Children’s social care services

Learn about the role of Children’s Social Care Services and the processes involved after a referral has been made.

Local safeguarding partners

Each local authority has Safeguarding Partners which is a team of professionals made up of three sectors: police, children’s social care services and the NHS clinical commissioning group. The purpose of this partnership is to coordinate and strengthen the child protection and safeguarding services in their local area. The safeguarding partners are also required to work alongside relevant agencies who can help them support families and safeguard children such as charities, NHS bodies, Youth Offending teams and the probation service.

Children’s social care

If you think that your child is being or has been exploited then it is important to contact children’s social care. The powers and duties of what children’s social care must do if your child is being sexually exploited are set out in:

• Children Act 1989 (section 17, section 47)

• Children Act 2004

• Children and Young Persons Act 2008

• Safeguarding Young People and Children from Child Sexual Exploitation, Department of Health Guidance 2009

What happens once you have contacted social care?

If there are concerns about a child’s welfare, social care need to undertake an assessment and decide which interventions need to be made. In practice, children’s social care should work openly and collaboratively with you, unless doing so would place your child at risk of harm. They should listen to your views and share all relevant information with you.

The overview of procedures is a guide to what you can expect and shows what meetings you are entitled to attend. It is vital you are familiar with it in order to engage effectively with the authorities.

Overview of Different Stages

Initial Assessment

A referral to children’s social care services (CSC) can be made when there is a concern about the safety or wellbeing of a child. The referral can be made by anyone, including parents, carers and family members.

When children’s social care services receive the referral, they decide their response based on the following criteria:

• Is the child in immediate danger?
• Is the child in need?
• Are there grounds to suspect the child is suffering, or likely to suffer significant harm?
• Are further enquiries needed?
• What services do the child and family need?
• Does another specialist assessment required to determine further actions?
• Are there any specialist services or agencies that the child / family be referred to?

If children’s social care services decide to conduct an assessment after referral this is usually carried out under Section 17 of the Children’s Act 1989 and they have 45 days to do it from the time the referral was received. The purpose of this assessment is to gather evidence around the needs of the child and family and help understand what the risk is to the child.

Each local authority will have their own process/protocol in place for assessments but these will involve speaking to you and your child separately and other professionals involved with you. There are generally three outcomes after the assessment and children’s social care services will have to decide which to do.

• Child is not in need, no further action required and where needed will make referrals to other services to offer support.
• Child is in need, but not suffering or likely to suffer significant harm. Child will go on a Child in Need Plan.
• The child is in need and there are concerns of significant harm to the child. This option will lead to a strategy discussion to determine if a Section 47 investigation is needed and decide if immediate protective actions are required.

Early Help Assessment

The Early Help Assessment is an initial assessment and planning tool that facilitates and coordinates support from a multi-agency team. It assesses the needs of the child and family to put required support in place. It’s a shared multi-agency tool with the aim of a coordinated response from agencies that have contact with families. It is to ensure they get the right support from wherever that may be. The idea is that is to resolve any problems in the early stages removing the need for social care interventions. This can be carried out by someone already known to the family such as a teacher, support worker or GP.

Strategy Discussion

These are carried out if your child is considered to be suffering or at risk of suffering significant harm. They are led by children’s social care but involves police and other agencies (education, health, etc). You might not be invited to this discussion but in child sexual exploitation cases it is good practice for you to be present, so it’s best to prepare your case in advance.

If a Section 47 investigation is under taken following the strategy discussion, the local authority has a duty to make enquiries to investigate if the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm. The purpose of the investigation is to decide if the local authority needs to take further actions. One action could be a child be placed on a child protection plan if it was decided the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm.

Initial Child Protection Conference

Multi-agency meeting organised by children’s social care which is attended by the family and all the professionals already involved with your child and sometimes others, e.g. GP, teacher, police. The aim is for everyone present to look at all the relevant information about your child’s circumstances and, if they consider your child is likely to suffer significant harm in the future, they must come up with plans to make sure your child is kept safe and well cared for.

Children’s social care should give you and other family members who are involved information about local independent advice and advocacy agencies, and you should be allowed to bring a friend or advocate (who may be a solicitor).

You may be excluded in exceptional circumstances. The conference will decide whether your child should be the subject of a Child Protection Plan, as outlined under section 47 of the Children’s Act 1989.

Core Group
You and the professionals will work together to develop a child protection plan. You are entitled to a written copy. Keep this somewhere safe, with photocopies as a back-up.

Child Protection Review Conference
These usually take place every 6 months, in order to review the Child Protection Plan. You are entitled to attend this meeting.

Practical tips for good partnership relations with social care

Be organised. Keep a specific log of all telephone conversations, email and postal correspondence and face-to-face meetings. Record all professionals’ names, their job titles and dates and times. Keep notes of your meetings and record agreed action points and timeframes for achieving them, if they are made.

Be assertive, yet courteous. Dealing with professionals who work within a bureaucratic institution can be frustrating when you are under an enormous amount of personal stress. Individuals may cancel appointments due to illness, or be moved onto different cases or simply move jobs. Ivison Trust Parent Support Workers, your befriender and other parents you may encounter through Ivison Trust are the best people with which to share your frustrations and anxieties. It is in your interest to work as cooperatively and courteously as possible with agencies.