SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
The social worker 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.
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.
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.
For more information about the contents of the Care Plan, please see Decision to Look After Procedure, The Care Plan - Contents.
The Care Plan should be prepared using the pro forma (see Form COU-01 Care Plans Format Appendix 5).
N.B.: 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. (see Form COU-01 Care Plans Format Appendix 5).
Full information must be given in each section to:
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.
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 Calderdale Council in the court arena.
The Legal team must also endorse the plan before it is sent to the service manager for final approval.
Final evidence is requested by the Court, some time prior to the final hearing. This is to enable all parties to view the evidence before the hearing. These dates are not flexible or negotiable. Once the court has given direction regarding deadlines for filing evidence the social worker must adhere to this.
To ensure the whole process can be followed, Care Plans must be with the legal team and the service manager well before the hearing date.
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.
The following guidance will be useful in preparing a Care Plan for court:
In addition to the above, a Care Plan should reflect that the court is required under s.8 Children and Social Work Act 2017 amends section 31(3B) Children Act 1989 to consider the 'permanence provisions' of the Care Plan for the child:
Only valid for 48hrs