4.10 Implementing the Child Protection Plan (Including the Lead Social Worker and Core Group Responsibilities)
- 1. The Child Protection Plan
- 2. Explaining the Child Protection Plan to Child and Parents
- 3. Duties of the Lead Social Worker
- 4. The Role of the Lead Social Worker's Manager
- 5. The Core Group
- 6. The Roles and Responsibilities of Core Group Members
- 7. Agreement of Detailed Child Protection Plan
- 8. The First Core Group Meetings
- 9. Subsequent Core Group Meetings
- 10. Recording Core Group Meetings
- 11. Concerns related to the effectiveness of the Core Group
- 12. Failure to Achieve the Desired Outcomes/Safety Goals of the Plan
1. The Child Protection Plan
If the child has suffered, or is likley to suffer Significant Harm, inter-agency help and intervention must be delivered through a formal Child Protection Plan.
The Child Protection Conference which decides that the child should be subject to a Child Protection Plan must:
- Appoint the lead statutory body (either Surrey Children's Services or the NSPCC) and the Lead Social Worker, who must be a qualified, experienced Social Worker and an employee of the lead statutory body;
- Identify the membership of a Core Group of professionals and family members who will develop and implement the Child Protection Plan as a detailed working tool;
- Establish how the child, their parents (including all those with Parental Responsibility) and wider family members should be involved in the ongoing assessment, planning and implementation process, and the support, advice and advocacy available to them;
- Establish timescales for meetings of the Core Group, production of a Child Protection Plan and for Child Protection Review meetings;
- Identify in outline what further action is required to complete the Assessment and what other specialist assessments of the child and family are required to make sound judgments on how best to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
- Outline the Child Protection Plan, especially, identifying what needs to change in order to achieve the planned outcomes to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
- Ensure a Contingency Plan is in place if agreed actions are not completed and/or circumstances change, for example, if a caregiver fails to achieve what has been agreed, a Court application is not successful or the parent removes the child from a place of safety;
- Clarify the different purpose and remit of the Initial Child Protection Conference, the Core Group, and the Child Protection Review Conference;
- Agree a date for the first Child Protection Review Conference and what circumstances it might be necessary to convene the conference before that date.
Where a child with a disability becomes subject to a Child Protection Plan, the Assessment Team Manager and Team Manager of the Complex Needs Team must agree which team should hold responsibility for the child, and which Social Worker will become the Lead Social Worker.
This decision must be based on ensuring that the Lead Social Worker has the relevant skills and knowledge both of safeguarding and working with children who have a disability.
The Child Protection Plan must enable both professionals and the family to understand exactly what is expected of them and what they can expect of others
The details of the plan must then be developed in the Core Group - see Section 5, The Core Group. It must be developed with the family in their preferred language
Any dissent about the Plan, by family or professionals must be recorded with reasons. A written copy of the Plan must be signed by the parents and all members of the Core Group.
The overall aim of the Child Protection Plan is to:
- Ensure the child is safe and prevent her or him from suffering further harm by supporting the strengths, addressing the vulnerabilities and risk factors and helping meet the child's unmet needs;
- Promote the child's welfare, health and development; and
- Provided it is in the best interests of the child, to support the family and wider family members to safeguard and promote the welfare of their child.
If the Child Protection Plan is not successful in achieving these objectives, the Child Protection Conference must be reconvened.
The Child Protection Plan must make clear to the child, family, and all relevant professionals the exact nature of the concerns which resulted in the conclusion that the child was at continuing risk of Significant Harm and the decision that a Child Protection Plan was required.
The Plan must set out what work needs to be done, why, when and by whom. The Plan must:
- Include when and in what situations the child will be seen by the child's Lead Social Worker, both alone and with other family members or caregivers present;
- Describe the identified developmental needs of the child, and what therapeutic services are required;
- Include specific, achievable, child-focused outcomes intended to safeguard and promote the welfare of and reduce the risk to the child;
- Set out realistic strategies and specific actions to achieve the planned outcomes;
- Be clear about who will have responsibility for what actions - including actions by family members - and within what specified timescales;
- Set out the arrangements for monitoring, including the nature and frequency of contact by professionals (including routine contacts by GP's, health visitors and teachers as well as professionals providing additional support) with children and family members;
- Lay down the points at which progress will be reviewed, and the means by which progress will be judged; and
- Include a Contingency Plan to be followed if circumstances change and require action.
Children who have suffered Significant Harm may continue to experience the consequences of this abuse irrespective of where they are living: whether remaining with or being reunited with their families or being placed in new families. Therapeutic work with the child must continue, therefore, irrespective of where the child is placed, in order to ensure the needs of the child are responded to appropriately.
The Plan can be used as evidence in any legal proceedings of the efforts which have been made to work in partnership and reduce the level of risk.
2. Explaining the Child Protection Plan to Child and Parents
The child (depending on her/his understanding) and the parents should be clear about the evidence of Significant Harm, which resulted in the child becoming the subject of a Child Protection Plan, what needs to change and what is expected of them as part of the plan for safeguarding and promoting the child's welfare. This must be the subject of continuing discussion with the Lead Social Worker and other professionals involved.
The Child Protection Plan must be explained to and agreed with the child in a way which is appropriate with their age and understanding. The child must be given a copy of the plan written at an appropriate level to their age and understanding and in their preferred language.
The parents should be clear about the evidence of Significant Harm which resulted in the child becoming the subject of a Child Protection Plan, what needs to change and what is expected of them as part of implementing the plan.
Parents must be given a written copy of the plan in their preferred language so that they are clear about their own role and responsibilities as well as the roles and responsibilities of others, and the planned outcomes for the child.
Where there is dissent on the part of the child or parents, they should be advised of their right to complain.
3. Duties of the Lead Social Worker
Each child with a Child Protection Plan will have a named Lead Social Worker.
Once a decision is made that the child requires a Child Protection Plan, one of the primary tasks of the Conference Chair will be to identify the Lead Social Worker.
The Lead Social Worker must always be a suitably qualified and experienced Social Worker from within Surrey Children's Services or NSPCC. The Lead Social Worker must be supervised in accordance with the Surrey Children's Services' Supervision Policy.
The Lead Social Worker:
- Acts as lead worker for the inter-agency work on each case and records all information obtained about the child and family, including significant changes in the nature of the work being undertaken by individual members of the Core Group;
- Following an Initial Child Protection Conference, is responsible for making sure the outline Child Protection Plan is developed into a more detailed multi-agency plan in line with the recommendations of the preceding Conference and for completing further assessment of the child and family, securing contributions from Core Group members and others as necessary;
- Is a member of the Core Group and takes lead responsibility as directed by the Conference Chair for co-ordinating inter-agency contributions to the assessment planning and review process, for ensuring the multi-agency plan is implemented and that planned timescales are achieved and that reasons for any failure to do this are recorded and justifiable;
- Undertakes direct work with the child and family and ensures that other named professionals undertake direct work with the child, family and significant people in the child's life as specified in the Child Protection Plan;
- Will be expected to have face to face contact with the child at least every 10 working days - or more frequently if so specified as part of the Child Protection Plan - in order to monitor the child's well-being and be aware of her/his wishes and feelings. This must include seeing the child alone (with the parent's agreement) or a baby when awake at least every 6 weeks and seeing the child's bedroom at least once between each Child Protection Conference. These are the usual minimum standards and any departure from the norm may only occur in exceptional circumstances and must be formally agreed as part of the Child Protection Plan or by arrangement with the Conference Chair and Lead Social Worker's line manager if changes are to be implemented after the Child Protection Plan has been agreed at conference;
- Will ensure that replacement cover is arranged during periods of planned absence in order to provide continuity of care;
- Ensures that where appropriate, the child has the opportunity to be seen alone on a regular basis by a staff member of Surrey Surrey Children's Services, as well as with other members of the household, carers and peers;
- Ensures that the child's health and development is regularly monitored, recorded and reviewed by named health professionals;
- Ensures that those with Parental Responsibility, other family members and carers, are interviewed at appropriate intervals;
- Provides the focus for communication between the named professionals involved in the case;
- Keeps the child's protection under constant review and regularly assesses the level of risk in the family to ensure the child is not being re-abused or neglected and reports back to the Core Group;
- Must consider at each and every conference how the child's/young person's wishes and feeling will be conveyed to conference and whether it is appropriate for the child/young person to attend;
- Ensures that the child's situation is reassessed and that changes to the Child Protection Plan recommended by the Core Group and subsequently agreed at a Child Protection Review Conference, take account of any changes in the child's and family's circumstances;
- Convenes and chairs in the absence of her or his supervisor the second and subsequent Core Group meetings;
- Ensures Core Group meetings are held at the agreed frequency;
- Invites additional members to the Core Group as needed;
- Ensures that all members of the Core Group are aware of the next Conference date;
- Circulates the written record of Core Group meetings (including any areas of disagreement) and the Child Protection Plan to all Core Group members, including parents and the child (depending on her or his age and understanding), her/ his manager and the Conference Chair - see Section 10, Recording of Core Group Meetings;
- Ensures that when a child subject to a Child Protection Plan is also subject to statutory Looked After Reviews as a looked after child, active consideration is given, with the Safeguarding Children Unit, to coordinating the meetings wherever possible or appropriate;
- Uses written agreements to provide the basis for specific pieces of work undertaken during the child protection process;
- Seeks legal advice whenever Court action is being considered to protect a child following consultation with the Team Manager;
- Produces appropriate reports as required for legal or statutory purposes and ensures that reports and the conference records are shared appropriately with children and family members;
- Keeps the child and family members clearly informed about the evaluation of the progress of planned pieces of work;
- Ensures effective liaison with other agencies involved with the case. Contacts must be recorded on file in profile notes;
- Reports any new incident or suspicion of abuse to the Team Manager/Assistant Team Manager (ATM) who in conjunction with the ATM (Assessment) must decide how this is to be investigated and by whom;
- Ensures that all visits to the family are clearly recorded stating whether the child was seen and if not why not, and what action, if any, is taken. It is essential to record events as soon as possible. All interviews and any other relevant communication with the family or child must be recorded. Reports must be made on such areas as hygiene, sleeping arrangements, eating habits and other relevant domestic matters, e.g.: safety. Reports must be made on the child's behaviour, giving clear examples and avoiding labels, (e.g. disturbed). The wishes and feelings of the child and relevant family members must be clearly recorded;
- Ensures that consideration is given to a Criminal Injury Compensation (CIC) application where appropriate at the conclusion of the investigation or criminal proceedings (see procedure in Surrey Children's Services Manual -accessible on the Surrey Children's Services's intranet);
- Provides a written report with chronology, genogram and Child Protection Plan for all Child Protection Conferences in line with the formats;
- Informs the Safeguarding Children Unit and all other agencies of any changes in child's status, or changes in circumstances, other than conference outcomes;
- Seeks specialist advice as necessary from the Core Group and other sources such as a consultant with expertise in child health/child protection in order to carry out their professional work with the family;
- Re-convenes the Core Group in the event of a further incident requiring a Section 47 Enquiry, or a failure to carry out significant part of the Child Protection Plan to consider the need for an early Child Protection Review Conference - unless that decision has already been made as part of the assessment of risk during a Section 47 enquiry or the Assessment;
- Informs the Safeguarding Children Unit and other Local Authority local team if a child subject to a Child Protection Plan moves out of Surrey. If it is a permanent move, the Lead Social Worker must arrange for the other Local Authority to hold a Transfer Child Protection Conference.
It is important that the role of the Lead Social Worker is fully explained at the Initial Child Protection Conference and at the Core Group.
Parents and children must be informed of the planned absences of the Lead Social Worker, who will be covering the role and what contacts will be made.
The Lead Social Worker must promote good communication between agencies and with the family, ensuring:
- Parents and, where appropriate, children, are clear about the role and responsibility of the Core Group and that they are properly involved in developing the Child Protection Plan;
- Any parent who has been excluded from the Core Group is informed of discussions and outcomes as appropriate to the child's welfare and safety.
If contact with the child is refused or avoided and the child remains unseen by the Lead Social Worker, this must be viewed as a serious breach of the Child Protection Plan. Immediate discussion by the Lead Social Worker with her/his Team Manager may deem it appropriate to seek legal advice about statutory protective action. There must also be discussion with the Core Group members and with the Conference Chair about the need for an urgent Child Protection Review Conference.
In these exceptional circumstances, formal agreement may be reached that a member of another agency carry out face-to-face contact with the child and/or that a Child Protection Review Conference is necessary. Such a decision must be recorded and authorised by the managers of the agencies concerned.
4. The Role of the Lead Social Worker's Manager
The first line manager has a vital role in managing the progress of the case and supporting the Lead Social Worker.
The manager must ensure that visits are taking place as required and:
- Read and countersign all significant recordings and assessments on the child's file, including the incident log;
- Chair the first Core Group Meetings and subsequent meetings as required;
- Discuss the progress of the Child Protection Plan and any concerns in supervision, including the need for any further risk assessment, using the supervision sheet in the child's file to note agreed actions or decisions and sign and date the record;
- Read and countersign Conferences Reports and the Child Protection Plan;
- Review the Child Protection Plan with the Lead Social Worker when unexpected developments or crises occur, and together make a decision whether to recommend that a Child Protection Review Conference date be brought forward;
- Attend all Initial Child Protection Conferences and as many Child Protection Review Conferences as possible;
- Confirm the visiting frequency of the Lead Social Worker and the frequency of Core Group meetings;
- Arrange cover for the Lead Social Worker in case of sickness and ensure arrangements are in place when the Lead Social Worker is on annual leave and training.
5. The Core Group
Professor Munro states in her report “A child-centred system” that effective multi-agency working across a wide range of professionals is critical to building an accurate understanding of what is happening in the child or young person’s life, so that the right help can be provided.
What is a Core Group?
If a decision is made at a child protection conference that a child is in need of a child protection plan, the multi-agency Core Group is responsible for ensuring that the Plan agreed at the child protection conference is carried out and reviewed. Minutes of the Child Protection Conference and Plan must be available at all Core Group meetings.
The Core Group’s task, via the child protection plan, is to:
- Reduce the risks, (to the child), or
- Prevent the occurrence of further significant harm to the child, and
- Safeguard the child’s wellbeing – to the point where the child no longer needs a child protection plan
Core Groups are an important forum for working with parents, wider family members and children of sufficient age and understanding. Where there are conflicts of interest between family members in the work of the Core Group, the child’s best interests should always take precedence. Where possible, it is important to ensure continuity and consistency of professionals who work with the children and families.
Who should be part of a Core Group?
Membership of the Core Group Membership will be identified at the Child Protection Conference and must include:
- The Social Worker (Lead Professional)
- Parents and relevant family members;
- The child/young person if appropriate;
- Professionals involved with the child / parent, i.e. child’s Health Visitor or School Nurse, Teacher & parent’s Social Worker or Support Worker, Education Social Worker etc.
- It is the shares responsibility of all those who attend the Initial CP Conference to support the Social Worker in identifying and inviting all professionals who provide services to the family including drug and alcohol services , Probation, Mental Health Services, Domestic Abuse Services etc.
- Foster carers or residential care staff if involved with family
When and where should a Core Group take place?
- The Initial meeting of the Core Group will take place on the date agreed by the Independent Chair at the Initial Child Protection Conference. This will be within 10 working days of the Conference.
- The second Core Group meeting will usually be held within 6 weeks of the first meeting, unless the conference decides that meetings should be more frequent. This will also be arranged at the ICPC.
- Meetings will usually be held every 6 weeks after the first Child Protection Review Conference, although the needs of the child may require more frequent meetings.
- The Core Group should meet sufficiently regularly to facilitate working together, monitor actions and outcomes/safety goals against the Child Protection Plan, and make any necessary alterations as circumstances change.
- Where possible venues should be agreed in advance and meeting the needs of the family; e.g.in schools, nurseries, Children‘s Centres.
6. The Roles and Responsibilities of Core Group Members
All professionals are encouraged to attend Signs of Safety workshops to understand the language and tools of these models.
The Social Worker must meet and communicate with the family before the Core Group meeting in order to engage families well. They must attend and chair all Core Group meetings using the Core Group meeting template.
Recording of the minutes of the meeting is the responsibility of the Core Group; not just the Chair. The draft minutes should be handed to the Social Worker at the end of the meeting and the final draft must be circulated to all members of the group within 5 working days. Core Group members need to take responsibility for making notes of their actions during meetings, delivering them and updating the group members regardless of whether the minutes have bene circulated or not. Minutes should also be shared with the Child Protection Conference Chair.
All Core Group members need to attend the meetings, trust and communicate with each other to understand each other’s roles and responsibilities, engage in planning/reviewing and provide consistent information to families in order to set an example to families. This may involve exploring creative ways to communicate with families and may include using on line applications. E.g. Skype, or Face Time to ensure that families are aware of reports and minutes prior to each Core Group meeting.
Core Groups members need to be committed to attend for the entire duration of the meetings and it is very important that the right professionals are involved throughout the child protection plan and membership needs to be reviewed regularly to ensure that this is happening.
A group email for all members would be useful.
It is the responsibility of the chair to ensure that the level of risk is reviewed by all Core Group members, noted in the minutes and that any dissent is also noted. The lead Social Worker will arrange the date of the next Core Group to include time and venue, bearing in mind the needs of the parents, child and key professionals.
All Core Group members are responsible for:
- Ensuring that families understand that all professionals within the Core Group play an important role and work as a team with a collective responsibility to improve outcomes for children and families. It is not solely the responsibility of the Social Worker.
- Capturing the voice of the child as and when they work with them
- Taking responsibility to share the voice of the child with Core Group members.
- Encouraging attendance of the child as appropriate.
- Striving to engage fathers/male cares.
- Implementation of the child protection plan
- Refining the child protection plan as required and adding to it as necessary.
- Monitoring progress against planned outcomes/safety goals detailed in the plan.
- Scaling judgements as required.
Plans formulated at the child protection conference should have the specific roles of the Core Group members in mind, so that everyone is clear about individual and shared responsibilities; including ensuring confidential issues are addresses appropriately. This is particularly relevant when Domestic Abuse is a concern.
Actions from Core Group meetings need to be SMARTER. (Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely, evaluated and reviewed).
The full role out of the Signs of Safety practice model will enable Core Groups to be outcome focused and transparent. The Danger Statement and use of simple language will help parents understand the worries and be better able to contribute to improving outcomes for children.
If you are asked to be part of a Core Group it should be a priority meeting. If you are unable to attend you must send a colleague if possible or as a last resort send a report. Children can only be protected from harm when professionals and families are working towards common goals and outcomes, and it is clear who is doing what. Members of the group must share responsibility and ownership of the child protection plan and must cooperate to achieve its aims.
Do keep the group updated on any events between meetings and if there are any significant incidents which may cause harm to a child then contact the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH)
7. Agreement of Detailed Child Protection Plan
Core Group members must agree a plan, which adds detail to the outline Child Protection Plan agreed at the Initial Child Protection Conference.
The Core Group should not alter any of the specified outcomes/safety goals agreed at the conference although they can agree additional outcomes/safety goals if required. The Plan will have active intervention by members of the Core Group, agreed monitoring through visits to the home and in cases where relevant areas have not been covered sufficiently in the assessments, it will identify further assessments that enable the family to gain insight so that they and the professionals involved can build on their strengths and reduce any risk to the children of future Significant Harm.
Irrespective of where the child is living, interventions should specifically address:
- The identified, specific risks to the child;
- The developmental needs of the child;
- The child's understanding of what has happened to her/him;
- The abusing parent/child relationship and the parental capacity to respond to the child's need;
- Family relationships; and
- Possible changes to the family's social and environmental circumstances.
Interventions may have a number of inter-related components:
- Action to make a child safe/reduce risk;
- Action to help promote a child's health and development;
- Action to help a parent in safeguarding a child and promoting her/his welfare;
- Therapy for an abused child; and
- Support or therapy for a perpetrator of abuse.
8. The First Core Group Meetings
The Surrey Children's Services' first line manager of the Lead Social Worker will chair the first meeting of the Core Group on the date agreed by the Independent Chair at the Initial Child Protection Conference. This will be within 10 working days of the Conference.
This meeting must be used to discuss the child protection plan in more detail. The plan will have set out what each member is expected to do and what work will take place, including visits to the home and further assessments where necessary. There should be timescales set within the plan by which this action is to be achieved. Danger statements and safety goals will be considered. The Core Group Meeting template must be used as a guide for the meeting and recording.
The minutes together with any other decisions made and actions agreed at the Core Group should be written up and circulated by the Lead Social Worker - see Section 4, The Role of the Lead Social Worker's Manager and Section 3, Duties of the Lead Social Worker.
The Chair will set the dates of the next two Core Group Meetings which must be held prior to the first Child Protection Review Conference.
9. Subsequent Core Group Meetings
The second Core Group meeting will usually be held within 6 weeks of the first meeting, unless the conference decides that meetings should be more frequent.
Core meetings will continue to work on reviewing the danger statement and safety goals and consider what is working well, what we are worried about and what still needs to happen. The Core Group Meeting template must be used as a guide for the meeting and recording.
Meetings will usually continue every 6 weeks after the first Child Protection Review Conference, although the needs of the child may require more frequent meetings.
Core Group Meetings will usually continue to be chaired by the Lead Social Worker or her/his manager.
10. Recording Core Group Meetings
All Core Group Meetings should be recorded using the Core Group Meeting template. Copies of the notes and written agreement must be circulated by the Lead Social Worker to all Core Group members, the Lead Social Worker's manager and the Conference Chair within 5 working days of the Core Group Meeting.
A copy of the Child Protection Plan must be e-mailed to the Conference Chair immediately after the Core Group Meeting. The Lead Social Worker should also ensure that the Child Protection Plan is amended as necessary and the amended Plan is attached to the child's record.
11. Concerns related to the effectiveness of the Core Group
Concerns related to the effectiveness of the Core Group may arise from:
- Difficulties implementing the child protection plan due to disagreement among professionals
- Core Group member/s not carrying out his or her responsibilities outlined in the child protection plan
- Continual absence from Core Group meetings by members
- Failure to provide information for Core Group
- Delay and drift with child protection plan.
Actions to be taken will include:
- Discussion with the Lead Social Worker and Manager
- Discussion between Core Group members
- Involvement of relevant managers and/or Designated Professionals within agencies where issues remain unresolved.
- ESCALATION PROCESS: Concerns related to the effectiveness of the child protection plan
Any delays in implementing the Child Protection Plan should be monitored and any appropriate action taken by the Lead Social Worker, their supervisor, and at Core Group meetings.
12. Failure to Achieve the Desired Outcomes/Safety Goals of the Plan
There always has to be the possibility that intervention, monitoring or further assessment will reach the conclusion that the situation is not safe and the child will need to be removed in their interests.
Consideration should be given to the need for further action to be taken where:
- The child protection plan has not been effective in reducing the risk of harm, or there is an in-creased risk of harm, to the child
- There is a failure to obtain or retain the cooperation of the parents/carers or child in working on the plan
- Changed or unforeseen circumstances
Any of the above must be brought immediately to the attention of the Lead Social Worker, who must inform his or her manager. This would include inability to gain access to the child, for whatever reasons, on two consecutive home visits. A decision will be made regarding the need for any immediate protective action and/or a Section 47 Enquiry and/or a review child protection conference.
If there are concerns that there are difficulties implementing the Plan as a result of disagreement among professionals or a Core Group member not carrying out her/his responsibilities, this must be addressed by discussion between Core Group members and, if required, the involvement of relevant managers and/or designated professionals within agencies
Where necessary, see Resolution of Professional Disagreement Procedure.