Managing a Child Protection Plan

The Child Protection Review Conference

Unless otherwise specified, the same approach is to be taken with regard to a Review Child Protection Conference (RCPC) as with an Initial Child Protection Conference in relation to:

  • Professional involvement (with the exception that the Police will not attend unless they have specific information to share);
  • Provision of Information (except that reports are to be shared with family and made available to the Chair five working days prior to the Conference).

Timescale for Review Child Protection Conference

The first Child Protection Review Conference is to be held within three months of the Initial Child Protection Conference, and further reviews should be held at intervals of not more than six months, for as long as the child remains the subject of a Child Protection Plan.  This is to ensure that momentum is maintained in the process of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the child. Where necessary, reviews should be brought forward to address changes in the child's circumstances.

Purpose of Review Child Protection Conference

The purpose of the child protection review is to:

  • Review the safety, health and development of the child against planned outcomes set out in the Child Protection Plan;
  • Review each of the set objectives within the Child Protection Plan;
  • Ensure that the child continues to be safeguarded from harm;
  • Consider whether the Child Protection Plan should continue in place or should be changed.

A Review Child Protection Conference must always start with the background and reason for the existence of the Child Protection Plan.

The reviewing of the child's progress and the effectiveness of interventions are critical to achieving the best possible outcomes for the child. The child's wishes and feelings should be sought and taken into account throughout the reviewing process.  The review requires as much preparation, commitment and management as the Initial Child Protection Conference. Every Review should consider explicitly whether the child continues to be at risk of significant harm, and hence continues to require safeguarding from harm through adherence to a formal Child Protection Plan. If not, then the child should no longer be the subject of a Child Protection Plan.

Discontinuing the Child Protection Plan

The Child Protection Plan should be discontinued if the Child Protection Review Conference judges that the child is no longer at continuing risk of significant harm, using the same basis for judgment as at the Initial Child Protection Conference.

Where the Child Protection Plan has more than one category, the judgement MUST be applied to each category. The Child Protection Plan should be ended only if the child is judged to be no longer at continuing risk of significant harm in relation to each category of the child protection plan. Consideration of each category should be recorded in the record of the Child Protection Conference.

Although discontinuation should be considered at every Child Protection Review, it would not normally be expected that a Plan would be discontinued at the first Review Conference.  This is because it is likely to be too early to tell whether sufficient change has taken place and whether there is a sound basis on which to believe that this change will be maintained. 

Conference members should guard against discontinuing a Plan due to a recent improvement in the child's care or home circumstances.  The plan should not be discontinued at the first review conference unless there are overriding reasons to do so. In this event all plans that cease at the first review must be audited by the IRO Manager.

The decision must be based on a careful and thorough analysis of current and future risk, underpinned by the Assessment and any other specialist assessment which shows clearly that there is a sound basis on which to believe that the improved circumstances will be maintained.

Where a child's current safety is due to temporary arrangements, for example the child is in foster care or being cared for within their extended family, this alone is not sufficient reason to discontinue a Child Protection Plan.  In such a circumstance, there must also be a completed assessment, available in writing to the Conference and a long-term plan which ensures continuing safety and which is agreed by Conference.  An example is where Children's Social Care intends to seek a Care Order with a plan for the child to remain with a carer who is not the parent. 

Where discontinuation of a Child Protection Plan depends on seeking an order at Court, the Review Conference must make a contingency recommendation in the event that the order is not granted, for example, that there will be a further Initial Child Protection Conference. It should be noted that the existence of either pre court action under the Public Law Outline or court proceedings is not a substitute for a Child Protection Plan.

Where it is decided to discontinue the Child Protection Plan, the Conference and the child/family should consider what continuing support services are necessary and make recommendations in respect of these.  There should never be an automatic withdrawal of help. If the family are in agreement to continue to receive services the Child Protection Conference should make an outline Child In Need Plan and set a date for the first Child in Need meeting/review.

Children's Social Care should make clear the minimum period they will continue to provide services for the child and family, with the agreement of the family.  Where Children's Social Care subsequently considers the case should be closed, there should be inter-agency liaison with other professionals involved. All professionals involved with the child's case should be informed of closure by Children's Social Care prior to closing the case.

Children in need of protection for two years or more

When a child subject to a Child Protection Plan is approaching the third review child protection conference they are likely to have been in the child protection process for about thirteen months. At this point advice must be sought from the relevant Group Manager and if necessary legal services as to the way forward. Where a child has been subject to a plan for more than two years, and change has not been sustained or has not taken place in this time, other ways of protecting the child must be discussed.

The Role of the Lead Social Worker

At every initial and pre-birth conference, where a child protection plan is put in place, a qualified social worker, identified by the Children's Social Care Manager, should be named to fulfil the role of lead social worker for the child.

The lead social worker should complete the assessment of the child and family, securing contributions from core group members and others. It is important the role of the lead social worker is fully explained at the initial child protection conference.

The lead social worker should:

  • Convene and chair the second and subsequent core group meetings ( the first having been chaired by the manager)
  • Provide a written record of all core group meetings for members
  • Ensure the outline child protection plan is developed, in conjunction with members of the core group, into a detailed multi-agency protection plan
  • Clearly note and include in the written record any areas of disagreement
  • Produce a written agreement from the protection plan to be signed by all members of the core group, copied to signatories and kept in the child's file
  • Obtain a full understanding of the child's history, which must involve reading previous case files as well as current records in use in Children’s Social Care, including those relating to other children who have been part of any households involving the current carers of the child
  • Complete the assessment and coordinate the contributions of family members and all agencies in putting the plan into action
  • Ensure the Child Protection Plan is aligned and integrated with any associated offender risk management plan, and
  • Consider the need to inform the relevant Embassy if the child has links to a foreign country.

Seeing the child

  • The lead social worker should see the child at home and alone for part of each visit, at least every two weeks or at intervals specified by the child protection conference.
  • Ensure the child's bedroom is seen at least once between each conference;
  • Ensure the child is seen alone (with parent's agreement) or babies awake at least six weeks or at intervals specified by the conference.

Difficulties maintaining contact with the child

If the lead social worker of any professional involved with the family has difficulty obtaining direct access to the child, the Children's Social Care Team Manager and Child Protection Conference Chair should be informed as well as other core group members.

In these circumstances, formal agreement must be reached that an appropriately qualified and experienced member of another core group agency carries out direct contact or that a review conference be called. Such a decision must be recorded and authorised by the Children's Social Care Group Manager, the Police and the agency undertaking direct contact.

Children's Social Care - First Line Manager Role

The first line manager has a vital role in managing the process of the case and supporting the lead social worker.

The manager should:

  • Read and authorise approval of all assessments, reports to conference, plans and decisions on the child's file including a log of incidents
  • Chair the first core group meeting and others where it is appropriate (e.g., where there are professional disagreements or particularly complex issues
  • Discuss the progress of the protection plan and any concerns in supervision;
  • Record management decisions in supervision in the child's record
  • Agree Social Worker’s reports to the conference and monitor the implementation and progress of the child protection plan
  • Attend all Initial Child Protection Conferences and Review Conferences where the recommendation of the Social Worker is to end the Child protection Plan
  • Arrange cover for the lead social worker in case of sickness, annual leave and training including checking any necessary action resulting from post, email and telephone contacts
  • Ensure the Child Protection Plan is aligned and integrated with any associated offender risk management plan, and
  • Consider the need to inform the relevant Embassy if the child has links to a foreign country.

Difficulties in implementing the child protection plan

Where any members of the core group is aware of difficulties implementing the plan due to changes or unforeseen circumstances, the lead social worker must be informed immediately and a core group meeting/ discussion co-ordinated to agree contingencies or request that the Review Child protection Conference is reconvened urgently to re-consider the child protection plan.

Circumstances include inability to gain access to the child who is the subject of the plan, for whatever reasons, on two home visits (the second being in close succession to the first). In such circumstances, action must be agreed between the concerned agency, CSC and the Police.

The Role of the Core Group

The Core Group is responsible for the formulation and implementation of the detailed Child Protection Plan as outlined at the Initial or Pre-Birth Child Protection Conference, refining the plan as needed and monitoring progress against the planned outcomes set out in the plan. 

All members of the core group are jointly responsible for:

  • Collecting information to assist the lead social worker in completing the assessment;
  • Participating in the compilation of the assessment;
  • The formulation and implementation of the detailed child protection plan, refining it as necessary;
  • Carrying out their part of the plan;
  • Monitoring progress against specified outcomes of the detailed child protection plan;
  • Making recommendations to subsequent review conferences about future protection plans and needs;
  • Attending core group meetings and ensuring there is no drift in planning and intervention.

Agencies should ensure that members of the core group undertake their roles and responsibilities effectively in accordance with the agreed child protection plan.

The Core Group does not have a remit to change the Child Protection Plan, nor responsibility for key decisions. These should be made by Child Protection Conferences. 

Membership of the core group will have been identified at the child protection conference and should include:

  • The lead social worker, who leads/chairs the core group;
  • The child if appropriate (see NYSCB Procedures Section 7.4 Involving children and/or families);
  • Parents and relevant family members;
  • Professionals involved with the child and/or parent;
  • Foster carers or residential care staff who will have direct contact with the family.

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

Core Groups are an important forum for working with parents, wider family members, and children of sufficient age and understanding. It can often be difficult for parents to agree to a Child Protection Plan within the confines of a formal Conference, however, their agreement may be gained when details of the plan are worked out in the Core Group.

Sometimes there may be conflicts of interest between family members who have a relevant interest in the work of the Core Group. The child's best interests should always take precedence over the interests of other family members.

Timing

The first meeting of the Core Group should take place within ten working days of the Initial Child Protection Conference and should be arranged at the end of the conference, along with the first Review Child Protection Conference. d. The purpose of this first meeting is to flesh out the Child Protection Plan and decide what steps need to be taken by whom to complete the assessment on time and meet the objectives of the Plan. 

Dates for future meetings must be agreed at the first core group meeting following each conference. Where a meeting needs to be rescheduled, this must be confirmed in writing to all concerned by the lead social worker.

Thereafter, Core Groups should meet sufficiently regularly to facilitate working together, within six weeks of the first meeting and at a minimum frequency of once every two months following the first review conference. More regular meetings may be required according to the needs of the child. A core group should be convened at least two weeks before the RCPC to discuss progress with the family and to share reports with them.

Completion of the Assessment, within 35 working days of the Strategy Meeting, should include an analysis of the child's developmental needs and the parents' capacity to respond to those needs, including parents' capacity to ensure that the child is safe from harm. It may be necessary to commission specialist assessments (e.g. from child and adolescent mental health services) that it may not be possible to complete within this time period. This should not delay the drawing together of the Assessment findings at this point.

The analysis of the child's needs should provide evidence on which to base judgments and decisions on how best to safeguard and promote the welfare of a child and support parents in achieving this aim. Decisions based on analysis of the child's developmental needs should be used to further develop the Child Protection Plan.

Core Groups should also be informed when any new referral is received for the child or for a member of their family. In some cases a new referral may require the Core Group to reconvene to consider the information or the child's review conference to be brought forward.

There should be written notes of the Core Group meeting, to include decisions, agreed actions and refinements to the Child Protection Plan.  The notes are to be distributed to Core Group members, relevant family members and the Chair of the Conference. All information relating to the child/young person should be recorded on their case file.

Core Groups and Family Group Conferences

In some cases Child Protection Conferences will recommend that a Family Group Conference (FGC) takes place and in these situations the FGC will become a component action of the Child Protection Plan. Where this is the case it is important that the Core Group meets prior to the FGC meeting to agree the remit and boundaries of this meeting. A "bottom line" for any changes should be made clear.

A guiding principle within the Family Group Conference process is that the plan made by the family will be accepted unless it should place the child at increased risk of significant harm.

Until the Child Protection Plan is discontinued, LSCB child protection procedures will continue to be followed. The Core Group will then continue to meet regularly and have responsibility to make sure the plan agreed by the family does not place the child at increased risk of significant harm. In most cases the Core Group will be able to endorse the Family Plan but where not, the FGC Coordinator will return to the family with the issues raised by the Core Group. The family will then have opportunity to review their plan. For this reason, Core Groups should meet as soon as able after the Family Plan is agreed. It is important that the Core Group is quorate i.e., that the same agencies are present as were at the Child Protection Conference.

Where issues remain, for example where the Core Group cannot endorse the reviewed family plan or the family is unable to change their original plan, an early Review Child Protection Conference should be called.

It is essential that any plan put forward by the family engenders change that is demonstrated to sustain change over time. . Therefore it would not be appropriate to immediately call a Review Child Protection Conference to discontinue the Child Protection Plan on the creation of a family plan. This should only be considered after sufficient time has passed for safety to be maintained and there is a presumption that no child protection plan should be discontinued at the first review conference. 

Agency Reports to Review Child Protection Conferences

Reports should be received by the IRO Team two days before the Initial Child Protection Conference. For a Review Child Protection Conference, reports from agencies should be sent to the Chairperson at least five working days before the meeting.

In order for families to take a full and informed role in Child Protection Conferences, it is essential that they are supplied with reports prepared by agencies, about their children and family circumstances, in sufficient time for consideration before the meeting is due to take place. If the information is judged by the author to be uncontroversial the report could be sent to the family by post or other suitable means. Otherwise the agency author will need to share their report personally with the family, perhaps in association with the Social Worker if prior to an ICPC or at a Core Group if prior to an RCPC.  Agency reports should use the template attached in Appendix 10: Templates for Conference Reports.

At all times any information and/or documents/reports should be held and recorded within the child/young person's case file by Children's Social Care.

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