4.16 Step Up / Step Down Procedure
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter describes the process for:
The 'step-up' of families from Early Help, Level 3 family support services (Family First 0-18 Service) to Children's Social Care.
The 'step-down' of families from Child in Need support to Early Help Level 3 family support services (Family First 0-18 Service) and partners providing Level 2 family support (such as Schools and Health) from Children's Social Care.
This protocol does not imply step down from Child Protection interventions to Early Help Services.
In June 2020, this chapter was updated.
The interface between Early Help services and Children's Social Care (CSC) is an essential component of a robust service for children and families. Whilst Early Help and Children's Social Care systems and practice can be individually sound, it is the pathways between the two models which are key to ensuring all children are safe when moving between services providing for differing levels of need.
These two elements of support for families need to clearly understand decision making about the pathways between different levels of support based upon need. Pathways between the two must be simple, with roles and responsibilities, and lines of accountability explicit, with clear management oversight.
This protocol details what is required of staff within Children's Social Care and Early Help services at the levels indicated above. It includes services across the whole of the Children's Services department, and all partners who may be involved in Early Help Assessment and Team Around the Family (TAF) processes.
Decision making within this protocol should always be child and family focussed with the child's needs remaining paramount.
Safeguarding procedures would always override anything within this chapter. If a child is believed to be at risk, nothing within this protocol should be used to delay seeking help, support, guidance or services for a child or family. Any immediate safeguarding concerns should be communicated to the Duty Social Work Team in the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) Procedure.
The protocol details the processes and systems relating to:
- Cases which step up from Family First 0-18 Service to Children's Social Care in either a planned or unplanned manner;
- Cases which step down from Children's Social Care to Family First 0-18 and partners proving Early Help support at Level 2 (e.g. schools).
2. Cases Stepping Down from Children's Social Care - Child in Need Support to Early Help Services at Levels 2 and 3
When a family are open to CSC and the level of need reduces to the point that Social Work intervention is no longer necessary, it may be that continued professional input is required to meet other ongoing needs. If this is the case it may be that, with the families' agreement the Social Worker will seek to 'step-down' to Early Help services in a co-ordinated manner. The Social Worker should liaise with the appropriate Early Help service as described below.
For families identified as requiring ongoing Level 2 support via an Early Help Assessment and TAF
At least 5 working days prior to the potential final Child in Need (CIN) meeting, the social worker should contact the Level 2 service which has been identified, through CIN and associated processes, as suitable and willing to accept responsibility for the child/family as 'step-down' from CSC. The Social Worker should also inform Family First Duty Team FamilyFirst0-18DutyMailbox@knowsley.gov.uk of the intention to step-down to a Level 2 Early Help service. The Social Worker needs to include in the email the date, time and venue of the step down meeting. They also need to include what are we worried about, what is working well, what needs to happen. The Social Worker also needs to include in the email the name and organisation of the person who will be taking over the Lead Practitioner role as a result of the step down.
For cases identified as requiring ongoing Level 3 support via an Early Help Assessment and TAF with Family First as the Lead Practitioner
If it is agreed that the family need continued support and they will step down to Family First 0-18, at Level 3 the Social Worker should, with a minimum of 5 days' notice, email the Family First 0- 18 duty email FamilyFirst0-18DutyMailbox@knowsley.gov.uk to inform them of the details of the upcoming Child in Need (CIN) meeting. The Social Worker needs to include in the email the date, time and venue of the step down meeting. They also need to include what are we worried about, what is working well, what needs to happen. A Family First Case Manager will attend the CIN meeting.
The final CIN Meeting
If the decision is that step-down to either level 2 or 3 is agreed at the CIN meeting then the family, Social Worker and new Lead Practitioner should discuss possible next steps as described above and identify any indicators of risk or 'bottom lines', in respect of maintaining improvement and change, which would lead to the case being stepped back up to CSC in future.
If for any reason the family is not present at the CIN meeting but step-down is agreed, the Social Worker (if they haven't done so in advance) should ensure that consent for this has been gained from the family and that any relevant documentation such as Children and Family Assessments and /closing summaries are available to the new Lead Practitioner/Agency within 10 days of step-down.
The minutes of the final CIN meeting can become the interim Early Help Assessment (pending completion of a new EH Assessment (see Early Help Assessment Framework in Knowsley Procedure) on the EH Module by the new Lead Practitioner.
The final CIN meeting should agree the appropriate time scale for the first TAF review meeting, (6 weeks unless earlier is agreed) and the final CIN meeting and any other relevant documentation such as C&F assessments documentation will need to be received within 10 working days of step-down as described above; this will ensure a seamless transition and an appropriate package of support continues for the family.
N.B. If there is disagreement between CSC and the EH service receiving responsibility for the family concerning the plan to step down, which cannot be resolved by managers then the case should be escalated to respective Heads of Service.
3. Child has some Outstanding Needs and would Benefit from Level 2 or 3 Ongoing Support and Early Help Assessment following a Children and Families Assessment
If during the completion of a Children and Families Assessment the Social Worker and their Team Manager feel the family do not require ongoing Children's Social Care Intervention but would benefit from ongoing support via a Level 2 or Level 3 service the following process should be followed before the C&F Assessment is closed.
Further support required from a Level 2 partner agency
During the C&F Assessment the Social Worker should speak to the most appropriate level 2 practitioner who can carry out the ongoing work with the family as identified within the C&F Assessment. The Social Worker need to gain consent from the parent for the case to transfer to Early Help and they also need the agreement of the Level 2 practitioner to accept responsibility for the continued support via an Early Help Assessment.
Once consent has been gained and a Level 2 practitioner identified the Social Worker should email the Family First Duty Team FamilyFirst0-18DutyMailbox@knowsley.gov.uk of the intention to step-down to a Level 2 Early Help service. The Social Worker needs to include in the email what are we worried about, what is working well, what needs to happen. The Social Worker also needs to include in the email the name and organisation of the person who will be taking over the Lead Practitioner role as a result of the step down.
When the Social Worker finalises the C&F Assessment they select Transfer to EHM as the outcome this will then transfer the case within the system from ICS to EHM and this then can be allocated to the Level 2 partner that has agreed to continue the support.
Further support required from Family First at Level 3
Before the completion of the C&F Assessment, if the Social Worker identifies that the family's needs sit at level 3 and they would require co-ordination from a Family First Case Manager they need to gain consent from the parent for the case to be referred to Family First.
The Social Worker should, with a minimum of 5 days' notice, email the Family First 0-18 duty email FamilyFirst0-18DutyMailbox@knowsley.gov.uk with the date and time of a joint home visit to the family. They also need to include what are we worried about, what is working well, what needs to happen. A Family First Case Manager will accompany the Social Worker on the home visit to discuss future support from the service.
Once it is agreed that this will be allocated to a Family First Case Manager the Social Worker, upon completion of the C&F Assessment should transfer the case within ICS over to EHM.
4. Cases 'Stepping-Up' from Family First 0-18 (or other Multi-Agency Assessment) to Children's Social Care on a Planned Basis
N.B. This policy does not override any safeguarding policies and all professionals working with children who suspect that a child is or has been at risk should follow their own agency safeguarding procedure and take immediate action. Any immediate safeguarding concerns should be communicated to the Duty Social Work Team in the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) Procedure.
Where a family is being supported by Family First 0-18 and there is concern from the Lead Practitioner, or the multi-agency team supporting the family, that needs are increasing, and there is or may be a risk of harm or Neglect, the Lead Practitioner should discuss this with their team manager and, if it is agreed that such a risk exists, the Lead Practitioner should complete the step up form (Appendix A: Mash Step Up Request) and follow the guidance below to request consideration to step the family up to Children's Social Care.
- Please allow at least 5 working days' notice when requesting attendance at a TAF Meeting. (please arrange any step up TAF meeting on a Wednesday);
- Complete a chronology of involvement with the family – this must be concise bullet points it needs to be very focused on the following:
- Why and when the case came to you;
- What you have done;
- What you are worried about;
- Risk Analysis.
- If your step up is relating to non-engagement then you must reference your use of the Engaging Families toolkit within your step up document and what this tells you. You must clearly evidence what you have done to try and engage the family. Your Team Manager will make further suggestions prior to the step up if they feel more could be done;
- If your concerns are relating to Neglect then the Graded Care profile must be reflected in your step up form;
- When you complete the risk analysis section of the form this must focus on the risks and impact on the child and not be focused on the needs of the parent;
- If your case has any recommendations from DMM or from a step down meeting these should be referenced in your step up form;
- The step up form must show the voice of the child and how the child's voice was gained;
- Try and summarise what your expectations or hopes are by CSC involvement;
- Your step up to CSC must contain evidence of Management oversight, you need to ensure your Team Manager has discussed the step up and agreed to it;
- If you have any queries about your step up initially speak to your Team Manager then the Assistant Team Manager or Team Manager in MASH.
Please remember don't send a step up form directly to a MASH workers email address they must all go to the Knowsley MASH email address – email@example.com
At the step up TAF meeting the Lead Practitioner, multi-agency colleagues, family and Social Worker will carefully review all the available evidence against the Knowsley threshold document and the attending social worker will be responsible for making the decision as to whether the case should step up to CSC or remain with Family First 0-18.
The outcome of the meeting, and the rationale for the decision, should be clearly and accurately recorded in the minutes/notes of the meeting and as a case note in both EHM and ICS. If it is agreed that the case should step-up to CSC, the Family First Case Manger will transfer the case to ICS from EHM attending Social Worker will inform their Team Manager that the case is to proceed to the appropriate level of assessment and intervention with reference to the recent 'Step-Up' meeting.
The Lead Practitioner is responsible for providing relevant documentation which will normally include an up to date Early Help Assessment and case summary.
If the case is allocated for a C&F Assessment the involvement of Family First 0-18 will not cease immediately whilst the C&F Assessment is undertaken. Any pre-arranged TAF meeting within the first 20 days of the 'step-up' may go ahead providing the social worker undertaking the C&F Assessment is available to attend and the meeting can become part of the assessment process. Any meeting arranged to take place after this 20 day check point should be kept as it will either continue to be held as a TAF meeting if the C&F Assessment does not lead to CSC intervention; or may become the initial Child In Need meeting.
In either case the support from Family First 0-18 will continue as planned until the C&F Assessment is complete, provided this does not hinder or compromise the CSC assessment/investigation process. The Social Worker undertaking the assessment must notify the Family First 0-18 case manager if any planned intervention should be postponed. If the C&F Assessment confirms that needs have escalated and risks cannot be managed by Family First 0-18 then the case will remain with CSC and the case will then close to Family First 0-18.
If, following a step up TAF meeting, the decision is that the case can remain at Level 3 and professionals working with the child/family remain concerned as to the decision, the Family First Case Manager should discuss this with their Team Manager and if required this should be escalated to the MASH Team Manager for discussion. If required other agencies should use their own agency and Knowsley Safeguarding Partnership Multi Agency Escalation Policy.
5. Incidents or Events that Lead to a CSC Contact or Referral for a Child/Family already receiving Support from Early Help Services in an Unplanned Manner
From time to time MASH will receive referrals for children/families with Early Help support. If there is no need for any CSC involvement the contact will be recorded and linked the existing Early Help Episode depending on the nature of the incident that led to the contact/referral this may indicate that the Lead Practitioner should call a review meeting to ascertain if the child/family requires more support.
If the referral/contact warrants CSC involvement, then a C&F Assessment, or process of investigation, would commence without the need for a planned step up meeting as this would only lead to delay for the family. The social worker allocated would be expected to contact the Lead Practitioner and make full use of any current assessments and knowledge of the child/family held at by the Family First 0-18 Service. As above, Family First 0-18 intervention will continue during the assessment process. If the case is to stay with CSC beyond the period of assessment, then it will close to Family First 0-18.
The step-up/down process should be monitored in line with performance management frameworks for both Early Help Services and CSC.
The number of cases stepped down to Level 2 or Level 3 support will be monitored in partnership via a weekly transfer meeting held between Early Help and CSC. The requests for step down are tracked weekly to ensure children receive a seamless transition between services and this happens in a timely manner.
The number of cases stepping up to CSC from Level 3 in either a planned or unplanned manner will be monitored by Family First 0-18.
7. Adherence to Process
Adherence to the process of step down from CSC to Level 2 or Level 3 will be monitored by the Team Manager of the Family First Duty Team. Any departure from these standards will be discussed with the relevant Social Worker/Team Manager. This will then be raised with Head of Service of Early Help and Prevention to include for discussion with Head of Service for Child in Need and Child Protection at the weekly transfer meeting.
For planned or unplanned 'step-ups' from Family First 0-18 CSC MASH Team Manager will monitor adherence to process and, in the first instance, address any departure from these standards with the Family First MASH Manager.
Persistent issues will be brought to the attention of the CSC Head of Service for Child in Need and Child Protection who will liaise and /or escalate with the Head of Service for Early Help and Protection.