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1.2.2 Children in Need Framework/Thresholds for Children's Social Care Intervention


This Guidance should be read in conjunction with Trafford Safeguarding Children Child Protection Procedures and Trafford CAF and Case Co-ordinator Guidance (Early Family Support).


  1. Introduction
  2. Definition of a Child in Need (Complex and Additional Needs)
  3. Threshold Criteria Model
  4. Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families
  5. Supporting a Child in Need at Level 3 with Social Care Involvement
  6. Child in Need Meetings and Support
  7. General Guidance on Child in Need Reviews
  8. Closure of Child in Need

    Appendix 1: Deciding when to Refer

    Appendix 2: Threshold Guidance - Parent and Carer's Capacity

    Appendix 3: Glossary of Terms

1. Introduction

This Guidance applies to children and young people who have been assessed as Children in Need under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 and should be used alongside Universal service provision,’ Early Family Support Threshold Guidance’ and ‘Trafford Safeguarding Children Procedures’ to form a continuum of support for children and families at all levels of need.

continuum diagram

It is the duty of every Local Authority to assist families who need help in bringing up their children as laid down in legislation. Part III of the Children Act 1989 is the basis in law for the provision of local services to children in need. Children in this respect are defined as young people under the age of 18 years (s105).

It shall be the general duty of every Local Authority:

  • To safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need; and
  • So far as is consistent with that duty, to promote the upbringing of such children  by their families, by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children’s needs.

The Children Act 1989 places a specific duty on agencies to co-operate in the interests of children in need  under Section 17. The Children Act 2004 builds on and strengthens the framework set out in the Children Act 1989. Section 11 requires a range of organisations to make arrangements ensuring that their functions, and services provided on their behalf, are carried out in a way that safeguards and promotes the welfare of children.

Several key principles  underpinning the Children Act 1989 are found in Part III of the Act:

  • It is the duty of the State thorough Local Authorities to both safeguard and promote the welfare of vulnerable children;
  • It is in the children’s interests to be brought up in their own families wherever possible;
  • Whilst it is parents’ responsibility to bring up their children, they may need assistance from time to time to do so;  they should be able to call upon services, including accommodation (under s20 of the Children Act 1989), from or with the help of the Local Authority when they are required.

2. Definition of a Child in Need (Complex and Additional Needs)

A child should be taken to be in need if:

  • He/she is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or to have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision for him/her of services by a local authority;
  • His/her health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired without the provision for him/her of such services;
  • He/she is disabled.
    (Section 17(10), Children Act 1989)

The “family” in relation to such a child, includes any person who has parental responsibility for the child and any other person with whom he has been living.

The critical factors to be taken into account in deciding whether a child is in need under the Children Act 1989 are:

  • What will happen to a child’s health and development without services;
  • The likely effect services will have on the child’s standard of health and development;
  • Children requiring intensive Health, Education and Social Care support, due to complex and additional needs which meet the Threshold Criteria found in ‘Short Break Duty statement 2011-2012’ are managed by the Complex and Additional Needs Team at higher level 3 and level 4.

Determining who is in need, what those needs are and how services will effect outcomes for children requires professional judgement by children’s social care together with partner agencies  working with children and their families.

The duties and powers of the Local Authority to assess the needs of a child and to provide services are outlined in Part III of the Children Act 1989.

3. Threshold Criteria Model

Click here to view the Trafford Threshold Criteria Model diagram

See Appendix 2: Threshold Guidance - Parent and Carer's Capacity

Trafford Safeguarding Children Partnership (TSCP) has a defined Threshold Criteria. This Threshold Criteria is a means of providing needs-led, equitable access to services whilst ensuring compliance with statutory duties to children and their families. The Children Act 2004 places a responsibility on professionals working outside of Children’s Social Care to support children and intervene early in order to prevent a child’s needs from increasing in severity or complexity wherever possible. The Threshold Criteria should assist professionals in deciding if / when a child’s level of need is best supported by involving Children Social Care.

The overarching Threshold Criteria forms Appendix 2: Threshold Guidance - Parent and Carer's Capacity of this policy. 

  • Tier 1: Children whose needs are met by universal services; for example GP, school or health visitor are managed at Tier 1;
  • Tier 2: Some children have specialist input by a single agency such as speech therapy, physiotherapy or housing and these children are managed at Tier 2;
  • Lower Tier 3: As the complexity of a child’s needs increase then reference should be made to the Early Family Support Threshold Guidance and a Common Assessment Framework (CAF) completed.  The CAF acts as the supporting document for a child as the complexity increases through specialist interventions at Tier 3;
  • Upper Tier 3: This level includes those children whose needs cannot be met without the involvement of Children’s Social Care (Children Act 1989). The Threshold criteria should assist agencies to decide when a referral to the Multi Agency Referral and Assessment Team (MARAT), see Appendix 1: Deciding when to Refer;
  • Tier 4: This includes children for whom adoption is the plan, those who are in the care system, children subject to Child Protection Plans and those who are in the criminal justice system as well as those with the highest level of complex and additional needs. At this level children’s social care will be the lead agency and the threshold is met for statutory involvement of agencies.

4. Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families

The Assessment Framework is an established systematic approach to the process of gathering information about children who may be in need and their families. The Framework is represented by the following diagram (Department of Health 2000)

Assessment Chart

Caption: section 4 text
4.1 All children/young people who receive Tier 3 Multi Agency support from Trafford Children and Young People’s Services should have their own individual plan tailored to meeting their own specific needs. All plans should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant to the assessed needs of the child/young person and time related).

A range of recognised additional assessment tools may also be used by professionals working with families to inform their decision making. These include models such as the CAF (Common Assessment Framework), ‘Graded Care Profile’ and a range of assessment tools devised by Bruce Thornton which are located on Trafford’s Integrated Children's System.

Child in Need Assessments should detail:

  • If the child is in need and what the specific needs are;
  • Their level of vulnerability;
  • How their needs can be met (which resources or professional services can best meet the identified needs);
  • Which of their needs should be met as a priority;
  • Clear outcomes / objectives identified for the child / young person;
  • Appropriate timescales to achieve objectives/ outcomes;
  • Dates to review the CiN plan.

The Assessment Framework sets out some guidance for practice in developing CIN plans with children/young people and their families:

  • Wherever possible they should be drawn up in agreement with the child/young person and key family members and their commitment to the plan be secured;
  • Objectives should be realistic and timescales not too short or unachievable;
  • Plans should not be dependent on resources which are known to be scarce or unavailable;
  • The plan must maintain a focus on the child, even though help may be provided to a number of family members as part of the plan;
  • There should be a clear statement on the plan about when and how it will be reviewed.
4.4 The analysis, judgement and decisions of the Assessments will form the basis of the plan. The complexity of the child/young person's needs will determine its scope and detail. The different circumstances under which the assessment has been carried out will also determine the form in which it is recorded and the status of the plan.

5. Supporting a Child in Need at Level 3 with Social Care Involvement

Caption: section 5 text
5.1 Within tier 3 there are a small group of children who may require a referral to children’s social care via multi agency referral and assessment team. (MARAT).
5.2 Making a decision about whether to involve social care at tier 3 is complex and requires a degree of professional judgement. The decision should be taken at the family support meeting and the case co-coordinator should also discuss with their line manager.
5.3 Appendix 1: Deciding when to Refer gives detailed guidance as to when a referral to children’s social care should ALWAYS be made, when it should be considered and when it should not be considered.
5.4 Appendix 2: Threshold Guidance - Parent and Carer's Capacity also provides more detailed information around areas of need, protective factors and examples of risk assessment tools that social workers may use, at social care tier 3 and tier 4.
5.5 If a child is thought to be at risk of Significant Harm or is suffering Significant Harm (safeguarding concerns) a referral to MARAT should not be delayed.
5.6 In cases where there are safeguarding concerns requiring a Section 47 Investigation the case will remain with MARAT until the S47 is completed (see The Greater Manchester Safeguarding Partnership Procedures Manual, Managing Cases Where there are Concerns about a Child’s Safety and Welfare - Procedures).
5.7 In cases where concerns arise within a family already open as CiN a multi-agency decision may be taken to hold a Strategy Meeting with a view to escalating these concerns (see The Greater Manchester Safeguarding Partnership Procedures Manual, Managing Cases Where there are Concerns about a Child’s Safety and Welfare - Procedures).
5.8 In cases where there are no immediate safeguarding issues following an Assessment by the Multi- Agency Referral and Assessment Team (MARAT) and/or the Complex and Additional Needs Team (CAN) and where it is agreed that the child is ‘in need’ the case may be transferred to the Area Family Support Team or remain with the CAN Team for completion of a Assessment. A CAF should have been completed if the family have received a service from partner agencies and the information previously gathered should form part of the referral.
5.9 Where the decision is made that there is a need for longer term social care support for a child in need, the Area Family Support Team or Complex and Additional Needs  Team will complete a Assessment within 35 working days and complete an Initial Child in Need Plan.
5.10 The allocated social worker will ensure that the Initial Child in Need Plan is implemented and coordinate the Assessment which will lead to the multi-agency Child in Need Plan. This must all be recorded in ICS (Integrated Children’s System) and sent to the Social Care line manager for authorisation. The Child in Need Plan will be circulated to all relevant parties including the child /young person if appropriate, parents/carers and members of the multi-agency team.
5.11 The allocated social worker is responsible for inputting all contacts onto ICS, ensuring that the child is seen regularly as agreed in the Child In Need Plan and recording this as a Child in Need contact on ICS. Partner agencies involved in the process should follow their own record keeping guidance.
5.12 The allocated social worker is responsible for ensuring that there are regular Child in Need meetings which include the child/young person where appropriate, parents/carers and multi-agency professionals involved with the family. The allocated worker is responsible for updating the Child In Need Plan within ICS. Partner agencies should follow their own record keeping guidance.

6. Child in Need Meetings and Support

Caption: Child in Need Meetings and Support
6.1 The Child in Need (CiN) meetings will be arranged as appropriate but the initial meeting must take place within 15 working days of the transfer of the case from MARAT to the Area Family Support Team.
6.2 At this Initial CIN meeting the Initial CIN plan will be formulated.  Review CiN meetings should be held to assess, analyse and further develop the CiN plan.
6.3 Timing of CiN Meetings. The first review should be held within 3 months of the initial meeting and subsequent reviews at no more than 6 monthly intervals.

These timescales are a minimum requirement and should be flexible to ensure the child’s needs are planned and met in a timely way.

Caption: timescales
Meeting Timing/Frequency Objectives
Initial CiN meeting following transfer Within 15 working days To assess, analyse and formulate/further develop the CiN Plan.  Can be sooner depending on need.
First CiN Review meeting Within 3 months of initial meeting To review, analyse and assess progress and check appropriateness of the plan. Can be sooner depending on need.
Subsequent CiN Review meetings Within 6 months (and at least every six months thereafter) To further review, analyse and assess progress, check appropriateness of the plan.  These meetings must be robustly chaired to reduce the risk of drift. Can be sooner.

Caption: section 6 text
6.4 The notes of all CiN Meetings will be recorded within the Case Notes on ICS. Copies of the meeting notes will be sent to family, children/ young person where appropriate and all attendees within 5 working days. The CIN plan should be updated and recorded following each review meeting.
6.5 The CiN Review will be chaired by the relevant Senior Practitioner, Area Team Leader or Operational Manager or in the case of children with complex and additional needs by the allocated social worker.

7. General Guidance on Child in Need Reviews

Caption: section 7 text
7.1 Reviewing the child/young person's progress and the effectiveness of services and other interventions is a continuous and essential part of work undertaken with children/young people and their families.
7.2 The purpose of the review is to evaluate the progress of the child/young person towards the plan's desired objectives or outcomes. The service provision will be evaluated in terms of its effectiveness in supporting or assisting the child/young person towards achieving the objectives or outcomes. On the basis of the review findings the child/young person's plan will be refined in order to achieve the optimal outcomes for his/her well-being.
7.3 When arranging meetings every effort should be made to encourage and enable family members to attend and participate. Particular consideration should be given to the time, venue, and any support that the family may require in respect of childcare or the financial costs of transport.
7.4 The child's Plan should be updated on ICS and reviewed at the meeting to include updates. If parent(s) were unable to attend the meeting the allocated worker should visit as soon as possible after the review meeting to gain their agreement to the review decisions and the actions/services to be provided.
7.5 The allocated worker should ensure that Child/Young Person's Plan is updated following the meeting in the child/young person's ICS record and enter all services/needs.
7.6 Child in need plans are multi-agency and therefore require all relevant agencies to share the responsibility for their implementation to ensure the best outcomes for children and their families.

8. Closure of Child in Need Cases

Caption: section 8 text
8.1 If the involvement of Children’s Social Care with a child and their family is coming to an end after a period of support then the CiN process can be used to identify what the ongoing needs of the child will be and which agencies should be involved in meeting them.
8.2 All members of the multi-agency CiN meeting and the allocated Social Worker must consider and liaise with the practitioners that they believe will be best placed to meet the family and child’s continuing needs at a lower level of intervention.
8.3 They will then invite these practitioners (if they are not already involved) to the final CiN meeting to agree jointly with the family what the new arrangements and plan will be once Social Care are no longer involved.
8.4 This must be done with the child and family’s consent. It is expected that at the meeting the role of the care coordinator will be identified.
8.5 The care coordinator will record that a ‘Team Around the Family’/ Family Support assessment has begun and they will manage the work going forward and children’s social care will close the case.
8.6 To avoid the need for the child and family to tell their story again the existing Assessment and/ or Child in Need Plan will be shared and used as the basis for the ongoing support. The Care coordinator will therefore only complete the family’s personal details on to the CAF documentation. However they will still need to complete the consent agreement and the action plan with the family. The action plan must make reference to the Child In Need Plan / Assessment.
8.7 Prior to closure by Social Care, the allocated worker must ensure that all recording have been completed, that a Closure Summary is prepared and that the ICS record is accurate.
8.8 The case file should be checked by the supervising Manager signed and approval given for the case to be closed
8.9 Letters should be sent to parents/ carers, child/young person (where appropriate) and all professionals involved informing them that the case has been closed to social care.
8.10 The Closure Summary and closure letters should be attached to the child/young person's ICS record and placed on the child/young person's case file. Social Care support should be ended on the ICS record.
8.11 The Social Care Manager has the responsibility for ensuring that the case is closed on the ICS record by ending the key social worker involvement.


Appendix 1: Deciding when to Refer

Appendix 2: Threshold Guidance - Parent and Carer's Capacity

Appendix 3: Glossary of Terms