7.1.2 Inter-Authority Protocol for Children in Need

Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Scope
  3. Guiding Principles
  4. Case Responsibility Following Move
  5. Child Subject to a Statutory Order in the Originating Authority
  6. Child Accommodated by the Originating Authority
  7. Child on the Record of Children with a Child Protection Plan in the Originating Authority
  8. A Child (not subject to a Child Protection Plan or Looked After) in Receipt of Services From Originating Authority


1. Summary

The vulnerability of children living in families who frequently change their address is well-established. The Record of Children with a Child Protection Plan represents established aspects of organisational arrangements in generating communication between local authorities on behalf of those children who are the subject of a Child Protection Plan.

There are however other populations of children who are to varying degrees also recognisable as "children in need" in requiring robust information exchanges between authorities. The Placement of Children (General) Regulations for example require authorities to notify other local authorities of children who are "placed" in their area as Looked After Children. This requirement clearly extends beyond the "need to know", having due regard to responsibilities for wider safeguarding responsibilities in certain circumstances.

The Victoria Climbie Inquiry Report (VCIR), however, highlights how unstable the lives of some children can be whose families live in a sequence of addresses including temporary accommodation. They include children for whom the narrow child protection threshold may not necessarily apply nor indeed for whom concern around Significant Harm may not have been identified. 

In either event, of course, the wider need to safeguard children in these circumstances was recognised by the VCIR as a compelling priority. This by implication extends to local authorities having mechanisms in place for notifying other authorities of any child's circumstances who is demonstrably In Need and in agreeing steps that might be taken by way of further action.


2. Scope

This protocol focuses specifically on Children in Need as defined by the Children Act 1989, including those who are Looked After or the subject of a Child Protection Plan

The protocol covers the fourteen Local Authorities in the West Midlands in relation to their social care and safeguarding functions. It provides a framework for Authorities to establish respective responsibilities on behalf of all children who are in need, including those in need of protection, who move in planned or in unplanned circumstances across local authority boundaries.

The procedures below are based on an assumption that for the majority of children, it is in their interests to receive support or protection from agencies-in particular local health, social care and education services-which are local to where the child is living. They are intended to comply with critical outcomes for children of being healthy and staying safe.

This protocol does not distinguish between temporary or permanent moves nor to the nature of the accommodation in which the child and/or family are living - e.g. private or public housing.

For the purposes of these procedures the terms 'originating authority' refers to the borough/authority where the family previously lived, and 'receiving authority' to the borough/authority to which the family has moved.

This protocol addresses local authority provision of Children's Services, but excludes local authority provision of housing or the Children's Services provision of housing or subsistence costs included in a Child In Need Plan. These remain the responsibility of the originating authority until the housing issue is resolved although the receiving authority may become responsible for other aspects of service delivery


3. Guiding Principles

  1. Maintaining the paramountcy of children's welfare.
  2. Re-evaluating risk as a child's circumstances change.
  3. Making defensible decisions in managing service-provision within inter-authority arrangements.
  4. Negotiating agreed actions between managers within respective authorities and confirming those agreements in writing.


4. Case Responsibility Following Move

Social Care and Safeguarding responsibility for services rests with the local authority in which the child is living, regardless of whether the residence is regarded as temporary or permanent by either professionals or family.

Specific qualifications and exceptions apply when the child is:

  • Subject to a Care Order or an Interim Care Order in the originating authority.
  • Accommodated by the originating authority.
  • On the Record of Children with a Child Protection Plan of the originating authority.
  • In receipt of services from the originating authority other than rent and subsistence.

Where housing and any subsistence costs are being provided by the originating authority as part of a Child In Need Plan, these costs should continue to be borne by the originating authority until the housing needs are resolved. Other Children's Services provision is to be provided by the receiving authority in accordance with the following procedures.


5. Child Subject to a Statutory Order in the Originating Authority

Attribution of Social Care Responsibility

Children subject to a Care Order or an Interim Care Order remain the responsibility of the originating authority until:

  • the order expires, or
  • is discharged, or
  • a transfer of responsibility is otherwise agreed

Where a Care Order is in force, the receiving authority may, (and this must be confirmed in writing by first line manager or above) agree to provide required services on behalf of the originating authority, but the legal responsibility remains with the originating authority.

Any child protection enquiries which may arise in respect of the child are the responsibility of the authority in whose area the child is found. The authority in which the child is found is responsible unless they agree that the originating authority will undertake this role, and the originating authority arrive to do so.

Responsibility to Provide/Obtain Information

In cases where social care services are aware in advance of a child's move, the social worker in the originating authority must, prior to the child's move (and in addition to informing relevant agencies within the originating authority) inform the receiving social care authority of the child's placement and ensure that appropriate agencies in that authority are aware of her/his needs.

It is the responsibility of health and education agencies in the originating authority, prior to the child's move, to provide information to their colleagues in the receiving authority.

If this information has not arrived by the time the child moves, it is the responsibility of the receiving agencies (once they become aware of the child's arrival) to request the information.


6. Child Accommodated by the Originating Authority 

Social Care Responsibility

An Accommodated child remains the responsibility for the originating authority until:

  • S/he is discharged from accommodation or
  • Agreement is reached, and confirmed in writing by its first line manager, that the receiving authority will accommodate the child/ren.

Any child protection enquiries which may arise in respect of the child are the responsibility of the authority in whose area the child is found, unless they agree that the originating authority will undertake this role, and the originating authority agree to do so.

Responsibility to Provide/Obtain Information

The social worker in the originating authority must, prior to the child's move (and in addition to informing relevant agencies in the originating authority), inform the receiving authority of the child's placement and ensure that relevant agencies in the receiving authority are aware of the child's needs.

It is the responsibility of health and education agencies in the originating authority, prior to the child's move, to provide information to their colleagues in the receiving authority.

Where this has not arrived by the time the child moves, it is the responsibility of the receiving agencies to request the information.


7. Child on the Record of Children with a Child Protection Plan in the Originating Authority

Social Care Responsibility

The responsibility for a child with a Child Protection Plan remains with the originating authority until the receiving authority's transfer conference (see below).

The receiving authority should place the names of the child/ren on its Record of Children with a Child Protection Plan under a 'temporary' category from the actual date of the move or when informed (if this is later).

Only by written agreements, between first line managers can a receiving authority implement the Child Protection Plan on behalf of the originating authority from the date of the move.

Where agreement cannot be reached the originating authority retains responsibility for 15 working days after notification is provided to the receiving authority.

The transfer child protection conference should be convened by the receiving authority within 15 working days of being notified of a child with a Child Protection Plan having moved into its area.

Only when a decision has been made about the continuation of the Child Protection Plan by the receiving authority, and management responsibility subsequently transferred, can the child's name be removed from the Record of Children with a Child Protection Plan of the originating authority.

The Manager of the Record of Children with a Child Protection Plan of the originating authority must be informed in writing of the result of the conference.

Any child protection enquiries which may arise in respect of the child are the responsibility of the authority in whose area the child is found, unless they agree that the originating authority will undertake this role, and the originating authority agree to do so.

Responsibility to Provide/Obtain Information

If a worker from any agency discovers that a child with a Child Protection Plan is planning to move, or has moved and into the area s/he should inform the Key Social Worker immediately, and confirm this information in writing, whenever practicable on the same day.

The key social worker must inform all other professionals involved in the case as well as their own Manager of the Record of Children with a Child Protection Plan. If the move has occurred already, the key social worker should complete this task immediately. If the move is to be within the next 14 days, the key social worker should complete this task within one working day.

The respective Managers of the Record of Children with a Child Protection Plan from each authority should take responsibility for the overall inter-authority agreements and in confirming agreements in writing.

It is the responsibility of each agency in the originating authority to try to ascertain that:

  • Its reciprocal agency in the receiving authority receives detailed information and is made aware of the need to fulfil its role in the Child Protection Plan.
  • The key social worker is informed of the name and details of staff in the receiving area.
  • The key social worker is notified of any factors affecting the Child Protection Plan.

First, the line manger in the originating authority must ensure that:

  • Contact is made with agencies in the receiving authority to ensure that the level and type of service being provided satisfies the requirements of the Child Protection Plan.
  • Their own Manager of the Record of Children with a Child Protection Plan is informed of developments in terms of transfer arrangements.
  • The use of any of the local authority's statutory powers is made as necessary by the move.
  • A report is provided together with appropriate attendance at the child protection transfer conference.

When case responsibility is to be transferred, the key social worker must inform all agencies of the arrangements so that staff can transfer records and attend and provide information to the receiving authority's transfer child protection conference.

The Children's Social Care Services in the receiving authority must ensure, prior to the transfer conference, that it has received sufficient relevant information from the originating authority to clarify details of the case responsibility for the child and plans.

Staff from agencies in the receiving authority must ensure prior to the transfer conference, that where they have not already received it, they seek information from their counterparts in the originating authority.

Role of Transfer Child Protection Conference

The transfer child protection conference may recommend that although case responsibility is transferred to the receiving authority, joint work may continue for an agreed time limited period with staff from agencies in the originating authority.

Families should be made aware that information will be shared with the receiving Children's Services authority.

When a planned transfer of responsibility for a case is being arranged a Social Care representative of the originating authority must be invited to attend the transfer conference, along with any other significant contributors to the Child Protection Plan.

Each of the receiving local agencies must ensure that the child protection conference has all the relevant information required to make fully informed decisions in developing a robust Child Protection Plan, including information from the originating authority's agencies.

Exceptional Retention of Child Protection Responsibilities by the Originating Authority

Where the Child Protection Plan specifies a move out of an authority for a defined and time limited period, the originating authority should retain case responsibility, but may require the assistance of the receiving authority to carry out aspects of the Child Protection Plans.

Examples of these circumstances are where:

  • The child temporarily stays with friends/family in another authority.
  • There is a time limited placement in a mother and baby unit in another authority.
  • A parent is supported for a time limited period to live with a specified person - e.g. relative or friend in another authority.
  • Another exception, which may justify individual arrangements, is when a family constantly moves and no one authority is able to adequately monitor the welfare of the child. The vulnerability of children is these circumstances can be acute, requiring astute collaboration between authorities in taking necessary action.

Whenever any of the above circumstances apply, the key social must:

  • Agree with her/his first line manager that the originating authority should, in the best interests of the child, retain case responsibility.
  • Inform the Manager of the Record of Children with a Child Protection Plan who will in turn request that the child is placed on the temporary Record of Children with a Child Protection Plan of the receiving authority.
  • Provide the receiving authority with written information on the child and the Child Protection Plan and the level of participation required of the receiving authority in implementing the plan.
  • Ensure that contact is made with agencies in the receiving authority to ensure that the level and type of service to be provided satisfies the requirements of the Child Protection Plan.

Both first line managers must:

  • Confirm in writing their agreement to case responsibility being retained by the originating authority for a specified period.
  • Ensure that the arrangements made satisfy the requirements of the Child Protection Plan.

The Manager of the Record of Children with a Child Protection Plan of the receiving authority should place the child's name temporarily on the Record of Children with a Child Protection Plan.

If first line managers are unable to agree case responsibility, they must refer to their respective Managers of the Record of Children with a Child Protection Plan, who should determine case responsibility.

If they too are unable to reach agreement, the receiving authority assumes case responsibility 15 days following notification of the move and should convene a transfer conference accordingly.

As before, any child protection enquiries which may arise in respect of the child are the responsibility of the authority in whose area the child is found, unless they agree that the originating authority will undertake this role, and the originating authority arrive to do so.


8. A Child (not subject to a Child Protection Plan or Looked After) in Receipt of Services From Originating Authority

Social Care Responsibility

Where a child and/or family in receipt of social care services move to another authority, it is the responsibility of the originating authority to notify the receiving authority in writing of their circumstances and any ongoing need for services.

In response to notification by the originating authority of an ongoing need for services, the receiving Children's Services authority should undertake a single assessment.

The originating authority may retain case responsibility for a limited period unless a decision is taken to close the case or the receiving authority agree in writing to provide a service.

The receiving authority will be responsible seven days after notification of the move (or later if agreed) for making a decision on the eligibility for service provision based on a assessment of need.

Exceptional Arrangements

The only exception to the above is where the originating authority provides a copy of a Child in Need Plan which includes an intention to continue to offer a service for a defined period in excess of seven days eg subsistence payments, housing costs, completion of a Single Assessment.

In these circumstances the receiving authority should undertake an assessment prior to the date on which those services are due to cease.

Examples of circumstances suitable for this exception are where:

  • The originating authority is providing a time limited service which requires consistent professional input.
  • A Single Assessment is being completed.
  • A family constantly moves and no one authority is able to effectively assess the individual needs of the child/ren.
  • The originating authority is providing a specified package of support such as housing/subsistence for a defined period - e.g. family are 'over-stayers' within the terms of immigration legislation or subject to Benefit/Housing restrictions under 'habitual residence' regulations, or housed having been deemed 'intentionally homeless'.

Any child protection enquiries which may arise in respect of the child/family are the responsibility of the authority in whose area the child is found.

Once such enquiries have commenced, the originating authority ceases to have responsibility for the child/family other than in respect of funding of the original Child in Need Plan.

The receiving authority will assume responsibility for the provision of the service and the originating authority will meet the costs in full, in accordance with the services and timescale agreed in the Child in Need Plan.

Responsibility to Provide/Obtain Information

Where children in need are receiving services, but are not looked after or the subject of a Child Protection Plan, the originating authority must (in addition to informing relevant agencies in the originating authority) inform the receiving Children's Services authority in writing of the plan, with intended date of move and details of the child/ren's identified needs.

If the originating authority was unaware of the move before it occurred, the notification must occur immediately following its discovery.

The receiving authority is responsible for seeking full information from the originating authority, including information from other agencies, where appropriate.

It is the responsibility of health and education authorities in the originating authority to provide information to their colleagues in the receiving authority. Where this has not arrived it is the responsibility of the receiving agencies to request the information in writing.

Where a housing authority has been involved in the move of the child/ren and family, the originating housing authority must inform the originating and receiving Children's Social Care Services, the education service and the local Clinical Commissioning Group.

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