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3.1 Child in Need Practice Guidance


This chapter does not apply to children who are the subject of a Child Protection Plan. Where the child is subject to a Child Protection Plan, this will be drawn up in outline at the Initial Child Protection Conference and in detail at the Core Group meeting(s). It will be reviewed by a Child Protection Review Conference. Please see the Local Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures in relation to the implementation of the Child Protection Plan.

For children who are in receipt of Short Breaks, see also the Short Breaks Procedure.


This chapter was updated in October 2019. Amendments were made throughout in line with local practice.


  1. Child in Action Meetings
  2. Child in Need Plans
  3. Reviews of Child in Need Plans

1. Child in Action Meetings

Child Action Meetings will follow a Children and Families Assessment, where the assessment has concluded that a package of family support is required to meet the child's needs under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989.

The Child Action Meeting provides an opportunity for a child and his or her parents / carers, together with key agencies, to identify and agree the package of services required and to develop the Child in Need Plan working together to improve outcomes for children.

Where possible, all Child Action Meetings should be attended by the child (depending on age and understanding), parents / carers and those agencies whose potential / actual contribution is recommended as an outcome of an assessment.

The relevant social worker should discuss potential attendees for the Child Action Meeting and they should meet with the child and the parents / carers prior to arrangements being made for the meeting.

Child action meetings should occur in intervals of 6 weekly periods, this is to ensure that the multi-agency group of professionals and families involved can keep a regular review of the plan.

The social worker is responsible for convening the meeting and arranging invitations. The social worker is responsible for ensuring that all address and personal details are up to date and correct to ensure all information sent is to the right addresses / people.

The meeting should be chaired by the lead professional, usually the social worker or social work manager if the case is open to social care. Professionals attending the meeting will be responsible for recording their own minutes of the meeting as their own record. A copy of the up to date child in need plan will be circulated within 10 days of the meeting happening.

A record of the meeting will be taken by the social worker in the form of the child’s plan (see Documents Library), this will ensure that the actions identified can be recorded and reviewed, this plan will also be able to capture progress made.

The plan and any updated information should always be discussed with children and families prior to any meeting so that families are prepared. Direct work should be undertaken with children to ensure their wishes and feelings in respect of the plan and these should be clearly recorded alongside the parents’ / carers’ views.

2. Child in Need Plans

A Child in Need Plan will be developed and reviewed in the Child Action Meeting.

Most Child in Need Plans will envisage that Staying Safe intervention will end within twelve months. However, some children and families may require longer term support.

The Child in Need Plan must be SMART and identify any resources or services that will be needed to achieve the planned outcomes within the agreed timescales and who is responsible for which action and the time-scale involved.

In particular, the Child in Need Plan should:

  • Describe the identified developmental needs of the child, and any services required;
  • Include specific, achievable, child-focused outcomes intended to promote and safeguard the welfare of the child;
  • Include realistic strategies and specific actions to achieve the planned outcomes;
  • Ensure the plan is child focused;
  • Include a contingency plan to be followed if circumstances change significantly and require prompt action;
  • Included timescales that are not too short or unachievable;
  • Not be dependent on resources which are known to be scarce or unavailable;
  • Identify the Lead Professional and his or her responsibilities;
  • Identify frequency of visits to the child which should be 4 weekly and must not exceed 6 weekly, see Statutory Visits: Good Practice Guidance for Children Subject to Child Protection Plans Procedure;
  • Clearly identify the roles and responsibilities of other professionals and family members, including the nature and frequency of contact by professionals with children and family members;
  • Lay down points at which progress will be reviewed and the means by which it will be judged.

The Chair of the Child Action Meeting is responsible for the distribution of the Child in Need Plan and the minutes. A copy of the Child in Need Plan should be provided to the parents, child (if old enough) and the agencies or other professionals involved in the provision of services under the Plan.

The Lead Professional will be responsible, with other key partner agencies, for implementing the plan, on which it will be identified who will take responsibility for making referrals to appropriate agencies for services as described in the plan.

Where it becomes necessary to make minor adjustments to the plan and services provided, any changes to the plan must be made in consultation with the parents and the child (where appropriate) and key professionals from other agencies.

3. Reviews of Child in Need Plans

The Plan will be reviewed in the Child Action Meeting which will be conducted at 6 weekly intervals, unless there are exceptional circumstances where timescales can be longer. Any exceptional circumstance must have oversight of the team manager and a clear rationale recorded on the child’s file, as to why the meeting has been delayed. All endeavours must ensure where possible meetings can go ahead though.

If there are significant changes in the family circumstances, an early Child Action Meeting should take place.

Any child protection or safeguarding issues which arise during the course of a Child in Need Plan must be responded to in line with Local Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures.

The Review will usually be carried out by the Lead Professional, who should invite or seek the views of the child, parents and any service providers. The responsible team will administer all Child in Need Reviews. 

The Review will generally take place within a Child Action Meeting, unless the manager agrees otherwise. The Lead Professional (Social Worker) or line manager will usually chair the meeting. If the case is not allocated, the manager of the responsible team must undertake the review or arrange for it to be undertaken on his/her behalf.

The purpose of the Review is to ensure that the services provided are contributing to the achievement of the objectives within the time-scales set and the child's outcomes are improving.

Where it is proposed that a complex package of support being provided under a Child in Need Plan should continue beyond 12 months there should be a specific review chaired by the manager of the responsible team or request can be made for an IRO to chair the review. Exceptions to this will be those cases where the plan acknowledges the need for longer term support, for example in relation to children who meet the criteria for a service in relation to a disability. The rationale for this longer-term intervention should be clearly recorded on the child’s file. All decisions made should be recorded on the child’s electronic record, together with reasons, and dated.

The outcome of a Child Action Meeting will be:

  1. That the child is no longer a Child in Need requiring Children's Social Care Services intervention, which will result in a recommendation to the team manager that the case be closed although the child may continue to receive services from a single agency or under a multi-agency plan not involving Children's Social Care. The case will therefore step down to an identified lead professional, who must be identified and named in the meeting. The manager and or social worker should record clearly on the child’s file the reason for step down decision and the ongoing actions to be continued by the lead professional;
  2. In some cases a lead professional may not need to be identified and the child may just continue to access universal services, again this should clearly be recorded on the child file, the rationale for closure;
  3. That the child continues to be a Child in Need requiring the same level of services, resulting in the continuing provision of services and minor amendment, as necessary, of the Child in Need Plan;
  4. That the child appears to be at risk of suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm, resulting in the need for a Strategy Discussion / Meeting and possible Section 47 Enquiry.

Where the outcome of the Review is an amendment to the Child in Need Plan, the Lead Professional should circulate a copy of the amended Plan to the child, parents, and other agencies / professionals involved in providing the services set out in the amended Plan, including any new services to be provided.