• Helping you to stay up to date in the ever changing world of social care.

National Social Work Template: Are your social workers ready to use the new social work template?

Social workerSummary

This briefing will give an outline of the new national social work template which is to implemented on a national basis for all local authorities within the next 6 months. Each local authority can choose it’s own timetable in the transition from their local template to use of the national template. London local authorities were expected to adopt the template fully by beginning of November 2015.

The template will assist in maintaining the focus on the child which is what was intended by the Children Act 1989 and reinforced by the Public Law Outline.

Practice areas affected:

Children’s social care, children’s safeguarding, children’s fostering and adoption teams, children guardians, children solicitors.

Background

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), and CAFCASS have worked together in developing a national template for the family courts. The ADCS and CAFCASS in consultation with a number of other practitioners and organisations have recognised a need to have a consistent approach in presenting social work evidence in care cases with an emphasis on the inclusion of a clear analysis of social work thinking. With this in mind they have produced a social work evidence based template.

Why is a new template needed?

All local authorities are invited to use a single consistent social work template. The template is considered to be beneficial to all involved in the family court process including the judiciary.

It is also seen as a particular benefit for social workers. When joining a new local Authority, the social worker will already be accustomed with using the same national social work template as opposed to having to spend time familiarising themselves and navigating around the Local Authority’s local template and process. With use of the new template it will provide consistency and assist the social workers when writing their statements to develop and enhance their skills base in presenting evidence based statements consisting of analysis and robust recommendations.

The template is to be used to support an application for a care and supervision order.

The use of the template will assist the social worker is presenting the Local Authority’s evidence in a clear analytical way, thereby reducing the possibility of confusion on the court’s part in relation to what is the local authority’s case and the evidence it relies upon. It will assist the court to be able to make a critical decision for the child particularly when the child’s care plan is adoption.

One of the greatest positives attributed to social work statements in the past has been that they were very comprehensive in containing detailed historical information in a narrative way. Thereby providing a full picture of the Children Services and other professionals’ involvement in the child’s life. Although helpful in some respects, such statements were seen as lacking to meet the court’s requirement for evidence based statements that contained clear analysis and strong recommendations.

The template is a guide and is not too prescriptive; it assists the social worker to provide his/her evidence by applying an analytical approach rather than using a historical or narrative approach. It is does not constrict the social worker to adapt its use. Nor does it prevent the social worker in presenting a historical and narrative approach. The social worker can provide information that is historical or narrative but alongside this the social worker is now required to provide a much more sharper focus on why that narrative is important and relevant and what is the social worker’s view on the realistic prospects of the parent’s changing and what the realistic options for the successful outcome for the child within the child’s timetable.

Main areas of change

Analysis of harm

Under this heading the social worker should focus his or her analysis on:

  • What events have led to the application
  • What significant or risk of significant harm has each child suffered, or likely to suffer
  • What is the risk of harm the child continues to face
  • what does it mean for the child and
  • what is the future risk of harm.

Child Impact Analysis

Under this heading the social worker should focus his or her analysis on:

  • impact on the child/ren’s environment and their daily life and experience at the time the harm was identified.
  • Any continuing risk of significant harm including impairment of the child’s development balanced against any factors/support which would mitigate that risk.
  • consideration of the individual child’s needs applying the welfare checklist
  • if relevant how the State is able to provide a better standard of care.

Early Permanence Analysis

Under this heading the social worker should focus his or her analysis on:

  • Consideration of the realistic placement options for each child
  • The local authority’s preferred option and
  • how the local authority plans to achieve permanency whether that is within the family or outside of the family.
  • The statement should include a family composition and a genogram.
  • Use of the ecomap is option. If used the ecomap should set out the individuals who keep the child safe and those who post a risk/threat of harm to the child.
  • The template suggests that the social work chronology can be included in the social work template thereby eliminating the need to provide a separate chronology document. Some local authorities may choose to continue to have a separate chronology whilst others many incorporate it in the social work template.
  • The template also include a heading for setting out the local authority’s proposed careplan which should include the placement and contact plans proposed by the local authority that will meet the child’s security, stability and care needs during their minority. This careplan is separate to the Local Authority Care Plan that needs to be filed separately. There are no changes to the template for the Local Authority Care Plan which remains the same.

In accordance with accordance to the guidance given in Re B-S [Children 2013] EWCA Civ 1146 the social worker must evaluate all realistic options for the child’s future. The social worker is required to list all advantages and disadvantages of each option, giving clear reasons for the option that is recommended as the preference for the child’s long term plans.

  • The social worker is to include his/her HCPC registration number
  • As previously it is one social work statement per family and not per child.
  • The template can be used for first, interims/updating and final statements. If the template is being used for interim/updating or final statements for Issues Resolution Hearing or Final Hearing the social worker can provide the court with updating information in section 9 of the template
  • There is no need to provide a photograph of the child as was suggested in the previous social work template commonly known as the “Alice” statement template and this new template replaces the Alice template.

Good practice

Social work statements after being drafted by the social worker should be proof read and checked by the team manager and the local authority’s legal department. This will ensure that any possible errors or omissions within the statement are rectified before the statement is filed with the Court. By undertaking this it will ensure that a comprehensive statement, ensuring all necessary information is contained in the statement before it is submitted to the Court. This will then assist the Court in making decisions/orders without unnecessary delay in the proceedings and more importantly for the child

Benefits of using the template:

The template has been endorsed by the Senior Judiciary, including the President of the Family Division, Ministry of Justice and the Department of Education.

The template is not mandatory, however it use can be considered as beneficial for the following reasons:

  • It guides the social workers in providing clear, balanced and analytical evidence to the court
  • It assists the social worker to set out in a clear and concise manner to the court the reasons as to why the local authority is making an application and the reasons it is seeking a specific order in relation to the child/ren who is/are subject to the proceedings.
  • The template is B-S compliant, in that it assists the social worker in providing evidence in accordance to the guidance given in Re B-S [Children 2013] EWCA Civ 1146 (please see last month’s for further guidance on this)
  • By using the template it will assist the court to identify the issues in dispute without delay, possibly limit or reduce the time estimate of final hearing by reducing the need for unnecessary cross examination of the evidence.
  • The template compliments and is consistent with the Public Law Outline and the single application form

Conclusion

The statement template is to assist the social worker in presenting the local authority’s evidence in a clear and concise manner with a sharp focus on analysis. If correctly completed the social worker will be presenting the child’s journey in a transparent and coherent way, with no duplication and limited use of narration.

The introduction of the statement template nationally ensures there will be consistency in the presentation of court documentation in all PLO cases.

So although not mandatory, the positives of using the social work template certainly makes it extremely beneficial and advisable.

Helpful link

http://www.adcs.org.uk/goodpractice/nsws.html  – this link with take you to the ADCS website that has links the following:

  • SWE 12 – ADCS and Cafcass guidance
  • SWE 10- Local Authority social work evidence blank template
  • SWE 11- Local Authority social work final analysis blank template
  • SWE 10- Populated case study

How we can help

If you would like bespoke and practical skilled based training for social workers and team managers and how they can be supported in presenting evidence based court statements and reports that are analytical and meets the court’s expectations please contact us

Contact us if you would like training on this subject or any other area.

Call us on 01908 969 039 or 07949771285 or email: info@kingsleyknight.co.uk.

Disclaimer: The material for this briefing has been designed as a briefing note and should not be relied upon or be treated as a substitute for specific legal advice.

© Copyright: The content of this Legal update briefing can be accessed, printed and downloaded in an unaltered form, on a temporary basis, for personal study or reference purposes. However any content printed or downloaded may not be sold, licensed, transferred, copied or reproduced in whole or in part in any manner or in or on any media to any person without the prior written consent of Kingsley Knight Law Limited.

Bookmark the permalink.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Social Work Evidence Template Update | Kingsley Knight

Comments are closed