Assessment and Support Team (AST) Responsibilities and Transfer Policy from AST to the Strengthening and Supporting, Children in Our Care, Children with Complex Needs and Awaken Teams
In July 2020, this document was rewritten to reflect current team names and practice in Blackpool.
- Agreed Transfer Points – Request for Support Hub, Assessment and Support Team (AST) to Strengthening and Supporting Families (SSF) / Supporting our Children (SOC) Teams (Including Supporting Children with Complex Needs Team and the Awaken Team)
- Our aim in Blackpool is to support our children and families well, and to provide them with the right support, from the right service, at the right time. This transfer policy supports this aim by ensuring that the work that needs to be done with children and families is only transferred between teams when it is right to do so to ensure they are well supported by practitioners with the right level of skill, experience and time to dedicate to them;
- Core principles:
- Transfer of responsibility will only take place when it is the right time for the child(ren) and family, what follows are guidelines and not hard and fast rules. Managers should work together to ensure that children and families are being supported by the right people at the right time in order to help them achieve good outcomes;
- The transfer of responsibility between areas of work will only take place following a discussion and agreement - not just through reallocation and workflows on the IT system;
- Transfers beyond the Assessment and Support Team (AST) will usually be precipitated by a period of co-working between teams;
- When a transfer or responsibility takes place the child's record will be up to date and there will be no outstanding or incomplete workflows;
- Families and Children will be notified in advance of any agreed transfer. Letters will be sent out to the child/young person and family and agencies detailing the new worker, contact details and the date that the transfer will take effect;
- If a child is newly allocated from referral, a referral outcome letter/email to the referrer will be sent with the contact details of the allocated worker.
2. Agreed Transfer Points – Request for Support Hub, Assessment and Support Team (AST) to Strengthening and Supporting Families (SSF) / Supporting our Children (SOC) Teams (Including Supporting Children with Complex Needs Team and the Awaken Team)
2.1 'Blackpool Families Rock' Request for Support Hub
The 'Blackpool Families Rock' Request for Support Hub is our Multi Agency Hub and is central to triaging work through to the right teams. The primary task of the Request for Support Hub is to provide advice, support and triage/screen referrals and phone calls to children services. It is our "one front door" to Children's Social Care and is designed to ensure that referrals are signposted to the appropriate service in line with the Levels of Need outlined within the Working Well with Children and Families in Lancashire, which sets out the Pan Lancashire agreement for how we offer Support for Children and Families.
The Request for Support Hub will record contacts and if the threshold for assessment and support is met at level three or above they will progress these through to become a referral to Children's Social Care and transferred to the Assessment and Support Team where they will allocate the child to a social worker for a statutory Child and Family assessment (CAFA) 1 or undertake a Section 47 enquiry.
If the threshold for a statutory assessment is not met, but there is a need for coordinated support for the family in response to unmet need, the Request for Support Hub may, with the consent of the family, direct the referral through to Targeted Intervention Services (TIS).
Statutory guidance highlights the importance of providing early intervention, rather than waiting until a child or family's situation escalates (Working Together to Safeguard Children, Department for Education (DfE), 2018)
Early help (Targeted Intervention) services can be delivered to parents, children or whole families, but their main focus is to improve outcomes for children. For example, services may help parents who are living in challenging circumstances provide a safe and loving environment for their child. Or, if a child is displaying risk-taking behaviour, early help practitioners might work with the child and their parents to find out the reasons for the child's behaviour and put strategies in place to help keep them safe.
Providing timely support is vital. Addressing a child or family's needs early on can reduce risk factors and increase protective factors in a child's life (Early Intervention Foundation (EIF), 2018).
Protective factors can reduce risk to a child's wellbeing. They include:
- Developing strong social and emotional skills;
- Having a strong social support network for the family – including support;
- Good parental mental health;
- Income support, benefits and advice;
- Good community services and facilities.
Early help can offer children the support needed to reach their full potential (EIF, 2018). It can improve the quality of a child's home and family life, enable them to perform better at school and support their mental health (EIF, 2018).
Early help can:
- Protect children from harm;
- Reduce the need for a referral to child protection services;
- Improve children's long-term outcomes.
(Haynes et al, 2015).
There are exceptional circumstances where the threshold is met and transfer would be made from Request for Support Hub straight to Strengthening and Supporting Families, Supporting our Children teams and Supporting Children with Complex Needs. These are:
- The Request for Support Hub team may identify children and young people where vulnerability to and risk of exploitation is the primary and significant issue. Where this is the case, they will transfer responsibility directly to the Assessment and Support Team (AST), the wider exploitation team (Awaken) will provide expert social work support in undertaking the assessment (CAFA). Vulnerability and risk of exploitation includes:
- Suspected trafficking;
- Unaccompanied asylum seeking child or young person;
- County lines/criminal exploitation;
- Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE);
- Forced Marriage/Honour Based Violence (FM/HBV);
- Female Genital Mutilation (FGM);
- Harmful sexual behaviour.
- Information is received in relation to a child already open to the children's teams, this will be redirected to the appropriate team manager via a case note record on the child's file and directed to the appropriate team for the work;
- A contact is received on a child that was open previously to the Strengthening and Supporting Families team and/or any other team within 6 months apart from AST. The referral will be directed to that team for a statutory assessment via the team manager;
- A request from the Court for a Section 37 report will be directed to Strengthening and Supporting Families.
In addition, the Request for Support Hub team will identify children where complex health and/or needs associated with a disability meets the criteria for referral straight through to Supporting Children with Complex Needs team. In such cases, the Request for Support Hub will liaise directly with the team for advice in relation to eligibility, if the context of the referral does not clearly meet the eligibility criteria the Request for Support Hub will progress our involvement through to AST if there is a safeguarding concern to complete CAFA or through to Targeted Intervention if the child is in need and support for Early Help Assessment. The professional undertaking the assessment will be able to access support and advice within the assessment from the Supporting Children with Complex Needs team to inform outcomes for the child and their family.
- Homeless 16/17 Year Olds. A young person may make contact with a number of different agencies or settings when faced with homelessness including Children's Social Care. If a young person, or a person acting on their behalf, contacts the Request for Support Hub and they are, or are at risk of becoming Homeless, the Homeless 16/17 year old protocol will be followed to facilitate a joint assessment;
- Requests from other Authorities to Transfer children, Blackpool Request for Support Hub will process Transfer in Conferences. Request for Support Hub will make enquiries with the local authority and agencies involved and undertake the initial work to establish permanent and appropriate residence, which will involve a visit from the Request for Support Hub social worker to the child and family. In these instances, the transfer will be directly to the Strengthening and Supporting Families team from Request for Support Hub;
- Police Powers of Protection. If a child or young person not known to teams has been taken into care via Police Powers of Protection (PPP) out of hours, the Request for Support Hub team will direct this as a referral to the AST team to undertake the initial strategy discussion and section 47 to ascertain whether the child or young person is able to return home, stay with another family member or needs to remain in our care;
- Transfer points from Request for Support Hub. In most cases, children will transfer from Request for Support Hub as soon as initial enquiries have established that the threshold for statutory support in Blackpool has been met. With specific exceptions (detailed above) Assessment and Support Team (AST).
2.2 Assessment and Support Team to Strengthening and Supporting Families/ Supporting our Children Teams (including Supporting Children with Complex Needs Team)
The Assessment and Support team's function is to undertake statutory assessments in line with the level of need in a timely manner and support children and young people and their families in Blackpool to achieve improved outcomes. The Council's responsibility to provide a statutory service to the children and young people in most acute and chronic need is determined by an assessment of need.
Within this service (and every service) it is important that workers are able to work closely alongside families to undertake thorough assessments and develop purposeful, effective plans. It is therefore key to maintaining effective caseload levels that there is a mix of work that is held and worked by the team after the assessment, and work that progresses through the system at the right time where longer term relationships are needed.
The Assessment and Support Team will undertake statutory assessments within 45 days. There will be checkpoints at 10, 30 and 45 days with managers to ensure that assessments are progressing in a timely way. Timeliness of assessment will be determined by need.
The Assessment and Supporting teams will undertake statutory assessments, Strategy discussions/meetings, Section 47 Enquiries and make initial applications to Court. Where necessary, they will work with families that will need to progress and transfer onto the Strengthening and Supporting Families teams where an initial child protection conference or initial PLO meeting is required, or to the Supporting our Children team at the first Court Hearing.
Where the assessment determines that a period of purposeful, dedicated work from the social worker who has built a relationship with the child(ren) and family will likely help them develop strategies to change the factors that led to them meeting the threshold for statutory intervention, these can be held in the AST for up to 3 months.
Agreed Transfer Points - Assessment and Support Team to Strengthening and Supporting Families Teams, and Supporting Our Children Team (including Supporting Children with Complex Needs Team)
Below is a suggested list of 'presenting scenarios' and appropriate transfer points from the Assessment and Support teams in to the Strengthening and Supporting Families Teams. It is unlikely that this list is exhaustive, but should provide enough detail to aid decision making between managers about the appropriate time to transfer our involvement to another team. It is essential that the workflow within the child's record has been completed or finished off prior to any transfer:
- Child Protection Conference: If a child(ren) requires an Initial Child Protection Conference (ICPC) responsibility will transfer to the Strengthening and Supporting Families team at the point of conference. AST will lead on the conference, however, a social worker/senior social work from the allocated Strengthening and Supporting Families team will attend the conference. Following the ICPC the child(ren) will transfer to the Strengthening and Supporting Families team with an up-to-date Chronology and summary;
- Care Proceedings: Transfer should take place is at the first Court hearing. For planned intervention via the court the Supporting Our Children team manager will be invited to attend the first Care Planning meeting following a Becoming Looked After (BLA) agreement being provided by the Head of Service or Assistant Director at Care Planning panel. For emergency applications made by the Assessment and Support Team, the Supporting Our Children Team Manager will be invited to attend any urgent care and/ or Care Planning Meetings and be represented at the first court hearing. An adoption worker will be allocated at the first hearing where appropriate to consider contingent care planning;
- It will be the responsibility of the team who makes the application to identify and place the child/young person if this is to be done immediately as an outcome of the hearing. Where possible this can be done jointly with the receiving social worker however, responsibility will remain with the social worker transferring their involvement. The receiving social worker will take responsibility at the first Looked After visit / placement planning meeting which will take place within 5 days of the child or young person being placed. However, if a child is already placed prior to the hearing under s.20 responsibility will transfer to the new allocated social worker at the initial hearing;
- Immediately after Assessment: Following a CAFA if significant and complex needs are identified, the child or young person's should be directed to the Supporting Children with Complex Needs team, a discussion, manager to manager, may be required to ensure this is appropriate;
- Pre Birth Assessment: Once a confirmed viable pregnancy via health:
- Where this is the first pregnancy; the allocated social Worker will undertake a CAFA within the Assessment and Supporting Team and transfer responsibility if the need requires and at the next appropriate point;
- Where there is a significant history of concern including, for example care proceedings in relation to older siblings or ½ siblings the unborn should transfer immediately from Request for Support Hub to the Strengthening and Supporting Families Teams;
- Any contact/referral for gestation over 12 weeks should be transferred as soon as possible so that the unborn child can be allocated to a social worker and the assessment commenced.
- A child/young person accommodated under s.20 will transfer from Assessment and Support Team (AST) to the Supporting Our Children Team at the child's 1st review.
A contact is received on a child that was open previously to the Strengthening and Supporting Families team and/or any other team within 6 months apart from AST. The referral will be directed to that team for a statutory assessment via the team manager.
When the Request for Support Hub Duty Team Manager confirms the Threshold Decision, allocation of the referral will be direct to the identified Safeguarding Team where they will complete the Initial Management Oversight (IMO) to progress the referral.
Any disputes arising will be resolved by the Service Manager of each service area by adherence to the core principles as set out in the introduction above.
Any dispute the Service Manager Chair is still unable to resolve will be taken to the Head of Service for resolution at CMT.