- Formulation of the Child Protection Plan
- The Lead Social Worker Role
- The Core Group
- Difficulties in Implementing the Child Protection Plan
If it is the decision of the Child Protection Conference that the child is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm, a Child Protection Plan should be developed to formalise the inter-agency actions that are needed to reduce the level of risk.
The main aim of the plan should be to:
- Ensure that each child in the household is safe and prevent them from suffering further harm;
- Promote the child's welfare, health and development;
- 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.
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 child requiring the plan and identify the desired outcomes for each child which are clearly linked to reducing the risk of harm to the child and promoting their welfare.
The Child Protection Plan should set out what work needs to be done, why, when and by whom, including an understandable sense of how much improvement is needed.
When a Child Protection Conference decides that a child should be the subject of a Child Protection Plan, a qualified and experienced children's social worker must be appointed as the lead professional for the inter-agency work with the child and family, coordinating the contribution of family members and professionals and putting the Child Protection Plan into effect.
The Child Protection Plan can be used as evidence in any legal proceedings of the services which have been put in place to work with the child and family to reduce the level of risk.
The Core Group is the forum to co-ordinate this inter-agency work and the membership will have been identified at the Initial Child Protection Conference.
If there are obstacles to progressing the Child Protection Plan that cannot be satisfactorily addressed, an early Child Protection Review Conference must be convened.
2. Formulation of the Child Protection Plan
The Outline Child Protection Plan
Once the chair of the Initial Child Protection Conference has made a decision that the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm and is in need of a Child Protection Plan, they should determine which category of abuse or neglect the child is suffering or is at risk of suffering and formulate an outline Child Protection Plan.
The Outline Child Protection Plan will clearly recommend how agencies, professionals and family members can work together to achieve the desired outcomes.
The outline Child Protection Plan should not be too lengthy or detailed, however should be realistic and specific and should enable both professionals and the family to understand exactly what is expected of them and what they can expect of others.
The outline plan should:
- Describe specific, achievable, child focussed outcomes intended to safeguard each child;
- Describe the types of services required by each child (including family support) to promote their welfare:
- Set a timescale for the completion of the assessment, if appropriate;
- Identify any specialist assessments of each child and the family that may be required to ensure that sound judgements are being / can be made on how best to safeguard each child and promote their welfare;
- Include a robust contingency plan, outlining what will happen if the family is unable to make the required changes and the child continues to be at risk of significant harm; This may be better placed in the detailed plan;
- Include details of the membership of the Core Group, the date of the next Core Group meeting and Review Child Protection Conference.
The detailed child protection plan
The purpose of the detailed Child Protection Plan is to put into operation the outline Child Protection Plan made at the Child Protection Conference as described above.
The outline Child Protection Plan will be developed by the Core Group into a specific and detailed inter-agency Child Protection Plan based on assessment findings, and set out what needs to change, by how much, and by when, in order for the child to be safe and have their needs met.
For further details of how this should be done, please see the Good Practice in Core Groups Safeguarding Guide (to follow)
The lead social worker must ensure that there is a record of the Core Group meetings and must ensure that they formulate the detailed Child Protection Plan.
The detailed Child Protection Plan should take into consideration the wishes and feelings of the child, and the views of the parents, insofar as they are consistent with the child's welfare. The lead social worker should make every effort to ensure that the child/ren and parents have a clear understanding of the planned outcomes, that they accept the plan and are willing to work to it.
The lead social worker must ensure that the detailed Child Protection Plan is shared with and explained to the child in a manner which is in accordance with their age and understanding.
Professionals should ensure that the parents understand:
- The evidence of the child suffering significant harm, or likely significant harm, which resulted in the child becoming the subject of a Child Protection Plan;
- What needs to change;
- What is expected of them in the plan to safeguard the child.
All parties should be clear about the respective roles and responsibilities of different family members and professionals in implementing the detailed Child Protection Plan.
Notes from Core Group meetings and the record of the detailed Child Protection Plan should be circulated to Core Group members including family members. Implementation of the Child Protection Plan must begin immediately.
If the parents disagree with any element of the detailed Child Protection Plan this should be clearly noted. Parents should be told about their right to complain and make representations, and how to do so.
Any professional disagreements should be discussed and resolved at the Core Group meeting. This should be recorded with reasons within the Core Group meeting notes and reflected appropriately in the detailed Child Protection Plan. In circumstances where professional disagreements cannot be resolved at this stage the matter will be escalated via the NCSCP / NSCP escalation procedure and must be reconciled.
All members of the Core Group (including specialist services working with adults) should keep the notes of the Core Group meetings and detailed Child Protection Plans on their service user files in accordance with own agency recording procedure.
All agencies are responsible for the implementation of the detailed Child Protection Plan and all professionals must ensure they are able to deliver their commitments or, if not possible, that these are re-negotiated within the expectations of the outline Child Protection Plan.
3. The Lead Social Worker Role
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.
At every initial or pre-birth conference, where a Child Protection Plan is put into place, the conference chair must name a qualified social worker, identified by the children's social care manager, 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 as necessary. They should co-ordinate the contribution of family members and other agencies to plan the actions which need to be taken, put the Child Protection Plan into effect, and review progress against the planned outcomes set out in the plan.
The lead social worker should also regularly ascertain the child's wishes and feelings, and keep the child up to date with the Child Protection Plan and any developments or changes.
The lead social worker should:
- See the child (infants and babies to be seen awake)as agreed in the Child Protection Plan. The frequency of visiting must be determined in the Child Protection Plan and reviewed by the Core Group;
- See the child on their own on at least alternate occasions;
- Explain the plan to the child in a manner which is in accordance with their age and understanding and agree the plan with the child;
- See the child's bedroom as agreed in the plan but not less than alternate occasions;
- Undertake direct work with the child and family in accordance with the Child Protection Plan, taking into account the child's wishes and feelings and the views of the parents in so far as they are consistent with the child's welfare;
- Convene and lead Core Group meetings (N.B. either the first or second Core Group meeting should be led by their manager);
- Provide a written record of meetings for all Core Group members and the children's social care manager;
- Ensure that 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;
- Ensure that any written agreements from the protection plan are maintained on the child's file and circulated to the Core Group members;
- Obtain a full understanding of the family's history, which must involve reading previous children's social care 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. Additional information should be obtained from relevant other agencies and local authorities;
- Complete the assessment of the child and family, securing contributions / information from Core Group members and any other agencies with relevant information;
- Co-ordinate the contribution of family members and all agencies in putting the plan into action and regularly reviewing the objectives stated in the plan;
- Maintain a complete and up-to-date signed record on the child's current file.
4. The Core Group
See also Good Practice in Core Groups Guidance.
The Core Group is responsible for the detailed formulation and implementation of the Child Protection Plan, previously outlined at the conference. Agencies should ensure that members of the Core Group undertake their roles and responsibilities effectively in accordance with the agreed Child Protection 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 and analysis of the assessment;
- The formulation and implementation of the detailed Child Protection Plan, specifying who should do what, by when;
- Carrying out their part in implementing the plan including the commitment of identified resources;
- Monitoring and evaluating progress against specified outcomes for the child of the detailed Child Protection Plan;
- Making recommendations to subsequent review conferences about future protection plans and the child's needs being met stipulating specific outcomes;
- Attending Core Group meetings and reviewing progress to ensure that there is no drift in achieving the aims of the Child Protection Plan;
- The Core Group must ensure that the Child Protection Plan sets out the frequency for all Core Group members to see the child and the frequency of all contacts;
- All action points must be clearly recorded, analysis of the risk of harm to the child should be made and all the information should be shared with the lead social worker and the Core Group. All Core Group members are responsible for keeping a record of the outcome of the meeting.
If the lead social worker or any other involved professional has difficulty obtaining direct access to the child, the children's social care manager / Child Protection adviser should be informed, as well as other Core Group members. This must result in a plan of action agreed between Core Group members and the police including consideration of convening a review conference.
Membership of the Core Group will have been identified at the initial Child Protection Conference and must include:
- The lead social worker/ line manager;
- The child if appropriate;
- 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.
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.
The date of the first Core Group meeting must be within ten working days of the Initial Child Protection Conference. After that the Core Group should meet at a minimum frequency of once every six weeks. More regular meetings may be required according to the needs and age of the child.
The first Core Group meeting date must be arranged at the end of the conference, along with the required frequency of subsequent meetings.
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.
5. Difficulties in Implementing the Child Protection Plan
Where any member of the Core Group is aware of difficulties implementing the protection plan, the lead social worker must be informed immediately and a Core Group meeting / discussion co-ordinated to agree a reconsidered Child Protection Plan. Alternatively a Strategy Discussion / Meeting should be convened to consider the need for immediate emergency police action to gain access to a premises where appropriate, a Section 47 Enquiry, legal action, and/or to bring forward the date of the Review Child Protection Conference. Arranging a legal planning meeting should be considered by the lead social worker with their line manager.
Circumstances about which the lead social worker should be informed include inability to gain access to a child who is subject to a Child Protection Plan, for whatever reasons, on two consecutive home visits (the second visit being a second attempt to see the child in close succession of the first attempt).
If members are concerned that there are difficulties implementing the protection plan arising from disagreement amongst professional agencies or a Core Group member not carrying out agreed responsibilities this must be addressed by:
- First, discussion with Core Group members;
- Second, if required, involvement of respective managers / Child Protection advisers (e.g. Child Protection manager for children's social care, designated / named safeguarding children doctor / nurse, teacher or police chain of command) using the escalation procedures.