Section 2: Developing and writing the plan
How should a child's or young person's plan be developed?
There are a number of ways to develop a plan.
- Some parents or children and young people may have a clear view about the issues needing to be tackled. Others may need help with this.
- There should be active partnerships between professionals and families in developing a plan. These need to take account of relationships within the family, especially where domestic abuse may be an issue.
- Family group conferencing or restorative meetings are ways to ensure that those who are most affected are heard. These are processes which support family members in working together with each other and with others involved in order to form a plan for the child.
- A few children and young people may need more detailed or specialist assessments before action can be planned. This work should be proportionate to the risk and needs (that is, suited to the degree of risk and need involved).
Who writes the child's or young person's plan?
- At present, the local authority (generally social work) is responsible for providing reports to the Children's Hearing. However, other people can also write reports to the Children's Hearing on the child or young person.
- Normally, it is the person best placed to do so who writes the child's or young person's plan.
- In some cases the law already requires certain people to write plans. Agencies must ensure that these legal obligations are reflected in each child or young person's plan. Further work may be required to make sure that current statutory planning arrangements are integrated with the unified planning approach proposed here. This work will also identify whether there are legislative barriers which prevent this unified approach.
- Everyone involved can take part in writing the plan - children or young people, families or professionals.
- The headings used in the plan should allow people to record it in language suited to their needs.
- Where a child's or young person's needs are complex, or there are a number of agencies or professionals involved, one individual (a lead person) will need to co-ordinate the involvement of others and make sure there is a written plan. Professionals and the family should think about who this should be. They should bear in mind the needs of the child or young person, his or her relationship with various professionals and the complexity of the co-ordination task.
How are a child's or young person's needs and risks to be assessed?
- Everyone working with children and young people should think about each one as a whole person.
- The assessment triangle on page 3 shows what is important to the development of all children and young people. The triangle can structure the thinking and the gathering and analysis of information. This will guide discussion and decisions and make sure the right action is taken for the child or young person.
When is an assessment needed?
- An assessment is needed whenever people need a better understanding of the child's or young person's needs and risks in order to be able to plan to improve matters.
- To complete the picture of what is happening in the child's or young person's world. Anyone involved in developing the plan, including the child or young person and their family and any carers, may have something important to say.
- All planning and action should be based on an assessment of need and risks. Most parents and professionals assess and act intuitively, moment by moment, and will not record their actions or the reasons for action (assessment).
- When a child or young person moves on (for example, to a new school or service), the assessment should cover what he or she needs to manage the move successfully.
- A multi-agency assessment and plan (involving two or more organisations) should only be needed when:
- the agency that first identifies a concern is unable to resolve it without the help of another; and
- the child's or young person's life, needs or risks are sufficiently complex or significant to require this co-ordination of efforts.
- As new information is sought or becomes available, the assessment of needs and risks may have to change.
When is a recorded assessment needed?
- A recorded assessment is needed when anyone has to stop and think about what they or others should do next.
- A fuller, recorded assessment is likely to be needed when:
- the child's or young person's situation is complex;
- the parent or the professional does not have the whole picture of the child or young person; or
- the 'moment by moment' decisions do not seem to be improving matters.
- When a child or young person is exposed to serious risk or poses a serious risk to others. The greater the risk, the greater the detail needed to manage the risk. The plan should describe what those risks are, what is likely to trigger them and in what circumstances they might happen.
- There are often several points of view on the strengths, protections, vulnerabilities, pressures and risks involved. Recording these will help to measure the impact on the child's development, behaviour and wellbeing. They will help to identify the child's and family's needs and assess how they can cope with change.
Should I use an assessment tool?
- Specific assessment tools may be helpful (for example, speech and language testing, assessing psychological development and milestones, parenting capacity and motivation, and risk of serious harm).
- It is unlikely that a single tool will cover all aspects of a child's life. However, children should not be subjected to a number of different assessment tools or approaches. If a tool is used it should be one that encourages the participation of children and families in giving and understanding information about themselves.
- Where a child's needs are complex, professionals will have to decide together which tool might best help in each individual case. They must also decide how to combine the analysis of all their work into one assessment of needs and risks.