Child Protection Procedure
These multi-agency procedures have been designed to assist agencies to work together to safeguard children. These procedures should be read in conjunction with:
- NYSCB Referral and Assessment Procedure, and
- NYSCB Practice Guidance
Further information can be obtained from the NYSCB website by following this link:
Where there are significant immediate concerns about the safety of a child or children, professionals should contact the Customer Contact Centre on (01609) 780780 or the police on 999. For further information please refer to the NYSCB Referral and Assessment Procedure.
It is important that there is no delay in taking action to protect children from the risk of significant harm by ensuring immediate steps are taken where necessary or to convene a strategy discussion where it is needed.
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 Children's Social Care, the Police, Health and other bodies such as the referring agency.
For children who are in need of immediate protection, action must be taken by the Social Worker or the police if removal is required, as soon as possible after the referral has been made to Local Authority Children’s Social Care (sections 44 and 46 of the Children Act 1989).An Emergency Protection Order, made by the court, gives authority to remove a child and places them under the protection of the applicant.
When considering whether emergency action is necessary an agency should always consider the needs of other children in the same household or in the household of an alleged perpetrator.
In some circumstances it may be a more proportionate response to initiate a child in need assessment under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. An early assessment can assist with the on-going analysis of need including whether there is a reasonable cause to convene a strategy discussion to address child protection concerns.
In making these decision Children’s Social Care manager should liaise with the police and any other relevant agency to decide whether Children’s Social Care should in the first instance initiate a child in need assessment.
After agencies have taken whatever steps necessary to protect the child or young person, an immediate strategy discussion between Children’s Social Care, the Police, Health and other agencies as appropriate should take place. This should ordinarily be held within one day of the referral (not one working day).
Flow Chart 2- Immediate Protection
Strategy Discussion Criteria
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 the Local Authority’s Children's Social Care, the Police, Health and other bodies such as the referring agency.
Strategy Discussion Attendees
A Children’s Social Care/Disabled Children’s Service Social Worker and their manager, relevant health professionals and a Police representative should, as a minimum, be involved in the strategy discussion. Other relevant professionals will depend on the nature of the individual case but may include:
- The professional or agency which made the referral;
- The child’s school or nursery; and
- Any health services the child or family members are receiving.
All attendees should be sufficiently senior to make decisions on behalf of their agencies.
Purpose of the Strategy Discussion
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 a Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 enquiry, decisions should be made as to:
- What further information is needed if an assessment is already underway
- NYSCB procedure for responding to concerns relating to a child 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.
Relevant matters include:
- Agreeing a plan for how the assessment under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 will be carried out – what further information is required about the child/ren and family and how it should be obtained and recorded;
- Agreeing who should be interviewed, by whom, for what purpose and when. The way in which interviews are conducted can play a significant part in minimising any distress caused to children, and in increasing the likelihood of maintaining constructive working relationships with families. When a criminal offence may have been committed against a child, the timing and handling of interviews with victims, their families and witnesses can have important implications for the collection and preservation of evidence;
- Agreeing, in particular, how the child's wishes and feelings will be ascertained so that they can be taken into account when making decisions under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 in the light of the race and ethnicity of the child and family, considering how this should be taken into account, and establishing whether an interpreter is required;
- Considering the needs of other children who may be affected (e.g. siblings and other children, such as those living in the same establishment, in contact with alleged abusers).
Children who are already subject to a Child Protection Plan
In some situations a new incident of concern might be raised regarding a child who is already the subject of a child protection plan. In these circumstances it is important to carefully consider all information. In coming to a decision as to how to proceed the relevant Children’s Social Care manager must ensure that contact is made with all relevant professional members of the core group as well as the police in deciding which of the following decisions should be made.
- The information is sufficiently serious as to require a strategy discussion to be held.
- The information can be considered and addressed within the child protection core group that is implementing the current child protection plan.
- The information does not require a strategy discussion to be convened but has sufficient impact on the management of the child protection plan so as to require an early RCPC to be convened to review the plan for the child.
In some circumstances where a child is the subject of a Child in Need or Looked After Child plan it may be appropriate that concerns that have been raised can be safely addressed within those planning processes. However, it is essential that such meetings are not used as an alternative to a strategy discussion.
Role of Social Workers and Managers in the Strategy Discussion
It is the role of Social Workers and their managers to convene the strategy discussion and make sure it:
- Considers the child’s welfare and safety, and identifies the level of risk faced by the child
- Decides what information should be shared with the child and family (on the basis that information is not shared if this may jeopardise a police investigation or place the child at risk of significant harm)
- Agrees what further action is required, and who will do what by when, where an Emergency Protection Order is in place or the child is the subject of police powers of protection
- Records agreed decisions in accordance with local recording procedures, and
- Follows up actions to make sure what was agreed gets done.
Role of the Police in the Strategy Discussion
During the Strategy Discussion the Police should:
- Discuss the basis for any criminal investigation and any relevant processes that other agencies might need to know about, including the timing and methods of evidence gathering, and
- Lead the criminal investigation (Children’s Social Care/Disabled Children’s Service have the lead for the section 47 enquires and assessment of the child’s welfare) where joint enquiries take place.
Role of Health Professionals in the Strategy Discussion
To support the Strategy Discussion Health Professionals should gather any relevant information from other involved Health Professionals to share at the Strategy Discussion.
The Strategy Discussion
The Strategy Discussion might take the form of a multi-agency meeting or phone call 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. A strategy discussion will make a decision regarding whether the case will proceed under section17 or section 47 of the Children Act 1989.
Where a strategy discussion is convened via a telephone discussion, it remains critical that relevant agencies remain involved in the meeting process and this should not become a forum for Children’s Social Care and the Police alone to make decisions.
Strategy Discussion Records
It is the responsibility of the chair of the strategy discussion to ensure that the decisions and agreed actions are fully recorded using an appropriate form on the Children’s Social Care/Disabled Children Service system. A copy should be made available to all participants within two working days at the latest.
Location of the Strategy Discussion
Strategy discussions should be held at a suitable venue, which is most likely to maximise attendance of those who are vital to share information (e.g. a hospital, school, police station, Children's Social Care office). If the child is an in-patient in hospital or if the case is one where hospital staff hold key information, the strategy discussion should be held at the hospital to maximise input from relevant staff.
Action following a strategy discussion
Flow Chart 4 - Action following a strategy discussion
A Strategy Discussion and result in a number of different outcomes. These may be:
- The decision to initiate Section 47 enquiries
- A Police investigation into possible offences
- A decision to complete an assessment under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989
- No further action by Children’s Social Care but other services being provided
Section 47 Enquiries
Where there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm, the local authority is required under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 to make enquiries, to enable it to decide whether it should take any action to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child.
A Section 47 Enquiry must always be commenced immediately when:
- There is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suspected to be suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm, for example a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm in the form of physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect,
- An Emergency Protection Order or use of police powers of protection have been used
- Accordingly a strategy discussion must always take place in these circumstances.
The threshold criteria for a Section 47 Enquiry may be identified during an assessment, but may also be apparent at the point of referral, during the interagency checks and information gathering stage, or at any other point in the assessment.
Responsibility for undertaking Section 47 enquiries lies with the Local Authority in whose area the child lives or is found. ‘Found' means the physical location where the child suffers the incident of harm or neglect (or is identified to be at risk of harm or neglect), for example:
- Day nursery,
- Boarding school,
- One-off event such as a fairground, holiday home or outing, or
- Where a privately fostered or looked after child is living with their carers.
Whenever a child is harmed or concerns are raised that a child may be at risk of significant harm or neglect, the host Authority where the incident occurred is responsible for informing the child's home authority immediately and inviting them to participate in the Strategy Discussion to plan action to protect the child. Only once agreement is reached that the child’s home authority will take responsibility for the child is the host authority relieved of the responsibility to take emergency and on-going action. Such acceptance should occur as soon as possible and should be confirmed in writing.
A section 47 enquiry is carried out by undertaking or continuing with an assessment in accordance with the guidance set out in NYSCB Procedures and Practice Guidance, and following the principles and parameters of a good assessment. Children’s Social Care/Disabled Children’s Service Social Workers have a statutory duty to lead assessments under section 47 of the Children Act 1989.
Roles within Section 47 Enquiries
The Police, Health Professionals, teachers and other relevant professionals have a duty to help Children’s Social Care/Disabled Children’s Service in undertaking its enquiries.
Children’s Social Care/Disabled Children’s Service
Social Workers with their managers should:
- Lead the assessment in accordance with this guidance
- Carry out enquiries in a way that minimises distress for the child and family
- see the child who is the subject of concern to ascertain their wishes and feelings; assess their understanding of their situation; assess their relationships and circumstances more broadly
- Interview parents and/or caregivers and determine the wider social and environmental factors that might impact on them and their child
- Systematically gather information about the child’s and family’s history
- Analyse the findings of the assessment and evidence about what interventions are likely to be most effective with other relevant professionals to determine the child’s needs and the level of risk of harm faced by the child to inform what help should be provided and act to provide that help, and
- Follow the guidance set out in Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings: Guidance on interviewing victims and witnesses, and guidance on using special measures, where a decision has been made to undertake a joint interview of the child as part of any criminal investigation.
The police should:
Health professionals should:
- Undertake appropriate medical tests, examinations or observations, to determine how the child’s health or development may be being impaired;
- Provide any of a range of specialist assessments. For example, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and child psychologists may be involved in specific assessments relating to the child’s developmental progress. The lead health practitioner (probably a consultant paediatrician, or possibly the child’s GP) may need to request and coordinate these assessments; and
- Ensure appropriate treatment and follow up health concerns.
All involved professionals should:
- Contribute to the assessment as required, providing information about the child and family, and
- Consider whether a joint enquiry/investigation team may need to speak to a child victim without the knowledge of the parent or caregiver.
Outcome of Section 47 Enquiries
The Vulnerability Checklist provides a guide to help determine the level of intervention for a particular child and also identifies the most appropriate agencies to address concerns including where intervention is specialist or acute.
Children’s Social Care/Disabled Children’s Service Social Workers are responsible for deciding what action to take and how to proceed following Section 47 enquiries.
If Children’s Social Care/Disabled Children’s Service decides not to proceed to a child protection conference then other professionals involved with the child and family have the right to request that Children’s Social Care/Disabled Children’s Service convene a conference, if they have serious concerns that a child’s welfare may not be adequately safeguarded.
Concerns should be raised in accordance with the NYSCB Professional Resolutions Practice Guidance.
Significant Harm Not Substantiated
Where concerns of significant harm are not substantiated:
- Social Workers with their managers should:
- Discuss the case with the child, parents and other professionals;
- Determine whether support from any services may be helpful and help secure it; and
- Consider whether the child’s health and development should be re-assessed regularly against specific objectives and decide who has responsibility for doing this.
All involved professionals should:
- Participate in further discussions as necessary;
- Contribute to the development of any plan as appropriate;
- Provide services as specified in the plan for the child; and
- Review the impact of services delivered as agreed in the plan.
Child Protection Conferences
Where concerns of significant harm are substantiated and the child is judged to be suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm:
- Social Workers with their managers should:
- Convene an initial child protection conference. The timing of this conference will depend on the urgency of the case and respond to the needs of the child and the nature and severity of the harm they may be facing. The initial child protection conference should take place within 15 working days of a strategy discussion, or the strategy discussion at which section 47 enquiries were initiated, if more than one has been held;
- Consider whether any professionals with specialist knowledge should be invited to participate;
- Ensure that the child and their parents understand the purpose of the conference and who will attend; and
- Help prepare the child if he or she is attending or making representations through a third party to the conference. Give information about North Yorkshire Advocacy Service and explain that the family may bring an advocate, friend or supporter.
All involved professionals contribute to the information their agency provides ahead of the conference, setting out the nature of the agency’s involvement with the NYSCB procedure for responding to concerns relating to a child. Each agency must provide a report to the conference and this should be shared with the subject and their parents/carer prior to the meeting.
Further guidance in relation to Child Protection Conferences and Review Child Protection Conferences can be found in the NYSCB Child Protection Conferences Procedures and Practice Guidance.
Children in Need
A Child in Need (CIN) is defined in s17 Children Act 1989:
- The child is unlikely to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision of services by a local authority, or
- Their health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision of such services, or
- They are disabled.
Where it is decided that the threshold for the child as a Child in Need is met then the following will apply:
- The first CIN Meeting will be held within 28 days of the completion of the Assessment
- The first review of the CIN Plan should be held within three months of the original meeting. Second and subsequent reviews should then take place every six months (unless circumstances arise that require earlier reviews)
- The first Child in Need Meeting will be chaired by either the Social Worker who completed the Initial Assessment or the relevant Assistant Team Manager.
The Social Worker is responsible for ensuring that all agencies which have direct and relevant involvement with the child and family are invited to the meeting (e.g., schools, Children’s Social Care/Disabled Children’s Service and health services). All those who have relevant information that can be shared in the meeting should be invited.
The involvement of the child and their family is crucial. Children and families should be invited and prepared for attendance at meetings by the Social Worker (unless the young person objects to parental involvement). Where children and/or parents do not wish to attend, efforts should be made to ascertain their wishes and represent these at the meeting.
In all circumstances the views of all children should be ascertained using whatever medium is appropriate.
CIN Meetings will address key issues for the child or young person. To do this effectively the chair will facilitate a clear analysis of the needs, difficulties and concerns that have led to the need for a CIN Meeting. The Initial Assessment will be available to the CIN Meeting to support this analysis with copies distributed to appropriate members of the family and all involved professionals.
Outcomes for the child should be defined within CIN Meetings, they should be clear and developed by those attending the meeting. They will form the base of the CIN Plan, a plan designed to address the needs, difficulties and concerns in relation to the child. Each action of the plan will outline clearly the services to be provided, their intended outcomes for the child, those who have responsibility and the expected timescales.
The coordination and review of the plan and the membership of any future review meetings will be decided at the initial meeting.
The Plan will be recorded on the Local Authority’s Children’s Social Care/Disabled Children’s Service system. Copies of the plan will be sent to the parents and child (where appropriate) and all involved professionals within 10 working days of the meeting. All plans will be accessible and comply with best equalities practice.
Where a plan cannot be progressed or fails to meet the child's needs, the chair of the meeting must consider whether to reconvene the meeting before the planned review date.
It is appropriate in cases to hold short break reviews for disabled children who receive an overnight respite service with their CIN Meeting. The proviso must be that agencies who contribute to the child's CIN Plan are invited to the meeting. This will require those meetings where a number of agencies are involved and likely to attend to take place in venues other than the child' home or respite placement.
Similarly where a child is subject to other forms of meeting e.g., a Statement of Educational Needs Meeting then consideration can be given to holding the two meetings together. Again the respective chairs of both meetings should agree that this can be undertaken without compromising the quality of either plan, and that the CIN Meeting continues to be a multi-agency process.
Standards and criteria for Child in Need Meetings in North Yorkshire are available on the North Yorkshire Safeguarding Children Board Website from the link below: