Protocol between the Disabled Children's Team and MAST

1. Introduction

This protocol reflects the principle that work in relation to disabled children will be integrated in all work related to children and families across Children's Social Care, and will not be exclusively managed by a specialist team.

The protocol reflects, and aims to further develop, current practice that ensures the skills of all workers are used to consistently optimise positive outcomes for all children. There are two key principles which underpin this:

  1. The principle of not  automatically transferring case responsibility. The Disabled Children's Team function like any locality team and therefore a disabled child may transfer to the DCT when they become subject to a Child Protection Plan or become a Child Looked After. Similarly, a child who is Looked After or on a Child Protection Plan may be transferred because they are disabled or become disabled/develop significant health needs The principle that applies is that the DCT will accept cases where the focus is on a child's disability. Where there are multiple siblings with no disability but are subject to CiN/ CP/CLA the appropriate locality team will take case responsibility. This is to minimise the number of workers involved with the family;
  2. Social workers will be able to call on the expertise of their colleagues. Therefore, social workers for a disabled child should be able to call on the expertise of a social worker experienced in Child Protection and an Area social worker should feel able to call on the expertise of a social worker or Community Nurse experienced in health/disability issues.

2. Criteria

The Disabled Children's Team will focus on that group of children with severe disabilities where the needs specifically relate to the child's disability. The specific criteria are children who have a:

  • A moderate or severe learning disability;

  • A severe physical disability;

  • Sensory impairment or complex health needs or autistic diagnosis where there is also a moderate or severe learning disability.

Children with generalised learning difficulties will continue to be dealt with by MAST and other Children's Social Care Teams. Children within this group include those with emotional and behavioural difficulties with no specific diagnosis, ADHD, mental ill health and aspergers or autism where there is no significant learning disability.

Where there are issues that do not specifically relate to a disabled child or young person within the family then these issues will continue to be considered by MAST and other Children's Social Care Teams. For example issues in relation to domestic violence, homelessness, family functioning, or financial issues.

A key principle for all Social Care Teams is that there should be only one social worker working with a child and their family, any exceptions to this will need to be agreed to by Service Managers.

3. One Point of Entry - MAST

MAST will transfer contacts or referrals to DCT where these relate to Children in Need if they require a social work lead  and they meet the eligibility criteria. In order to ensure appropriateness and a timely response, MAST will seek key information to determine whether the child meets the eligibility criteria (see 2). The basic principle will be that work which is for DCT will be transferred as early as possible commensurate with an accurate and appropriate judgement that it is work that needs to be undertaken by the DCT.

4. Disabled Children and Child Protection Issues

Disabled children who are referred (or who are re- referred) to Children's Social Care because they have suffered or are likely to suffer Significant Harm, will be dealt with by MAST. This covers any child who is not currently open on the Child's Electronic Record to a social worker in the DCT. Consultation will be available from a Community Nurse or Occupational Therapist in the Disabled Children's Team where the child has been known.

If at the conclusion of the work from MAST the child is subject to a Child Protection Plan then the case responsibility will transfer in the usual way to the Locality Team or the DCT if the primary focus is a child's disability. If the child has a Child in Need status and the criteria for the DCT are met and the child is at Continuum of Need Level 4 or 5 then transfer will be to the DCT

If a child is allocated to the Disabled Children's Team and subsequently becomes subject to a Section 47 investigation and then a Child Protection Plan or is removed from home, case responsibility will be retained by the Disabled Children's Team in order to ensure a continuity of service to the child.

MAST will be available to provide consultation to the allocated social worker in the Disabled Children's Team.

5. Disabled Children and Legal Proceedings

Social workers in the DCT have experience of proceedings and would retain case responsibility during the process.

6. Consultation

The Disabled Children's Team will provide consultancy services to other teams within Children's Social Care where they are managing a child or young person who meets the eligibility criteria. Consultation will focus on support to the allocated worker, and on occasions to the child or family. Through this approach skills/knowledge can be shared and a maximum of children's workers can receive consultation. This approach is in recognition of the other priorities within DCT service.

7. Transfers

A transfer request may be made to the Disabled Children's Team where the child or young person meets the eligibility criteria, and the focus of activity relates to the child's disability. This will be considered on a case by case basis to minimise disruption to the child and family and ensure services are appropriately targeted to meet the child or young person needs.

8. Access to Short Breaks and other Specialist Services

Any social worker in Children's Social Care can access short breaks or other services of an Intensive Behavioural Nurse or Community Nurse or Occupational Therapist, provided the child meets the required eligibility criteria. In these situations consultancy work will be available either from a social worker or Learning Disability Nurse, but allocation to a social worker or Learning Disability Nurse will not be required.

In the event of the DCT funding short breaks originating from other Social Care Teams the responsibility for case management will remain with that Team and not the DCT.