What are the stages of Social Services intervention?
Social Services Intervention
There can be varying degrees of involvement Social Services have with a family and sometimes it can happen when a family least expects it. Below are the stages of Social Services intervention explained where you do not need to seek legal advice. There will be a further blog on Local Authority Intervention and when it will be suggested to you to seek legal advice.
This is typically known as a ‘front door service’. Children and their families are monitored through universal services such as the school, a school nurse and/ or health visitor.
Child in Need:
This is an early stage where a Social Worker is allocated. There will be statutory visits by the Social Worker every 4 weeks. These can be announced and unannounced visits. There will be Child in Need meetings where the parents must agree to certain things which are made into a safety plan. It should be noted that engagement in the child in need process is voluntary. You do not have to engage in it, if you choose not to. However, you should be aware that this could lead the Local Authority to take further action, if you don’t. It is always worth engaging with the Local Authority in the child in need process.
A strategy meeting is held if the Child in Need plan is breached or there are concerns of significant harm in relation to a child. The Social Worker will submit a request for a Multi-Agency meeting within 5 days. Representatives at the meeting will include at least the Social Worker and Police. It could also include people from the school, midwifery and the health team for the child, depending upon your situation.
At the meeting the professionals will share information they have on the family. They will also decide if a Section 47 assessment is required. Social Services will carry out the assessment and will look at the concerns and the current situation of the family and whether any action is required. Social Services also look at whether they need to take legal action to protect the children. The Police will also need to decide if they need to do their own, or joint investigation, with the Local Authority to look into the concerns raised.
If a Section 47 assessment is planned, then the child will be spoken to by either the Social Worker or a Police Officer, depending what was agreed at the meeting. Once the assessment is completed, it will either recommend what action should be taken or if the matter can be closed.
A Child Protection Conference is arranged after a Section 47 assessment concludes that there is evidence that a child is at risk of significant harm.
The initial conference will decide whether to put the child on a protection plan based on 4 categories which are:
- Physical harm
- Emotional harm
- Sexual harm
Each professional within the conference will give their view on whether they consider that the child should be put on a children protection plan. They will score from 0-10. 0 worst situation (lots of concerns) and 10 being the best situation (where there are no concerns). There must be a unanimous decision to put the child on the protection plan, if there isn’t one, then the chair of the meeting has the over-riding vote.
The first review conference will be within 90 days of the initial conference and then it will be reviewed every 6 months. Ideally, the plan should not be in place for longer than 2 years. The plan is reviewed at every meeting with the parents having certain things they are to agree to or direct work to undertake. Sometimes, there will be split conference for the parents if there is an injunction (non-molestation order) in place.
If a child is put on the Child Protection Register at the initial conference, then a Core Group Meeting will follow shortly after. The people attending this meeting will be the main people involved in the child’s life. This will usually include the Social Worker, school and parents.
After the meeting, the updated plan will be shared with professionals within 24 hours of the meeting and the meeting minutes should be distributed within 14 days. The police also get a copy of this plan and will then set a safeguarding marker on the address, if required.
Although these stages can be quite challenging, please bear in mind the Social Worker is there to try and help you overcome certain problems that may arise within the family home. As long as these stages are not escalated then Social Services think that your problems can be resolved without getting legal personnel involved. If you have been told Social Services are going to escalate, please see a further blog on ‘Local Authority Intervention… Go get a Solicitor!’.