When would social services become involved with your family?

Who are social services?

Social Services are a governing body who have a statutory obligation to safeguard and promote the welfare of vulnerable children. Each Local Authority (council) has a Social Services department.

What do social services do?

Social services can offer a wide range of care services to children and their parents. Social Services ensure children are healthy, safe, and well looked after. As well as this they make sure that Children’s basic care needs are being met by their caregivers.

Social Services main objective is to ensure a family remains together wherever possible. Families often feel anxious at the prospect of social workers becoming involved with their family. This is because of the experience others may have had or how it can be portrayed in the media. .

Why would social services become involved with your family?

If social services consider your child or a child you are legally responsible for at risk of harm. If they believe they’re in need of help, they have a duty of care to investigate the situation. They will assess what actions need to be taken in order to safeguard the child or promote their welfare.

When Social Services Are Called

There are many reasons why social services would be worried. These can include: 

  • Neglect
  • Poor home conditions
  • Poor school attendance
  • Parental drug or alcohol misuse
  • Risk of sexual abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Domestic violence in the family home

Informing You

Social services will let you know that they are conducting an inquiry. This will happen if they have received a complaint or concern regarding the child/ren. 

It is important not to panic and be open and honest with the social worker. It is a natural feeling to be frightened and anxious in this situation. But, you should be informed by the social worker what the process will involve.

Social workers will complete an initial assessment gathering information from various locations. These can include schools, nursery, health visitors, doctors, parents and family members. They may wish to speak to the child/ren if they are old enough.

Once the assessment has been completed the social worker will inform you if they intend to remain involved with the family or close the case. If for whatever reason social workers are still concerned about the child/ren the family will remain open to social services under a plan.

1. First stage is Child In Need plan

A Child In Need plan is defined under the Children Act 1989 as a child who is unlikely to achieve or maintain a reasonable level of health or development. Or whose health and development is likely to be significantly or further impaired, without the provision of services. A Child In Need Plan is drawn up following a Single Assessment which identifies areas in the child’s life that needs to improve to ensure the child has a good enough standard of care.

If the Child In Need Plan is not working. Social services will escalate the concerns to a Child Protection Plan.

child protection plan

2. 2nd Stage is Child Protection Plan

At a Child Protection Conference, the people who were there will make a plan to protect your child.This is called a Child Protection Plan. The Child Protection plan includes

  • The reasons why your child needs a plan
  • What you should do to make sure your child is protected
  • What helps you will get from social workers at your local council
  • What will happen if you do not follow the plan
  • Who you can contact for more information

These conference reviews will take place every 3 – 6 weeks to see what is working well and where there needs to be more help given. If the plan is not being abided by, social services will take legal advice at a Legal Planning Meeting about what the next stage would be.

child protection

3. Final stage is Pre Proceedings/ Care Proceedings

At this stage, social services have enough concerns to meet the threshold to apply to the Family Courts for a Court Order. This is only done when social services have exhausted all other options. 

The Care Order will give social services shared Parental Responsibility with the parents to ensure the child is receiving good enough care or they will ask the Court to remove the child if there is no safe way the child can stay with the caregiver. 

During this period of time, social services will first look to place the child within the family if there is a safe place the child can go to, if there is no safe place in the family the child will likely go into foster care until it is safe for them to return home.

How can we help

Having social services involved in your family is very worrying and scary. You will be feeling a mix of emotions about the process and what is going to happen. It is important to seek legal advice and support from the beginning to guide you through the process. 

We have a wealth of experience helping parents with social services so please do not hesitate to call if we can help your family.