If Social Services become involved with your children they may tell you they are worried that your children are at risk of suffering from harm.
If a child is referred to Social Services an assessment will be completed and there are three options:
- File closed, Social Services involvement ends;
- Monitor and review;
- Decide to have a Child Protection Conference and they will decide whether to put the child on a Child Protection Plan or not and consider whether any further legal planning may need to take place such as:
i) Going into a pre-proceedings process – The Public Law Outline (PLO), or
ii) Starting court proceedings
Anyone can call Social Services and tell them about children they think are being abused and Social Services then have a legal duty to check this out.
Social Services do not want to take your children away, but they have to make sure that they are safe, and cared for properly.
There are four types of harm,
i) Emotional Harm,
ii) Physical Harm,
iii) Sexual Abuse, or
Emotional Harm: This is where your child is being emotionally abused at home and it is affecting the way they grow up. This could be by them being rejected, or bullying from a parent, or witnessing violence and abuse. These are just a few examples and there are many others.
Physical Harm: This is where a child is being physically harmed, and this is either by you, or someone you know, and you are not protecting your child from this.
Sexual Abuse: This is where someone is sexually abusing a child, or putting the child at risk of being sexually abused, and this is either you, or someone you know, and you are not protecting your child from this.
Neglect: This is where your child is not having his or her needs met at home, such as clean clothes or bedding, enough food, missing Doctors appointments, not going to school. Again these are just a few examples and there are many other things that could be included.
Social Services will be worried that the children may be suffering from one or more of these, or they are worried that the children might suffer from one or more of these if they were to stay where they are.
Once Social Services have received a referral they have to do an initial assessment. A Social Worker will speak to you on the phone and/or visit you and the children to see if what they have been told is true.
If it is not true and the children are perfectly fine and safe, they will close their file and end their involvement.
But, if they think that what they were told is correct, they have 2 options:
i) They could decide to offer the family some help and assistance, or
ii) They could decide to carry out a Single Assessment.
The decision of the Social Services is based on how bad things are, and whether the parents/ people caring for the children understand and are able to work with them to change things.
They will make a decision about whether or not they need to be worried about the children, and they will put this in a written report.
The decisions that they could make are:
- There is nothing to worry about and they will end their involvement, or
- They might be worried about the children and decide that they need to keep an eye on things to make sure that they get better, or
- They might arrange a Child Protection Conference
Child Protection Conference and Plan
This is a meeting that the Social Services will arrange, and it is where they make plans with you about what needs to be done to protect the children.
People who can attend this meeting:
- The child’s parents, or person caring for the children i.e. foster carers, step parents, relatives,
- The children, if they are old enough and want to,
- The children’s social worker,
- Doctors or Nurses or Health Visitors,
- Probation Workers,
- Teachers, and
- The Police
These meetings, they are called “Multi-Agency” meetings.
The meeting can decide to make a Child Protection Plan, and consider whether to start the pre-proceedings Public Law Outline process (PLO) or Court Proceedings
The Child Protection Plan will be looked at again after 3 months, and then every 6 months after that.
These reviews will look at what has happened since the last time and if the plan is working and whether it needs to be changed.
If things get better and the children are no longer at risk, they can decide to take the children off the plan. They will then decide whether they need to stay involved with the family to continue to monitor things, or if they can close their file.
If things do not get better or do not get better quickly enough, they could decide to start legal proceedings.
If you are asked to sign anything, make sure you know what it is, and what signing will mean to you and your children.
If you are unsure seek legal advice.