4.16 Step Up / Step Down Procedure


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.


Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) Procedure

Knowsley MASH (Multi-Agency Referral Form)

Early Help Assessment Framework in Knowsley Procedure

Independent Reviewing Officers (IRO) and Child Protection Chairs (CP) Practice Standards - Monitoring of the Child’s Case


In June 2023, this chapter was reviewed updated where required.

1. Introduction

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 the potential final Child in Need (CIN) meeting or within the C&F Assessment, the social worker should agree the named lead Level 2 professional and this will be included in the internal step down to Level 2 process via ICS to EHM.

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 and CP lead for step down from Level 4 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 level 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. If Family First are experiencing high volume of referrals to the service then this should be communicated to the family that there is a waiting list at present.

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. 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 evidence of risk or harm and impact of Neglect the Lead Practitioner should discuss this with their team manager (in absence of Team Manager another Team Manager can be contacted if the risk cannot wait until the Team Manager returns) and, if it is agreed that such a risk exists, and everything that can be attempted by Family First has been tried, the Lead Practitioner should complete the document Mash Step Up Form and follow the guidance below to request to step the family up to Children's Social Care.

  • Following manager approval for step up request, Email Step up form to knowsleymash@knowsley.gov.uk;
  • Step up Requests are screened via the MASH Duty Social worker. If the threshold for Level 4 is agreed a TAF will be booked as per below. If TAF not agreed advice and support will be offered from MASH duty social worker and this will be recorded on EHM and ICS case notes;
  • Please allow as much notice as possible, minimum notice should be at least 5 working days' notice when requesting attendance at a TAF Meeting (please arrange any step up TAF meeting where possible on a Wednesday). This can be discussed and agreed;
  • 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;
  • If the family had any recommendations from MASH screening or DMM as a contingency plan and consideration for a C&F assessment then this should be a transfer from EHM to ICS and does not require to follow the step-up process;
  • 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 TAF is agreed, please remember all step up calendar invites including teams link and requests are to be sent directly to the MASH email address Knowsley MASH email knowsleymash@knowsley.gov.uk and Mash.Businesssupport@knowsley.gov.uk to take notes of the meeting. The Case Worker at L3 will invite the current TAF members. MASH worker to log a case note of request for step up meeting.

The step up meeting will be chaired by the MASH SW and utilise the group supervision template for SOS.

BSA will upload into the ICS group supervision tool.

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 thrive document and signs of wellbeing. The attendees of the meeting 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 by L3 and MASH workers. 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 family are transferred to children’s social care following the step up meeting for a children and families assessment then Family First are to remain involved until the children and families assessment is completed and a decision is reached about future intervention and support for the family. 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 no agreement take to contact meeting. 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 requires Safeguarding screening, then this will be completed by MASH CSC via a MARF being received or following a telephone contact to MASH. For example: A child alleges they have been physically harmed by their parent. A multi-agency decision will be made following full MASH assessment.

6. Performance

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 stepping up to CSC from Level 3 in either a planned or unplanned manner will be monitored by MASH partners via a bimonthly quality assurance meeting, cases to be agreed beforehand on theme etc.

CSC workers to complete step-up request log and review monthly.

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 in the 4 weekly step down 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.