Getting the best service from statutory agencies
The purpose of this guide is to explain the role of the statutory agencies when a child is being sexually exploited. It is designed to equip you to claim the best possible service for you and your child.
Local Safeguarding Children Boards
Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) are the key system in every area of the country for organisations to come together to agree on how they will cooperate with one another to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. The purpose of this partnership working is to hold each other to account and to ensure safeguarding children remains high on the agenda across their region.
Membership of the LSCB normally includes:
• Local authorities, including district councils
• The police
• The probation service
• NHS bodies
• Organisations (currently the Connexions Service) providing services under the Learning and Skills Act 2000, s.114
• Youth offending teams
• Governors/directors of prisons and young offender institutions
• Directors of secure training centres
• The British Transport Police.
Every LSCB should have a child sexual exploitation protocol in place and work closely with partnership organisations including voluntary and community services, such as Barnardos. Ideally, all LSCBs should have specialist CSE protocols in place, but this has yet to be fully implemented at the national level. The service you receive therefore will be mostly determined by your geographic location.
Children’s social care
If you think that your child is being or has been sexually exploited then it is important to contact children’s social care.
The powers and duties of what children’s social care must do if your child is being sexually exploited are set out in:
• Children Act 1989 (section 17, section 47)
• Children Act 2004
• Children and Young Persons Act 2008
• Safeguarding Young People and Children from Child Sexual Exploitation, Department of Health Guidance 2009
What happens once you have contacted social care?
If there are concerns about a child’s welfare, social care need to undertake an assessment and decide which interventions need to be made. In practice, children’s social care should work openly and collaboratively with you, unless doing so would place your child at risk of harm. They should listen to your views and share all relevant information with you.
The overview of procedures is a guide to what you can expect and shows what meetings you are entitled to attend. It is vital you are familiar with it in order to engage effectively with the authorities.
Overview of Different Stages
Information gathered, child’s needs and access to services identified. As a parent you should be included in this stage. Your child will also be spoken with.
Conducted if your child is identified as being ‘in need’ or there are ongoing concerns. If your child is deemed to be in need, social care will usually work closely with their school and conduct a Common Assessment Framework, typically referred to as a CAF. Parents should be fully involved in the process and be kept up to date through both oral and written communication. Translation and interpretation should be provided, if needed.
Carried out if your child is considered to be suffering or at risk of suffering significant harm. Led by children’s social care but involves police and other agencies (education, health, etc). You might not be invited to this discussion but in child sexual exploitation cases it is good practice for you to be present, so it’s best to prepare your case in advance.
Initial Child Protection Conference
Multi-agency meeting organised by children’s social care which is attended by the family and all the professionals already involved with your child and sometimes others, e.g. GP, teacher, police. The aim is for everyone present to look at all the relevant information about your child’s circumstances and, if they consider your child is likely to suffer significant harm in the future, they must come up with plans to make sure your child is kept safe and well cared for.
Children’s social care should give you and other family members who are involved information about local independent advice and advocacy agencies, and you should be allowed to bring a friend or advocate (who may be a solicitor).
You may be excluded in exceptional circumstances.
The conference will decide whether your child should be the subject of a Child Protection Plan, as outlined under section 47 of the Children’s Act 1989.
You and the professionals will work together to develop a child protection plan. You are entitled to a written copy. Keep this somewhere safe, with photocopies as a back-up.
Child Protection Review Conference
These usually take place every 6 months, in order to review the Child Protection Plan. You are entitled to attend this meeting.
Practical tips for good partnership relations with social care
Be organised. Keep a specific log of all telephone conversations, email and postal correspondence and face-to-face meetings. Record all professionals’ names, their job titles and dates and times. Keep notes of your meetings and record agreed action points and timeframes for achieving them, if they are made.
Be assertive, yet courteous. Dealing with professionals who work within a bureaucratic institution can be frustrating when you are under an enormous amount of personal stress. Individuals may cancel appointments due to illness, or be moved onto different cases or simply move jobs. Pace Parent Support Workers, your befriender and other parents you may encounter through Pace are the best people with which to share your frustrations and anxieties. It is in your interest to work as cooperatively and courteously as possible with agencies.
For further information on how to improve the service you receive from social care, see If Things Go Wrong