1.11 Implementing child protection plans
When a 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 social worker to co-ordinate all aspects of the inter-agency child protection plan.
The conference should also identify a Core Group of professionals who will be responsible for keeping the child protection plan up to date and co-ordinating the multi-agency activities within the plan. (This will include informing assessments, supporting and enabling progress, driving agreed actions, identifying what has been achieved, and considering whether an escalation in response or a significant change in the plan is needed).
More information on what should be included in the child protection plan is available.
The Lead Social Worker
The lead social worker acts as the lead professional for inter-agency work with the child and family, co-ordinating the contribution of both family members and professionals.
Responsibilities of the lead social worker
The lead social worker should:
- develop the outline child protection plan into a more detailed inter-agency plan and circulate to relevant professionals (and family where appropriate)
- ensure the child protection plan is aligned and integrated with any associated offender risk management plan
- 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
- complete the child's and family's in-depth assessment, securing contributions from core group members and others as necessary
- 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
- coordinate reviews of progress against the planned outcomes, updating as required. The first review should be held within 3 months of the initial conference and further reviews at intervals of no more than 6 months for as long as the child remains subject of a child protection plan
- record decisions and actions agreed at core group meetings as well as the written views of those who were not able to attend, and follow up those actions to ensure they take place. The child protection plan should be updated as necessary
- lead core group activity.
The Core Group
- The lead social worker/first line manager. (Which one of these professionals chairs the core group is dependent on the complexity of the case).
- The child if appropriate (see involving the child, their parents and family).
- Parents and relevant family members (see involving the child, their parents and family).
- 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.
Responsibilities of the core group
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
- formulating the detailed child protection plan in the form of a written agreement, specifying who should do what, by when
- agreeing the frequency for all core group members to see the child and the frequency of all contacts
- monitoring and evaluating progress against specified outcomes for the child of the detailed child protection plan
- ensuring all action points and outcomes from meetings are clearly recorded, and all information is shared with the lead social worker and the core group
- making recommendations to subsequent review conferences about future protection plans.
Individual members of the core group are responsible for:
- carrying out their part in implementing the plan including the commitment of identified resources
- keeping the family, and where appropriate the child, informed of the actions they are taking
- attending core group meetings and reviewing progress to ensure that there is no drift in achieving the aims of the child protection plan.
Agencies should ensure that members of the core group undertake their roles and responsibilities effectively in accordance with the agreed child protection plan. Members of the core group must ensure they are able to deliver their commitments or, if this is not possible, they should raise with the group and re-negotiate them.
Any disagreements should have been discussed at the core group meeting, recorded with reasons and reflected appropriately in the written plan/agreement. It is permissible to rely on electronic signatures or emails confirming acceptance of an agency's responsibilities under the child protection plan, but all such signatures and emails must be collected in the child's local authority children's social care record.
If the lead social worker or any other involved professional has difficulty obtaining direct access to the child, the local authority children's social care manager/child protection adviser should be informed, and the core group and the police must make a plan of action. This may include convening a review conference.
Timing of core group meetings
The first core group meeting date must be arranged at the end of the conference, along with the required frequency of subsequent meetings (ideally scheduled for six months in advance).
The date of the first core group meeting must be within 10 working days of the initial child protection conference. After that the core group should meet within six weeks of the first meeting and at a minimum frequency of once every two months following the first review conference.
More regular meetings may be required according to the needs and age of the child.
Where a meeting needs to be rescheduled, this must be confirmed in writing to all concerned by the lead social worker.
Copies of the notes of the first meeting and the child protection plan in the form of a written agreement should be circulated to core group members within five working days of the core group meeting. Implementation of the child protection plan must begin immediately: each member of the core group should record what they agreed to do and deliver on this commitment without waiting for the notes to arrive.
Difficulties implementing the child protection plan
Where any member of the core group is aware of difficulties implementing the child protection plan, they must immediately inform the lead social worker who will convene a core group meeting/discussion. This meeting may amend the child protection plan, agree to arrange an early review conference, or agree that urgent legal action should be taken to gain access to the premises and/or remove the child.
The lead social worker should always be informed if a child subject to a child protection plan misses appointments or if a professional has been unable to gain access to a child on two consecutive home visits (the second visit being a second attempt to see the child in close succession of the first attempt).
If there are difficulties implementing the child protection plan arising from disagreement amongst professional agencies, or a core group member not carrying out agreed responsibilities, this must be addressed by:
- discussion with core group members
- involving respective managers/child protection advisers (for example, child protection manager for children's social care, designated/named safeguarding children doctor/nurse, teacher or police DCI).
If the situation remains unresolved the relevant local escalation policy should be used.