Purpose: This is a family meeting, including the child (where age appropriate), and professionals to meet together to share information, identify need, and agree the most effective inter-agency plan to meet those needs with measurable outcomes for the child identified within stated timescales
In English: There have been concerns about your child/ren which have resulted in an assessment being completed by a Social Worker. This is known as a “Section 17” assessment and has concluded that your child/ren require extra help from professionals to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health and/or development. Everyone involved with your family gets together to agree a plan for this and everyone has their own roles and responsibilities in making sure that plan succeeds in an agreed amount of time. It is one step up from a TAC/TAF but one step down from a child protection meeting.
Who will attend:
- Social Worker
- Social Work Team Manager (or senior social worker)
- Health professional (such as midwife/health visitor/school nurse)
- Education (nursery keyworker/school teacher/learning mentor)
- Anyone else who is involved with your family or may be able to offer support.
You should know everyone at the meeting, though you may not have met the senior social worker/team manager.
Parental Involvement: Because this is a more formal meeting, either the Social Worker, their manager, Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) or Child In Need Reviewing Officer will take charge. Certain agencies (where applicable) must attend; such as health and education, but all of this needs your consent in order for it to happen. Your Social Worker should involve you at every stage by keeping you informed as to attendees, venues and reports. Consideration by the Social Worker should be given to as to any assistance you might need to attend the meeting, such as transport or disabled access and if you have school age children, it shouldn’t be held at a time when you might need to leave halfway through in order to do the school run. It is not compulsory to engage with a Child In Need meeting, but if you choose not to it may then raise questions as to why. It’s always better to speak to your Social Worker if you’re worried or not sure. If English is not your first language and you feel you need an interpreter, you can take a family member with the agreement of the Social Worker, or your can ask your Social Worker if one can be provided by the local authority.
Child/ren Involvement: Again, this is where that term “age-appropriate” comes in. If the child/ren are at an age where they will understand and be able to cope with the meeting, they are usually invited. Sometimes (and if you think this would suit your child, please do ask the Social Worker!) the child/ren can actually chair the meeting themselves. This really helps some children to feel a bit more in control, rather than just sitting whilst a load of folk they don’t really know make decisions about them.
Venue: Normally CIN meetings are a bit more formal so they’re not held within your home, unless there are reasons (such as disability) which might prevent you attending otherwise. A typical venue might be a local children’s centre, a school, a library/community centre or the Children’s Services offices.
My experience: CIN meetings are definitely more formal than TAC/TAF; whilst TAC/TAFs are more like a “group chat” with everyone volunteering their thoughts and ideas, CIN meetings have to follow a structure. There’s a fair bit of emphasis on “outcomes” and quite a bit of jargon, which if you’re not familiar with really throw you. Everyone is a bit on their guard and making sure they do their bit. But the main focus of the meeting once again is support for you and your family. It can be a bit intimidating, but it’s important to remember that you can use this meeting as a way of making sure your children’s needs are met and you have everything you can to help you all.
This is a useful link to more information on the definition of “Child In Need”: http://protectingchildren.org.uk/cp-system/child-in-need/
Preparation: It’s worth being well prepared for a CIN meeting, and the single most important thing is that you know why you’re having it in the first place. This is where working with your Social Worker can pay dividends. It is their responsibility to ensure you are kept informed at every stage of the process, from assessment right through to meeting. Don’t be afraid to pick the phone up and speak to them if you have questions, and don’t be afraid to tell them if you feel nervous or frightened. Having a good relationship with your Social Worker is really valuable for you both and – whilst I know it’s difficult – trust is a big part of that. Follow the tasks below to be fully prepared:
- You should receive a letter stating the date, time and venue of the meeting. At the bottom there should be a “distribution list”. This will tell you the names, job titles and contact details of each attendee (except where the address is confidential – this sometimes happens in Domestic Violence cases). Make sure you know why each person has been invited and what their role is.
- Before the meeting, the Social worker must visit you and your child/ren to seek your views and help you to understand the procedure of the meeting. A few days beforehand, you should receive written reports from the Social Worker and (possibly) education and health. These reports will be broken down into sections and should give a full view of the plan for you child/ren. If you are not sure at this stage, it is very important to speak to the Social Worker. Don’t leave it until the morning of the meeting, act as soon as you have received the report(s). If you don’t receive a report until the start of the meeting, you are well within your right to ask for the meeting to be delayed whilst you read the report(s) and are in a position to reflect and respond. Don’t feel as though you’re holding anyone up; it is good practice to ensure you have the report(s) beforehand.
- The role of advocacy can be utilised within CIN meetings for your child/ren. Every local authority will have an advocacy service for children, and there are national and regional services too. Useful links are:
- Think about what you want to get out of the meeting, for your family. For example, you might feel that your child needs extra support in school, or you might be concerned about aspects of your child’s health, or you might need a bit of practical support within the home. Make a list of your “objectives” and refer to them in the meeting. This is a good opportunity to put forward your own concerns in an environment whereby timescales and outcomes are a focus.
- If you’re not familiar with the venue or don’t drive, refer to http://www.traveline.info/ – a journey planner where you can input the postcodes of where you’re travelling from and to and a time and date of travel. If you do drive, you can put the postcodes from and to into a Google search and up should pop a route planner.
- To the meeting take a pen, some paper and your “objectives”. If you’re nervous, or just want some moral support there, ask the Social Worker a few days before the meeting if that is ok. It should not be a problem (unless there’s a specific reason for excluding that particular person, such as Domestic Violence), and you are entitled to have someone with you for support. If you are told no, ask for an explanation in writing.
- Listen to what is being said and jot down key points, suggestions or ideas that people have. If there’s anything you’re not sure about, don’t feel you can’t ask. It is very important that you understand what’s happening and why. It is extremely important to listen during the meeting, don’t interrupt people, even if you don’t like what is being said. Just make a note of it and when you get your chance to speak, bring it up. Sometimes you will hear very upsetting things, but try not to react if you can. Don’t feel like you can’t contribute though; you are the expert in your children’s lives and therefore you may know whether suggestions or services will work or not. It is also just as important to listen too, give everyone a chance to speak, even if what they’re saying is difficult to hear, or makes you want to tell them to shut up (or words to that effect…!).
- Make sure you take down any review meeting dates, and that the review meeting suits you as much as all of the other attendees.