An estimated 20-30% of children have additional needs at some point and require extra help from services such as education, health, Specialist Services and others. The intervention may only be required for a short period of time but may also be needed long term. Underpinning the delivery of services to vulnerable children / young people and their families are principles designed to ensure that the family receive a fair, effective and appropriate response:
Children in Need of support and protection are the responsibility of all agencies in Wirral who work with children under the Children Act 1989 and Children Act 2004 with each agency delivering different elements of service to meet the needs of children and families. All services must be provided with a view to safeguarding or promoting the child's welfare.
A child should be taken to be in need if:
(Section 17(10), Children Act 1989)
In essence, Children in Need have the universal needs of all children and more complex additional needs than those requiring a Family Common Assessment Framework (Family CAF) but they do not require child protection measures at this time.
Outcomes are likely to be poor for those children/young people who have complex additional needs which have a significant negative impact on their health, development or wellbeing.
Stresses which may lead to a child/ young person being 'in need' can include parental domestic abuse, mental ill-health, substance misuse, learning disability, childhood trauma, homelessness, anti-social behaviour - often in combination. The child/ young person may be neglected, on the fringes of offending, have attachment, relationship or behaviour difficulties, have experienced multiple losses and/or be carrying inappropriate caring responsibilities.
The 1989 Children Act further states that 'development' means physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development and 'health' means physical and mental health.
Wirral has agreed levels and thresholds of need that define the criteria for accessing preventative and protective services. The levels are illustrated in the Wirral Continuum of Need and level descriptors can be accessed by following the links below:
Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 states that everyone has the right to respect for their private and family life, their home and their correspondence. Workers who have access to information about children and families must therefore treat any information confidentially. This article applies to children who are classified as in need of support under Section 17 Children Act 1989. The consent of parents and young people of sufficient age and understanding is therefore required for agencies to share information or to hold a Child in Need meeting.
It is accepted that in some police interventions it will not always be possible to obtain written consent before making referral to Specialist Services.
Consent will be obtained by agencies at the earliest opportunity and professionals in Wirral will make families aware that in order to provide appropriate services, agencies need to share information about the needs of the families. In obtaining consent parents, carers and young people should be given an explanation about the issues/concerns the agency has and information about the duties and responsibilities of agencies towards children in need of support or protection.
The options if consent is withheld are:
Every effort should be made by agencies working with the family to gain consent to information sharing. Agencies should work within stated Information Sharing Protocols and their own agency procedures on information sharing.
When consent is withheld for consultation or referral to another agency the agency holding the concern should make a decision about the level of risk to the welfare of the child in not making the referral or holding the meeting. To do this they may need to consult with Children's Specialist Services.
Once a Single Assessment has been completed, regardless of whether a Single Assessment is also to be completed, or the case has been referred from an active TAF case, the Social Worker should draw up a Child In Need Plan using the Child/Young Person In Need Plan template. This should be done in conjunction with the child and their parents/carers.
The Plan can be finalised during a multi-agency Child In Need Planning meeting, which should be convened by the Social Worker within 15 working days of completion of the Assessment. The Social Worker or an Advanced Practitioner or Team Manager (if case is complex) should chair the meeting. The Social Worker should discuss potential attendees for the planning meeting with the child/ young person and family prior to invitations being sent out.
The following parties should attend the planning meeting:
The Child in Need planning meeting provides an opportunity for the family and agencies to identify and agree a package of services required and to develop the Child in Need plan. All professionals invited to the planning meeting are required to complete a report for submission and sharing at the meeting. If unable to attend a representative should be identified to attend the meeting with the completed report. If this is not possible, the report should be forwarded with apologies to the Chair of the meeting to share with those present at the meeting.
Meeting participants will share information documented within their reports and relevant to the dimensions and domains of the Assessment Framework.
For all Child in Need meetings the Social Worker will act as lead professional and will arrange the invitations and the venue and will be responsible for chairing the meeting and ensuring that copies of relevant assessments are circulated beforehand and copies of the Child In Need Plan agreed at the meeting are circulated afterwards (usually within 14 days of the meeting). If requested by the Social Worker agencies should agree to record minutes for the meeting. Agencies are responsible for accurately recording their agreed actions.
When constructing plans and actions prior to or within meetings agencies should ensure that the following principles are adhered to:
The chair of the meeting should ensure that tasks have clear outcomes identified that are appropriately delegated and time limited. The meeting should clearly identify the child's/ young persons and the parents /carers needs and strengths as well as their views and feelings which should be recorded in the minutes and form part of agreed plans and actions.
It is the responsibility of each participant to record the agreed actions which will be delivered by their agency. The Social Worker will record brief overview information for the action notes which will be written up and distributed by them within 14 days.
All interventions, assessments and plans constructed to improve outcomes for children and young people are all ultimately designed to prevent the child from suffering significant harm. Within these safeguarding processes there is an unavoidable element of risk and interventions are put in place to minimise these as far as possible.
All agencies involved in providing services to safeguard children and young people are also involved in mitigating risk and the Child in Need process provides a framework for agencies to discuss risks, particularly emerging or worsening risks in a multi-agency environment.
Within Child in Need meetings risks can be discussed and assessed and where necessary measures put in place to prevent it escalating to becoming a child protection case. Following discussions some Child in Need cases may be described as complex if the child/ young person has significant safeguarding needs, but the risk to the child/ young person is not considered to have met the threshold for a Child Protection Plan.
For complex Child in Need cases professionals from agencies attending the Child in Need meetings should be prepared to discuss their concerns and provide an evidence base for each one, especially if they believe a situation is deteriorating. For example, concerns about missed appointments should specify how many have been missed in a particular timeframe, and concerns about school absence should quantify the absence rate and compare it to previous rates. In these complex cases, the appropriate interventions put in place to prevent the risk escalating will be reflected in the Child In Need Plan.
Within the Child in Need meetings tools such as the Signs of Safety framework using the model of Strengthening Families Enhancing Futures can be used to establish levels of risk in complex cases and explore those factors which are considered to be a risk against those which are protective.
The meetings also provide a good opportunity for professionals to record what may be low level emerging risks which can be monitored in subsequent meetings and lead to appropriate interventions. In this context risks may not be concerns seen as particularly harmful in isolation, such as a missed dental appointment, but could escalate over time or when combined with other concerns.
To ensure a successful meeting the Chair should:
It is the primary role of the Chair to ensure the meeting is managed safely and effectively and that the focus remains on the child's safety and welfare.
The process for the meeting is:
A plan for the meeting agenda is provided below:
Meeting Ground Rules
Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 provides for children who are assessed to be 'in need' of services to improve their life chances. Without the provision of services these children are unlikely to reach their full potential. The Child in Need Meeting will agree a multi agency Child In Need Plan to meet the child and family's assessed needs that clearly states:
The Child in Need Plan ensures:
The child in need plan is recorded by the Social Worker on the child's record, any updates and changes to the plan are also recorded on the child's record Guidance and templates are being made available to help the Social Worker use the information provided by agencies, assessments and the family to create effective plans.
A Child in Need Plan should be drawn up for children who are not Looked After but are identified as having complex needs. It should be completed following a Single Assessment.
The Child in Need Plan may be used with children receiving short break care in conjunction with Part One of the Care Plan.
An effective Child In Need Plan, especially for more complex cases, will include an assessment of risk and protective factors and should include strategies aimed at reducing risk factors.
Children in Need Plans normally also summarise the support services, including ongoing assessments.
Any modified Child In Need Plan generated from a Child in Need Review Meeting should be circulated within 14 days of the Meeting.
The family and the child / young person (where appropriate) should attend all Child in Need meetings and their views should be considered and recorded. If parents or carers do not attend the meeting a record of the meeting should be given to them.
The wishes and feelings of the child/ young person should always be sought and included. Attendance at Child in Need meetings by the child should always be encouraged and timings should avoid the school day for children of school age. Crèche facilities need to be considered where necessary.
Consideration should also be given to the date/ time and location of the meeting, particularly if the family are likely to have transport difficulties or may have work or other commitments.
If English is not the first language then arrangements for an interpreter should be made and issues of access for people with disabilities should be addressed. Where meetings fall around the time of religious festivals and times of particular religious observances which are undertaken by the family, particular consideration may need to be made to hold meetings at a time and venue suitable for the family to ensure their involvement.
Representatives from all agencies who have contact with the child will be invited to the meetings if appropriate, along with any other agency working directly with the family or who may be able to offer a service to the family.
Parents/carers and young people of sufficient age and understanding should be encouraged to attend with the support from the most appropriate agency, and be engaged in the child in need process by the agency convening the meeting who will discuss the issues with them, provide written information and prepare the family for the meeting. The family should be informed that the meeting might in exceptional circumstances go ahead in their absence but that they will still receive the minutes of the meeting, any Plan drafted and face-to-face feedback.
Ideally the venue should be familiar to the family and able to provide comfortable, family friendly surroundings. Consideration should be given to the accessibility of the venue for all those family members invited to attend.
The intended outcomes of a successful Child in Need meeting include:
A positive partnership between parents and agencies is a fundamental principle underpinning the successful promotion of children's welfare and the protection of children. However parents may need independent support, information and advice to be able to participate fully in the system processes from an informed position particularly where there is a divergence of views.
Accommodation should be made in meetings for parents/carers and children to be accompanied by an advocate or supporter if they choose to have this support or need independent support because of their vulnerability or having additional needs. An advocate is generally someone employed by an advocacy organisation or a specialist solicitor without personal involvement with the service user. A supporter will have an informal relationship with the service user such as friend, relative, member of self-help group.
The role of the child's advocate is distinct from that of the parent's advocate as they each represent the views of their own client. The goal of advocacy in the child in need process is:
It may be necessary, under exceptional circumstances, for meetings to be cancelled. If it is unavoidable the Social Worker must let the family and all agencies know with as much notice as possible. It is a good idea for the Social Worker to keep an up to date contact list for their meetings including phone and email addresses and this will help avoid people turning up for meetings which have been cancelled.
Following the cancellation of a meeting the Social Worker must arrange a new meeting as soon as possible.
When working with a family who is known, or discovered, to be uncooperative, Social Workers and practitioners should make every effort to understand why a family may be uncooperative or hostile. This entails considering all available information, including whether previous assessments such as a Family CAF have been completed and if so whether the family co-operated with the TAF lead professional.
When working with uncooperative parents, professionals can improve the chances of a favourable outcome for the child/ young person by:
With the help of their manager, professionals should be alert to, understand and avoid the following responses:
Professionals should seek expert help and advice in gaining a better understanding, when there is a possibility that cultural factors are making a family resistant to having professionals involved. Professionals should be:
Professionals need to ensure that parents understand what is required of them and the consequences of not fulfilling these requirements. Professionals must consider whether:
The Social Worker will be responsible for facilitating the review of the child in need status at regular review meetings. The Social Worker will also be responsible for chairing the review meeting. More complex cases might be chaired by an advanced practitioner or team manager.
The parents/ carers should be engaged throughout the process and be in agreement with the review. For reviews of complex cases all significant family members as well as parents/ carers should be invited to the meeting. At the review meeting consideration should be given as to whether the tasks outlined in the Initial Plan have achieved the outcomes. It needs to review what services need to remain engaged with the family to ensure that they are meeting the child's needs. This will be included in the review child in need plan. If further reviews are required these should be held at not more than six month intervals.
The first Review Meeting will be within 8 weeks of the initial Child in Need Meeting. The Child in Need Plan will be reviewed thereafter by the agency representatives involved in the Plan at agreed intervals of a maximum of 8 weekly. Complex Child in Need plans will be formally reviewed at intervals determined by attendees at the CIN meeting but will not exceed 8 weekly.
If a Complex Child In Need Plan fails to bring about significant positive change in a child's circumstances over a period of 6 months consideration will be given to placing the child/ young person on a Child Protection Plan.
The Child in Need Review Meeting will be convened by the Social Worker.
At each Review, progress against the action points of the Child In Need Plan will be monitored in terms of the outcomes achieved. Meetings will include an assessment of risk. The meeting will agree any modifications needed to the Plan and will set the date for the next review meeting. A short summary of the discussion from the meeting will be documented on the Child In Need Plan and Review Plan documents and copies of the document should be provided to the child/ren/young person, family and participants in the planning and review group within 15 working days.
When the Review concludes that the outcomes specified in the Plan have been achieved and all concerns addressed, and satisfactory arrangements for the continuing promotion and safeguarding of the child's welfare are in place then the Plan will no longer be applicable and review meetings will end.
When services for children/ young people and their families are being planned and reviewed, certain principles should be considered:
The decision to step down a case from Children's Social Care to Team Around the Family (TAF) (level 3) should be a multi-agency decision, where relevant agencies agree that this is the most appropriate course of action. The Social Worker, having discussed the case with their line manager, should arrange a final Child in Need meeting. An Early Help Social Worker, or other professional from Targeted Services, can attend this meeting if required. At the meeting, the Social Worker should seek agreement of partners to close the case to Children's Social Care, identify a Lead Professional for the TAF intervention and secure consent of the family for the level 3 service. If the Social Worker is not been able to identify a Lead Professional this will be arranged with support from the Early Help & CAF Team.
The Social Worker will provide the Early Help & CAF Team with a completed Transfer Plan which will be stored securely and made available to the Lead Professional. Once the Transfer Plan is received by the Early Help and CAF Team the step down will be completed within the Liquid Logic system within 5 working days.
In these cases the Lead Professional will not be required to complete a CAF Assessment but should use the Transfer Plan to inform their TAF plan and intervention.