Children’s Services has replaced Social Services although are often still known as “social services”. The new Children Act in 2004 placed a duty on children’s social care to promote co-operation with partners such as health and the police and to appoint a director of children’s services responsible for the safety and well-being of all children in a council’s area. As a result of them being organised in this way the services available can vary in different parts of the country.
What is the main purpose of Children's Services?
The main purpose of Children’s Services is to support and protect vulnerable children. This includes providing children and their families with extra help. Where children are thought to be at risk of harm, Children’s Services will take steps which aim to make sure they are kept safe. Their involvement can vary and change as circumstances alter. It depends on the following things:
- The type of help needed by the parent and the help
- If there is concern that a child has suffered or be at risk of harm
- Where it is assessed that a child situation is getting better or not
Children’s Services become involved with families at different levels. These levels are as follows:
Universal services - every family should experience these services as they involve health visitors, GPs and school nurses.
Early help - this involvement occurs if a problem is identified with a child and it involves an assessment. Here children may need extra help for example with speech therapy or counselling CBT etc.
Child in need - the needs of a child are assessed as more complex for example a child with disabilities. The aim is to still have the child in their own home but to provide extra support which can take the form of:
- Day care (for children under the age of 5)
- Parenting classes or courses
- A family support worker or other practical help at home
- Help with housing
A plan is often used to assist with the monitoring and ongoing care for the child.
Our specialist child care proceedings solicitors have vast experience of being involved at this stage and early intervention can be crucial. Child protection procedures may commence if your child is thought to be at risk of significant harm. A meeting is then set up called an ‘initial child protection conference’ which is a multi-agency conference involving all relevant agencies such as school, health, police and probation. The conference will be attended by those with a relevant contribution to make and a decision will be reached as to whether the child should be made the subject of a child protection plan and under which category - physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect or a combination of the same. If the child is at continuing risk of harm a child protection plan will be drawn up.
If the concerns continue the matter could progress to “pre-proceedings” (or PLO) whereby parents are informed that the local authority is intending to issue proceedings and what must change to avoid this happening and meetings are convened and pre-proceedings plans drawn up. The final stage is care proceedings where the local authority may seek an interim care order or interim supervision order and potentially removal of the child from the parents’ care.
Stephensons has one of the largest child care teams in the North West as well as numerous members of the team on the Children Panel meaning we can provide specialist advice in Children’s Services involvement. If you would like to speak to a member of the team please call us on 0161 696 6193 or complete our online enquiry form and we will contact you directly.