In July 2021, this guidance was reviewed and updated to reflect processes in place locally for the convening and holding of Care Planning Meetings.
- Development and Purpose of a Care Planning Panel
- Structure and Functioning of the Care Planning Panel
- Emergency Referrals and Police Protection
The purpose of this guidance is to advise all social care staff of the process for decision making in relation to legal proceedings. This is to ensure a more consistent approach to the process and to ensure that the cases are tracked and timely intervention occurs, specifically in relation to any pre-proceedings meetings.
It will also allow a strategic overview of those children requiring intervention from the Courts, and reasons for this to further develop the early intervention and prevention model and timely intervention in children's lives.
The tracking of the Care Planning Panel will link to the Accommodation for Our Children Strategy and planning for regulated services.
The implementation of the Public Law Outline and Pre Proceedings Protocol resulted in changes in the way legal decisions in relation to children are made. The Public Law Working Group, Final Report (March 2021) summarises best practice in this area.
3. Development and Purpose of a Care Planning Panel
The Care Planning process ensures a service overview of decision making.
The Care Planning Panel will oversee requests to formally make an application to commence pre proceedings (PLO), or bring a child into our care via S20. or commence care proceedings. The purpose of this meeting is to enable the Local Authority to consider, discuss and seek advice prior to proceeding with legal applications. Where Social Workers have undertaken a Reflective Discussion with their Team Manager, and the Service Manager, and / or Head of Service has agreed a decision there are reasonable grounds for believing that:
- The threshold as defined in Children Act Section 31 (2)) has been reached;
- That an application for court proceedings is required whether this be immediate application to court or threshold "in Principle" to invoke pre proceedings process – as threshold criteria has to be satisfied for both.
The Service Manager will approve a child's case being presented to Care Planning Panel for consideration to be given to progressing the matter to either PLO pre-proceedings or care proceedings.
A Care Planning Panel document is prepared by the social work team and emailed to the Legal Services "Allocations" inbox by 5pm on a Thursday.
Legal Services management allocate these matters on a Friday.
Care Planning Meetings take place on the following Monday. Written legal advice is added to the Care Planning Panel document and returned to the social work team by 12 noon on Tuesday.
The Team Manager and/or Social Worker will present the outcome of the reflective discussion to the Care Planning Panel Meeting on a Wednesday afternoon chaired by the Assistant Director.
The decisions of the Care Planning Panel are then relayed to Legal Services.
The meeting (on behalf of the Local Authority) will then consider the case presented in order to:
- Discuss and seek advice about the decision presented;
- Decide if the use of the Pre Proceedings Protocol is appropriate;
- Decide if immediate issue of proceedings is required and if so what order is most appropriate;
- Determine what communication should take place with the family:
- Letter before proceedings;
- Letter to notify of immediate proceedings;
- Arrange for the manager to have the opportunity for further discussion or advice that is required;
- Timetable the paperwork and proposed plan including any pre proceedings meetings. Timescales will be made and expected to be adhered to by both CSC and the Legal Department;
- Agree proposed assessments and funding of these assessments;
- Address potential contact issues.
4. Structure and Functioning of the Care Planning Panel
The Panel will meet weekly at Bickerstaffe House and will be chaired by the Assistant Director or Head of Service. The Panel will be held on a Wednesday afternoon.
The Panel will consist of:
- Assistant Director;
- Heads of Services;
- Team Manager representation;
- SQR Service Manager – who provides the Child Protection Chair view but is not involved in the decision making;
- Admin Support to minute meeting and update Care Planning tracker.
Administration support will be available to:
- Book rooms;
- Collate and distribute paperwork;
- Prepare agenda;
- Distribute minutes and decisions made;
- Update case tracker.
The Care Planning paperwork is required to be completed. This should provide an oversight of the family network genogram, a chronology which sets out the impact of events on the child's current lived experience, an overview of the assessment analysis regarding what we are worried about and what's going well for the family, an overview of the legal advice provided, the social worker, team manager and service manager recommendations of actions that need to be undertaken and where they have been involved, the views of Child Protection Chair or IRO.
This paperwork would then be sent electronically by to panel members before close of business on Tuesday.
The Social Worker and Team Manager will be invited to attend the panel to present the child's case for discussion. This presentation should include a clear Care Plan.
Recommendations of the meeting will be recorded by the admin officer on the child's records and the Tracker should be updated.
Meeting decisions will be entered on the children records Mosaic within 24 hours of the panel meeting.
5. Emergency Referrals and Police Protection
Where there is an urgent requirement for a Care Planning Panel Meeting, a Social Worker should discuss with their Team Manager who should then escalate their request to their Service Manager, who will, if appropriate convene an emergency meeting with their Head of Service. The Head of Service will make every effort to make sure all relevant parties can attend. This should only be used in the most exceptional of circumstances.
Wherever there is a case where powers of Police Protection are utilised, these cases should also be submitted to the Care Planning Panel Meeting. This will enable management oversight of these instances and to ensure correct processes are being used in respect of Police Protection.