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3.1.5 Case Transfer Protocol

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter was added to the manual in June 2014, it sets out the principles which should be used to guide decision making when transferring responsibility for children looked after from one social worker or social work team to another.


Contents

1. Introduction
2. Overarching Principles
  2.1 Child Focus
  2.2 No Delay
  2.3 Flexibility
  2.4 One Service
  2.5 Improved Service
  2.6 Children with Disabilities
  2.7 Siblings
3. Pre birth Assessments for Looked After Children and Care Leavers
4. Transition from Cluster Based Social Work Teams to Looked After Children Teams
5. Children who Cease to be Looked After
6. Children Transferring from 0 to 12 Looked After Children Teams to 13 plus Looked After Children Teams
7. Procedure for Transfer of Social Work Responsibility
8. Exceptions
9. Resolution


1. Introduction

All children who are looked after deserve the best experiences in life. From excellent parenting which promotes good health and educational attainment, to a wide range of opportunities to develop their talents and skills in order to have an enjoyable childhood and successful adult life. Stable placements, good health and support during transition are all essential elements, but children will only achieve their potential through the ambition and high expectation of those involved in their lives (The Children Act 1989: Guidance and Regulations. Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review).

The relationship between social worker, child and their family is central to good care planning and positive outcomes for the child. Whenever children are consulted, both locally and nationally, they overwhelmingly point out the importance to them of having a good relationship with a social worker they know and trust.


2. Overarching Principles

2.1 Child Focus

The primary consideration in all case transfer decisions and negotiations must be the needs and best interests of the child/young person and their family. The number of transfers will be kept to a minimum and wherever possible the child's wishes and feelings will be taken into account.

Transfer of social worker should not be undertaken at the same time as other key events or transitions in a child's life. It should also be undertaken prior to key transitions to support planning and preparation.

If a child's circumstances change, the decision as to when a child will transfer team will depend on the long term plan for the child.

2.2 No Delay

Transfer should not cause delay to social work intervention with families and should not cause delay in the progression of the child's care plan.

2.3 Flexibility

The protocol outlined below must be used flexibly and with discretion between teams in order to provide high quality services for children and their families. This will involve professional judgement, assessment, cooperation and effective communication between managers and the teams they manage.

The protocol is here to provide guidance - not rigid rules.

2.4 One Service

Standards of service delivery across Children and Families' Services are the responsibility of all managers and staff. The attitude of sole concern for the service within which staff are located should be discouraged.

The successful transfer from one team to another is dependent upon both the current allocated worker and the receiving worker being responsible for adhering to expected transfer standards.

2.5 Improved Service

Moving to dedicated teams builds on standards of good practice in the delivery of effective and efficient services for children, young people and their families. Assessments of all children, young people and their families should be undertaken in a timely way and be evidence based. All children and young people receiving a service should have a clear plan subject to their status i.e. Child in Need, child subject to a child protection plan or a child looked after.

2.6 Children with Disabilities

The child health and disability teams will work with children and young people with disabilities in accordance with the revised eligibility criteria. This criteria indicates support to children and young people with severe disabilities, illness or congenital conditions, global developmental delay when their needs cannot be met within universal provision and a combination of disabilities that on their own may or may not be considered severe but together would be regarded so.

2.7 Siblings

Wherever possible, one social worker should work with the whole family group. However, where this is not in the interests of individual children, a lead family social worker will be agreed as a clear joint working arrangement is required. In these situations, the lead family worker will coordinate all actions in relation to the family.


3. Pre birth Assessments for Looked After Children and Care Leavers

Where a looked after young person is pregnant any pre-birth assessment required will be undertaken jointly between a cluster based social worker and the young person's social worker. However, the assessment will be led by the cluster team and will be the responsibility of the team where the young person is living permanently (or the birth family address if the placement is out of area). Once the baby is born the social worker for the baby, where required, will remain as the cluster based social worker. This ensures that the best interests of both the parent and the baby are represented fairly.


4. Transition from Cluster Based Social Work Teams to Looked After Children Teams

Children should not transfer social worker or team until the completion of care proceedings. Upon completion of the care proceedings the child should retain their social worker through the adoption process except when there are unusual and mitigating circumstances. These circumstances will be agreed by the relevant Heads of Service.

If the permanence plan is for the child not to return home within a clearly planned timescale (e.g. 3-9 months), the child should transfer to the looked after children's service.

A child accommodated subject to section 20 with a clear plan to return home will retain a social worker in the locality social work team to ensure the plan is completed.


5. Children who Cease to be Looked After

Children who cease to be looked after and have a need for on-going social work support must have a Child in Need meeting attended by both relevant team managers.

Children who cease to be looked after and have a need for on-going targeted support support must have a Child in Need meeting.


6. Children Transferring from 0 to 12 Looked After Children Teams to 13 plus Looked After Children Teams

The transfer of children between these teams should be a dynamic process and take place in line with the best interests of children. These issues should be discussed regularly between the service delivery managers of the respective services.


7. Procedure for Transfer of Social Work Responsibility

All decisions for transfers should be based on the best interest of the child at that time. When transferring the following process should be followed:

The transfer should be considered as part of the child's permanence planning. All files should be fully complete, with an up to date assessment and care plan with a transfer summary, to be audited by the team manager before transfer.

The transfer of responsibility should be discussed and agreed between the relevant team managers. Where this cannot be agreed the matter will be escalated to senior managers to decide.

A transfer meeting should be held between the two social workers and team managers to ensure all information is shared. At least one joint visit should be undertaken. Where there is additional complexity a period of transition with clearly defined roles and responsibilities may be necessary.

The parents, carers and child should be informed of the transfer and given clear contact details from the outset.

All other professionals involved with the child should similarly be notified of the case transfer and given contact details.


8. Exceptions

There may be circumstances where transfer should not be undertaken as prescribed above. This may include situations where:

  1. The child has a significant relationship with their current social worker and has additional short term issues);
  2. The child and the family's relationship with their worker is preventing positive outcomes for the child;
  3. The child's social worker is leaving the service and it is expedient to change teams at this time.

If there are any specific reasons beyond this then the service delivery managers for the looked after and cluster teams must discuss this and determine a clear rationale for their decision. This should be recorded on a decision record.


9. Resolution

In exceptional circumstances where the Service Delivery Managers cannot reach agreement, this must be referred to the Heads of Service.

End