SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
The Children and Young People Service is required to produce a Care Plan for all children who are subject to care applications. This is one of the most important documents considered by the court and is key to the court's decision making. Producing a high quality Care Plan is therefore crucial if appropriate plans are to be made for the child's future care.
N.B: All children who are 'looked after' by the Local Authority, whether or not they are subject to proceedings, must also have an individual Care Plan (see Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure).
This procedure aims to ensure the production of standardised care plans suitable for use in care proceedings. It is intended that the plan will be "an authoritative statement made in good faith about the child's needs, the best way of responding to those needs and the detailed arrangements setting out how the local authority will provide services to promote and protect the child's welfare whilst he or she is the subject of the care order".
This is a plan for how the child's needs will be met in the future, not just a statement of current arrangements.
- When to Prepare the Care Plan
- Contents and Approval of the Care Plan
- Applications Involving Siblings
- Guidance on Court Care Plans
1. When to Prepare the Care Plan
The court will guide the Local Authority as to the timescales for filing initial, interim and final Care Plans. Planning should take place throughout proceedings.
It is the responsibility of the allocated social worker to produce the Care Plan. The completed Care Plan should be approved by the Team Manager and the Service Manager for the team (if the Service Manager is absent from work another Service Manager should be asked to read and where appropriate endorse the Care Plan).
2. Contents and Approval of the Care Plan
2.1 Contents of the Care Plan
For more information about the contents of the Care Plan, please see the Decision to Look After and Care Planning Procedure, The Care Plan.
The Care Plan should be prepared using the pro forma.
NB: Care Plans, which commit the Council to actions and/or require authorisation of others, must complete these steps at an early stage.
The Care Plan must have a front sheet attached, containing particulars of the child, for the court.
Full information must be given in each section to:
- Meet the statutory minimum requirements for care plans;
- Satisfy the requirements of the court;
- Ensure that the child's best interests are expressed in the plan.
Interim Care Plans may sometimes be required at an earlier stage in the care proceedings; these will not necessarily contain the Local Authority's confirmed views that will be brought to the final hearing. It is therefore important that the first page of the care plan under 'type of hearing' should clearly distinguish between interim care plans for interim court hearings and the complete care plan for the final hearing.
2.2 Approval of the Care Plan
All Care Plans require the signature of a Team Manager and the Service Manager for the team that is managing the case. If that Service Manager is away from work another Service Manager should be asked to consider and endorse the Care Plan.
Managers who are endorsing Care Plans must take their role in quality-assurance seriously and must not endorse any Care Plan that is not of sufficient quality. This includes issues such as grammar and formatting as well as the content that relates to the child and family. This is to preserve the reputation of Wakefield Council in the court arena.
3. Applications Involving Siblings
A separate care plan is needed for each child who is the subject of care proceedings. Some of the information within the care plans may be similar or identical. Other material may be different because of the need to address the distinct characteristics of each child and the way the plan proposes to meet each child's needs. The court will wish to scrutinise the care plans for each sibling child. It is important that the court's attention is drawn to any important differences between the respective plans reflecting the individual needs of siblings (the use of highlighting, italics or underlining may aid this).
4. Guidance on Court Care Plans
The following guidance will be useful in preparing a Care Plan for court:
- Care Plans should be succinct and clearly set out. Social Workers should avoid the temptation to include lots of narrative or chronology of events, as this is contained in other court documents. The Care Plan should only contain a brief summary. This should make the process of completing the Care Plan more straightforward for the Social Worker;
- It is vital to ensure the contents of each section relates specifically to the Heading;
- Section 1 should simply set aims of the Care Plan (what Order/s you want and what they will achieve);
- Section 2 of the Care Plan should be different for each individual child in question and not a generic statement. The child will by definition have suffered harm or be at risk of suffering harm and is the subject of care proceedings therefore it is reasonable to assume that they will have additional needs for example for emotional support, attachment etc. based on their experiences;
- Section 2.2 and 2.3 relate to the child's wishes and feelings. It is vital that the child's voice is represented even if they are unable to understand their circumstances or express their wishes verbally due to their age or developmental stage. If the child is unable to share their wishes and feelings verbally you must give consideration to how they present in their current placement (observations of their behaviours), whether they have any established relationship with family members whom we are proposing the children may be placed, and what it would be reasonable to assume they would want given perhaps their mother and/or father have been their main carers since birth for example. Give consideration to the child's experiences such as whether they have been neglected or exposed to domestic abuse as it would be reasonable to assume they would not wish to experience this abuse in the future. In Section 2.3 it is important to explain why we would or would not support the child's wishes and feelings. For example if the child was able to say they wanted to go home and we could not support this we would need to say why in this section (i.e. the child would be at risk of domestic abuse/poor parenting etc and what impact this will have on the child's safety/physical and emotional development;
- Section 2.4 relates to how the child's needs would be met in the proposed placement under the proposed Order. If the care plan is a final care plan for adoption, you would need to consider how the child's needs would be met within their foster placement prior to them moving into their adoptive placement. (Who would be responsible for meeting those needs for the entirety of the child's life, not just now);
- Section 2.5 is a key section as it sets out the Local Authority's proposals regarding contact between each child and either parent/s or their siblings if in separate placements. This section can also include proposals regarding contact between the children and significant extended family members where deemed appropriate. The Child's Needs section also includes their needs in respect of contact. However this should be an analysis of their need in this respect rather than a statement about what contact is envisaged or to be provided. This therefore needs to be supported with brief information about their relationships and why this means that contact is needed. Information about the future contact arrangements is included later in the care plan;
- Where the child is already looked after, the views of the IRO should be included within the Care Plan;
- For Care Plans completed within Care Proceedings, the views of the Children's Guardian must also be obtained;
- Section 3 (Views of Others). It is important every effort is made to gather the view of parents and significant family members. Section 3.2 is important to briefly summarise (based on assessments) why we cannot support these people's views where the risks are too high to manage. The key here is SUMMARY not detailed analysis as this is already in your assessment and again summarised in the social worker statement;
- Section 4 relates to the proposed placement for each individual child. What is the proposed placement and what Order is being applied for? Who will be responsible for meeting each child's health needs (who can give consent to treatment?);
- Section 4.7 – what support will be provided to each individual child at this point? (if it is a final care plan for adoption the Adoption Team will be involved in placement finding and supporting the transition into the adoptive placement;
- Section 4.8 – what support will be offered to each parent during proceedings or once care proceedings have concluded if it is a final care plan? Post proceedings support is key to effect any changes needed and prevent repeat proceedings. What interventions were recommended by any experts within proceedings? What/who will support parents to access this consistently? What other services would be needed? Is any financial support being offered to parents to attend contact?
- Section 4.9 asks for what support will be offered to the carers. Do the children have additional needs which the carers would need support with managing? Consider both foster carers and adoptive carers if the care plan is for adoption;
- Section 5 should be self-explanatory. Do not forget to consider if there will be a change in social worker following the Final Order being made. Insert dates of any future LAC or Health Reviews for each child;
- Section 5.4 – what is our contingency plan? what would happen? Are there any family members positively assessed who would be able to care for the child if their placement broke down? If not what are the options available?
- Section 5.5 – consider what input parents will have in the future regarding decision making. For initial care plans parents should have individual legal representation during proceedings. They will be invited to any meeting regarding each child and will be invited to share their wishes or opinions regarding the child's care and placement.
It is vital care plans are completed (finalised version) at least 3 days prior to the filing date. This is to allow time for the Team Manager, Service Manager and Legal Representative to read and approve the care plans before they are filed to parties.