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Greater Manchester SCB Procedures
Greater Manchester SCB Procedures Greater Manchester SCB Procedures

1.3.3 Legal Advice and Action for Children on the Edge of Care Procedure

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Triggers for Legal Advice
  3. Procedure


1. Introduction

This chapter was introduced to the procedures manual in September 2012.

A decision to intervene legally in a child's life and family is a significant one which will have major consequences for that child. It is crucial that any decision to do so is based on clear, evidenced-based assessment and care planning which demonstrates what attempts have been made to manage the risks and support the child to remain in their family.

This procedure outlines when and how to seek legal advice, what information is required to inform a decision to take legal action and how to evidence the management of risk before legal action is agreed. Legal action should always be planned and this procedure outlines the rare exceptions.

Given the gravity of these situations, it is essential that there is a clear advice and decision-making process which records that advice and actions to support front-line staff in the management of risk.


2. Triggers for Legal Advice

  • Child protection medical concludes non accidental injury (NAI);
  • Serious allegations of sexual abuse;
  • Child suffering or likely to suffer significant harm and parents will not agree s20;
  • Child under 13 years accommodated under s20 for more than 28 days;
  • Child under 17 years accommodated under s20 and absconding/ placing themselves at increased likelihood of suffering significant harm;
  • Child under 17years accommodated under s20 and nobody exercising parental responsibility causing serious detriment to the child's welfare;
  • Child with a child protection plan for 3 months and parents are not co-operating or no significant improvement in the child's safety/ welfare;
  • Child has had a child protection plan for 12 months. Even if parents are engaging or there has been some improvement.


3. Procedure

If a social worker and their Practice Manager have a professional view that legal advice may be required, before legal advice is sought the following must be evidenced:

  • A child is subject to a child protection plan. The plan must demonstrate a clear measurement of progress towards the objectives in the plan;
  • The involvement of services such as FIP, Childrens Centres, CAMHS, YOS, MST, health must be evidenced and their view of the current situation included in the updated Children and Families Assessment;
  • A Family Group Conference (FGM) must have taken place to evidence extended family support and to identify alternative carers;
  • A current Signs of Safety risk assessment must have been completed which clearly evidences the gaps in the management of risk, the level of risk and the impact on the child;
  • A Children and Families Assessment must be updated and be current within one month of the meeting;
  • A s7 or s37 report is recommending legal action supported by an updated Children and Families Assessment;
  • A chronology which refers to key significant events i.e. previous child protection plan of child/siblings, a number of agency referrals, TAC/CIN, outcomes of previous assessments and plans;
  • A multi-agency Edge of Care Meeting must have taken place and minutes provided.

Emergency Legal Advice

Emergency meetings will only be held in exceptional circumstances:

  • A child has been made subject to a police protection order;
  • A child is placed at significant and immediate risk of harm (unexplained serious non-accidental injury, lack of co-operation with voluntary arrangements with family, immediate concerns about offending or sexual exploitation).

Edge of Care Meeting - cases of chronic neglect - children in need for longer than 3 months or Child Protection orders.

Where a Practice Manager in supervision with a social worker takes a view that a child/young person may be on the edge of care, this must be discussed with the Principal Team Manager and District Manager. The District Manager will chair a multi-agency edge of care meeting within one week of the discussion.

The purpose of the Edge of Care Meeting is to examine the assessment and care plan and determine what alternative or additional resources should be provided to reduce the risk of care. The social worker should provide to the meeting the most recent Children and Families Assessment, a signs of safety assessment and the current child protection plan or child in need plan.

These meetings must include the following agencies, if they are directly involved or not:

  • Parents and child/young person where appropriate. If this is a professionals meeting, the District Manager must be consulted in advance to agree the reason for proceeding;
  • Advocate and interpreter if needed;
  • Social Worker, Practice Manager, Principal Team Manager;
  • School;
  • Health - including CAMHS and specialist health services for parents and child/young person, health visitors, family nurse partnership (if involved) and midwife if pregnant, GP;
  • Adult Social Care if involved or if not where a parent has a disability or mental health needs;
  • Childrens Centre where one child in family is under 5;
  • MST where the criteria may be met or if there is current involvement;
  • Family Group Conference Co-ordinator;
  • Family Support Team Leader;
  • Family Intervention Project;
  • Parenting Coordinator;
  • Police;
  • Anti- Social Behaviour Team if ASB an issue;
  • Family Safety Unit if Domestic Violence;
  • YOS if at risk of offending or currently involved;
  • Alcohol and Drugs Services;
  • Probation if currently involved with either parent or partner;
  • Response if a child is over 13;
  • Youth and Play Service if child over 5;
  • Fostering Service (if respite may be required);
  • Aiming High if a disabled child in the family;
  • Any other agency.

The aim of the meeting is to explore fully whether alternative or additional services should be put in place. This will require all agencies present to be open and flexible to considering alternatives and the District Manager must ensure clear objectives are in place and success measures are agreed by all before the end of the meeting. The meeting must end with a clearly agreed plan by all present and set what the objectives to be achieved are.

If the view of the District Manager at the end of the meeting is that voluntary accommodation under s20 should be considered and/or legal advice should be sought, the District Manager should discuss with the Strategic Service Manager within one working day. The District Manager must ensure that immediate support and monitoring is in place until a decision regarding further action is confirmed by the Strategic Service Manager.

Legal Advice and Action Meetings (LAAM)

Where a Practice Manager makes a recommendation following supervision with a social worker that legal advice is required this must be discussed with the Principal Team Manager and District Manager. If the outcome of an Edge of Care meeting is to seek legal advice, the District Manager will confirm with the Strategic Service Manager.

The decision to seek legal advice will be made in writing by the Principal Team Manager, who will confirm the booking with the Court Administration Officer. This meeting should take place no later than 10 working days after the request for a LAAM has been made.

The Practice Manager has the responsibility to ensure and oversee that the report is prepared in line with this guidance and that all the necessary accompanying documentation is prepared and sent to the Court Administration Officer no later than 2 working days in advance of the meeting. This deadline is to allow sufficient time for the Chair and the Legal Adviser to prepare for the meeting.

The meeting will be stood down if reports are not received by the deadline. If the Chair's view is that the reports provided are insufficient or are missing key information, the meeting will also be stood down. The Chair will confirm in writing the reasons why and a new date will be set.

For emergency legal meetings only, a shortened report will be accepted with any accompanying documentation that is available.

Attendance:

Strategic Service Manager - Chair

Legal Advisor

Case-holding Social Worker (not a substitute)

Case-holding Practice Manager - must attend

Meeting Reports and Accompanying Information

  • Report;
  • Updated Children and Families Assessment;
  • Current Signs of Safety Risk Assessment;
  • Current Child Protection Plan;
  • Chronology of key significant events.

Meetings will not go ahead in the absence of any of the above.

The meeting will hear no more than four cases. These meetings will take place weekly for 3 months initially and will be chaired by the Strategic Service Manager, Children and Families. The Local Authority Legal Adviser will also be present and the Court Administration Officer will take minutes. The social worker with case responsibility and the Practice Manager and/or Principal Team Manager must attend.

The LAAM is not there to care plan for the child. The social worker and manager must come to the meeting with a clear plan outlining what they want to achieve, how and why. The social worker and manager must have explored a number of options and be able to evidence in their report why the management of risk to that point has not been able to ensure reduced risk for the child. For children subject to a child protection plan this should include a view from other agencies of the risk to the child/ren.

The Chair will ask the social worker and manager to outline their assessment to date, including the significant risk factors and the proposed plan for the child. The Chair and the Legal Adviser will ask questions and may challenge key areas to evidence the robustness of the assessment and the plan, and if there are areas which have not been sufficiently addressed.

The role of the Legal Adviser to give legal advice but it is the Chair's decision whether to agree with that legal advice and make recommendations for further actions.

Outcomes of a LAAM

  • No legal action is to be taken;
  • A Pre-Proceedings Meeting (PPM) is to be held;
  • Legal Action is agreed;
  • Letter to parents.

The Chair will summarise any tasks agreed and the timescales. Cases should not be repeatedly presented to LAAM and only a significant change in risk would trigger a case being re-heard.

The minutes will be sent out within 10 working days.

Pre Proceedings Meetings

If a Pre Proceedings Meeting is to be held, this should take place within one month of the LAAM. These meetings will be chaired by District Managers who will have an agenda set by the LAAM. The LAAM will set out clear criteria which would lead to legal action being taken as an outcome of a Pre Proceedings Meeting.

The Court Administration Officer will co-ordinate and minute both the LAAM and the Pre Proceedings Meetings.

Applications

The chair will set a clear timescale for reports, statements and care plan with any other associated documents completed and represented to the LAAM. The LAAM will endorse the quality of the evidence and the plan and confirm date for lodging. The aim is for the first hearing to be within 2 weeks.

End