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Principal Social Worker Brief – August 2020 Contingency Plans

Category: Children, General

Bucks Council LogoWhat is contingency planning?

A contingency plan is a plan that is agreed with the child, family and partner agencies should a crisis occur. It enables all parties to understand the actions that we and others will take if required.

A robust contingency plan is a way of supporting children and families to increase their safety and to know where they can go for help. It can help plan in advance for the possibility of violence or abuse.

Why do we need a contingency plan?

Professionals and families need to be aware when certain situations will lead to major concerns. For example: A vulnerable single parent who manages on their own, but is prone to bringing unsuitable new partners into the home, who may abuse the children in the family. Another example is a parent with mental health issues who when stable is able to look after themselves, but when unstable can deteriorate rapidly and become a danger to themselves and their children.

A Contingency Plan should be recorded on each child’s plan and should be kept up to date to take into account the child’s changing needs and circumstances. The child, family and all relevant professionals need to be involved in agreeing and implementing the contingency plan. The plan should be specific to each child and their circumstances, the plan should be reviewed and updated if risks escalate/deescalate or if new risks are identified. It is important that the plan is written in a way so that the child and family understand its purpose.

The Contingency plan should focus on the needs of the child and what actions need to be taken to keep them safe from significant harm – naming a process such as an LPM does not keep the child safe.

Contingency Plans need to be shared and agreed with the Child, their family and partner agencies.

What should a Contingency plan include?

  • Consider how the parent’s vulnerability could affect the child i.e does the vulnerability affect the motivation, ability to care for self and the child and/or the ability to prioritise? What strategies can be put in place to support the child – is their another adult that could support the parent? Are there breakfast/afterschool clubs that will ensure the child is fed? Is there a professional in the network who could provide the child with information about the parents illness which will aide them to understand when their parent might need professional help? Have we identified safe alternative carers?
  • Professionals should always consider how changes in circumstances for a parent/carer and their child will be managed. The plan should clearly record care arrangements in the event that parents or carers are admitted to hospital, for example, or actions to be taken should a parent’s mental health deteriorate.
  • For children with additional needs you should consider what additional support/services maybe required if their health deteriorates or their carers are no longer able to provide the level of care required.
  • For children who go missing or at risk of exploitation you should consider and agree how long before they are formally reported missing, what actions will be taken by whom before calling the police? Who will be responsible for informing the professional network that the child is missing.

Contingency planning is a vital part of the dynamic risk assessment process. It ensures we have a clear understanding of the level of risk to the child and a clear plan in place to reduce the risks and ultimately protect children from significant harm.

This brief should be read in conjunction with the Safety Planning Brief from March 2020

Sandra Carnall, Principal Social Worker

August 2020