Social Work Practice Standards
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This detailed and comprehensive chapter seeks to describe and establish the standards required of social workers with regard to practice and includes key aspects and expectations for working with children and families subject to a variety of situations and through a variety of processes. It highlights the importance of being clear about the wishes and feelings of children and what life is like for them in the family or care environment they are in. Also, recording, having SMART plans and the role of supervision. The chapter links to a range of chapters within the Wirral Procedure Manual to promote access to additional information.
This chapter was amended in September 2018 to acknowledge the expectations on staff when changing/cancelling meetings or appointments with children or families; at least 24 hours' notice should be offered. (See Section 4, Wirral's Social Work Practice Standards).
1. Why do we need Social Work Practice Standards?
- All practitioners, social workers and managers have clear guidance regarding their roles and responsibility as professionals;
- There is a consistent approach to the social work task across all teams;
- There are clear expectations for practitioners, social workers and front line managers which they can measure themselves against;
- We have a confident professional service that is respected by families and other professionals that can champion the needs of children and challenge others where necessary to promote the welfare of the child;
- To quality assure our work.
2. Supporting Social Work Standards
To support the Social Work Standards there are:
- Supervision Standards;
- Management Standards;
- The Children Social Care tri.x Procedures - a clear set of processes for the social work task that are easily accessible;
- A set of assessment and direct work tools that social workers can use in their work;
- Performance and Quality Assurance Framework.
- Children and young people's best interests will be of primary consideration in all areas affecting them;
- The safeguarding and welfare of the child is the focus for all that we do and the strengths of families as well as concerns will be assessed and used to safeguard any child;
- Families will be treated with respect and honesty and kept informed throughout any social work intervention;
- The work with children and their families will be based on the achievement of identified outcomes that are measurable;
- Our services will be delivered in partnership with families and young people and other agencies.
Every Social Worker in Wirral should know the answer to:
- Does the child feel safe?
- From the child's perspective, what does it feel like living in the family?
- How is our intervention impacting or improving the child's circumstances?
- How do we know?
4. Wirral's Social Work Practice Standards
Standard 1 - Assessments will be child centred, proportionate and of a high quality.
Standard 2 - Children in need of protection will receive an immediate response.
Standard 3 - Children in need of protection will be kept safe through a clear plan and coordinated multi agency intervention.
Standard 4 - Children and families will be involved in well-planned interventions which will improve outcomes and keep children safe.
Standard 5 - Children and young people who are unable to remain with their birth family will be looked after in a setting which meets their needs and delivers the best outcomes.
Standard 6 - All information recorded about a young person or their family will be accurate, up to date, accessible and meaningful.
Standard 7 - A child or young person's plan should present a detailed picture of a situation, and those involved. It should also show what actions might be taken, and by whom, to meet assessed or identified needs.
Standard 8 - 'Effective leadership sets the direction of an organisation, its culture and value system, and ultimately drives the quality and effectiveness of the services provided.' (Laming 2009: 2:1)
Standard 9 - All managers will ensure that all managerial responsibilities for children and young people for whom the local authority has a responsibility, will be carried out in line with the standards set out in this section and the rest of the practice standards manual.
Standard 10 - All staff will have supervision contracts and annual appraisals in place that are being acted upon and progressed within agreed timescales.
Standard 11 - Case audits involve reading the case record, and checking whether or not standards are met as well as an opportunity to review the quality of practice and decision making.
(See also Managers Practice Standards Procedure).
Underpinning requirements for all Children receiving a Service
Services to children and young people will be undertaken within legislative and regulatory frameworks.
For all open cases there must be:
- An up to date assessment on each child, which is regularly reviewed and has been signed by the social worker and authorised by the manager;
- A Chronology of significant events that includes risk and protective factors and is up to date;
- An agreed plan for the intervention with the child and their family that is reviewed in supervision and through multi agency planning meetings (i.e. Child in Need Meetings, Child Protection Conferences, Core Groups or Looked After Child Reviews);
- A record of supervision and management oversight i.e. authorisations, manager's comments and quality assurance;
- Consideration for Advocacy for the child and/or family throughout Children's Social Care involvement.
- A professional approach to communication with the child(ren) / family, that ensures there is a clear understanding of expectations upon the social worker and the child(ren) / family.
- Child(ren) / families must be updated and informed of changes to appointments, core groups, conferences, review meetings and any other occasions that they are expected to be present, at the EARLIEST possible time. Although some circumstances are unforeseen, there is an expectation that a minimum of 24 hours' notice is given to families.
4.1 Standard 1 - Assessments will be child centred, proportionate and of a high quality
- The child (depending on age and understanding) and the family know about assessment and are actively involved in any assessment. Their consent to undertake agency enquiries has been gained unless there is a clear safeguarding issue that makes this inappropriate (decision is recorded);
- The reason for the assessment is clear and justified;
- All assessments will be allocated to a social worker within 24 hours of the referral being accepted and a Management Decision recorded on Liquid Logic with clear case direction;
- All children are seen within 5 working days of allocation, and sooner at the discretion of the Team Manager, if risk directs. The visit must be recorded as 'Child Assessment Framework visit' on Liquid Logic;
- All Assessments are completed in a timely way in line with Wirral procedures and statutory guidance;
- The child is seen and spoken to alone and their views, wishes and feelings recorded. If the child is not seen the reason should be recorded and management agreement sought;
- All members of the household should be included i.e. all adults and children living in the home and their details recorded on Liquid Logic;
- Partners, estranged parents (i.e. fathers or mothers not living with their child), and extended family should be identified, and their role and involvement in the family understood and included in the assessment in an appropriate way;
- Due regard has been given to race, ethnicity, gender, disability, religion and communication needs of the family;
- The concerns of other professionals are listened to, clearly recorded and this information is used in the assessment;
- The history of previous involvement including the parents history is read, understood and used to inform current thinking and a chronology of significant events completed;
- Assessment tools are used where appropriate; their use is identified in recordings and the resultant analysis is used clearly in the assessment;
- Risk and protective factors are identified, analysed and assessed;
- The assessment provides evidence for the findings, all sources of information are identified and there are clear recommendations including for future work or no further action (NFA);
- If there is a decision that the assessment does not meet the threshold for a children's Social Care intervention, consideration is given to stepping the case down to Early Help;
- The assessment must be read by the line manager and comments and feedback provided as part of the authorization process. The assessment will only be regarded as completed when there is management sign off;
- The assessment is shared openly with the child and family and their feedback sought;
- The professional referrer is informed in writing of the outcome of the assessment and, with the consent of the family information from the assessment should be shared to allow for an Early Help assessment if the Social Care assessment was no further actioned, to reduce the need for constant re- assessment of the child and family;
- All cases transferring will have a transfer summary in place and transfer procedures followed in all cases.
- It is extremely important to gain consent from children and their families to do the work we do in all but the most worrying of cases. Gaining consent it is not just a tick box activity. When discussing and agreeing informed consent your relationship with the child and their family is being established (Dumbrill, 2006);
- "As a general principle, parental consent (and that of the child where appropriate) should be gained. There will of course be situations in which gaining consent is not possible due to the level of risk or significant resistance from the children or their family. In such a situation the lack of parental consent is not in itself a bar to information sharing." (Schofield et al, 2014: 8);
- Information sharing is vital to effective assessment of the risks to children. Though it is important to maintain confidentiality and protect the sensitive information of our service users, professionals must be able to recognise when they are required to share information with each other in order to ensure that risks can be fully assessed. Fears about sharing information cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the need to promote the welfare and protect the safety of children. (Working Together to Safeguard Children).
- All children and young people for whom Wirral Children's Services has a responsibility will have a good quality social work assessment and analysis of their needs on their record that is reviewed and updated every six months, or more frequently if the situation changes significantly, and which clearly informs Care Planning;
- The assessment and continuing analysis of need will be shown not just in reports but also in the planning processes and recording, so as to provide a rounded view of a child. A good assessment will include the child's history, current behaviours and view of the world, and indications of what the future holds;
- Assessments should be written in a way which makes them easy for the child and their family to understand. The child and their family should be able to see the professional judgment of the assessor and understand how they have reached the judgment. This should include the tools used to gather information, the hypothesis being tested, the evidence gathered and the knowledge used to inform the analysis;
- The assessment should provide a clear recommendation based on the analysis and will therefore provide a basis for Care Planning. Assessments should be completed in a timely manner – this will be led by the level of complexity, as agreed with your manager.
- The child will be seen within 5 working days of the decision to undertake an assessment (sooner if directed by the manager) consider if the visit should be announced or unannounced;
- The Single Assessment will be reviewed at 2 points by the Team Manager: 5 and 15 working days. These reviews must be recorded on Liquid Logic with clear case direction from the Team Manager;
- The aim is to complete a single assessment within the national average of 26 days, including sign off from the manager;
- All single assessments should be concluded within 45 working days.
Direct work with children and Young People
- The cornerstone of quality social work practice is the interaction between the child and young person and the social worker because it informs and strongly influences a successful outcome for the child.
Visits and statutory visits
- The purpose of a visit is to:
- Safeguard the child;
- Ensure the welfare of the child;
- Meet statutory responsibilities;
- Address specific issues;
- Work directly with the child;
- Assess the home environment;
- Inform planning for the child.
- Before a visit takes place, arrange it to ensure it is done and recorded within timescales. Consideration should be given as to whether the visit should be announced or unannounced. If the visit is to be announced, the time and date will have been arranged with the family or carer and the child;
- Points to consider include:
- Check accuracy of the current information held about the child and the family or carer;
- Plan what specific issues are to be covered in the visit;
- Be clear about the purpose of the visit – ensure the use of a visit template;
- Be clear about what to do if no one is at home.
- During all visits and statutory visits ensure that: the child is seen and spoken/seen alone; ask the child how they feel and what is the lived experience for this child? Prepare for the next review with the child, considered how to capture the child's contributions and feelings. Note any significant events/changes to the plan;
- In addition, for Child in Need and Child Protection visits it is best practice to:
- Challenge safeguarding concerns;
- Assess stability of the home environment;
- See the family and others in the home; observe how the child engages with family.
- Address specific issues raised in plans and reviews: hygiene, food, violence, drugs and alcohol, domestic violence, pets. Assess the progress of any interventions;
- In Looked after Children Statutory visits, it is best practice to:
- Assess stability and review suitability of placement – does this placement still form an integral part of the child's Care Plan;
- Note any complaints by or concerning the child;
- Note any changes in circumstances or attitudes within the placement;
- Observe how the child engages with the carer;
- Assess whether contact arrangements with parents/relationship with parents are meeting the child's needs;
- See child's sleeping arrangements (minimum of once a year);
- Check last/next dental, eye and health assessment appointments;
- See the carer and note care's issues with the placement.
- After the visit: clarify what actions have been identified; the date it needs to be done by; who needs to be contacted; and how to check that it has been done. Identify and record any changes to the child's plan. Set a date for the next statutory visit, within timescales;
- Record the visit on Liquid Logic. Practitioners must aim to record their statutory visits within one day of the visit and to identify whether: the child has been seen, child has been seen alone, child has not seen;
- Build respect and trust: being trustworthy and respectful have been key 'rules' which children themselves have suggested for practitioners. This means practitioners turning up when they say they will, being on time and not cancelling visits at the last minute;
- Protect the time you will spend with children during visits, whether alone or shared with other people. Avoid the agenda and focus of your visits being 'hijacked' by other people. Be proactive in planning and agreeing with carers how time in placement visits will be spent. This includes meeting with them and gathering information about the child;
- Be creative about contact between visits. It is a good opportunity to establish interest and involvement. Try to remember key events for children and mark them with an email, text, or call;
- Visits to children are an important opportunity to share information about their plan, key events, and changes. Do not wait to be asked, as children do not always feel that this is allowed;
- Do not make promises you cannot keep and do not give answers that you are not sure of. Reliability and trust is more important than always having the answer straight away. Also be honest if something cannot be done or answered and try to explain the reasons as clearly as possible. This should include steps to enable complaints or contacts with other people who may be able to help or explain. (See also: Child Friendly Complaints and Comments Policy);
- Recording a child's views: Use bold type when you are recording a child's views so that they stand out within the record;
- Do not cancel visits at short notice (minimum expectation is 24 hours' notice) unless there is no other alternative, immediately inform the family that this has been necessary.
4.2 Standard 2 - Children in need of immediate protection will receive an immediate response
- Whenever there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, Significant Harm there should be a Strategy Discussion involving local authority Children's Social Care (including the fostering service, if the child is looked after), the police, health and other bodies such as the referring agency. This might take the form of a multi-agency meeting or phone calls and more than one discussion may be necessary;
- A strategy discussion can take place following a referral or at any other time, including during the assessment process.
The discussion should be used to:
- Share available information;
- Agree the conduct and timing of any criminal investigation; and
- Decide whether enquiries under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 should be undertaken;
- Where there are grounds to initiate an enquiry under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989, decisions should be made as to what further information is needed if an assessment is already underway and how it will be obtained and recorded; what immediate and short term action is required to support the child, and who will do what by when; and whether legal action is required;
- The timescale for the assessment to reach a decision on next steps should be based upon the needs of the individual child, consistent with the local protocol and certainly no longer than 45 working days from the point of referral into local authority Children's Social Care.
Section 47 Investigation and Initial Child Protection Conference (ICPC)
- The Wirral Child Protection Procedures are followed and referenced in records and decisions;
- Concerns of significant harm that indicate a Section 47 investigation is required have been recorded and fully discussed with the Operational Manager and the decision to undertake a Section 47 agreed and recorded on Liquid Logic;
- Contact being withheld for parents during Child Protection enquiries is assessed, reviewed and lawful;
- A Child Safety Plan must be considered and put in place pending conference, including the plan for the enquiries, minutes, arrangements for seeing the child and the requirement for any written agreement with the parent and is fully recorded on Liquid Logic;
- Checks with all relevant agencies have been undertaken and considered before any final decisions in relation to the investigation are made;
- The Section 47 must be led by a qualified and experienced social worker;
- Single Assessment is the means by which the Section 47 investigation has been undertaken and will be presented at the Initial Child Protection Conference as the 'Conference Report'.
4.3 Standard 3 - Children in need of protection will be kept safe through a clear plan and co-ordinated multi-agency intervention
- The child must be seen and spoken to alone and their presentation, views, wishes and feeling recorded. All siblings in the household must be considered in the investigation;
- The history must be read, understood and used to inform the current investigation;
- Risks must be identified and analysed using a recognised risk assessment tool;
- The strengths of the family must be considered and used to inform any decision;
- The investigation must conclude with a judgement about the risk of harm and whether it is significant and this relates directly to the action required to safeguard the child;
- The outcome must be discussed with the manager and a management decision is recorded in relation to the next stage i.e. No Further Action, Child in Need, Initial Child Protection Conference;
- The ICPC must be convened within 15 working days of the strategy discussion – there is an expectation that the investigation would be complete in 5 working days allowing 10 working days for preparing for the Conference;
- The conference report must be available to the Conference Chair at least 3 working days before the Conference;
- The social worker's report to the ICPC includes:
- Summary of the reason for referral and information analysed as part of the investigation (referral, Single Assessment);
- A chronology of significant events including risk and protective factors;
- Child's current and past developmental needs;
- Parents capacity to keep child safe from harm and respond to needs;
- Child's views and wishes and feelings;
- Analysis of risk and protective factors, the impact on the child and the understanding of the parents of these factors.
- The report must be shared with the family at least 3 working days before the conference and their comments are recorded;
- The parents should be prepared for attending the conference and consideration is given to whether the child should attend for at least part of the conference. If they are not to attend the conference they should be encouraged to contribute in an age appropriate way;
- The outline child protection plan should address what needs to change in order to protect the child and the outcomes to be achieved. The membership of and the date for the first Core Group meeting must be set at the conference.
Working with Children Subject to a Child Protection Plan
- Following the ICPC the outline child protection plan and allocated worker are recorded on Liquid Logic immediately;
- All parties must agree and sign the plan and copies provided to the child, if age appropriate, and the parents;
- The first Core Group must be held within 10 working days of the conference and is chaired by the Senior Practitioner or Team Manager. The purpose is to put detail on the outline Child Protection Plan, agree outcomes to be achieved, set realistic targets to monitor progress, set the visiting pattern but no longer than 15 working days and ensure that the family and child understand the plan and what it means. All parties must agree and sign the plan;
- The first visit to see the child once a Child Protection Plan has been agreed should be within 7 working days. Visits thereafter to a child (both planned and unplanned) subject to a Child Protection Plan must take place minimally within 15 working days and the child is seen at each visit and on their own as appropriate;
- The child's wishes and feelings must be regularly ascertained using direct work tools and their perception about whether things are improving for them is recorded and captures what is it like for the child living in this family;
- Visits must be purposeful, focusing on the identified risks; work with parents is collaborative and not punitive. They should be helped to understand the risks and what they can do to reduce those risks. Parents should be given time to reflect on progress made before Core Groups and Review Conferences. This is part of an authoritative and structured approach to child protection;
- The role of fathers, estranged parents and any partner living in the home must be properly assessed and understood;
- The home conditions must be assessed (using the Graded Care Tool for Neglect) at visits and the kitchen, toilets/ bathroom and bedrooms checked especially where neglect is an issue. This is part of the Child Protection Plan and there is clarity for both the social worker and the family about what constitutes acceptable standards;
- The Core Group must meet every 4 weeks and the multi-agency Child Protection Plan is reviewed against the targets set. The record of each Core Group is shared with the family and all professionals involved in the plan;
- There is multi agency responsibility for the Core Group to have a clear opinion regarding progress of the Child Protection Plan and decision to cease the plan, with an exit strategy, prior to the Review Conference;
- Reports for Review CP Conferences must be prepared at least 5 working days before the conference, shared with the parents and child and their views on the report recorded. The Report will be with the Independent Chair 5 working days before the Conference. The report will outline the original concerns and the progress against the CP Plan and concisely update the conference members on the current situation for the child and family;
- Progress of the CP Plan is regularly reviewed in supervision;
- Legal Planning and Public Law Outline (PLO) (see Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure) will be fully considered when a child becomes subject to Child Protection Plan, if the required changes have not been met by the third Conference attendance at LAAM to review the plan is required.
4.4 Standard 4 - Children will be involved in well-planned interventions which will improve outcomes and keep them safe
- An assessment has been completed and this indicates that a child requires a Child in Need (CiN) service to promote their safety and wellbeing;
- A child is no longer subject to a Child Protection Plan but requires a CiN Plan to continue the work to promote the child's safety and wellbeing;
- 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 an Operational Manager or Advanced Practitioner and fully recorded and entered on Liquid Logic;
- 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 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 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;
- The progress of a CiN Plan should be monitored through supervision;
- 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 CP, 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.
4.5 Standard 5 - Children and young people who are unable to remain with their birth family will be looked after in the best possible setting which meets their needs and delivers the best outcomes
Children Looked After
- When a child becomes Looked After 'Life Story' work should commence immediately;
- Consideration of a Family Group Conference (see Family Group Conferences Procedure) will be part of the assessment and planning and if this does not take place this must be recorded and agreed by the Team Manager;
- When a child becomes Looked After, an up to date assessment of their needs should be in place, this assessment should be shared with the Commissioning Team to assist in the selection of a placement and in meeting the child's needs. Placement with siblings will be taken into account when planning a placement. If it is an emergency /unplanned admission, a Single Assessment (or review of the existing Single Assessment) should be completed within 45 working days;
- When a child becomes Looked After, placement with a family member must be considered and, if appropriate, a Schedule 4 Assessment must be completed prior to placement and this must be progressed to a full foster carer assessment under Regulation 24;
- The child will be visited within 3 working days of coming into our care or having had a change in placement;
- Ideally all placements of children and young people should be planned. A Placement Agreement Meeting must take place prior to placement, within the first 72 hours;
- When a child is placed quickly or in an emergency, all the information, (including family history and a view on the vulnerability of the child), needed to care for the child is shared with the foster carer straight away and a placement meeting is held within 72 hours to agree how the placement will meet the child's needs;
- For older children/ young people the risk of going missing should be considered and a plan agreed to reduce the likelihood of this;
- The child's needs in relation to race, ethnicity, language, communication, disability, gender, sexuality will be taken into account;
- When a child becomes looked after the Social Worker must inform the Safeguarding Unit within 24 hours for the allocation of an Independent Reviewing Officer which will trigger the commencement of an Initial Health Assessment (IHA) and a Personal Education Plan (PEP). All other professionals involved with the child will be informed of the child's legal status within 5 working days;
- Arrangements for contact with parents and other significant family members will be made at the time of the child coming into our care and reviewed regularly. Contact will be in the best interests of the child and supported and supervised as necessary;
- An Initial Health Assessment will be requested within 5 working days and a Personal Education Plan meeting will be arranged with the school in 10 working days, (or before coming into care if possible) and reviewed in line with statutory guidance;
- The social worker in conjunction with the Virtual School Team will ensure that the PEP is available on Liquid Logic 5 working days after completion;
- All children and young people who are Looked After will be seen a minimum of every 6 weeks for the first year they are in our care and then a minimum of every 12 weeks thereafter. Once a child is placed with permanent carers for 1 year, visits can reduce to 12 weekly as agreed in the LAC review; (see Social Work Visits to Looked After Children Procedure);
- The visits may need to be more frequent at different points of the child's journey in care and should be based on developing a positive and meaningful relationship with the child;
- If the plan is for adoption, visits must be weekly until the first adoption review meeting;
- If there is a change of plan then the contact will be revert to frequency of being first Looked After;
- An up to date Care Plan will be recorded on Liquid Logic within 10 days of placement and this will include the child's needs, consider intended outcomes and placement and service provision that is needed to meet the child's needs. This must include the child's wishes and feelings and address how the child is experiencing the process of coming into our care;
- By the Second Review the child must have a Permanence Plan included in their Care Plan;
- A Strengths & Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) Assessment is required and should be recorded on Liquid Logic by the second review by the social worker.
Children placed with a Connected Carer have different visiting requirements. The child's social worker must visit and see the child alone in the placement, (unless she/he refuses), each week until the first Looked After Review and thereafter at intervals of not more than 4 weeks during the period of temporary approval. The visits are to be recorded as statutory visits. (See also Family and Friends Care Policy).
- For young people in our care their aspirations for the future including their interests, views on careers and how they want their lives to develop should be included in the Care Plan from early teens, this should 'grow with the child'.
- A pathway assessment will be started when a young person is 15 ¾ years old, or a Pathway Plan will be in place 3 months after placed in our care post 16yrs and will be reviewed by the IRO as part of the Statutory Review. A PA will be allocated at age 16 and the following will be in place:
- An up to date Pathway Plan;
- Key events Chronology;
- Birth certificate, Nl Number (applied for at age 15yrs 9mths), passport;
- Immigration status;
- Bank Account.
Child Case Review Timescales
- The first review of the Care Plan must take place within 20 working days of the date when the child first began to be looked after. The second review must take place no more than 3 months after the date of the first review. The third and any subsequent reviews should take place no more than 6 months after the previous review;
- Arrangements can be made to review the Care Plan more frequently. This must be considered each time there is a significant change;
- Depending on age the child will be encouraged to participate in their Review and planning for that Review. They will be given the opportunity to speak to their IRO on their own. Parents will also be encouraged to participate in the Review process and their views recorded;
- For some children looked after timescales for reviews are slightly different. Children placed for a series of short breaks – The first review of their Care Plan will take place within three months of the day that they start their first short break placement and the second and all subsequent reviews must take place within six months of the previous review; (see Short Breaks (Overnight) Procedure);
- Children subject to Placement Orders (or where the local authority has other authorisation to place children for adoption). These children fall into two groups: where the Placement Order, or other authorisation, has been granted, but the child has not yet been placed with prospective adopters - these children must continue to have a Care Plan until they are placed with a prospective adoptive family. Following the Local Authority being given authorisation to place a child for adoption, there is a statutory requirement that a first review of the Care Plan takes place within three months of that date and thereafter at least once every 6 months;
- If the child is not placed 9 months after the granting of the Placement Order, the review must consider whether the plan remains appropriate and other options for achieving permanency must be considered;
- Where the Placement Order or other authorisation has been granted and the child has been placed with prospective adopters, the child ceases to have a Care Plan and this is replaced by the Adoption Placement Plan and Adoption Support Plan. The sequence of reviews then takes place as if this is a new care episode: i.e. within 20 working days, three months and then at least 6 monthly. These reviews continue until an Adoption Order is granted;
- Every child has the right to be supported by an Advocate. The IRO is responsible for making sure that the child understands how an Advocate could help them and their entitlement to one;
- The social worker and relevant other professionals will provide a written report for the Review and this will be with the IRO 5 working days before the Review. The IRO will be informed of any changes in the child's circumstances at the time that they happen;
- Any significant changes to a child's Care Plan or legal status should not be made without first discussing it with an IRO. If a permanent placement is at risk of breaking down a 'Disruption Meeting' will be held and chaired by an operational manager, to look at ways of maintaining the placement or seeking an alternative placement that will better meet the needs of the child; (see Placement Planning and Disruption Meetings Procedure);
- If a temporary placement is at risk of breaking down the Disruption Meeting will be chaired by the Team Manager.
- A Pathway Plan will be developed with the young person and will be reviewed by the IRO at the Looked After Child Reviews which will continue until they are 18 years old;
- When a young person becomes a Relevant child and care leaver the Pathway Plan will be reviewed every 6 months;
- The Pathway Plan will address current education and further education, living arrangements in consultation with housing colleagues, career pathways, apprenticeships, legal issues (particularly for Unaccompanied Minors seeking leave to remain), Health Passport, Staying put policy;
- Visiting will take place every 8 weeks unless the frequency is changed and authorised by the Team Manager/IRO and is meeting the young person's individual needs;
- Social workers will support the Staying Put initiative and all young people who remain in their placement will have this reviewed at their pathway planning meeting together with any financial Implications; (see Staying Put Policy);
- All care leavers will be encouraged to engage with health services and will be supported in accessing any specialist services including mental health, substance misuse, counselling;
- If young people are eligible for adult services, a referral will be made to the adult's team and joint visiting will be undertaken to ensure a smooth transition between children and adult services.
4.6 Standard 6 - All information recorded about a young person or their family will be accurate, up to date, accessible and meaningful
- As part of planning with children and families, adequate time to record work is allowed for any event or contact to be recorded within 3 working days; however if the information is urgent it must be recorded immediately or within 24 hours depending on the nature and urgency of the information and the need for it to be available to other practitioners e.g. Emergency Duty Team;
- Records clearly show when a child has been seen, spoken to and their wishes and feelings are included;
- Any direct work or assessment tools used are identified and analysed;
- If interpreters, specialist workers or communications tools are needed, this is clearly recorded;
- Records tell the story of the 'child's journey' and the purpose and outcome of any contact is clear and analysed;
- Facts and opinions are separated in the recording and any relevant research or tools used identified;
- All records are respectful of the child and their family including educational, communication, language, cultural, gender, sexuality and disability diversity;
- If information is provided by other professionals or family/friends the records give the person's name, contact details and their relationship to the child;
- All open cases will have a case summary recorded on Liquid Logic in case notes, which will be updated at least 3 monthly or when there is a significant event;
- Records are cross referenced on Liquid Logic so that it is clear where records are held in full;
- All records are respectful of the child and their family including educational, communication, language, cultural, gender, sexuality and disability diversity;
- If information is provided by other professionals or family/friends, the records gives the person's name, contact details and their relationship to the child;
- Management oversight is recorded on Liquid Logic including case discussions, supervision, management decisions and authorisations including the reason and rationale for decisions made; (See Managers Practice Standards Procedure);
- When a case transfers between social workers or teams there is an up to date Chronology of significant events and transfer summary on the records. (See Allocation of Work and Transfer Between Teams Procedure).
4.7 Standard 7 - A child or young person's plan should present a detailed picture of a situation and those involved. It should also show what actions might be taken, and by whom, to meet assessed or identified needs
- All children who are actively open to Children's Services should have an effective plan to outline service provision to that child or young person (except Private Fostering cases);
- The plan will meet the child's needs most effectively when it has been drawn up with the involvement of all professionals who are relevant to his/her care;
- Ensure that all plans will be subject to regular review and monitoring in a multi-agency decision making forum. This will ensure that the plan is meeting the current needs of the child;
- Child In Need Plans should be multi agency, and wherever possible include all of the relevant agencies for the child and family. Plans should also be formulated in conjunction with parents where possible;
- All plans should follow the SMART planning format (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound). Plans should not include irrelevant information, for instance if there are no concerns with school attendance do not highlight school attendance on a plan. The title of the plan is "What needs to change" and we don't need to change things that are going well for the family;
- The SMART planning method involves the following: be specific - not generalised; be measurable; be achievable to the family or child; be realistic; be time-bound. For example: an entry on a plan to stop using substances may not be a realistic outcome for the parent or child;
- Child Protection Plans are delivered under Section 47 (Children Act 1989) which is a statutory level of involvement. This means that social care services have sufficient concerns to require that parents work with services. If parents consistently fail to work with Social Care in relation to children on Child Protection Plans you may need to take legal action;
- To deliver services under Section 47 (Children Act 1989) we do not need to have parental consent. Under Section 47 we are required to see children alone (when age appropriate) and go into the family home. If we are not allowed into the home the police will support us to gain access;
- Child Protection Plans are devised at the end of the Child Protection Case Conference. All professionals and parents who go to the meeting will leave with a copy of this plan. The plans follow the same format as Child in Need Plans. They will cover the following areas: what needs to change, how will we know change has taken place? What will be done, by whom and by when?
- The Child Protection Plan should guide the work undertaken with the family to address the presenting issues in the case. Plans can be added to within Core Group Meetings and updated by removing completed tasks to keep the plan relevant and live.
4.8 Standard 8 - 'Effective leadership sets the direction of an organisation, its culture and value system, and ultimately drives the quality and effectiveness of the services provided'. (Laming 2009: 2:1)
- The decisions and actions made by managers and practitioners will have a profound effect on the lives of those children and their families for whom they have a responsibility. They therefore have to be undertaken with the greatest care and diligence to ensure the best possible outcomes for those children and their families;
- Ensuring a professional response from the initial referral to the closure of the case;
- Overseeing good quality decisions about the type of response or investigation to be undertaken, and ensuring the skills, competences and capacities are in place for a quality service;
- Providing clear direction and setting priorities in the service;
- Scrutinising to ensure good quality recording, analysis of need and report writing;
- Providing good quality supervision, annual appraisals and well organised staff and team meetings;
- Making sure staff work within a supportive team culture, with good communications, and routine commitment to rigorous professional practice.
4.9 Standard 9 - All managers will ensure that all managerial responsibilities for children and young people for whom the local authority has a responsibility, will be carried out in line with practice standards
- The service is effectively managed, staff are effectively supported to achieve optimum outcomes for children and young people;
- There is evidence of management oversight, scrutiny and challenge in the Liquid Logic records of all children and young people for whom Wirral has a responsibility;
- Work is allocated to suitably trained and qualified staff, with the necessary skill and capacity to undertake the task;
- Professional and Case Supervision takes place regularly; decisions and outcomes are clearly recorded; (see Supervision - Supporting Staff in a Challenging Social Care Environment Procedure);
- Managers will have ensured that all actions, recordings and reports are timely and of a good standard. Work that is not of an acceptable standard will not be signed off and managers will ensure that constructive and helpful feedback is provided;
- Management accountability is recorded at all stages or work with a child and there is a clear audit trail of decision making;
- Managers audit case records on a regular basis and required remedial action to be taken where necessary;
- Managers will have ensured that thorough enquiries are undertaken, supporting good quality assessments and analysis of need and risk, leading to evidenced recommendations for actions to be undertaken;
- All managers will maximise opportunities for training and work force developmental policies and strategies;
- All staff have annual performance and development reviews (PDRs);
- Social work staff progress through practice evaluation from AYSE to Experienced Practitioner;
- 'Senior Managers should be confident that decision making, communication and information sharing within and between each of the local services are effective in keeping children safe even when those services are under pressure. In turn they should support and value first line managers, ensuring that management oversight of decision making is rigorous and that the lines of communication between senior managers and frontline child protection staff are as short and effective as possible.' (Laming, 2009: 2.12);
- 'Managers must lead by example by taking a personal and visible interest in frontline delivery.' (Laming, 2009: 2.12).
4.10 Standard 10 - All staff will have supervision contracts and annual appraisals in place that are being acted upon and progressed within agreed timescales
- 'Supervision is the cornerstone of all good social work practice'. (Laming, 2003, Victoria Climbie Inquiry Report);
- All social workers and practitioners will have a supervision contract, and receive supervision and a Personal Development Programme in line with Wirral's supervision policy;
- Managers will ensure that all staff adhere to the standards of practice in the Practice Standards Manual, and that staff conducts themselves in a professional manner at all times;
- A record must be made of the discussion relating to each child at every supervision session concerning that child. It must be placed with the child's case records within two working days;
- Probing and challenging cases must be discussed in detail to ensure all issues have been covered;
- Children who are subject to Child Protection Plans, Supervision Orders, subject to Public Law Outline or care proceedings and Looked After Children should be discussed at each supervision session. Children in Need should be discussed at least every two months (or greater if the manager deems this to be necessary);
- In no circumstances should any case be closed without a recorded supervision session unless the case is being closed following assessment with no services being provided by the team. In these cases the closing summary and manager's approval of the assessment can be sufficient;
- When writing the supervision record, remember that the service user who is being discussed may read it at some point in the future;
- The Team Manager must keep a copy for the practitioner's personal supervision file;
- Ensuring that the practitioner has induction training reflection and development opportunities;
- Effective supervision is: Regular and scheduled: both parties need an opportunity to prepare for it;
- Support for the practitioner as a professional and as an individual person in her/his own right, including acknowledgement of issues of diversity.
Personal Development Programmes (PDP)
- All staff must have an annual meeting with their manager to draw up a PDP. This is an important opportunity to formally note achievements in the past twelve months and record any actions needed to address learning and development needs identified during ongoing supervision and case discussions. The PDP will set goals for the coming year;
- As part of preparation for this appraisal the manager will have directly observed the staff member's practice, (on a home visit where appropriate), and will provide constructive feedback and record this on the appraisal documentation.
4.11 Standard 11 - Case audits involve reading the case record, and checking whether or not standards are met as well as an opportunity to review the quality of practice and decision making
- The Case Audit programme will supplement case auditing undertaken by Quality Assurance and Improvement Auditors and should take place as part of line management supervision. The case audit programme will be carried out by managers, Social Workers, practitioners and those with a quality assurance function;
- Cases will be audited using standard audit tools which are designed to ensure that: key activities have taken place, and where relevant have been completed to agreed timescales. This is evidenced using the correct documentation or system forms; concerns about practice, unresolved safeguarding issues or threshold decision making are identified;
- Team Managers will be responsible for the quality, completeness and accuracy of the case records of staff in their teams, and for ensuring that all members of their team participate as required. Group Managers will be responsible for ensuring that Team Managers undertake and co-ordinate the required case audit activity, and for reporting back to Senior management and the Quality Assurance and Improvement Lead;
- The Quality Assurance and Improvement Lead will be responsible for the case audit programme, and will agree procedures, oversee implementation and progress commission any necessary work-streams with the agreement from senior management.
The Quality Assurance and Improvement Auditor
- Will be a suitably qualified social worker who will share their knowledge, experience of 'what good looks like' to support learning experiences across Wirral Children's Social Care;
- Auditors will ensure their findings are balanced, evidence based and are shared with practitioner's in a non-judgemental manner to encourage reflection;
- Auditors will ensure recording of audit activity is open, transparent non-judgemental, objective, evidenced and outcome based on an agreed format;
- Auditors will encourage an environment that supports audit compliance, welcomes challenge, avoids conflict and enable effective communication leading to trusting relationships;
- Auditors will be responsible for creating and sustaining an environment that promotes continuous learning and practice development, facilitate the learning and development of others to develop their knowledge, skills, values and practice;
- Auditors will provide detailed and analytical reports in respect of good practice, developing strengths and areas of poor practice they have identified during audit activity.