Children in Need Procedure

Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 provides for children who are assessed to be ‘in need’ of services to improve their life chances. Without the provision of services, these children are unlikely to reach their full potential.

Children in Need Procedure

1 Background

1.1 Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 provides for children who are assessed to be ‘in need’ of services to improve their life chances. Without the provision of services, these children are unlikely to reach their full potential.

1.2 Children in need are the responsibility of all agencies involved in that child’s care and all services must work to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare.

2 Definition

2.1 A child should be taken to be in need if:

He/she is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or to have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision for him/her of services by a Local Authority.

His/her health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired without the provision for him/her of such services.

He/she is disabled.

(Section 17(10), Children Act 1989)

2.2 Where the above criteria are thought to apply, a referral should be made to Children’s Social Care who will consider the need to undertake a statutory assessment. Where such an assessment is deemed appropriate, a social worker will complete the assessment within 45 working days.

3 Information Sharing and Consent

3.1 The consent of parents and young people of sufficient age and understanding must be sought before sharing information or making a referral to Children’s Social Care under Child in Need.

3.2 It is accepted that in some cases it may not always be possible to obtain written consent before making a referral to Children’s Social Care. In such cases, explicit verbal consent of those with parental responsibility should be sought by the referring agency at the earliest opportunity and formally recorded that this has been given. Professionals should make parents and young people aware that in order to undertake an assessment and provide appropriate services, agencies need to share information with one another and that consent to do this is required.

3.3 When seeking consent, the referring agency should explain to parents and the young person the nature of the issues/concerns and outline the duties and responsibilities of agencies towards children in need.

3.4 If consent is withheld by parents and/or the young person, the agency holding the information has to consider the potential risk to the child if the information is not shared. If it is believed that to not share the information would place the child at risk of significant harm, information sharing may proceed without parental consent.

4 Common Principles when working within Child in Need

4.1 When working with a child in need, all agencies should adhere to the following principles:

  • All agencies should, satisfy themselves that consent has been obtained from the family before sharing information (if consent is withheld the agency holding the information needs to consider the potential risk to child as set out in 3.4)

  • All agencies with information about a child must respond to a request to attend Child in Need meetings, either by attending the meeting with information or sending a written report.

  • Parents and children should be kept fully informed and supported to participate in meetings and services.

  • Meetings should not take place without the consent of parents and children of sufficient age and understanding.

  • Children and families should not be subject to unnecessary multiple assessments and planning activity by different agencies.

  • Plans will give due consideration to both risk and protective factors and show evidence of appropriate assessments of risk.

  • All plans should specify a contingency plan should it not be possible to achieve the identified plan.

  • All agencies will work together to share information, knowledge, skills, resources and responsibility.

5 Assessment

5.1 Once a referral has been accepted by Children’s Social Care, this will trigger an assessment which will be undertaken by Children’s Services and in most cases where appropriate a social work practitioner.

5.2 Assessments should draw upon the information held by all agencies working with the family and explore the child’s view of their situation, how it makes them feel and how it affects them. This will require Children’s Services to spend time with the child (with the parent and child’s consent) in order to enable the child to communicate their wishes and feelings and inform the assessment.

5.3 A key source of information will come from those who know the child best. In most cases this will be the parents, even if they do not live with the child. Extended family members may also have relevant information or views about the child’s circumstances.

5.4 The domains that constitute the assessment framework are for example:

5.5 If the assessment concludes that the child is in need and requires services, the social worker is required to draw up an outline Child In Need Plan.

6 Child in Need Planning Meeting

6.1 A planning meeting may be convened for family and professionals to agree the package of services required in order to meet the child’s needs as identified within the assessment.

6.2 The allocated case work practitioner will act as lead professional and will arrange the invitations and ensure any relevant documents are circulated in advance of the meeting. (For frequency of meetings please refer to individual local authority processes) The lead case worker will be responsible for chairing the meeting and ensuring that the Child In Need Plan is circulated. It is considered best practice that the minutes are circulated no longer than 20 working days of the meeting. Minutes of the meeting should be taken by another agency in attendance at the meeting and passed to the allocated worker to arrange typing and distribution.

6.3 Consideration should be given to inviting the following parties to the meeting:

  • The child/young person (subject to age and understanding);

  • Parents/carers;

  • Other appropriate family members; such as the child’s grandparents, with the approval of parents;

  • Advocates (where applicable);

  • Representatives from the child’s nursery or education setting;

  • Midwife (if unborn), Health Visitor (if under 5) or School Nurse and GP;

  • Any other agencies identified as significant during assessment eg CAMHS, Housing, Youth Offending Team etc;

  • Adult services involved with the family e.g substance misuse services, adult mental health.

6.4 The child or young person should always be encouraged and supported to attend the meeting, subject to their age and understanding. If the child or young person does not wish to attend, or is not able to for any reason, their wishes and feelings must always be sought and presented at the meeting.

6.5 Consideration should also be given to the date, time and venue of the meeting in order to enable the child or young person and family to be able to attend the meeting.

6.6 If English is not the first language, arrangements should be made for an interpreter and appropriate arrangements made to ensure the meeting is fully accessible. Particular consideration should also be given where meetings fall around the time of religious festivals and observances which are undertaken by the family.

6.7 If a parent or child/ young person has a disability arrangements must be made to ensure that the meeting is fully accessible. This could include communication aids or adaptations to the room etc.

6.8 Parents/carers and children are entitled to be accompanied by an advocate or supporter if they wish. An advocate is generally someone employed by an advocacy organisation or a specialist solicitor without personal involvement with the service user. A supporter may have an informal relationship with the service user such as friend, relative, member of self-help group.

6.9 In order to ensure the meeting is productive, the chair should:

  • Follow the agenda and keep the meeting to time.

  • Maintain a clear focus on the child’s welfare.

  • Facilitate the exchange of information and the inclusion of all those attending the meeting.

  • Ensure the child’s voice is heard, whether or not they attend the meeting.

  • Help attendees to interpret the information and focus on the key issues.

  • Manage any conflict and opposing views.

  • Encourage clear, jargon free communication and challenge the evidential base of any judgements given.

  • Summarise regularly to ensure all involved are aware of what is happening.

  • Guide the meeting in drawing up a Child in Need Plan.

7 Child in Need Plan

7.1 The Child in Need Planning Meeting will agree a multi-agency Child In Need Plan to meet the child and family’s assessed. The Child in Need Plan should broadly follow the following principles:

  • Clearly state what the overall objectives of the plan are.

  • Outline the range of services to be provided and what their purpose is.

  • Assign Responsibilities for each aspect of the plan.

  • Set clear timescales for each action.

  • Specify the frequency of visits to the child by the lead professional and any other agencies involved (subject to any minimum frequency visiting policies in place within the agency concerned).

8 Child in Need Review Meeting

8.1 The Child In Need Plan formulated and agreed with the family should be regularly reviewed if there are significant changes in the family circumstances, an early Review Meeting should take place. Should changes to the plan be made the updated Child In Need Plan should be circulated within 20 working days of the Child in Need Review Meeting.

9 Avoiding Drift in CIN cases and Review Meetings

9.1 It is acknowledged that drift may occur in some Child in Need cases, where families progress may fluctuate and not be sustained over a period of several months. In cases such as this, a formal review meeting may be convened (and chaired if necessary at manager level) in which interventions are evaluated cumulatively and consideration is given to whether continued interventions under Child in Need are being effective and meaningful.

9.2 If it is identified following specific review meetings that interventions have not been effective in addressing change; consideration may be made to evaluating whether the thresholds of a Child in Need remain relevant or concerns require escalation.

10 Cancellation

10.1 In exceptional circumstances it may be necessary to cancel a Child in Need Planning Meeting or Review. It is the responsibility of the social worker to let the family and all agencies know, giving as much notice as possible. The meeting wherever practicably possible, should be rearranged within 10 working days.

11 Step Up/Step Down and Case Closure

11.1 A case can be ‘stepped up’ or escalated to child protection procedures at any time during the child in need process where it is believed that the child may be at risk of significant harm. This can be requested by any agency involved, and if this is agreed by Children’s Social Care this should trigger a Strategy Discussion in line with the Teeswide Child Protection Procedures.

11.2 Following an Initial Child Protection Conference (ICPC) or Review Child Protection Conference (RCPC), a decision may be made to ‘step down’ or de-escalate a case into the child in need process. In such circumstances the ICPC or RCPC should formulate an outline Child In Need Plan to address the identified issues and set a date in which a planning meeting is convened to progress this plan.

11.3 A child in need case should only be closed following a Child in Need Review Meeting to ensure that all agencies are fully consulted prior to any decision to close the case by Children’s Social Care. It is recognised that in some circumstances that this may not be appropriate such as an assessment for financial assistance only and that all decisions for closure are formally documented and evidenced.

11.4 Consideration should be given to the case being ‘stepped down’ or de-escalated into Early Help arrangements, with some services continuing to be provided by a single agency or range of agencies under an Early Help Assessment Plan according to individual local authority procedures.

12.0 Cases Transferring Across Local Authority Boundaries

Please refer to the regional Child In Need Transfer protocol.

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