What are Child Protection Plans and How do they Protect Children from Harm?

What are Child Protection Plans and How do they Protect Children from Harm?

As parents, any hint that our children could be vulnerable to harm or abuse can come as both a huge shock and be a source of enormous worry.

In some circumstances – such as in family homes where there is a history of violence, alcohol, or substance abuse – providing a safe environment for a child may not be as easy as it should be. If that is the case, a child protection plan can be an incredibly useful tool to ensure that the situation changes for the better, and a safe environment is created for the child.

What is the purpose of a child protection plan?

A child protection plan is a framework created by social services. Its purpose is to address any issues that undermine the health, safety, and wellbeing of a child where there is a threat of harm or abuse. The overarching purpose of the plan is to address those areas of concern and create a safer and more suitable environment which meets the needs of the child while safeguarding them from the risk of harm.

How are child protection plans developed and implemented?

Child protection plans are developed as a result of social services becoming involved with a family.

Social services will first assess the child’s situation to determine the risk of harm or abuse the child is facing. This assessment will include speaking with the child and other related persons such as teachers, family members and medical professionals.

If that assessment concludes there is a risk of harm, it will fall into one of four areas:

  • Neglect
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse

The child protection plan will be developed to address the area (or areas) of harm the child is facing. It will outline the risks the child is confronting and specify the measures which should be taken to prevent further harm being inflicted.

At its core, the plan aims to ensure the wellbeing of the child, address any vulnerabilities, and ensure the best interests of the child are met. In order to prevent the risk of further harm, the plan will not just set out what measures should be enacted. It will also specify why that action should be taken, who must take that action and when that action should be completed by.

As well as charting a clear course of action, the plan will assign specific responsibilities to stakeholders (such as parents, teachers and medical professionals involved with the child). In developing the plan, thought will also be given to how progress will be measured and at what intervals progress reviews should take place.

A contingency plan will also be included. This will specify what should happen if the child’s situation changes dramatically and immediate action is called for. One example of when a contingency plan being required is if there is an escalation in the abuse or threat level facing the child.

At the implementation stage, a copy of the plan will be given to the parents and child. The lead social worker assigned to the case will be responsible for conducting regular visits with the child and monitoring overall progress. If he or she feels the plan is not having the desired outcome and the child’s situation isn’t improving, they may recommend further action be taken.

What measures are included in a child protection plan to safeguard children?

The child protection plan sets out a clear strategy to improve the child’s situation and reduce their exposure to harm. It defines the risks the child is facing, specifies what measures should be taken to reduce those risks and clearly assigns roles and responsibilities to parents and other professionals to better safeguard the child.

By making it clear what is expected, what actions must be taken, by who and at what point, the plan offers a roadmap towards a more acceptable, healthier, and safer environment.

Depending on the child’s needs, the plan will also detail additional necessary resources and support which should be made available to the family to ensure safety and wellbeing. This could entail interventions such as arranging therapy for the child and applicable family members, or additional medical or educational services being offered.

How does a child protection plan ensure ongoing monitoring and support for at risk children?

Under the terms of the plan, the lead social worker will have face-to-face contact with the child on a regular basis. That person will also be responsible for reviewing progress and reporting back on progress made. The plan will detail how progress should be judged and how frequently those assessments will be carried out. It also allows for the lead social worker to escalate the case if risks persist.

Under the plan, regular meetings will be scheduled between the lead social worker, the child, their family and other involved professionals. Those meetings will usually take place around once per month and give everyone a chance to discuss progress and suggest changes to the plan in line with current circumstances.

It’s important to seek legal advice as soon as social services become involved with your family. Our experienced, empathetic team of family solicitors can provide support and guidance throughout this period to ensure the best outcome for your child and wider family unit. You can speak with us in confidence.

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Shaoli has been a solicitor at NLS for over two years, transitioning from a background in criminal law to full-time family law. Her experience as a Criminal Duty Solicitor has equipped her with unique skills that are invaluable in her current role.
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