Child in Need Plans and Reviews


This chapter does not apply to children who are the subject of a Child Protection Plan. Where the child is subject to a Child Protection Plan, this will be drawn up in outline at the Initial Child Protection Conference and in detail at the Core Group meeting(s). It will be reviewed by a Child Protection Review Conference. Please see the London Safeguarding Children Procedures in relation to the implementation of the Child Protection Plan.


This chapter was updated in January 2019 by adding a new Section 4, Children in Need Moving to Another Authority - Principles. Information and communication is important between the respective local authorities to ensure appropriate services continue for the child and family and, where relevant, any risk of harm is recognised and identified with the receiving local authority. It should be noted that the responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the child lies with the local authority where the child is to be found.

1. Meeting the Needs of Children and Families

Children and families in Merton are supported by a range of services to help them achieve their best education, health, economic, housing, leisure and cultural outcomes. These are the universal services provided by the council, and its statutory and third sector partners, to help and support every child and every family to do well. Universal services include schools, GP practices, health visiting, housing advice, etc. Some children and families will have needs that require more targeted assistance. Merton has developed the Merton Child and Young Person Well Being Model (MWBM) to help professionals to recognise a more complex level of need at an early stage, and to provide a framework for professionals and services to work together to provide an enhanced level of support. This enhanced level of support is usually delivered by means of the Common and Shared Assessment (CASA) process, which spans a level of complexity from the less complex to the more complex needs of children and young people. Needs that are identified as more complex, will trigger the MWBM Enhanced Level of service, with the CASA being replaced by a Single Assessment undertaken by a Social Worker (see Merton Well Being Model).

There are children for whom the level and substance of their needs trigger the concerns of professionals for the safeguarding of the child. Safeguarding concerns that meet the threshold criteria for Child Protection are responded to by Merton's Children's Services under the London Safeguarding Children Procedures. Following a successful intervention by Merton Children's Services, a family can move from a plan requiring a specialist safeguarding service, to a plan by means of which the family receive on-going support and help from a specialist child in need service. In time, the child and family may well move from specialist child in need services, to targeted and universal services. This is called 'the step down process'. The level of need can change considerably with the specialist intervention of Children's Social Care, and a child in need of protection today can become a child living safely and happily with support of universal services tomorrow. However, sometimes the needs of a child being provided with targeted and enhanced levels of support under the MWBM can escalate, in which case, the child's needs will be stepped up to specialist services. See Part 2.1, Early Help.

It is usual, therefore, for a child to have a Child in Need Plan, either as a step up from enhanced levels of support, or a step down from Child Protection services. In a similar way, a child who is Looked After by Merton will have a Child in Need Plan if they return to the care of their family. The Child in Need Plan is the key tool and means for supporting children and families in this way, and for stepping down, appropriately, to services that are of a lesser level of statutory intervention. The Child in Need Plan is also the key tool and means, following the Single Assessment, for identifying a child as having complex needs that require intervention and a coordinated response at a specialist level.

2. Child in Need Planning Meetings

The emphasis of the Children Act 2004 is on the obligation it places on professionals across statutory services and other settings, to identify, assess, and support children in need at the earliest opportunity, so as to prevent an escalation to child protection services. Children in Need (CIN) Planning meetings will be arranged for children who are identified as requiring intensive, on-going, and multi agency services at a specialist level. A typical scenario might be where a child is already receiving help from Children's Services under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, or for whom there is a level of concern that does not quite meet the child protection threshold. It can also include a child stepping down from a child protection plan, or from being accommodated in the care of Merton. A single event for the child might trigger the need for a CIN Planning Meeting, for example, a bereavement, a criminal act, self harm, or abuse by a stranger. It might also be triggered by a series of events of lesser seriousness, but requiring an on-going response and coordinated support.

In all cases where the need for a CIN Planning Meeting is recommended by a Single Assessment, the meeting should be arranged within 15 working days of completion of the assessment. Similarly, a meeting should always be held for a child receiving accommodation under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, stepping down from a Child Protection Plan, or returning home from care. In other circumstances, the meeting can be held in response to significant change for the child or escalating concerns for the child, except for where these meet the threshold for a child protection Strategy Meeting, and the London Safeguarding Children Procedures followed.

When a CIN Planning Meeting is required, the social worker will consult their team manager and ask approval from the Head of Service, CIN. The social worker will arrange the venue, date and time of the meeting, and identify and invite the participants. The meeting should always include the child (if age appropriate) and the child's parent(s) or the person(s) with Parental Responsibility. Their cooperation and agreement is indispensable for the Plan to be a successful intervention and de-escalate concern. In exceptional circumstances the social worker might consider it necessary for the child or parent or person with parental responsibility not to attend the meeting or to attend only part of the meeting, in which case they should obtain the agreement of their manager for this, and clearly explain their reasons to the child or to the other person(s).

The child and parent(s) or person(s) with parental responsibility should be included in the process of identifying which professionals should be invited to contribute to the meeting and to the plan. A good principle is to have the least number of people that are necessary to making the plan work, so that discussion is focused on actions and outcomes, and family friendly. However, it is equally important for the social worker to ensure that the meeting is attended by representatives from Health and Education, other professionals with significant involvement with the family, and specialists (for example, substance misuse, domestic violence, family therapy) who can assist the plan. Families are systems and they must be engaged with holistically to achieve change. Merton believes that the relationship of the lead professional to the child and parent is crucial to the successful outcomes for the family. Relationships are key to change, and can only be developed through mutual trust, honesty and respect. The role of the lead professional is to empower parents to take control over the behaviours and issues that are the cause of concern for the child; empowerment requires full partnership with the parent.

Care should be taken by the social worker to ensure that the venue, date and timing are suitable to the needs of the child and its family, taking into consideration their particular personal circumstances. An interpreter must be available to the meeting if English is not the first language of the child or parent, and/or their services are requested by either the child or parent. The social worker will advise the child and family that they have the right to be supported in the meeting by an Advocate of their choice. This is especially important if the parent has a learning disability or mental ill-health. They may choose to be supported by a legal advisor, in which case their role should be clarified beforehand with the social worker as to whether they are attending in a legal capacity or as a supporter.

The social worker will present a draft CIN Plan to the meeting, based on the Single Assessment usually, or on the recommendation of the last Child Protection Conference, or Statutory Review. The draft plan is a framework for discussion to be amended or changed in consultation with the child and family and the other members of the meeting. The first CIN Planning Meeting will be chaired by the social worker if it is a step down from a Child Protection Plan or the child is returning home from the care of Merton. If the reasons for the CIN Planning meeting are complex, the meeting will be chaired by the Team Manager. The social worker will always consider if a Family Group Conference will be helpful and consult with their manager (see Family Group Conferences Procedure).

Minutes from the meeting should be taken by the social worker and this record provided to all those persons who participated, including the child (if age appropriate). The subsequent review meeting will begin with a discussion of the previous minutes and any amendments changes to be made, and disagreement noted where this is stated. The use of an interpreting service should be considered, as appropriate, and accessibility for disabled persons.

3. Child in Need Plans

A Child in Need Plan will be developed in a Child in Need Planning Meeting, updated and reviewed by the allocated social worker in consultation with the parents and the professionals working with the family. If the Child in Need Plan is a step down from a Child Protection Plan, or from being looked after by Merton, it will last for a minimum of three months, and a review meeting will decide if it needs to be continued for a further period of three months. In all circumstances, Merton believes that a successful intervention should have been achieved by the third review of the Plan after nine months.

The Child in Need Plan will identify the Lead Professional for the plan which is usually the allocated social worker. The Lead Professional, will be responsible for implementing the plan including making referrals to appropriate agencies for services as described in the plan. Where it becomes necessary to make any adjustments to the plan and services provided, these must be made in consultation with the parents, the child (where appropriate) and key professionals and the plan and ICS record updated.

The Plan should be clear, stating the actions to be achieved and their timescales, the responsibilities and tasks of each of those involved, and the expectations of the child and of the parents. The reasons for the Plan should be stated, together with clearly articulated outcomes by which progress can be measured. The child and the family must be in no doubt or confusion about the detail of what is to be achieved by them. They should be able to state this simply, when asked, if the meeting has been properly conducted. The child and family should also be clear as to what they can expect from each professional member of the meeting. Subsequent reviews of the Plan, at intervals no greater than twelve weeks, will monitor progress. The Plan must:

  • Describe the identified developmental needs of the child, and any services required for them and/or their family with regard to meeting their individual needs, if there is evidence and concerns attributable to parental capacity;
  • Include specific, achievable, child-focused outcomes intended to promote and safeguard the welfare of the child;
  • Include realistic strategies and specific actions to achieve the planned outcomes;
  • Include a contingency plan to be followed if circumstances change significantly and require prompt action;
  • Include timescales that are not too short or unachievable;
  • Not be dependent on external resources which are known to be unavailable and/or have lengthy waiting lists;
  • Clearly identify the Lead Professional and his or her responsibilities, including the frequency of visits to the child; however in most instances the lead practitioner will be the allocated social worker;
  • Clearly identify the roles and responsibilities of other professionals, including the nature and frequency of their contact and the work they will undertake to minimise duplication;
  • Clearly identify the roles and responsibilities of support from immediate and extended family members, including the nature and frequency of their involvement with the children;
  • Clearly outline points at which progress will be reviewed whether this will be within the forum of regular meetings, telephone calls and ensure that all are clear on how this will be evidenced.

4. Reviews of Child in Need Plans

Reviewing the Child in Need Plan is not just about monitoring and measuring change, significant though this is; it is also a means of enabling and motivating change and improvement for the family. The lead professional and the members of the review meeting are agents of change and improvement for the family, and as such, they have a responsibility to engage with the individual needs of the child and family in ways that are creative, flexible, and imaginative. Merton encourages innovatory approaches to working with children and families in need of specialist help. Team managers, and where appropriate because of resources implications, Heads of Service, will carefully consider any proposals arising from the review meetings.

The CIN Plan will be revised and updated at intervals not exceeding 12 weeks (3 months). Depending on if the CIN Plan is a step down from a Child Protection Plan or Looked After Accommodation, the review will be chaired by either the social worker or their team manager. The Third Review (9 months) must always be chaired by a Team Manager, as it will be unusual for a CIN Plan to extend beyond this period of time (see Section 3, Child in Need Plans). The third review meeting will decide;

  1. If the intervention has been successful and can be stepped down to enhanced services, and closed to Children's Social Care;
  2. If the intervention has been partially successful and the CIN Plan should continue for a further three months;
  3. If the intervention has been unsuccessful and concerns have escalated to the level that there is a need for a child protection strategy meeting; or
  4. If the intervention has been unsuccessful but further intervention is unlikely to lead to success or to be a good use of resources (in which case it will be stepped down and closed to Children's Social Care).

These timescales will not apply to Children with Disabilities or complex sensory needs, if there are no safeguarding concerns, because these children will require on-going help and support. These arrangements will be incorporated within the child's Education, Health and Care Plan.

It is important to note that any of these actions can be decided upon at an earlier review if appropriate to the circumstances, but no later than the third review, except for when there are child protection concerns requiring that the London Child Protection Procedures are followed.

If the decision of the review is that the child and family can be stepped down to enhanced services, the social worker will ensure that these receive a copy of the most recent CIN Plan and a summary from the case record. The summary will identify areas for further work by the Team Around the Child in enhanced and early help services.

The child and parent will receive a letter advising them that the CIN Plan is now closed and their involvement with Specialist Services is ended.

5. Children in Need Moving to Another Authority - Principles

This section deals with children who are subject to Children in Need Plans and who move to another local authority. The principles apply to local authorities in the circumstances of both transferring out and receiving in Children in Need.

In a number of situations, children and their families moving to another local authority offers a positive option. However, and particularly where children and their families may have moved on more than one occasion in a short space of time, any assessment should consider whether the child is subject to trafficking or modern slavery (see Single Assessment Guidance).

For Children Looked After see Out of Area Placements Procedure.

  • When a Child in Need moves from one local authority area to another, the Children Act 1989 is clear that the responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the child lies with the local authority where the child is to be found;
  • Given the child has already been identified as having particular needs or is vulnerable in some way by the originating borough, urgent consideration should be given as to the impact of the move for the child in respect of their vulnerability, for example, through any changes in the protective factors, increased risk with known perpetrators or whether they might be subject to trafficking or modern slavery;
  • Given the circumstances, and in line with the above, a timely response should be made by the receiving authority with regard to levels of assessed risk. The request to transfer a case of a child subject of a Child in Need Plan should be accompanied by an up to date Child and Family assessment of needs and an up to date CIN plan;
  • The parent/carer should be made aware of their responsibility to ensure the child receives appropriate education and health support in the area they plan to move to, together with any other specialist service required for the child;
  • The social worker should assist and promote the family accessing relevant and appropriate services with regard to meeting the child's needs. Any deficits in services to meet specific needs by the receiving local authority should be noted;
  • The local authority Children's Social Care Services where the child and family are moving to should be formally notified and all relevant information should be shared:
    • Social work assessment;
    • Child in Need Plan;
    • Minutes of latest Child in Need Review;
    • A summary / case report.
  • Parent / carer's permission should be sought to share this information with the receiving local authority in line with Information Sharing: Advice for Safeguarding Practitioners.

    However, the Data Protection Act should never be a barrier to 'sharing information where the failure to do so would result in a child or vulnerable adult being placed at risk of harm' or indeed on those occasions where seeking consent might increase the risk of harm.

    Otherwise, the social worker or team manager, should consider seeking advice from their Caldicott Guardian or their Legal Services;
  • The social worker should ensure that other agencies involved in the Child in Need Plan are made aware and prepared to ensure that their relevant information is shared as soon as possible with their respective counterparts in the area the family have moved to, (for example school and GP records, etc.);
  • The social workers and team managers of the respective authorities should ensure there is clear and good communication during any transition and any risks are clearly communicated and understood.

    Where possible, the social worker should seek to meet their counterpart and where geography allows, to consider a joint visit and attendance at the Child in Need Meeting, so that the issues can be fully shared. This expectation should not prevent the receiving authority from taking over case responsibility for the family in a timely way. The process should reflect the family's needs and any associated risks;
  • Where there is dispute about case responsibility; delay in the receiving local authority accepting responsibility of the case, or a dispute about Children in Need thresholds, the team manager should promptly notify the Service Manager who should make a decision regarding next steps, including, where necessary, to take legal advice;
  • The family should be kept informed of any respective responsibilities during a transition stage and when the receiving local authority, (where the family reside), take full responsibilities.
  • Receiving local authorities should seek to convene a Child in Need Meeting within 20 working days of the family being resident in their area and include all relevant agencies and, where possible, the social worker and other specialist staff where the child and family have moved from;
  • All actions, decisions and arrangements should be fully recorded on the child's case record during this process. This should include management decisions, which should identify the rationale for any decisions made, especially where specific services cannot be provided and/or it is considered the child is no longer a Child in Need.

Provided the transferring local authority have supplied all of the necessary documentation as set out above, and organised the CIN meeting for the receiving authority to attend, the case should transfer formally to the receiving authority and can be closed down on the social care information system within the transferring authority.

The family should be advised of this happening and provided with the contact details for the new local authority children's services.