Step Up / Step Down Protocol
Step Down – Step Down enables professionals from Children's Social Care, Early Help Services and a range of other partners to support the child/family intervention and plan as they move from requiring statutory, safeguarding and specialist support to targeted and universal services and interventions. Early Help professionals from a range of services and sectors are crucial to the step down process as they enable continued targeted and universal support for identified cases once statutory services step out and close.
Step Down is an extremely important function to ensure that children and families receive consistent, seamless support, at the right time and from a range of professionals and partners across the Borough. When children/families have received a statutory intervention and have progressed positively, it is important that the progress made is sustained and that children and families do not feel that they are being passed from 'service to service'.Step Up - is when a child/family needs are escalating and outcomes are not being met despite planned intervention from Universal and Early Help Services. If there is an immediate child protection concern, then partners (and members of the public) should contact First Response and this should be followed up with a MARF as appropriate.
2.1 Step Down from Children's Social Care to Early Help (including partners)
When concerns affecting the child/family no longer require statutory involvement it is important that good progress is sustained. When Children's Social Care intends to step out of a case, it is important to discuss with the child, family and professionals involved to agree if a step down to Early Help services would be beneficial (this includes schools, health, VCI groups etc.) The social worker should gain consent from the child/family for Early Help Services to continue the plan and seek agreement on who will take on the Lead Professional role.
Following the implementation of the new ICT system Liquid Logic (LCS and EHM) the step down process can now take place at Team Manager level with cases moving seamlessly between Early Help and Children's Social Care. This process change has to be underpinned by GOOD communication between Managers in locality and duty to ensure that robust challenge is applied as required and a joint agreement on the continued support is reached with clarity around outstanding actions.
To support the above process being embedded (following the previously required robust panel process) weekly step down/transfer meetings occur in localities between Early Help and Children's Social Care Locality Team Managers. Duty Manager's should attend these where possible, with an allocated Manager identified for North, South and Central.
If Duty Managers are unable to attend these meetings then they MUST ensure they discuss any step downs to the Early Help Service with either the receiving Manager, Early Help Duty Manager or Triage Manager.
If the case is to step down to a partner agency, then the social worker (and Manager) should agree this with the partner agency and identify who the lead professional will be. These cases should still be processed through the step down function with clarity around the new lead agency and named lead professional.
Once the decision is made that Children's Social Care will step out, (and agreement from a Manager given) the case should be submitted via the Step Down function in LCS. The transfer form should be completed fully and up to date assessments and plans (where in place) should be shared that contain clear actions defined for the new Lead Professional.
Following agreement by the Early Help Manager to accept the case, the social worker that is stepping out holds responsibility to carry out a joint visit with the new Early Help Lead Professional. Following the joint visit (which should take place within 7 working days) a letter should be sent to the family from the social worker to confirm arrangements.
The Early Help Lead Professional should then start to work with the child/family immediately following the actions identified and work to transfer the Social Work Assessment to the Early Help Assessment within 35 working days. The Early Help Lead Professional should ensure that key actions are implemented and that the assessment process remains seamless and new concerns are discussed, addressed and escalated appropriately at TAF or review meetings.
2.2 Step Down from Early Help to Universal Provision
When issues have been addressed satisfactorily and the child/family no longer has additional need, the Early Help Episode and Assessment should always be closed. An exit questionnaire should be completed. This should be monitored for a period of up to 6 months via 'check in' phone calls by the lead professional stepping down to monitor progress and be alert if it needs re-escalating. (2 x 3 month blocks recommended 'good practice').
2.3 Step up to Early Help from Universal Provision
Occasionally, some children can require support for a single need; (for example NEET or basic speech and language needs); this issue in isolation doesn't usually require a full Early Help Assessment. If however, you consider that a child/family needs are growing and amount to more than one single need, it may be appropriate to discuss this and think about completing an Early Help Assessment with the family. At this point, either the Early Help Assessment and plan should be completed and submitted centrally or a request for support from Early Help Services can be made where appropriate to ensure that children and families get help at the earliest possible time as problems begin to emerge.
It is important that when professionals have concerns about children that they speak to parents/carers and the children about those concerns and also that these concerns are shared and visible to appropriate professionals. This is one of the reasons why it is important to log Early Help Assessments in one system so that they are visible centrally; all existing assessments and new Early Help Assessments should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2.4 Step Up to Children's Social Care from Universal or Early Help
Concerns of a child protection nature should be phoned through to First Response immediately. If you are a partner agency and unsure whether needs are reaching the requirement for statutory intervention you should call First Response for information and advice on the following number: 01709 336080. It is important when escalating to Children's Social Care that you discuss and explain this with parents/carers unless this would result in placing somebody at further risk.
2.5 Step Up Internally Early Help Service Only
The step up process is NOT yet configured correctly in Liquid Logic so the Step Up to CSC Process in EHM SHOULD NOT be used.
Where the Early Help Teams are the Lead professional and the concerns are immediate child protection then frontline staff should alert their line manager (or deputy/duty manager) The Early Help Manager will discuss with First Response and once an agreement has been reached with a MASH Manager that a case can be stepped up, the Early Help Manager will speak to a First Response Officer in MASH and they will create a new Social Care contact on behalf of Early Help. (These discussions should start to follow a Signs of Safety Approach to encourage embedding of the approach with the 4 domains covered).
Where the Early Help Teams are the Lead professional and the concerns are enough to step up to statutory services but are not immediate child protection, then frontline staff should raise their concerns with their immediate line manager in the first instance. The most recent Early Help Assessment, TAF Minutes, supporting case notes and any additional evidence should then be shared with The Early Help Manager and locality Safeguarding Team Manager for discussion and to seek advice, joint visit and or attendance at next TAF. (These discussions should start to follow a Signs of Safety Approach to encourage embedding of the approach with the 4 domains covered). Once the Locality Early Help Manager and Locality Safeguarding Manager are in agreement, then the case should step up as above process/guidance.
If partners are considering a Step Up they can discuss with their Early Help Manager/Team Manager if appropriate and then complete a MARF. Early Help Managers can also seek advice and guidance from the Early Help Triage Team.
2.6 Step Up Escalation
If the 'step up' is not accepted by MASH; the Early Help Team should address any appropriate recommendations arising. If it is felt that the threshold for statutory intervention has been met this should be escalated as required to your Early Help Manager who will discuss with Early Help Triage Team and Locality Head of Service as required. Cases where there is no agreement between Managers should be escalated to Locality Head of Service and Service Manager for discussion and agreement. The current assessment and plans should be available and a chronology of significant events included, alongside an overview following a Signs of Safety Approach to encourage embedding of the approach with the 4 domains covered.
External RMBC partners should follow their own escalation process.