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1.16 Children and families moving across local authority boundaries

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Please see below for the procedure on 'Transfer of Responsibility between Authorities for Children with a Child Protection Plan - West Midlands’ Authorities Contingency Position Statement during COVID 19 Pandemic'.

 

It is best practice for children to receive services from agencies who are local to where they live. This particularly applies to health, education and social care services.

At any stage in the process of working with a child and their family, the parents/carers and/or the child may move from one household to another. This may include a planned or unplanned move to a different local authority area.

It is important that professionals from all agencies know what to do when this happens. The effective co-ordination and robust transfer of information to local agencies is critical to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

More detailed guidance on Protecting children who move across local authority borders is available from the West Midlands Regional Safeguarding Network.

Contents

Sharing information of a planned or unplanned move

When a family is planning to move or has moved to another area and there are concerns about the welfare of a child, professionals in all agencies should:

  • ensure that other agencies who have been working with the child and family are aware of the move
  • seek appropriate consent to share information with agencies in the area the family have moved, or are planning to move, to (if consent is not obtained consideration should be given as to whether grounds exist to share information without consent: the rest of this section assumes consent has been given or refusal set aside)
  • provide all relevant to records to colleagues in equivalent agencies in the area the family have moved, or are planning to move, to.

If the child has a known social worker (for example, a child on a child protection plan) the social worker should be informed and given the name and details of staff in the area the child is moving to.

This should be done before the move wherever possible, otherwise as soon as possible afterwards (with copies of all documents forwarded to the relevant professional within five working days of being notified of the move).

Where a young person who is receiving services as a care leaver moves into another local authority area there is no duty to notify professionals in the new area.  However, in agreement with the young person, this may be appropriate in some circumstances.

Where the immigration status of the child and their family is not confirmed or where there are safeguarding concerns, the UK Border Agency should be notified of any movements.

Responding to children and families moving into a new area

All agencies in contact with families who have moved, must establish basic information (i.e. full names, dates of birth, previous address, registration with doctor and enrolment in school etc.). The relevant agency must be notified if a child is not appropriately registered/enrolled.

Facilitating access to universal services

Children and families who move most frequently between local authorities include homeless families, asylum seekers and refugees, families experiencing domestic violence, gypsy and traveller families and looked after children. For those already socially excluded, moving can worsen the effects of their exclusion and increase the vulnerability of children.

Professionals in all agencies should be aware that a child or family who has moved may not be in receipt of universal services. Professionals should pro-actively engage with the family in order to link them into local universal services, for example:

  • providing information about relevant services
  • following up to ensure that the family has managed to make contact and register with a local GP, school and other relevant services to which the child is entitled
  • engaging appropriately with relevant agencies regarding any concerns which emerge.

Identifying children at risk of harm

Some families will move between authorities to avoid or divert professional contact where safeguarding or child protection concerns have been identified.

Professionals in all agencies should be alert to this possibility.  Along with the indicators of abuse and neglect, the following circumstances associated with children and families moving across authority boundaries may indicate a particular cause for concern:

  • A child and family or pregnant woman not being registered with a GP.
  • A child not having a school place or whose attendance is irregular.
  • A child or family having no fixed abode (for example, being homeless or living temporarily with friends and relatives) in so far as it impacts on the welfare of the child;
  • Several agencies holding information about the child and family, which is not co-ordinated, and/or which has not followed the child or family (i.e. information which is missing or has gaps).
  • Attendance of children at accident and emergency departments: these should be communicated to the child’s GP by the hospital’s paediatric discharge system or paediatric liaison arrangements.
  • Domestic violence, substance misuse and/or adult mental health problems.

Requesting information if circumstances suggest cause for concern

If agencies become aware of a family moving into their area in circumstances that suggest there may be cause for concern about the welfare of one or more children, they should contact their equivalent agencies in the area the family have left to request information. This information should be provided within one working day.

Transfer of responsibilities

Children’s social care services are normally provided by the local authority for the area where the child is living or is found. For these purposes, 'found' means the physical location where the child suffers, or is identified to be at risk of, harm or neglect.

However, where a child is currently receiving services, or is subject to a section 47 enquiry, formal transfer processes should be followed. Responsibility for safeguarding the child will remain with the local authority where the child was living (even though the child will have moved) until these transfer processes have been fully completed.

In some cases the local authority where the family previously lived will retain responsibility for the child.

Children subject to a statutory order

Responsibility for a child will remain with the local authority where the family previously lived if the child is subject to a statutory order. This includes:

  • a care order
  • an interim care order
  • any form of supervision or family assistance order
  • an emergency protection order
  • a child assessment order
  • any child who is subject to police protection powers
  • a Section 37 assessment.

This legal responsibility cannot be transferred. However, the local authority to which the family have moved should be made aware of the move and may agree to provide services on behalf of the local authority where the family previously lived. This must be confirmed in writing by a local authority children's social care manager.

Any child protection concerns which subsequently arise are the responsibility of the local authority in whose area the child is found (i.e. the physical location where the child suffers, or is identified to be at risk of, harm or neglect).

Children who are accommodated

An accommodated child remains the responsibility of the local authority where the family previously lived until:

  • the child is discharged from accommodation
  • the local authority to which the family have moved agrees they will accommodate the child. This agreement must be confirmed in writing by children's care managers for both authorities.

Any child protection concerns which subsequently arise are the responsibility of the local authority in whose area the child is found (i.e. the physical location where the child suffers, or is identified to be at risk of, harm or neglect).

Where a parent is accommodated or a care leaver

Where a child is a mother/expectant mother and is accommodated or subject to leaving care arrangements (potentially up to 25 years), the responsibility for these services remains with the local authority where they previously lived unless formally transferred.

However, the local authority where the mother is living will be responsible for responding to any concerns about the baby.

If the unborn baby is already the subject of a pre-birth child protection plan the arrangements for transferring the child protection plan (below) must be followed. 

Children subject to a Child Protection Plan

All reasonable efforts should be made to house children who are subject of a child protection plan or to a child protection enquiry within the authority (unless a move is part of the child protection plan). This applies to both temporary and permanent housing provision.

The responsibility for a child subject of a protection plan remains with the local authority where the family previously lived until a ‘Transfer-In’ Conference has taken place and the area where the child has moved to makes a formal decision about the continuing need for a protection plan and this is confirmed in writing. For more information see the section on Transfer-in Conferences.

During the period before the Transfer-In conference, the local authority for the area the child has moved to should place the child’s name on its database of children subject to a child protection plans from the date of the actual move (or when informed of the move if this is later).

If a family moves to an area that is too far away for the existing social worker to effectively carry out home visits and other tasks required by the child protection plan, the local authority in the area the child has moved to should assist by implementing the plan prior to the formal Transfer-in conference. The agreement to do this must be confirmed in writing within one week of the family moving (where the date of the move is known).

Any child protection concerns which subsequently arise are the responsibility of the local authority in whose area the child is found (i.e. the physical location where the child suffers, or is identified to be at risk of, harm or neglect).

Time-limited moves

There may be circumstances where the child protection plan specifies a move out of an authority for a time-limited period. For example:

  • the child temporarily stays with friends/family in another authority
  • there is a time-limited placement in a residential or mother and baby unit in another local authority area
  • a parent, together with children, is supported for a time-limited period to live with a specified person (for example, a relative or friend in another authority)
  • the child is admitted to hospital in another authority.

In these cases the responsibility for the child protection plan will remain with the area who initiated the plan, although they may require assistance from the area where the child is temporarily living.

Children who move frequently

The child protection plan will also remain with the area who initiated the plan if the family moves so frequently that the child's welfare cannot be adequately monitored. The local authority holding the case responsibility should share information with each successive authority that the family moves to.

Professionals in the area where the family are temporarily living should provide assistance to implement the child protection plan and should share information with the authority retaining the formal responsibility. The child should be added, in a temporary category, to the list of children on a child protection plan in each area they live.

Children in receipt of services as a ‘child in need’

Where a child who is receiving services as a ‘child in need’ (but is not looked after or subject to a child protection plan) moves it is normally advisable that assessments, enquiries or particular pieces of work or treatment are concluded before any transfer of case responsibility takes place. This will limit the extent to which children and families are exposed to having to repeat their stories and prevent work to overcome child protection concerns having to be repeated.

Following formal notification, the authority in the area the child has moved to should undertake an assessment of need and make a decision on the child and family’s eligibility for service provision within one calendar month of the notification of the move (or later if agreed).

The authority in the area the child has left should retain case responsibility while this assessment takes place and may retain responsibility for a limited period after if they wish to challenge the outcome of the assessment.

Any child protection concerns which subsequently arise are the responsibility of the local authority in whose area the child is found (i.e. the physical location where the child suffers, or is identified to be at risk of, harm or neglect).

Children who move during section 47 enquiries

In the event that a family moves while a section 47 enquiry is being undertaken, the authority who initiated the section 47 enquiry should convene a strategy meeting/discussion within 72 hours. This must include children’s social care and other relevant professionals from the area the child has moved to.

The authority who initiated the enquiry retains responsibility until the completion of the enquiry, unless an alternative arrangement is agreed.

If a child protection conference is required it should be take place in the area the child has moved to.

Other circumstances requiring cooperation across local authority boundaries

Co-parenting arrangements

Where there is a co-parenting arrangement (however imbalanced) across two different local authority areas, the professionals in the two areas should jointly plan for the child's safety. This will include an assessment of the child’s needs in both locations and an assessment of both parents.

The facts of the individual case should determine which authority will have lead responsibility for the child protection plan, and the second authority will need to hold the child on a temporary plan.  Reviews should be managed by the lead authority but will involve professionals from both areas.

Housing              

Where housing and any subsistence costs are being provided by the area the child has left, these costs should continue to be borne by the local authority the child has left until the child and family’s housing needs are resolved.  Other local authority children’s social care, or other services, should be provided by the area the child has moved to.

Negotiated alternatives

In exceptional cases, in response to the circumstances of an individual child, a local authority children's social care manager may negotiate different arrangements to those set out here, with their equivalent in another local authority.

Such negotiated departure from this procedure should be confirmed in writing by both the local authorities within 48 hours of the agreement being made.

Inter-authority arrangements for child protection enquiries

Responsibility for section 47 enquiries rests with the local authority children’s social care for the area where the child is living or is found. For these purposes, 'found' means the physical location where the child suffers, or is identified to be at risk of, harm or neglect.

Usually the area where the child is living is the same as the physical location where the child suffers, or is identified to be at risk, of harm and neglect. However, these may be different. For more information on which authority should lead in these cases, see the section on inter-authority arrangements for child protection enquiries.

Transfer of Responsibility between Authorities for Children with a Child Protection Plan - West Midlands’ Authorities Contingency Position Statement during COVID 19 Pandemic

1.16.1

1. Introduction

The COVID19 pandemic has impacted on all statutory and voluntary agencies working in child protection, meaning that innovative ways of working with families are being developed, including arrangements for Child Protection Conferences. This paper focusses on the arrangements for transfer of cases between authorities following the recent West Midlands’ agreement to suspend case transfers until further notice with few exceptions.

It is also recognised that, at this time, authorities will need to be flexible and helpful, working with colleagues from other areas to ensure children continue to be protected. An example might include visiting families for whom virtual contact is not enough and long distances preclude the allocated social worker visiting. These arrangements will continue to be agreed between authorities.

This paper proposes the suspension of Receiving-In Child Protection Conferences across the West Midlands until at least the end of June 2020 and makes provision for exceptions to this arrangement.

2. Usual Case Transfer Arrangements

Children with a Child Protection Plan are among the most vulnerable to significant harm. Formal arrangements are in place for transfer of responsibility for such children between authorities as set out in Working Together 2018 and the West Midlands Regional Safeguarding Procedures. These arrangements ensure that there is always one authority holding case responsibility.

It can take some time to ascertain whether the family’s move is permanent. Arrangements are then put in place to share information between authorities, ensure visiting levels are maintained and that partner agencies in both authorities are informed and communicating regarding the support arrangements in place. The case responsibility is formally transferred at the Transfer in Child Protection Conference.

3. Rationale for decision to suspend these arrangements due to Covid-19

The transfer of case responsibility at Child Protection Conference depends on clear communication and collaboration between all involved partner agencies to ensure that the safeguarding arrangements in place remain robust at all times. The present circumstances, where agencies are working with competing priorities and lowered resources, make that much more difficult. Local Authorities are rightly prioritising urgent S47 assessments and their outcomes.

Conferences, where concerns and solutions are fully discussed, are not taking place. For transfer cases important information could be missed or misunderstood, potentially impacting on child safety. Formal conferences not being held also makes it more difficult to ensure essential support and supervision services to families from all agencies are maintained at the required level.

The effective implementation of Child Protection Plans depends on professionals developing a close working relationship with children and families. Families tell us that having a CP plan is itself stressful. Children need time to develop a relationship with their worker. It would be unfair and potentially unsafe to impose a change of key workers on families at this time.

Social workers and other partners are having to rely on the use of technology to maintain contact with families, with home visits being undertaken only in the most concerning situations. This would make it much more difficult for a receiving social worker to begin to develop their relationship with children and families, as well as with partners.

4. Core Groups and Partner Agencies

The effectiveness of Child Protection Plans is dependent on the core group working together for the child. Transfer without a conference would make the establishment of a new core group difficult. Partners are responsible for continuing their work with the family as they would were the family still resident in their area with the use of technology, visiting etc. In exceptional cases where visits are needed and not feasible due to distance, agencies will need to liaise with colleagues in the new area to assist, whilst recognising every LA will likely have significant staffing reductions to manage.

In these circumstances, it is important that partner agencies who are involved in offering services and interventions either directly to children or parents e.g. in respect of substance misuse, mental health etc, do not close the case or transfer their involvement to another provider, where at all possible.

5. Circumstances where exceptions might apply

There will be anomalous situations where it is necessary for a case transfer to take place between authorities, but this should be on an exceptional basis. This would be where the court has issued care proceedings to the receiving authority or where it is in the child’s best interests to transfer the case safely, for example, the transfer was imminent before COVID-19 and relationships had already been established between the family and agencies or where substantial distance makes continuing involvement of core group members very difficult.

When such cases arise, these should be discussed by representatives of both the originating and receiving authorities at Head of Service/Service Manager level to agree transfer or not, and if appropriate a transfer date agreed.

The social worker, core group members and family will be promptly informed of the agreed course of action. Exceptional disagreements between senior staff should be escalated to Assistant Director level for resolution. The social worker in the originating authority will have a telephone conversation with their colleague in the receiving authority ensuring all pertinent information and reports are provided, confirming the case formal transfer date. That social worker will also inform core group members of the transfer and advise them of the need to make referrals to colleagues in the receiving authority.

The social worker in the receiving authority will accept the case with both social workers noting in their files that the transfer has formally taken place. This social worker will then convene the core group and contact the family.

6. Review of these arrangements

These arrangements will be monitored regularly at Assistant Director level and necessary changes made as the current pandemic develops. Any changes will be communicated promptly to key staff accordingly. These arrangements will be reviewed at the end of June 2020. When a decision is made to end these contingency arrangements, authorities will revert to previous arrangements in accordance with Working Together guidance (2018).

This page is correct as printed on Tuesday 26th of May 2020 10:38:07 AM please refer back to this website (http://westmidlands.procedures.org.uk) for updates.
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