Child abuse - child protection plans
After a child protection conference, the local authority might draw up a plan to protect your child. This is called a child protection plan. This page tells you more about child protection plans.
What is a child protection plan?
A child protection plan is a plan drawn up by the local authority. It sets out how the child can be kept safe, how things can be made better for the family and what support they will need. As a parent, you should be told:
- the reason for the plan
- what you should do to make sure the child is protected
- what services are being offered
- who you should contact for more information.
How does the local authority decide that a child protection plan is needed?
The local authority will decide whether a child protection plan is needed by taking into account the information discussed at the child protection conference. They will base their decision on:
- known family history, including previous contact with agencies like healthcare professionals and social workers
- their earlier investigations
- written and verbal evidence brought to the child protection conference. The chair at the child protection conference must take into account the views of other professionals who gave evidence but doesn’t have to follow these views.
If the child protection conference decides that the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm, the local authority will draw up a child protection plan.
What will the plan cover?
The plan will:
- name the members of a core group of professionals and family members who will develop the plan and put it into practice. The social worker who is acting as the keyworker will be responsible for coordinating the core group
- set out steps needed to safeguard the child. These must be specific and measurable
- set out the services needed for the child’s well-being to be protected. This could include, for example, regular visits by social workers to the family home to offer practical or emotional support and other services, such as a place in a nursery or a home help
- say what will happen if the plan isn’t kept to. For example, if you, as the parent, don't carry out what has been agreed, the plan will usually state that the local authority will apply for a court order
- make clear who will have responsibility for what actions, including actions that family members have to take, with timescales
- make clear which professional is responsible for checking that the actions have taken place and what action will be taken if they don’t happen
- set the date for a further child protection conference when the plan will be reviewed - this is called a child protection review conference
- set the date when the core group will have its first meeting. This has to be within ten days of the child protection conference.
Do parents have to let social workers in the house if there’s a child protection plan in place?
Even if a child protection plan is in place, social workers have no right to enter the family home uninvited and you, as the parent, have a right to refuse them access. However, if you refuse to let them in and the social worker is concerned that the child might be in danger, the local authority could decide to apply for an emergency protection order or other court order in order to take the child away, or even have a police officer remove the child immediately.
Child protection plans are reviewed at further review conferences which take place every three to six months.
If the social workers decide that all is well and the plan no longer needs to be followed, these meetings will no longer happen.
When will a child come off a child protection plan?
The child will come off a child protection plan if:
- the local authority decides that the child is no longer suffering or at risk of significant harm and so no longer needs safeguarding through a child protection plan
- the child reaches the age of 18. To end the plan, social services should have a review around the child’s birthday
- the child permanently leaves the UK.
What if a child protection plan isn’t enough to keep the child safe?
If the concerns are so great that the local authority thinks that a child protection plan won’t keep the child safe, or that the plan isn’t working, they may send a written notice to the parents that they are going to start care proceedings.
What happens if you move from one social services area to another?
If a child protection plan is in place, this doesn’t stop you, as the parents, from moving to a different area. You don’t have to inform the local authority that you’re moving, although you’d generally be advised to do so to make sure the child gets the help and protection they need. Also if you don’t tell them you’ve moved, this could increase their concerns about your family and lead them to applying for a court order to protect the child. If you tell them you have moved, the new area then has to call a child protection conference immediately. This will decide what will happen next.
If you’re unhappy with a child protection plan
Parents should be given a written copy of the plan by the social worker. If you’re a parent and you haven’t been given a copy of the plan, discuss this with the key worker.
You may be unhappy with a child protection plan. For example, you may feel:
- a child protection plan isn’t necessary or that even if it’s necessary, it shouldn’t cover the issues set out
- other services are needed but they haven't been included in the plan.
If you’re still unhappy after discussing your concerns with the key worker, you should get legal advice from a specialist, if you haven’t already done so. This is because the consequences of not following the plan can be very serious, both for the child and for the family. You might get legal aid.
You may want to make a complaint about the way that a plan was drawn up, for example, if relevant evidence was not taken into account or if professionals acted in a discriminatory way. It’s best to get advice from a specialist about how to complain in these circumstances.