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. Delays
- 12. Failure to Achieve the Desired Outcomes of the Plan
- Useful resources
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
Purpose of Core Group
The Core Group's task through the Child Protection Plan is to reduce the risks, or prevent the occurrence of further Significant Harm to the child, and safeguard the child's well being to the point that discontinuing the Child Protection Plan can be recommended to the Child Protection Review Conference.
The Core Group achieves this by:
- Producing and implementing an agreed Child Protection Plan as the detailed working tool;
- Creating an intervention strategy;
- Completing an assessment of the family;
- Co-ordinating and communicating their efforts;
- Meeting regularly to monitor progress;
- Providing an evaluation of their work for the Child Protection Review Conference;
- Requesting a new Conference if the plans cannot be achieved or are needing to be significantly altered.
Membership of the Core Group
Membership should include the Lead Social Worker, who leads the Core Group, the child if appropriate, family members, carers and professionals who have direct contact with the family.
6. The Roles and Responsibilities of Core Group Members
For additional guidance see the SSCB Guidance for Members of Child Protection Core Groups (which can be accessed via the ‘SSCB website’ button on the left hand side of the screen.)
Child Protection Plans should be formulated with the specific roles of the Core Group members in mind so that everyone is clear about the individual and shared responsibilities.
Although the Lead Social Worker has the lead role, all members of the Core Group are jointly responsible and accountable for the formulation and implementation of the Child Protection Plan, changing the plan as needed, measuring progress against the planned outcomes and making recommendations to subsequent Child Protection Review Conferences about future protection plans. The Lead Social Worker must update the plan after each Core Group meeting and prior to the Review Conference where an updated plan should be presented
Supervision and/or managerial and professional support to individual Core Group members remain with their agency. However, the Conference Chair or the Safeguarding Children Unit will provide advice to the Core Group on any remaining inter-agency problems which the Core Group is unable to resolve.
The specific responsibilities of individual Core Group members are to:
- Accept that the child's needs remain paramount and maintain a child-centred focus;
- Contribute to the multi-agency assessments;
- Make suggestions or approaches, if appropriate, for the involvement of other specifically skilled professional or agency seen as relevant to its completion;
- Prioritise attendance and participation in Core Group meetings or other relevant meetings;
- Carry out agreed tasks in accordance with their own agency functions: if this is not possible the Lead Social Worker must be consulted before any plans regarding the child or family are altered;
- Provide specialist advice which will inform the Child Protection Plan;
- Provide the Lead Social Worker with written reports as requested;
- Produce an individual agency report on the child and the family for the Child Protection Review Conference. Those unable to attend should forward a copy of this report to the Lead Social Worker;
- Communicate regularly with the Lead Social Worker about the progress of their part of the agreed Child Protection Plan - all communications should be confirmed in writing;
- Inform the Lead Social Worker of any change in circumstances relevant to the Child Protection Plan - all communications should be confirmed in writing;
- Alert the Lead Social Worker to the need to convene either a Core Group meeting or to reconvene the Review Conference early;
- Help identify unmet need.
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 agreed at the conference although they can agree additional outcomes 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.
Using either the full minutes of the Child Protection Conference or a copy of the decisions and recommendations, the Chair of the Core Group must help the group complete the detail of the Child Protection Plan. The Core Group must also consider what steps need to be taken to complete the Assessment if this has not already been done.
The Child Protection Plan should address the following;
- Specific risks to the child;
- Actions to be taken/ services provided should be targeted, achievable and realistic;
- Any planned outcomes should be measurable;
- The roles and responsibilities of professionals and family members should be clearly set out;
- A Contingency Plan must also be identified.
The detailed Child Protection Plan, 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 Core Group should meet sufficiently regularly to facilitate working together, monitor actions and outcomes against the Child Protection Plan, and make any necessary alterations as circumstances change.
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.
Meetings will usually be held every 2 months 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 agreed format. 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 10 working days of the Core Group Meeting, and Core Group members should sign their agreement and return it to the Lead Social Worker within a further 10 working days.
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.
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 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.
In these circumstances, and/or where there is a failure to obtain or retain the cooperation of the parents or child in working on the plan or changed or unforeseen circumstances, this must be brought immediately to the attention of the Lead Social Worker. This would include inability to gain access to the child, for whatever reasons, on two consecutive home visits.
The Lead Social Worker must inform her/his manager and, in consultation with managers and advisers within other agencies, for example, Designated Doctor/Named Doctor or Designated Nurse), a decision will be made as to the need for any immediate protective action and/or a Section 47 Enquiry. 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
See also 'Working with Uncooperative Families while Safeguarding Children Guidance' and 'Working with Violent and Abusive Families while Safeguarding Children Guidance' (accessible via the "Guidance & protocols" button at the top left hand side of the screen).
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.
- The Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) and Cafcass agreement on how local authority social workers and family court guardians should work together during care proceedings and pre-proceedings in the family courts.