Children who have suffered Significant Harm may continue to experience the consequences of this abuse irrespective of where they are living: whether remaining with or being reunited with their families or being placed in new families. Therapeutic work with the child should continue, therefore, irrespective of where the child is placed, in order to ensure the needs of the child are responded to appropriately.
1.15 The Plan can be used as evidence in any legal proceedings of the efforts which have been made to work in partnership and reduce the level of risk.
1.16 The Department for Education has issued non statutory guidance Working with Foreign Authorities: Child Protection Cases and Care Orders Departmental advice for local authorities, social workers, service managers and children’s services lawyers July 2014. This advice from the Department for Education provides• a set of principles for social workers working on child protection cases and care orders, where the child has links to a foreign country.


2. Explaining the Child Protection Plan to the Child and Parents

2.1 The child (depending on his or her age and understanding) and the parents should have a clear understanding about the evidence of Significant Harm, which resulted in the child becoming the subject of a Child Protection Plan, what needs to change and what is expected of them as part of the plan for safeguarding and promoting the child’s welfare. This should be the subject of continuing discussion with the Lead Social Worker and other professionals involved.
2.2 If the parents are not willing to cooperate in the implementation of the plan the local authority should consider what action, including the initiation of family proceedings, it should take to safeguard the child’s welfare.
2.3 The child (depending on his or her age and understanding) and the parents should receive a written copy of the Child Protection Plan in their preferred language so that they are clear about their own role and responsibilities as well as the roles and responsibilities of others, and the planned outcomes for the child. The child’s copy should be written in a way appropriate to the child’s age and understanding.


3. The Role of the Lead Social Worker

3.1 Each child with a Child Protection Plan must have a Lead Social Worker who should be identified at the Initial Child Protection Conference.
3.2 The Lead Social Worker will always be a suitably qualified and experienced social worker from within Children’s Social Work Services.
3.3 The Lead Social Worker is the lead professional in co-ordinating the multi-agency work under the Child Protection Plan.
3.4

The Lead Social Worker must take a proactive role in ensuring that:

  • The outline Child Protection Plan is developed into a more detailed inter-agency plan and implemented;
  • The Social Work Assessment is completed and that appropriate contributions are made by Core Group members and others as necessary;
  • The safety of the child is monitored;
  • The child’s wishes and feelings are ascertained and specifically recorded from views ascertained during any contact;
  • The child is kept up to date with the Child Protection Plan and any changes or developments;
  • Risks are kept under review;
  • Any specialist contribution to the required assessment is commissioned on behalf of the Core Group;
  • Progress is reviewed against the outcomes set out in the Child Protection Plan.
3.5 It is important that the role of the Lead Social Worker is fully explained at the Initial Child Protection Conference and at the Core Group.
3.6 Where no Lead Social Worker can be appointed in time for the initial Core Group meeting or the Lead Social Worker becomes unavailable, it becomes the responsibility of the Children’s Social Work Services manager to ensure that the Lead Social Worker's role and functions are met, or to notify their manager that they cannot be met.
3.7

The specific responsibilities of the Lead Social Worker are:

1.

To promote good communication between agencies and with the family, ensuring:

  • Parents and, where appropriate, children, are clear about the role and responsibility of the Core Group and that they are properly involved in developing the Outline Child Protection Plan
  • Any parent who has been excluded from the Core Group is informed of discussions and outcomes as appropriate to the child’s welfare and safety;
  • Core Group members are aware of significant events in the family’s life and consulted about proposed changes to the Child Protection Plan;
  • The Lead Social Worker's manager and the Child Protection and Review Unit are consulted about and/or informed of any changes in circumstances.
2. To draft the practical and detailed proposals for the Child Protection Plan in line with the recommendations of the preceding Conference, as the basis for discussion at the initial Core Group meeting.
3.

To have face to face contact with the child at a minimum of 4 weekly intervals (i.e. at a minimum frequency of at least every 28 days) in order to monitor his/her well-being and be aware of his/her wishes and feelings. This must include seeing the child alone.

If contact with the child is refused or avoided and the child remains unseen, this must be viewed as a serious breach of the Child Protection Plan. Immediate discussion with the Lead Social Worker's line manager may deem it appropriate to seek legal advice about statutory protective action. There must also be discussion with the Core Group members and with the Conference Chair about the need for an urgent Child Protection Review Conference.

Contact with the child should be recorded on the child’s file and the record should include:

  • The 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;
  • Specific information about key subjects such as meals and the child's living conditions, including their sleeping arrangements;
  • Factual reports of the child’s presentation and behaviour (these should be specific and avoid non-specific labels such as ‘disturbed’);
  • Any new incidents or injuries and their significance to the Child Protection Plan.
4. To take lead responsibility for reviewing progress against the outcomes set out in the Child Protection Plan and alert this or her line manager where the Plan cannot be progressed and it is necessary to consider alternative action.
5. To convene, co-ordinate and record the Core Group meetings after the initial meeting following on from the Conference.
6. To ensure Core Group meetings are held at the agreed frequency.
7. To invite additional members to the Core Group as needed
8. To ensure that all members of the Core Group are aware of the next Conference date.
9. To circulate the record of Core Group meetings and the Child Protection Plan to members of the Core Group, including parents and the child (depending on his or her age and understanding), and the Conference Chair - see Section 5.5.
10. To ensure that where a child subject to a Child Protection Plan is also subject to statutory reviews as a Looked After Child, active consideration is given by the Lead Social Worker's line manager and in discussion with the Conference Chair to coordinating the meetings wherever possible and appropriate.
11. To take lead responsibility for ensuring that the child’s Social Work Assessment is completed and that any specialist assessment identified as necessary is commissioned.
12. To coordinate the assessment reports of the Core Group for the Child Protection Review Conference.


4. The Role of the Lead Social Worker's Line Manager

4.1 Working to ensure children are protected from harm requires sound professional judgements to be made. It is demanding work that can be distressing and stressful. All of those involved should have access to advice and support from, for example, peers, managers, or named and designated professionals.
4.2 For many practitioners involved in day-to-day work with children and families, effective supervision is important to promote good standards of practice and to support individual staff members. Supervision should help to ensure that practice is soundly based and consistent with LSCP and organisational procedures. It should ensure that practitioners fully understand their roles, responsibilities and the scope of their professional discretion and authority. It should also help to identify the training and development needs of practitioners, so that each has the skills to provide an effective service.
4.3 Supervision should include reflecting on, scrutinising and evaluating the work carried out, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the practitioner and providing coaching, development and pastoral support. Supervisors should be available to practitioners as an important source of advice and expertise, and may be required to endorse judgements at certain key points in time. Supervisors should also record key decisions within the child's case records.
4.4

The manager should:

  • Read and countersign all significant recordings and assessments on the child’s file, and record management/supervision decisions;
  • Chair the first Core Group Meetings and subsequent meetings as required;
  • Discuss the progress of the Child Protection Plan and any concerns in supervision, including the need for any further risk assessment or implementation of the contingency plan;
  • Read and countersign Conferences Reports and the Child Protection Plan;
  • Review the Child Protection Plan with the Lead Social Worker when unexpected developments or crises occur, and together make a decision whether to recommend that the Child Protection Review Conference date be brought forward;
  • Attend all Initial Child Protection Conferences and as many Child Protection Review Conferences as possible;
  • Confirm the visiting frequency of the Lead Social Worker and the frequency of Core Group meetings;
  • Arrange cover for the Lead Social Worker in case of sickness and ensure cover arrangements are in place when the Lead Social Worker is on annual leave and training;
  • To lead arrangements, including identifying a Facilitator, for Case Learning Meeting.


5. The Core Group


5.1


Purpose of Core Group

The Core Group’s task through the Child Protection Plan is to reduce the risks, or prevent the occurrence of further Significant Harm to the child, and safeguard the child’s well being to the point where the child no longer requires a Child Protection Plan.

The Core Group achieves this by:

  • Producing and implementing an agreed, detailed Child Protection Plan;
  • Completing an assessment of the family;
  • Co-ordinating and communicating about work with the child and family;
  • Meeting regularly to monitor progress against the planned outcomes of the Child Protection Plan;
  • Providing an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Child Protection Plan for the Child Protection Review Conference;
  • Requesting a new Conference if the plans cannot be achieved or need to be significantly altered.


5.2


Membership of the Core Group

Membership should include the Lead Social Worker, who chairs the Core Group, the child if appropriate, family members, carers, foster carers and professionals who have direct contact with the family.


5.3


The First Core Group Meeting

The Children’s Social Work Services manager of the Lead Social Worker will chair the first meeting of the Core Group on the date set at the initial Child Protection Conference. This will be within 10 working days of the Conference.

Using either the full minutes of the Child Protection Conference or a copy of the decisions and recommendations, the Chair of the Core Group must help the group complete the detail of the Child Protection Plan. The Core Group must also consider what steps need to be taken, and by whom, to complete the Social Work Assessment on time so that future decisions and the provision of services can be fully informed when making decisions about the child’s safety and welfare.

The detailed Child Protection Plan, together with any other decisions made and actions agreed at the Core Group should be recorded and circulated by the Lead Social Worker.

The Chair will set the dates of the next two Core Group Meetings which must be held prior to the first Child Protection Review Conference.


5.4


Subsequent Core Group Meetings

The Core Group should meet sufficiently regularly to facilitate working together, monitor actions and outcomes against the Child Protection Plan, and make any necessary alterations as circumstances change. 

The second Core Group meeting will usually be held within 6 weeks of the first meeting, unless the conference decides that meetings should be more frequent.

Meetings will usually be held every 2 months after the first Child Protection Review Conference, although the needs of the child may require more frequent meetings.

Core Group Meetings will usually continue to be chaired by the Lead Social Worker or his/her manager.


5.5


Recording Core Group Meetings

Core Group Meetings should be recorded on the Core Group Meeting Outcomes Template including updating the analysis of the risk of harm, decisions taken and actions agreed

The Lead Social Worker should also ensure that the Child Protection Plan is amended as necessary and the amended Plan is distributed to all relevant parties and attached to the child's record.


5.6


Agreement of Detailed Child Protection Plan

Core Group members must agree a plan which adds detail to the outline Child Protection Plan agreed at the Initial Child Protection Conference.

The Core Group should not alter any of the specified outcomes agreed at the conference although they can agree additional outcomes if required. The Plan will have active intervention by members of the Core Group, agreed monitoring through visits to the home and in cases where relevant areas have not been covered sufficiently in the initial and Social Work Assessment, it will identify further assessments that enable the family to gain insight so that they and the professionals involved can build on their strengths and reduce any risk to the children of future Significant Harm.


5.7


The Roles and Responsibilities of Core Group Members

Child Protection Plans should be formulated with the specific roles of the Core Group members in mind so that everyone is clear about the individual and shared responsibilities.

Although the Lead Social Worker has the lead role, all members of the Core Group are jointly responsible for the formulation and implementation of the Child Protection Plan, refining the plan as needed, and monitoring progress against the planned outcomes set out in the plan.

Supervision and/or managerial and professional support to individual Core Group members remain with their agency. Agencies should ensure that members of the Core Group undertake their roles and responsibilities effectively in accordance with the agreed Child Protection Plan.

The specific responsibilities of individual Core Group members are to:

  1. Accept that the child’s needs remain paramount and maintain a child-centred focus;
  2. Contribute to the multi-agency assessments;
  3. Make suggestions or approaches, if appropriate, for the involvement of other specifically skilled professional or agency seen as relevant to its completion;
  4. Attend and participate in Core Group meetings or other relevant meetings;
  5. Carry out agreed tasks in accordance with their own agency functions: if this is not possible the Lead Social Worker must be consulted before any plans regarding the child or family are altered;
  6. Provide specialist advice which will inform the Child Protection Plan;
  7. Provide the Lead Social Worker with written reports as requested;
  8. Communicate regularly with the Lead Social Worker about the progress of his or her own part of the agreed Child Protection Plan;
  9. Inform the Lead Social Worker of any change in circumstances relevant to the Child Protection Plan;
  10. Alert the Lead Social Worker to the need to convene either a Core Group meeting or to reconvene the Child Protection Review Conference early;
  11. Help identify unmet need;
  12. Provide a report of their work with the child and family for subsequent Child Protection Review Conferences and ensure that they provide sufficient copies for the meeting. Reports should be shared with family members at least 24 hours prior to the conference;
  13. Participate in Case Learning Meetings as required.


5.8


Delays

Any delays in implementing the Child Protection Plan should be monitored and appropriate action taken by the Lead Social Worker, his or her supervisor, and at Core Group meetings.


5.9


Failure to Achieve the Desired Outcomes of the Plan

There always has to be the possibility that intervention, monitoring and further assessment will reach the conclusion that the situation is not safe and the child will need to be removed in order to protect him or her from harm.

In these circumstances, and/or where there is a failure to obtain or retain the cooperation of the parents or child in working on the plan or changed or unforeseen circumstances, this must be brought immediately to the attention of the Lead Social Worker. 

The Lead Social Worker must inform his or her manager and, in consultation with other agencies, a decision will be made about the need for any immediate protective action and/or a Section 47 Enquiry and/or reconvene the Child Protection Review Conference.

If there are concerns that there are difficulties implementing the Plan as a result of disagreement among professionals or a Core Group member not carrying out his or her responsibilities, this must be addressed by discussion between Core Group members and, if required, the involvement of relevant managers and/or designated professionals within agencies.

5.10

The Professional Network Case Learning Meeting

Solihull LSCP has led the development of a process, which draws on systems methodology, and should be used by the core group to support reflection and promoting successful outcome of the Child Protection Plan. This process is known as a case Learning Meeting.

The Meeting has the specific purpose of:

  1. Reviewing how the professional partnership of the core group is working to achieve the outcomes of the Child Protection Plan;
  2. Identifying, and reflecting upon possible solutions to, any key issues and barriers to the promoting successful outcomes of the Child Protection Plan. This might include:
    • How the professional network works together to progress the plan;
    • Understanding how the engagement of parents (and other carers if applicable) in the Child Protection Plan is impacting on the outcomes and aims of the plan being achieved;
    • Reflecting on how the core group is identifying, and understanding, change that is required to ensure a successful discontinuing of  the child protection plan;
    • Appraisal and reflection on the suitability of the outcomes of the plan, including timeliness for the child of any required changes.

The Case Learning Meeting is a model that can be used by any multi-agency group working with a child and their family, and at any time during the multi-agency plan.

However it is expected that all Core Groups will hold a Case Learning Meeting of the core group professional network between first and second Review Child Protection Conference - (between 3 and 9 months) -  Best Practice would suggest the case Learning Meeting would take place within 3 months of the first Review Child Protection Conference, rather than the 6 to 9 month period, where this is beneficial to the core group.

There is an agenda that should be used (see Case Group Learning Meeting Agenda Document) although additional agenda items can be agreed by the core group.

The meeting should be facilitated by any member of the core group, other than the lead social worker.

At the conclusion of the meeting the Core Group Case Learning Summary Document is to be completed. This document should be held on the child’s social work file and distributed to all those who attended the case learning meeting the document should address:

  1. Learning;
  2. Any changes that are necessary as well as;
  3. What needs to happen if changes are required to the Child Protection Plan.

Given the Case Learning Meeting does not include parents, the child or young person, and other family members each meeting should be mindful that:

  • The Case Learning Meeting is not a decision making meeting. If changes are required to the outcomes of, and activity within, the Child Protection Plan a Core Group Meeting will need to be convened, or the Review Child Protection Conference brought forward,  to agree the alteration of the Child Protection Plan - A timescale for this new meeting is to be agreed;
  • Case learning meetings do not replace core group meetings. Core group meetings should be held at regular intervals between the Review Child Protection Conferences (see Section 5.3, The First Core Group Meeting) in order for professionals and parents to review together the progress of the Child Protection Plan.

If it is decided by the Lead Social Worker and their Line Manager not to hold a case learning meeting this must be communicated to the core group and reasons clearly recorded on the case file and noted in next Review Conference minutes.


6. Looked After Children and Child Protection Plans

6.1

Where a child is Looked After, decisions regarding the continued need for a Child Protection Plan should be made alongside consideration of the Care Plan. The Care Plan will be the primary means of safeguarding the safety and welfare of the child. In most cases where a child who is the subject of a Child Protection Plan becomes Looked After, it will no longer be necessary to maintain the Child Protection Plan. There are however a relatively few cases where safeguarding issues will remain and a Looked After child should also have a Child Protection Plan. These cases are likely to be where the local authority obtains an Interim Care Order in family proceedings but the subject child remains at home pending the outcome of the final hearing or where the child’s behaviour is likely to result in Significant Harm to themselves or others.

6.2 The first Child Protection Review Conference to take place once the child has become looked after must consider the justification for the child being subject of both a Care Plan and a Child Protection Plan.
6.3 When a Looked After Child is no longer living in the situation which gave rise to the child protection concerns that resulted in him/her having a Child Protection Plan and there is no current plan for the child to be returned there, the Child Protection Plan may be discontinued. The decision to discontinue a Child Protection Plan must be agreed by a Multi-Agency Child Protection Conference.
6.4 The Looked After Child who has a Child Protection Plan will also be subject to the statutory child care review procedures.
6.5 Looked After Reviews and Child Protection Review Conferences are separate meetings with different purposes. The plans made at Looked After Reviews must be consistent with the Child Protection Plan and the timing of such Reviews should be coordinated with the Child Protection Review Conference.
6.6 Information made available at the Child Protection Conference must be made available to the Looked After Review to inform care planning.
6.7 Where a Looked After Review or other local authority child care planning meeting proposes the return of a child with a Child Protection Plan to his or her parents or carers or any other change which might significantly affect the level of risk, the decision (unless this formed part of the original Child Protection Plan) must not be implemented until it has been considered by a Child Protection Review Conference.
6.8 Significant changes to the Care Plan can only be made at the Looked After Review.
6.9 Where there is disagreement within the subsequent Child Protection Review Conference, the disagreement must be brought to the attention of the social worker’s manager who, in consultation with the Child Protection and Review Unit manager, will decide whether or not to proceed with the plan made at the Looked After Review.
6.10 Where a child with a Child Protection Plan is removed from accommodation by his/her parents or where a Looked After Child is returned to his or her parents or carers in court proceedings against the recommendation of the local authority, either an Initial Child Protection Conference or a Child Protection Review Conference, whichever is relevant, must be convened to consider the risks to the child and the implications for the Child Protection Plan.
6.11 If necessary and appropriate, the local authority must take action to protect the child prior to the Child Protection Conference. This must not be delayed until after the Conference is convened if an enquiry or assessment indicates that protective action is required.

End