A targeted approach to Child in Need (CIN) plans can ensure cases are managed more effectively. This reduces the risk of statutory intervention and producing better outcomes for children.
In an ideal world, having one team which deals with the entire spectrum of child safeguarding makes perfect sense. It ensures continuity and consistency of experience, as well helping build positive relationships with clients, based on trust and confidence.
However, with increasing pressures on social work resources, there is inevitably a need for prioritisation. This can result in CIN cases being given less time and focus than those which involve Child Protection (CP) and Care Orders.
The danger of CIN cases ‘drifting’ is all too real. In 2016-17 over 15% of cases lasted over six months and over 21% lasted over 12 months (source: Children in Need Census). Highly vulnerable children can become ‘lost’ in the system, existing in a kind of limbo between being identified as at risk and receiving the right level of care. With many social workers having to deal with increased caseloads, inactive CIN cases that could be closed can easily be masked.
In their report On the margins of the child protection system: creating space for relational social work practice, academic researchers Guy Kirk and Robbie Duschinsky found that ‘drift’ was a key issue in CIN plans: “Cases remained in the system as the responsibility of social workers who, despite their best intentions, were unable to provide the level of involvement needed to move them forwards.”
Reducing reliance on CIN plans can have huge benefits for the children involved. Many live in precarious family environments where the risk of them suffering harm may increase quickly. Therefore, timely review and, if necessary, escalation to CP is vital for effective safeguarding. In other cases, step down may be appropriate and the sooner this is done, the better for the child and the family. They can then move on with their lives without the shadow of the CIN plan hanging over them.
In addition, focusing on resolving CIN plans can also be more cost efficient and free up the children’s social care team to concentrate on other, more urgent priorities, such as CP cases and Looked After Children (LAC).
All this makes a compelling case for outsourcing. Whether working on a selected cohort or taking responsibility for all cases, an experienced external team can give CIN plans the intensive time and dedication they need, ensuring children and families receive early intervention and, in many cases, swifter resolution.
With resources focused directly on CIN, reviews of each case can be carried out on a regular basis, enabling decisions about escalation or de-escalation to be made more reliably at the appropriate time. The ultimate goal is a worthy one: to reduce the overall number of children on CIN plans, particularly those who have been on plans for an extended period of time.
As with any kind of outsourcing, it’s important to set clear project targets and benchmarks, as well as building in robust reporting to ensure value for money. For example, at Skylakes, our industry-leading 12-Week CIN programme has built-in KPIs and review procedures, with weekly face-to-face meetings and detailed performance reports. Proper oversight is more important than ever in the light of recent high-profile failures involving private sector outsourcing .
According to statistics from the Department for Education, the number of CP plans has increased steadily since 2010, with the total standing at over 51,000 as at 31 March 2017. These are the most urgent cases and, of course, social workers must respond accordingly. However, unfortunately that could easily mean that CIN cases simply don’t get the attention they deserve. If local authorities are to meet their statutory obligations and deliver the best outcomes for children and families, it’s time for a different approach.
Find out more about the Skylakes 12-Week CIN Programme here.
Find out what Linda Clegg, Director Children’s Services in Blackburn with Darwen had to say about Skylakes Specialist 12 week CIN Programme.