The Child Protection Plan is an important tool for professionals to use in working together with families to achieve the necessary outcomes for children. If a child is the subject of a Child Protection Plan, they have been assessed as being at identified risk of harm and the plan will be the vehicle through which the risk will be reduced. It is therefore vital that, although Children’s Social Care has lead responsibility for ensuring that a plan is in place, agencies named on the plan take an active role in ensuring that it is implemented. Where Family Group Conferences/Meetings are being used, the wider family group will also have an agreed role in developing and taking forward a plan of action.
The Core Group is the vehicle through which professionals and families can work together to implement the plan and achieve positive change for children.
The Core Group can decide that it is appropriate to use a Family Group Conference as a vehicle by which families and professionals can work together to implement the plan.
The Core Group
The Core Group is an important forum for:
- Working with parents, wider family members, and children of sufficient age and understanding. Families may find child protection conferences intimidating and the Core Group is a place where they can express their views regarding the help they need to improve the situation for their child;
- Ensuring that all professionals develop effective working relationships based on trust and a full understanding of each others’ roles.
The Core Group meeting should:
- Take place within 10 working days of the Initial Child Protection Conference. This meeting should not be held immediately after the child protection conference. At this time everyone is likely to be tired and family members may be shocked or upset. Time to reflect on the meeting will be beneficial for all concerned and will enable the best use to be made of the Core Group meeting.
- Be chaired by the Team Manager or Senior Practitioner of the team who holds case responsibility in Children’s Social Care;
- The Core Group Meeting should commence a composite chronology in relation to the child;
- Core group members should send written information in advance to meetings where they are unable to attend.
Subsequent Core Group meetings:
- Should meet within the timescales specified at the initial or review conference;
- May be chaired by the Lead Social Worker with the agreement of the Team Manager;
All Core Group meetings should:
- Be held at a venue which is accessible for all concerned and in which family members will feel comfortable and able to contribute. Schools, health centres or children’s centres may be the most suitable venues;
- Be minuted by a nominated member of the group (not the chair) and minutes circulated within 5 working days.
The Core Group is responsible for:
- Developing the Child Protection Plan as a detailed working tool and implementing it within the outline plan agreed at the initial conference. The findings of the Single Assessment should inform the detailed development of the plan;
- Monitoring the progress of the plan including the impact of any changes in family circumstances which might increase the likelihood of the child suffering Significant Harm;
- Ensuring that all aspects of the plan are carried through. The Lead Social Worker should alert the conference chair immediately if there are significant aspects of the outline plan which it will not be possible to implement;
- Reporting progress on the plan to the Review Child Protection Conference. For the Review Conference, the Core Group has a collective responsibility to produce reports which together provide an overview of the work undertaken by family members and professionals and evaluate progress against the outcomes specified in the detailed Child Protection Plan. The content of the report to the Review Conference should be consistent with the information set out in the Child Protection Review (Department of Health 2002). Those unable to attend should forward a copy of this report to the Lead Social Worker.
In addition to the reports above, the outcome of the completed Single Assessment will also be presented to the Review Conference.
The Child Protection Plan
The aim of the Child Protection Plan is to:
- Ensure the child is safe and prevent them 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 health or development i.e. his or her welfare; 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 the child.
The plan should use a format consistent with the information set out in the exemplar for the Child Protection Plan (Department of Health 2002). This should include;
- Identification of the child’s needs derived from the findings of the Single Assessment;
- 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;
- Specific, achievable, child-focused outcomes;
- Realistic strategies and specific actions to achieve the planned outcomes;
- A Contingency Plan to be followed if circumstances change significantly and require prompt action;
- Clear identification of the roles and responsibilities of professionals and family members including the nature and frequency of contact. This should include professionals with routine contact as well as those providing specialist or targeted support;
- Points at which progress will be reviewed and the means by which it will be judged.
The plan should:
- Be based on the findings from the Single Assessment and draw on knowledge about effective interventions;
- 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;
- Be constructed with the family in their preferred language/communication method and they should be given a copy in that format. Where the parent has a learning disability, care must be taken to ascertain their level of understanding and give them a copy of the plan in a format that is accessible to them;
- Acknowledge and give reasons for any disagreements with family members about how to best safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
- Be signed by all members of the Core Group including family members. The plan therefore will form a written agreement between all members of the Core Group;
- Be adjusted as necessary at subsequent Core Group meetings and the amended copy signed and circulated.
Negotiating the plan with the Parents: 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.
Child Protection Plans and Children Looked After by the Local Authority
The Child Protection Plan should not exist in isolation from other child care plans. Where the child is Looked After by the local authority, the Child Protection Plan should be integrated into the overall care planning process.
The Lead Social Worker should send a copy of the detailed Child Protection Plan developed at the first Core Group meeting to the Independent Reviewing officer (IRO) responsible for the Child Care Review held under Review Regulations.
The Review Child Protection Conference should be timed to take place prior to the Child Care Review meeting in order to ensure that the information from the conference is taken to the review meeting and informs the overall care planning process. It should be remembered that significant changes to the Care Plan can only be made at the Child Care Review meeting.
Child Protection Plans and the Children in Need Planning Process
Where a child has been subject to a Child in Need Plan prior to the Initial Child Protection Conference, the Child in Need Plan should be used by the Core Group to develop the Child Protection Plan. This should ensure that the focus of interventions is to reduce the likelihood of harm, as well as meeting the overall developmental needs of the child.
Where a child ceases to be subject of a Child Protection Plan, if appropriate an inter agency meeting should be held within 10 working days to agree the Child in Need Plan.
Practice Guidance – Developing Effective Plans and Interventions
The Child Protection Plan should be a document which is owned and understood by the family and all relevant professionals. Thus great care should be taken at the first Core Group meeting to ensure that everyone is clear about their roles and responsibilities and what they should do if, for any reason, they are unable to fulfil their obligations in respect of the plan.
In developing plans the following Government guidance should be taken into account.
6.2 Child Care Plans – General Principles (DoH 2000)
- Plans should be drawn up in agreement with the child / young person and key family members;
- Objectives should be reasonable and timescales not too short or unachievable;
- Plans should not be dependent on resources which are known to be scarce or unavailable;
- The plan must maintain a focus on the child even though help may be provided by a number of family members as part of the plan.
6.3 Areas in Which Clarity is Required in Child Care Planning (DoH 2000)
- Objective of the plan;
- Services to be provided – by whom?
- Timing and nature of professional contact;
- Purpose of services and professional contact;
- Specific commitments to be met by the family;
- What is negotiable / non-negotiable;
- What needs to change – goals to be achieved;
- What is unacceptable care;
- What sanctions will be used if the child is placed in danger;
- What preparation will service users receive if in court as a witness in criminal proceedings?
- Contingency plans.
All plans need to define clearly measurable outcomes.
Planned outcomes should be:
- Related to the assessed needs of the child / young person;
- Time related.
6.4 Family Group Conferences and Child Protection Plans
A Family Group Conference (FGC) is a family decision-making and planning process which harnesses the skills and knowledge of wider family members in collaboration with professionals. They have been used successfully to plan in a number of different contexts, including where there are safeguarding concerns (Marsh and Crow 1998, Lupton and Stevens 2000).
The FGC is a more informal and a less intimidating way for the wider family network to be centrally involved. The wider family and friendship network are brought together by an independent co-ordinator and there are four distinct phases of the conference process:
- Information provision by professionals connected with the family and by the family themselves;
- Private family time – where the family is left to plan alone and come up with a plan of action that addresses the main safeguarding concerns and the child needs;
- Appraisal and agreement of the plan by Children’s Social Care Services, and agreement of the resources necessary to implement the plan;
- Process of implementation and review agreed.
In order for the FGC to be successful it is important that:
- The family group is provided with clear, accurate and jargon free information, which is provided in a format which is understandable and respectful. Where family members use English as a second language, it is important that appropriate interpretation or translation is provided. Where parents have other challenges to communication in meetings, such as a learning disability, it is important that advice is sought about the most appropriate way of providing information.
The information provided to the conference should include:
- Findings from the Single Assessment and any other material which relates to the well-being of the child and safeguarding concerns.
It is important that the family and professionals are clear about:
- The decision or plan to be made;
- Any limitations on family decision making;
- How the family’s plan will fit alongside other decision-making forums;
- What resources are available for the family to implement the plan, and that these are realistic and time-focused.
Children and young people are central to family decision making and it is essential that they are enabled to contribute their views. They can do this by:
- Attending the meeting, and being provided with advocacy to do so. It may be necessary to harness advocates within the family system, or use an advocacy service. It has been important to consider children’s views about what is most helpful (Dalrymple and Horan 2004);
- Having someone else represent their views either from their family or an advocacy service;
- By proving written information, in their own words, about their circumstances, to the conference.
FGCs do not replace or remove the need for a child protection conference, which should always be held where the relevant criteria are met (see Child Protection Conferences Procedure).
FGCs have been successful in making plans in the context of safeguarding where:
- A Child in Need and a plan to fully engage the parents and wider family in maintaining the child’s well being is needed;
- A Section 47 Enquiry does not substantiate Significant Harm, but where it would be helpful to engage the parents and wider family in developing a plan to ensure the child’s well-being;
- After the child protection conference the FGC may be a way of fully engaging the parents and wider family in developing and implementing the outline Child Protection Plan. There will need to be agreement from the Core Group that this is an appropriate form of action. This is also relevant after a Review Child Protection Conference;
- When a child should no longer be subject of a Child Protection Plan, the FGC may be a way of fully engaging the parents and wider family in developing and implementing a plan to ensure the child’s well-being.
Where FGCs may not be helpful:
- Where Section 47 Enquiries have substantiated Significant Harm and there is uncertainty about the circumstances of that harm, or who was responsible for it.
Interventions should be clearly linked to the developmental needs of the child, and based on a knowledge of what is likely to work best to bring about good outcomes. At the end of this section there is a summary of the literature as to what works in various situations. This is not an exhaustive overview and practitioners will need to keep up to date with current developments.
Interventions – key components
Interventions are likely to have a number of inter-related components:
- Action to make a child safe;
- Action to help promote a child’s health and development;
- Action to help a parents/caregivers in safeguarding a child and promoting his or her welfare;
- Therapy for an abused child;
- Support or therapy for a perpetrator of abuse.
A good Child Protection Plan will include all of the above (if relevant). However research has shown that plans do not always adequately meet them all.
A report by the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI (2006) Meeting the needs of parents with children on the child protection register CSCI Special study report: London CSCI) noted that the needs of parents were not always taken account of when developing Child Protection Plans.
Unless effectively addressed, adults’ problems can undermine the well-being of children, directly or indirectly, and in the short and long term. In a minority of cases these ‘adult’ problems can contribute to the neglect of children’s physical, emotional and psychological well-being. In certain circumstances, they can result in various forms of abuse.
Although the main objective of the plan must be to improve the situation for the child, all plans should take account of the needs of relevant adults and aim to provide services to support them in their parenting role. This may involve ensuring that relevant adult services are included in the Core Group.
Interventions and motivation to change
Interventions will need to be based on an assessment of parental motivation to change and whether change is likely to occur within a timescale compatible with the needs of the child. Where change cannot occur within the required timescale, the process of decision making and planning should be as open as possible and seek to involve parents and carers at all stages of the process.
Where the child has been removed from the family and plans are to reunite the child. Interventions should include the detailed work necessary to help the parents/caregivers develop the necessary parenting skills.
6.6 Interventions and Neglect
“The distinction must be made between neglect caused by financial poverty, which can be alleviated by financial help, and that caused by emotional poverty. These may co-exist, but relief of the former condition does not relieve the latter” (Rosenberg, D & Cantwell, H 91993) ‘The consequences of neglect’ in Hobbs, CJ & Wynne).
Interventions in situations of neglect must be:
- Congruent with the findings of the assessment;
- Take a flexible approach which includes a wide range of formal and informal responses. These are likely to include provision of concrete resources, the development of social supports and work focusing on family relationships.
Evidence points to the importance of casework and empowerment skills (Turney, D and Tanner, K (2005) “Understanding and Working with Neglect” DFES (See Research in Practice website) in addressing difficulties that underpin neglect. It is important that the relationship between practitioners and parents should involve interventions that empower the family members to develop a sense of personal efficacy and agency.
In cases of chronic neglect, there may be a need to plan for long term intervention. These plans must:
- Be underpinned by in-depth assessment;
- Include measurable objectives for change;
- Consider strategies for achieving these changes;
- Include ways of evaluating whether the required changes have taken place.
Once it is clear that interventions are in place and meeting the developmental needs of the child, it is likely that these will be delivered outside the formal Child Protection Plan.
If it is clear that family focused interventions are not meeting the needs of the child, it is likely that the plan will need to include removal of the child.
Parenting skills programmes may be helpful. Contra indications for such programmes without a lot of individual support to enable parents to make use of them are:
- Low socioeconomic status;
- Lack of sense of self-efficacy;
- Social isolation;
- Poor relationship;
- Chronicity of problems.
Home visiting programmes at the ante-natal and early post natal stage can be effective in facilitating the development of a sensitive and empathic relationship between the parent and young child which may forestall attachment and other relationship difficulties.
Protective factors for children experiencing neglect are:
- Achievement at school;
- The opportunity to develop talents and interests;
- The experience of an enduring, supportive relationship in which they feel valued.
6.7 Interventions and Parents With Learning Disabilities
Intervention should always be based on a thorough assessment and take into account the most appropriate method of working with the parents, given their specific needs.
Plans for intervention should always include methods of evaluating whether the support package is meeting the child’s needs. It is only if there is uncertainty about the parents’ continued capacity to engage with a support package that the plan will need to be delivered within the formal child protection process.
It is likely that there will need to be planning for long term interventions that adapt and change as the child develops.
A review of the literature (McGaw, S., and Newman, T. (2005) “What works for parents with learning disabilities?” London: Barnardo’s) identified the following messages in relation to interventions:
- Interventions should build on parents’ strengths as well as their vulnerabilities;
- Interventions should be based on performance rather than knowledge and should incorporate modelling, practice, feedback and praise;
- Tangible rewards may promote attendance at programmes, rapid acquisition of skills and short-term commitment. Other methods of engagement are needed long term. Intensive service engagement is more demanding than intermittent service engagement, though it may be more effective;
- In order for generalisation to occur, programmes should be adaptable to provide training in the actual environments in which the skills are needed;
- If teaching must be provided out-of-home, it should be in as home-like an environment as possible;
- Factors which promote resilience in the children’s environment should be identified and enhanced;
- The importance of family ties should be recognised and no actions taken that damage such ties;
- Interventions should diminish, rather than cause or contribute to, the social exclusion of the child and parents.
A review of positive practice in supporting parents with a learning disability noted that they can often be ‘good enough’ parents when provided with ongoing emotional and practical support (Tarleton et al Finding the Right Support: A Review of Issues and Positive Practice in Supporting Parents with Learning Difficulties and Their Children Bristol: The Baring Foundation).
Support packages need to include:
1. Easy to understand information:
- About all aspects of parenting (The CHANGE book, You and Your Baby, 2004, is a helpful accessible resource) (Affleck, F., & Baker, S., (2004) You and Your Baby Leeds: CHANGE );
- On the support available – whether from mainstream services, like maternity services, or a specialist learning disability team;
- About child protection and judicial process.
Parents frequently need advice in multiple areas of their lives, not just around the forthcoming baby. This includes advice on benefits and how to handle problems in relation to poor housing, harassment, and so on.
3. Skills teaching:
And other focussed help as necessary.
4. Ongoing support:
Adapted to changing circumstances as the child gets older and continuing if (and after) a child is adopted.
5. Consistency and clarity:
From the professionals involved about their expectations of them as parents.
6. Key working:
So that parents are not confused by different interventions by different professionals.
Whether professional or voluntary, to support parents, particularly if they are involved in child protection or judicial processes.
8. Informal support:
e.g. via a Circle of Support or Home-Start.
9. Encouragement and affirmation:
So that parents can gain the confidence to engage positively with services and demonstrate that they can be good enough parents with support.
10. Contact with other parents:
For example through parents’ groups, so that they can share skills and experiences.
11. Parent involvement:
In the development of new services, training of professionals and other initiatives.
6.8 Interventions and Child Sexual Abuse
Plans for children who have been sexually abused need to be developed – taking account of the overall needs of the child rather than focusing on the sexual abuse alone.
While self-protection work may be part of the plan, care must be taken not to rely solely on this, as to do so is rendering the child responsible for their own protection.
A review of the literature identified the following practice implications in relation to intervention (Jones, D., and Ramchandani, P (1999) “Child Sexual Abuse – Informing Practice from Research” Oxford: Radcliff):
- Psychological treatments are more effective than the passage of time alone;
- Treatments cannot work in isolation, but require direct social casework support to enable them to be effective, and need to be fully integrated with wider case management;
- Children must remain safe from further maltreatment in order to benefit from treatment;
- All child victims could benefit from education concerning sexual abuse and its causes and effects, but this would need to be sensitive to the developmental stage of the child;
- Symptomatic children can, in addition, benefit from focused treatments;
- Of these focused treatments, cognitive behavioural therapy has the greatest proven benefit for sexually abused children;
- Treatments must involve the non-abusive parent or carer;
- A variety of treatment approaches needs to be available to cover the disparate needs of this population group.
6.9 Interventions and Domestic Violence
Interventions, in situations of domestic violence need to take account of the evidence that children can suffer serious long term damage through living in a household where domestic violence and abuse is taking place, even though they have never themselves been directly harmed. This evidence is reflected in the extension of the legal definition of harm from January 2005 (Section 120, Adoption and Children Act 2002) to include impairment through seeing or hearing the ill treatment of another- particularly in the home even though they themselves have not been directly assaulted or abused.
The most effective intervention for ensuring safe and positive outcomes for children living with domestic violence is usually to plan a package of support that incorporates:
- Risk assessment;
- Trained domestic violence support;
- Safety planning (for the non abusing parent who is experiencing domestic violence);
- Protection and support for the child (Vision for services for children and young people affected by domestic violence (2006) Women’s Aid, CAFCASS, Local Government Association).
When planning interventions account should be taken of a study of 29 child homicides occurring in England and Wales as a result of contact arrangements with a violent parent. This found that, despite the involvement of statutory services with most of the families, children were often not spoken to or assessed and domestic violence was viewed as an ‘adult problem,’ rather than a child protection issues. With regard to the 3 of 13 families, contact orders had been granted to very violent fathers either, against professional advice, without waiting for professional advice or without requesting professional advice (Saunders, H. (2004) Twenty-nine child homicides: lessons still to be learnt on domestic violence and child protection Bristol: Women’s Aid Federation of England).