4.13 Children Moving Across Boundaries
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter sets out the procedures to follow when children and their families move from one household to another possibly across local authority boundaries. The move may be planned or not, temporary or permanent; it could be for a holiday period or longer.
Where Children's Social Care is working with the child or family the change of circumstances due to a move must be taken into account and information shared appropriately in the child's best interest.
North West ADCS Notification and Transfer Protocols: Children Moving Across Local Authority Boundaries Procedures
(Knowsley Children's Social Care Operational Procedures)
1. Movement of Children and Families
At any stage in the process of working with children and their families, the parents and/or the child/children may move from one household to another, with a change of address possibly to another local authority area.
The move may be planned and relevant information shared in advance with the professionals and workers involved with the family and child/children.
In some circumstances, however, the move may take place in haste and as an attempt to avoid the involvement of professionals and agencies. In such circumstances, the agencies involved must assess the impact on the child/children of the change in circumstances.
Every effort must be made to ensure that the information to safeguard the child is held where the child is residing.
Additionally, the following circumstances associated with children and families moving across boundaries may be a cause for concern:
- A child and family, or pregnant woman, not being registered with a GP;
- A child not having a school place or whose attendance is irregular;
- A child or family having no fixed abode e.g. living temporarily with friends, relatives or in a refuge.
The child's move may be temporary or permanent. An example of a temporary move is where a Looked After child is placed in the area of a different local authority. All such placements will be notified by the local authority looking after the child to the relevant health and education agencies in accordance with their own internal procedures and all changes of addresses must be carefully noted when such notifications are received.
This chapter sets out the actions to be taken in relation to children and families who move across local authority boundaries, either on a temporary or permanent basis, where there is contact with the family by the statutory agencies, and some degree of concern for the child.
2. Children who are being Assessed
Work with children and their families may be taking place in the context of the Early Help Assessment, or the child may be considered a Child in Need and an Single Assessment may be in progress when the child/children and family moves to another local authority area.
Each agency has internal procedures which set out how information about children and families is provided to another local authority/health trust/education service/police force area when such movements take place.
A decision must be made by the responsible professionals (in partnership with parents and children whenever possible) where the move is known and planned as to how the information is best shared with the new area.
There should never be any delay in sharing information as all information about a child should be held where the child is residing.
Where there are concerns about a Child in Need who moves across local authority boundaries, and a Section 47 Enquiry is being considered or is in progress, it is the responsibility of the local authority where the concerns originated to make decisions as to how to proceed. This, however, must be done in close consultation with the new authority.
If it is agreed by the new authority that the case can be handed over to them, then a transfer of the case can take place but only after written confirmation has been received from the new authority. Cases are deemed to have been transferred only after such written confirmation has been received.
If children and families about whom there are concerns move and cannot be contacted, this in itself will heighten such concerns and Lead Professionals to consider that the children may be at risk of Significant Harm.
In such circumstances the agencies involved must share information with one another so that every effort is made to locate the child/children and, where Children's Social Care is not already involved, consider whether a referral should be made - see Knowsley MASH (Multi-Agency Referral Form).
Where the child is already referred to Children's Social Care and the child cannot be located, the Pan Merseyside – Safeguarding Children Partnerships: Missing Children Procedure Procedure should be followed.
3. Where there are Urgent Concerns about Significant Harm
Where emergency action is required because of concerns that the child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm, the local authority in whose area the child is found is responsible for taking that action.
Where the child is looked after by or the subject of a Child Protection Plan in another local authority, the first authority should consult the child's 'home' local authority which is responsible for the child in relation to the emergency action. Only when the child's home local authority explicitly accepts responsibility is the local authority where the child is found relieved of the responsibility to take action. Such acceptance should subsequently be confirmed in writing.
Where further enquiries are required, the agencies primarily involved with the child and family should then assess the needs and circumstances of the child and family, and agree action to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of the Child in the longer term.
Where the concern arises in relation to a Looked After child's placement, the local authority for the area where the child is placed also has responsibility to ensure that other local authorities who also have placed children in the same foster home or residential setting are aware of the concern or allegation and that consideration is given to protection of other children in the placement. They should also inform the Regulatory Authority.
4. Children Subject to a Child Protection Plan
4.1 Actions to be taken in the child's originating area
Where a child subject to a Child Protection Plan moves out of the home area, anyone who becomes aware of the plan to move or the move taking place, must inform the child's Lead Social Worker or, if not available, the Safeguarding Unit Manager for the area where the child is.
The Lead Social Worker will:
- Immediately inform Children's Social Care Services in the new area of the change in the child's circumstances;
- Send the child's relevant personal details to the new area including a copy of the most recent Child Protection Plan;
- Inform the 'home' Safeguarding Unit Manager of the changes;
- Inform the Core Group of the change in circumstances;
- Attend any Initial Child Protection Conference in the new area.
The Safeguarding Unit Manager will:
- Ensure that all information is updated and the correct address is displayed on the List of Children subject to a Child Protection Plan;
- Inform the new area's Safeguarding Unit Manager of the current details and forward any relevant documentation such as copies of minutes of the Initial Child Protection Conference and the most recent Review Conference;
- Inform the local Designated Nurse of the relevant information in order for the health agencies in the new area to be informed.
Only when the new area has made a decision whether the child is to become subject to a Child Protection Plan or not should the child's details be removed from the List of Children who have a Child Protection Plan in the original area
The date that the child's name is removed from the List in the original area will therefore be the date of the Initial Child Protection Conference in the new area when the decision is made.
4.2 Actions to be taken in the child's new area
At the point of notification, the Safeguarding Unit Manager or their nominated representative in the child's new area will be expected to:
- Place the child's name, address and relevant known personal details on the List of Children with a Child Protection Plan;
- Request information from the originating Local Authority, including copies of the Initial Child Protection Conference and the last Review Child Protection Conference minutes from the originating area;
- Inform the relevant Children's Social Care Services team of the details of the incoming child;
- Inform the Designated Nurse;
- Make arrangements to hold an Initial Child Protection Conference within 15 working days of the notification of the child moving in;
- Request representation from the originating local authority's Children's Social Care Services to attend the conference to ensure that up to date and accurate information is shared and discussed;
- Confirm the outcome of the Initial Child Protection Conference with the originating local authority Safeguarding Unit Manager and forward a copy of the Conference Minutes for their records.
The relevant Children's Social Care Services team will:
- Undertake enquiries to ensure that protective action is taken in order to safeguard the child in the new area until the Initial Child Protection Conference has taken place;
- Undertake an assessment to determine whether the child is likely to be at continuing risk of Significant Harm in the new area and work with the child and family to prepare for the Initial Child Protection Conference.
4.3 Temporary moves
A temporary move could cover a range of situations from holiday stays to short stay placement moves to relatives or residential units' the circumstances should always be checked with the child's Lead Social Worker.
Where it is known that the child has moved out of the area for a temporary period, however long or short, the area where the child is temporarily residing must be provided with the relevant information and contact numbers as follows:
- The Lead Social Worker must contact the Safeguarding Unit Manager and Children's Social Care Services team where the child is temporarily resident, providing them with the relevant personal details and the last Child Protection Plan;
- The 'home' Safeguarding Unit Manager must write to the Safeguarding Unit Manager in the area of the temporary residence and include any relevant information.
The child 's name and details will remain on the List of Children subject to Child Protection Plans in the permanent home area until the criteria for discontinuing the Child Protection Plan are met.
Local agencies and professionals should bear in mind when working with children and families where there are outstanding concerns about the children's safety and welfare, including where the concerns are about an unborn child who may be likely to suffer Significant Harm, that a series of missed appointments may indicate that the family has moved out of the area or overseas. Children's social care and the police should be informed immediately when such concerns arise.
Where a child subject of a Child Protection Plan moves abroad whether planned or unplanned the Lead Social Worker and Conference Chair should consider whether to reconvene a Review Conference or Core Group to determine what action to take. Appropriate steps should be taken to inform the relevant local and overseas authorities in the country to which the child has moved of any concerns.
Consideration needs to be given to appropriate legal interventions, where it appears that a child, who has outstanding child protection concerns about their safety and welfare, may be removed from the UK by his/her family in order to avoid the involvement of agencies with safeguarding responsibilities. This also applies when a child who is subject to a care order has been removed from the UK. Children's social care, the Police Child Abuse Investigation Team and the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit at the Ministry of Justice should be informed immediately.
In the case of children taken overseas it may be appropriate to contact the Consular Directorate at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which offers assistance to British nationals in distress overseas (020 7008 1500). They may be able to follow up a case through their consular post(s) in the country concerned.