A lead social worker (a named worker who will manage the child’s case) and the core group membership must be identified by the child protection conference for every child who is made subject to a child protection plan.
The core group will consist of family members and those professionals working closely and directly with them; together they develop and implement the child protection plan.
An outline child protection plan will be agreed at the end of each conference where it is decided that a child should have such a plan, or is to remain having a plan. It should, as a minimum, cover these points:
- what is the core group trying to achieve?
- what needs to change for the child, and how will this be done?
- what are the roles and responsibilities of professionals and family members?
- how often will professionals meet with the child and the family, and why?
- how will everyone know change is happening for the best? [WTSC 5.116]
A date is also set for a review conference. The first will be within three months and then at least every six months.
How to do it
The chair will rely upon the social worker’s recommendations for the child protection plan and the worker should have a proposal ready, although the conference may make other suggestions.
The core group should have their first meeting within 10 days and the date for this is usually set at the end of the conference, so bringing diaries is important.
Lessons from research
Core group work is demanding: working with parents and children and hearing and acting on their voices and views remains a constant challenge. Social workers sometimes feel they are expected to absorb all the painful and difficult feelings generated by the child protection process, while other members seem reluctant to help by chairing the group or taking minutes. Professionals from the other agencies are often busy and resent attending core groups where they may feel irrelevant. They are frustrated and dissatisfied when social workers ignore their views and overturn their recommendations.
Good supervision is crucial for managing the emotional dynamics of the group and the workers own well-being. It is also an essential part of improving partnership to complete the child protection plan.
See Harlow E: Safeguarding children: challenges to the effective operation of core groups in Child and Family Social Work, Vol 11, Issue 1 (2006)