Child in Need Procedure
RELATED CHAPTERSPlacing and Visiting Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities or Health Conditions in Long-Term Residential Settings Procedure
1. Principles of the Child in Need Procedure
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:
- The child / young person's needs must come first;
- Any planning or intervention is underpinned by an assessment (Family CAF, Single Assessment);
- The family should always be present at a Child in Need meeting;
- Practice must be excellent and consistent;
- Policies and procedures are correctly followed;
- Families are offered an equitable service;
- The welfare of the child/ young person is everyone's responsibility;
- All organisations must work together in partnership.
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.
1.2 Definition of Child in Need
A child should be taken to be in need if:
- He/she is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or to have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision for him/her of services by a Local Authority.
- His/her health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired without the provision for him/her of such services.
- He/she is disabled.
(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.
1.3 Thresholds of Need
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:
2. Working with a Child in Need
2.1 Consent and Information Sharing
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.
2.2 Withheld Consent
The options if consent is withheld are:
- The combination of the concerns and the refusal to consent to enquiries being made may result in the concerns being defined as child protection concerns. In this case, information sharing may proceed without parental consent. The consultation and the decision to proceed without consent must be recorded on the case papers;
- For another agency familiar with the child and family to make the approach about information sharing to the family;
- No assessment should take place.
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.
2.3 Child in Need Planning Meeting
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/young person (subject to age and understanding);
- Other appropriate family members;
- Advocates (where appropriate);
- Representatives from the child's nursery or school/ college;
- The midwife (if unborn) or health visitor (if under 5) or school nurse;
- Other agencies identified as important during the Single Assessment process e.g. youth offending service, substance misuse workers, housing, adult mental health staff, etc.
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.
2.4 Common Principles
When constructing plans and actions prior to or within meetings agencies should ensure that the following principles are adhered to:
- All agencies should respond to any information-sharing request, satisfying themselves that consent has been obtained from the family for such information to be shared;
- All agencies with information about a child must respond to a request to attend Child in Need meetings, attend with a written report or send a written report in their absence with apologies;
- Parents and children will be fully informed and supported to participate in Children in Need meetings and services and their views and wishes will help inform the plan;
- Unless there are very exceptional circumstances, meetings should not take place without the consent of parents and children of sufficient age and understanding;
- The Common Assessment format will be used by all agencies to inform the meeting;
- Children and families should not be subject to multiple assessments and planning activity by agencies;
- Plans will ensure that consideration is given to factors which protect children from emotional, physical and sexual abuse and neglect;
- Plans will give due consideration to risk and protective factors and show evidence of appropriate assessments of risk;
- A contingency plan will be agreed in case a plan is not actioned or does not result in improvement. This will be recorded on the Child In Need Plan;
- Copies of the Plan should be provided to the child/young person, family and participants in the planning and review group within 14 days of the meeting;
- Agencies will work together to share information, knowledge, skills, resources and responsibility.
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.
2.5 Assessment of Risk Factors in the Child in Need Process
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.
2.6 Chairing a Child in Need Meeting
To ensure a successful meeting the Chair should:
- Facilitate the exchange of information and the inclusion of all those attending the meeting;
- Facilitate the participation of parents, carers, children and young people, whether or not they attend;
- Ensure the meeting follows the agenda and that the meeting keeps to time;
- Help members to interpret the information and focus on the relevant issues;
- Manage any conflict and facilitate discussion of opposing views;
- Encourage clear, jargon free communication and challenge the evidential base of any judgements given;
- Summarise regularly to ensure all involved are aware of what is happening. The chair should have an understanding of child in need issues and knowledge of the child protection procedures.
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.
2.7 Meeting Process
The process for the meeting is:
- The child and family should be invited and given clear guidance about the purpose of the meeting and the importance of their attendance;
- The meeting should be chaired by the Social Worker, Advanced Practitioner or Manager;
- The Single Assessment of the child will be available to the meeting and copies distributed to appropriate members of the family and all involved professionals;
- A clear analysis of the needs, difficulties and concerns that have led to the need for a Child in Need Meeting should be discussed at the meeting;
- All represented agencies will be given an opportunity to describe how they are currently working with the child/ young person and family and present their assessment of current risks as well as protective factors;
- The meeting will agree the Child In Need Plan that addresses the needs difficulties and concerns in relation to the child;
- The co-ordination and review of the plan and the membership of any future review meeting will be decided at the initial meeting;
- The plan will be recorded on the case record;
- If the plan is not actioned or has failed to meet the child's needs the chair of the meeting must be informed and a decision taken whether to reconvene the Child in Need Review Meeting before the planned review date.
2.8 Meeting Agenda
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 overall objectives of the plan;
- The services to be provided and what their purpose is;
- Responsibilities for each aspect of the Plan;
- The lead professional (Social Worker) with overall responsibility for the plan who will coordinate the plan, arrange meetings, monitor progress and arrange reviews;
- The timescales for provision;
- Review arrangements.
The Child in Need Plan ensures:
- That all children and young people have clearly stated objectives for them to gain maximum life chance benefits from education opportunities, health care and Specialist Services;
- That there is a strategy for achieving these objectives.
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.
- There will be a clear CiN Plan that is focused on improved outcomes for the child, This plan should be multi-agency and be agreed at a CiN Meeting which should be held within 10 working days of the decision to support the family under Section 17, and chaired by a Manager or Advanced Practitioner and fully recorded;
- The CiN meeting should be held in an environment that ensures the family and child (depending on age) can easily attend e.g. at the school or Children's Centre;
- Everyone involved in the CiN meeting will receive a copy of the signed and dated CiN Plan;
- The Plan should include working with the strengths in the family and there are measures that enable the family and professionals working with them to show progress in achieving the outcomes - how will we know things are improving?
- The progress of a CiN Plan should be monitored through supervision.
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.
- The CiN Plan should be reviewed within 8 weeks of the initial meeting – First Review, if satisfactory progress is not being made consideration will be given to stepping up the intervention to child protection;
- A child subject to a CiN meeting should be seen a minimum of every 20 working days and their views sought and recorded;
- A second CIN Review will be held 16 weeks after the Initial Meeting, (8 weeks after the first review), a Team Manager or advanced practitioner will chair this meeting and if it is agreed that sufficient progress has been made in promoting the child's welfare the case will be considered for stepping down to Early Help;
- If progress is not satisfactory a decision may be made to step up to Child Protection, in exceptional circumstances another 4 weeks of intervention can be agreed on the CiN Plan;
- All CiN Plans that exceed 24 weeks will be reviewed by the Group Manager and reported through to the Head of Service.
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:
- The development of a plan to promote the welfare of the child and meet his/her needs and identify those that will implement the plan;
- Reviewing the effectiveness of actions and services against the intended outcomes for the child;
- If the decision at a Child Protection Conference is not to make the child/ young person subject to a Child Protection Plan then the conference may formulate an outline Child in Need Plan addressing the areas of significant concern and establishing the intended outcomes for the child and family. This will then be reviewed by the Child in Need Review Meeting within 20 days of the Child Protection Conference. Work with the child and family may then progress using the provisions of Section 17;
- Confirm the Social Worker as Lead Professional and outline their role.
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:
- To empower parents and children to participate in the process from an informed position;
- To promote good communication between parents, children and professionals.
2.17 Cancelling Child in Need Meetings
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.
2.18 Non Engagement by Family
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:
- Keeping the relationship formal throughout, giving clear indications to the family that the aim of the work is to achieve the best for their child or children;
- Considering whether the non-engagement is indicative of concerns which may place the child/ young person at risk of serious harm;
- Clearly stating their professional and/or legal authority;
- Continuously assessing the motivations and capacities of the parents to respond co-operatively in the interests of their child or children;
- Confronting uncooperativeness when it arises, in the context of improving the chances of a favourable outcome for the child or children;
- Engaging with regular supervision to ensure that progress with the family is being made and is appropriate;
- Seeking advice from partners (e.g. police, mental health specialists) to ensure progress with the family is appropriate;
- Helping the parent to work through their underlying feelings at the same time as supporting them to engage in the tasks of responsible child care;
- Being alert to underlying complete resistance (possibly masked by superficial compliance) despite every effort being made to understand and engage the parents;
- Being willing, in such cases, to take appropriate action to protect the child or children (despite this action giving rise to a feeling of personal failure by the professional in their task of engaging the parents).
With the help of their manager, professionals should be alert to, understand and avoid the following responses:
- Seeing each situation as a potential threat and developing a 'fight' response or becoming over-challenging and increasing the tension between the professional and the family. This may protect the professional physically and emotionally or may put them at further risk. It can lead to that professional becoming desensitised to the child's pain and to the levels of violence within the home;
- Colluding with parents by accommodating and appeasing them in order to avoid provoking a reaction;
- Becoming hyper alert to the personal threat so the professional becomes less able to listen accurately to what the adult is saying, distracted from observing important responses of the child or interactions between the child and adults;
- 'Filtering out' negative information or minimising the extent and impact of the child's experiences in order to avoid having to challenge;
- Feeling helpless / paralysed by the dilemma of deciding whether to 'go in heavy' or 'back off'. This may be either when faced with escalating concerns about a child or when the hostile barrier between the family and outside means that there is only minimal evidence about the child's situation.
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:
- Aware of dates of the key religious events and customs;
- Aware of the cultural implications of gender;
- Acknowledge cultural sensitivities and taboos e.g. dress codes.
Professionals need to ensure that parents understand what is required of them and the consequences of not fulfilling these requirements. Professionals must consider whether:
- A parent has a low level of literacy, and needs verbal rather than written communication;
- A parent needs translation and interpretation of all or some communications into their own language;
- It would be helpful to a parent to end each contact with a brief summary of what the purpose has been, what has been done, what is required by whom and by when;
- The parent is aware that relevant information / verbal exchange is recorded and that they can access written records about them.
3. Reviews of Child in Need Status
3.1 Review Meeting
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.
3.2 Planning and Reviewing Services for a Child in Need
When services for children/ young people and their families are being planned and reviewed, certain principles should be considered:
Children and families should be involved in the planning and review of services and information should be available to support this participation in an accessible and appropriate format.
The assessed needs of each individual child should be the focus for service delivery with services to children and families being co-ordinated so the child and family do not experience multiple assessments and planning.
- Equitable and non-discriminatory
Children and families should have access to, and be enabled to participate in, services which they need in a way which respects diversity and their individual needs.
Services should be sensitive to the individual needs and aspirations of every child and young person taking full account of their race/ethnicity, culture, language, gender, sexual orientation, and ability.
- Evidence Based
Access to services should be determined by a common assessment of need and delivery of services planned and subject to regular review.
- Fair and Transparent
High quality records of service provision should be kept by all agencies which may be accessed by the service user. Copies of all assessments (to include Common Assessments) and plans should be provided to service users so the rationale for decision-making can be clearly seen.
Services should be delivered in a manner that is supportive and respectful of children and young people and ambitious for their futures.
The welfare of the child is paramount and services should ensure children's protection from emotional, physical and sexual abuse and neglect.
3.3 De-escalating a Case from Child in Need to Team Around the Family
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.