SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter is designed to be 'good practice guidance' and not a rigid framework. The chapter emphasises teams working together to ensure that children and families are located in teams best placed to assist them and promote children's best interests.
This chapter was reviewed and updated in May 2017 to reflect the current organisational structure and decision-making within the Department and to reflect the updated terminology for Merton's electronic recording system.
This document describes the overall Case Transfer Process and Principles for Children's Social Care. This document should be read in conjunction with Team Plans and the Case file Recording Policy for Children's Social Care.
It is not intended that this document should be seen as a procedure, but should be seen as an outline of the responsibilities involved in the successful transfer of work within Children's Social Care Services and a reflection of the child and young person's journey from the point of referral to the receipt of help.
Case responsibility for any individual child is determined by the information on the Department's computerised Social Services Information System. Where a service user is open to any specific team it is that team's responsibility (through their own internal duty system if the allocated worker is not available) to deal with the needs of that individual and any new concerns or requests for help in relation to that individual and their family.
All new referrals will be logged on to the social care information system by the Screening service based in the MASH Team.
Where any Team closes a case and another referral is received within three calendar months, this referral should be dealt with by the previously responsible team and the referral, once logged by the Screening service, should immediately be passed to the Team Manager of that team. This is based on the assumption that the previous worker will have knowledge of the case and the family. Even if this assumption is not sound (i.e. - the worker has left) the manager of that team will be responsible for deciding who will carry out the initial response to the new referral within their team. (Referrals on siblings should also be dealt with by the previously responsible team unless they live in a separate household).
For ongoing responsibility the Team manager must consider the best interests of the child, how the department can best provide a service and, in negotiation with other Team Managers, agree who will carry out the work.
An allocated case is one where a designated team, manager, supervisor or member of staff has been identified to undertake a specific planned piece of work. The team or worker to whom a case is allocated is identified through the information entered and retrieved through the social care information system.
All new referrals will be initially be dealt with by the MASH Team, and will be logged by the Screening service in the MASH.
Where a new referral is received in relation to a child who is a sibling of a child who is 'looked after' by the Central Social Work, Supporting Families or Vulnerable Children's team, but the referred child is NOT 'Looked After' by the Local Authority, then this referral will be dealt with by the allocated worker for that looked after child as this is where central information in relation to the family will be held. However, if the new referral received is concerning a sibling of a young person who is 'looked after' by the Fourteen Plus Team, then the new referral will be dealt with on a case by case basis by the most appropriate team, if the referred sibling is under the age of fourteen years, (unless they are, for any reason, already an open case to the 14+ team). This will then be progressed as a new referral and transferred as appropriate to the relevant team. This reflects the specialist age-based focus of the 14+ Team.
If none of the siblings are allocated to any social worker then the MASH Team will undertake the Single Assessment.
Looked After Children will be noted as individual cases and therefore have their own individual case file. Members of their family and significant others will NOT be shown as open cases unless they are receiving a service in their own right e.g. siblings. For allocation purposes, each looked after child will be regarded as one case.
Where the focus of the case is Child In Need work and the service is mainly family support, and no individual is Looked After or subject to a Child Protection Plan, the case will show open as an individual child case. For allocation purposes, however, the family will be regarded as one case.
Children subject to a Child Protection Plan will have their own individual file and will be recorded as individual cases. However, as the service is mainly family support, the family group will be regarded as one case for case management purposes. When the child or young person no longer is subject to a Child Protection Plan, but remains an open case, the individual files will remain as individual child cases, through to closure.
All new referrals received in relation to a child/family who are open at level 3 or below to SENDIS will be logged and assessed by the SENDIS social work team.
All new referrals about a child/family that has been closed to SENDIS within the last three months will be logged by the MASH and passed back to SENDIS for allocation. All decisions on what team will take responsibility for assessment will be made with reference to the SENDIS 'Interface Protocol'.
All other new referrals about a child/family of a child with disabilities will be reviewed by the MASH to determine whether the predominant issue is best dealt with by SENDIS or another Social Work Team. SENDIS should be included in assessments of the child.
All new referrals received in relation to a child who has a sibling with a disability will be reviewed by the MASH Team to determine the predominant issue. If the issue is the impact of the referred child's sibling's disability on the child, it will pass directly to SENDIS. If it is not, the case will go through the usual allocation process.
All new referrals received in relation to unaccompanied minors aged 16 - 18 years will be logged by the MASH Team. For cases of all 16-17 year olds presenting as homeless, the 14+ team will assume responsibility for assessment with reference to Merton's Southwark Judgement protocol.
A Single Assessment will be completed, accommodation issues addressed and personal allowances will be set up. While age assessment, definition and a Single Assessment are being completed this will remain the responsibility of the 14+ Team.
In cases involving a larger than usual sibling group e.g. five and over, a case by case judgement about the provision of additional Social Work support will be made based on the evidence of complexity and risk. This will minimally require the authorization of a Head of Service and will need to be routinely reviewed.
In cases involving a sibling group with varied assessed needs the following allocation principles will apply:
The MASH is the gateway by which children, young people, parents and carers, and other agencies gain access to the statutory children's social care services of the council.
The MASH provides the first point of entry and the first point of contact for the public and other agencies for children's social care. The service performs a number of very important functions for the Council such as taking referral information, screening the data, sharing and analysing information with the MASH Partner organisations, and deciding the best service to support and safeguard the referred child. The MASH also includes the First Response Social Work team, which is responsible for carrying out single assessments where there are safeguarding concerns (Child Protection or Child in Need) or where the MASH manager believes that a visit needs to be carried out to determine the best outcome for the referred child.
The service aims to maximize the capacity for social workers in the MASH and First Response Team to undertake thorough and prompt assessments.
In order to support this, the primary function of information gathering and logging will become the responsibility of the MASH Screening Officers and MASH Navigators.
The MASH will operate as the one Front Door to Children's Social Care statutory services.
All referrals will be considered with reference to the Merton Wellbeing Model.
The MASH Team is responsible for providing an initial social care service to all children, young people and families referred to the Department who are resident in the London Borough of Merton and are not already allocated to a specific worker or to a specialist team. This service may include a single assessment carried out by the First Response team or it may consist of a MASH information-sharing process to determine the risk to the child.
The two exceptions to this general rule are:
The general responsibilities of the MASH, including the First Response Social Work team, are to:
The MASH Team has the primary responsibility for logging and responding to referral and assessment work as it comes in to the Children's Social Care Services. To maintain this function the MASH Team must ensure there is prompt transfer of work to other specialist or long term teams for continued support and intervention. Internal transfers from the MASH Team to other services should be achieved within 3 working days.
The First Response Team will screen and carry out single assessments on children and families where Child Protection Investigations are required (Section 47 Children Act 1989) and to determine whether Children are in Need (Section 17 Children Act 1989). These assessments should be reviewed within 20 working days, it is anticipated that given the brief nature of the involvement of the team with children and their families that a significant number of these assessments would be completed within the 20 day timeframe, all single assessments must be completed within 40 working days. The assessment will identify the essential support needs of the child/children and their family, and services will then be arranged to meet those needs in accordance with the Assessment framework practice guidance.
These assessments will identify needs and make judgements about the degree of risk in order to arrange the most appropriate services available locally for families. The assessment will be shared with the child and family and agreement sought for engagement with the subsequent Children in Need Plan, undertaking a joint introductory home visit with the team that will be taking forward the CiN plan. Following a Child In Need Single Assessment, the social worker will commission appropriate services such as Bond Road Family Support Services, Vulnerable Children's Team, Central Social Work Teams, Transforming Families, or the Youth Inclusion Panel, or will make referral to other specialist agencies such as CAMHS/Health visiting services or other voluntary sector services as appropriate.
Where a young carer may be a Child In Need, the MASH Team may discuss the case at the allocation meeting with a view to identifying the appropriate team to carry out a Single Assessment, even where the family is open to a specialist adult multi-agency team. All Young Carers referred for statutory assessment should have a completed CASA, authorized by the Adult Service working with the parent.
Whilst CASA/Child in Need Meetings under the Child Concern Model may be convened by any agency, it is possible that the MASH Team may attend some of these to advise on safeguarding issues. It is not expected that all CASA/Child in Need meetings are attended by Children's Social Care.
The MASH Team will identify the appropriate team to assess the needs of children where local authority accommodation has been assessed as necessary(Where Children have not previously been known to the department). In line with the Children's Social Care Strategy, the MASH Team will, (wherever possible), refer children and their families to the Central Social Work team for preventative intervention. When it is assessed as necessary to accommodate children and young people, the MASH Team, in line with departmental strategy, will place children with their extended family or other appropriate carers, once these resources have been assessed. If alternative accommodation is being pursued with extended family, this should be flagged with the Access to Resources Team (see Placement Requests: Access to Resources Making LAC Placements with ART).
Where it is not possible to arrange for the child to be cared for within the extended family, the MASH/First Response social worker will refer the case to the Access to Resources Team (ART) for consideration of formal agreement for a child or young person to become looked after. If it is necessary to accommodate a child or young person before the ART can consider the case, temporary permission to accommodate can be given by a Head of Service or Assistant Director of Children's Social Care and Youth Inclusion.
Following accommodation, the case will be transferred to the Central Social Work Team if the child is under 14, or the 14+ team if the child is 14 or over, within 3 working days, if there is no realistic chance of rehabilitation with the family prior to the first Looked After Review. However, this decision must be reached through appropriate and active assessment and agreed between team managers. All cases transferred to a specialist team need to be in an appropriate case file, with recordings and chronologies up to date. A transfer summary must be completed along with a schedule outlining actions required. However, this should not delay the process of case transfer (See Overall Case Transfer Principles).
There may be occasions when Vulnerable Children's Team or Supporting Families Team have accommodated children in the course of completing a single assessments. Discussions should be held between the respective Team Managers and those of the Central Social Work Teams to determine the appropriate transfer point.
The MASH Team Manager will ensure that all cases in the team scheduled for Initial Child Protection Conferences are discussed in advance with the relevant receiving team manager. This should enable identification of a named Central Social Worker, who can attend the ICPC. This provision also extends to the Vulnerable Children's Team and Supporting Families Team where cases progress to ICPC and transfer to the Central Social Work Team is anticipated.Following discussion between MASH and Central SWT all outgoing child protection case files to the Central Social Work Team should be carried out on a Manager to Manager basis. It is the individual responsibility of the respective Team Managers to engage in the case transfer applying the Overall Case Transfer Principles outlined in Section 5.7, Overall Case Transfer Principles.
Where a child or young person has become subject to a child protection plan the case should transfer to the Central Social Work team within 3 working days of an Initial Child Protection Conference (ICPC). The Central Social Worker should be invited to attend the ICPC and to attend both the conference and the first Core Group. All first Core Groups should be chaired by an Assistant Team Manager or a Team Manager from the receiving Social Work team. The MASH Social Worker will also attend the first core group meeting to ensure seamless transitions.
The Team Manager transferring a case must ensure the child / family has been seen prior to transfer and a chronology and genogram commenced/updated.
All cases requiring transfer following completion of a Single Assessment by the MASH & First Response Team, will be transferred to the appropriate social work team following discussion between the MASH Team Manager and the relevant receiving Team Manager.
Once case allocation has been agree the MASH Team will transfer case records electronically to the relevant Team.
Where cases are being transferred from the MASH Team, it is the responsibility of the MASH Team to prepare the file and handover the file within the prescribed timescale, even if there is material to follow/complete the file.
At the point of case transfer, the outgoing social worker and the new social worker should make a joint visit to the child/family for formal introductions and handover. This can take place once case transfer has been agreed.
Cases can be transferred to the Transforming Families team when it has been definitively assessed and concluded that the family meet at least two of the three following criteria in relation to Crime/Anti-Social Behaviour, Education and/or Unemployment.
It needs to be established that the family features young people involved in crime and families involved in anti-social behaviour, defined as:
Families are eligible for the programme (as long as the Youth/Crime/anti-social behaviour and/or unemployment criteria are also met) where truancy or exclusion from school is having an adverse impact, for example where a child:
Where criteria 1 or 2 are met, families can also be referred where an adult is on Department for Work and Pensions out of work benefits (Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Carer's Allowance, Income Support and/or Jobseekers Allowance, Severe Disablement Allowance).
Many of the cases for the Transforming Families team will be referred and transferred by the MASH when an assessment has concluded that a Social Work intervention is not required.
Referrals can, however, be made to the Transforming Families team by other agencies such as Central Social Work Service and Youth Justice/Offending Service for cases where the aforementioned criteria has been fulfilled. Such cases will be needed to be referred to the team by the completion of the referral form, (this can be obtained from the team's Business Support Officer). Discussions should also take place with either the Service Manager of FAS, Operations Manager or Lead Practitioner in order to decide whether the case should be co-worked or fully transferred to the team. Handover meetings should take place between teams when the case has been accepted within Transforming Families.
Three months prior to the child's 14th birthday, the team holding the child's case will complete a case transfer summary for the 14+ Team. However, if young people looked after reach 14 years at a time when they are studying for their GCSE exams, their case will remain with the current Team, with the support of the 14+ Team, until the exam period is over. A handover meeting will be held between the transferring ATM's and social workers to ensure that the LAC paperwork is up to date and that the transfer summary is available. The handover meeting will also confirm the child's care plan and allocate tasks and timescales for the introduction visit. The meeting will also identify the need for ongoing interventions and resources and clarify any financial commitments (including contact). This handover meeting should also agree notifications to key professionals regarding the transfer and the details of the new social worker and their manager.
An introduction meeting should be undertaken to the young person with the old and new social worker. Ideally this meeting will take place at the placement so that the new social worker can also meet the carer.
Where possible a joint visit should also be undertaken to the parents.
Where a case is transferring for young person aged 16 years a needs assessment and Pathway Plan should be in place.
Where cases are being transferred from these teams, it is the responsibility of the relevant Team to prepare the file, complete social work recordings and handover the file within the prescribed timescale, even if there is material to follow/complete the file. Where a case is transferring as a CiN plan or CASA, the transferring Team shall ensure that there is a clear plan following a transfer case meeting with parents/carers.
At the point of case transfer, the outgoing social worker and the new social worker or Family Support Worker may make a joint visit to the child/family for formal introductions and handover. This can take place once case transfer has been agreed.
Where a case open to Transforming Families is deemed to require a social work assessment or a child is becomes or is at risk of becoming looked after, the case should be referred to MASH. The MASH Team Manager will decide whether the case meets the criteria for social work intervention and undertake a Single Assessment.
Where a case held in these teams progresses beyond the remit of the Team, e.g. when a child becomes looked after or becomes subject to a child protection or where a Court report under Section 7 or Section 37 of the Children Act is ordered, the Team Manager will discuss the case with the Central Social Work Team Or 14+ Team Manager as appropriate. The point of transfer will be agreed Manager to Manager.
When giving consideration to transfer of work between teams, the following principles should be adhered to:
There may be occasions when the protocol is temporarily suspended, this decision will be made by the Assistant Director, Children's Social Care and Youth Inclusion, in consultation with the Heads of Service (Children Services Management Team), such circumstances might be when a Team experiences difficulties with allocating work due to severe staff shortages or due to excessive caseloads being held within the team.
Examples of how this might operate includes (but not exclusive to):
For the Children's Social Care Service to operate in a smooth and efficient manner it is imperative that there is agreement and consistency in how every team operates the social care information system. The following basic rules apply and should be applied by every member of Children's Services.
The auditing of case files is an essential component of the Quality Assurance Framework for Children's Social Care. Case file audits ensure that all managers are able to assess performance and ensure a high standard of practice. Auditing provides a useful overview of assessments, service planning, effectiveness of intervention, and provides a monitoring role in terms of the quality of service delivery.
This document is intended to assist and help workers and managers to define as far as possible the transferring of work and case files within Children's Social Care.
This document is intended as guidance, and not a rigid set of rules. The key to providing a successful "seamless" work transfer between Teams is that teams co-operate with one another and recognise our corporate departmental responsibilities to all service users. It is important that all Team Managers talk to each other often in advance about difficulties and problems and seek to help and support each other in the transfer of work within the broad framework of this paper.
Excerpt from Draft Protocol on Relinquished Babies, implemented from 30th December 2005.
During the counselling period there are several key aspects of practice that need to be considered and will not to be referenced in the information for CAFCASS, these are that:
Only valid for 48hrs