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5.27 Mobile Families Guidance

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

The purpose of this guidance is twofold in that it is primarily aimed at raising awareness amongst practitioners in all organisations and encouraging vigilance and professional curiosity when it comes to families that move frequently and appear to live very transient lifestyles. Secondarily it is in response to learning from Serious Case Reviews, (namely family Q) which highlighted how families that frequently move house and area, can be difficult to engage and subsequently difficult to assess in terms of need.

The chapter seeks to provide clarity and assistance to key professional groups who are likely to be engaged, or have concerns with such families, and acknowledges the balances that need to be made with respect to privacy and confidentiality: a number of families move relatively frequently for legitimate reasons.

This chapter was added to the manual in March 2016.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Picture in Lincolnshire
  3. Identifying Children at Risk
  4. Professional Curiosity
  5. Information to Record
  6. What is Expected of Organisations
  7. Information Sharing
  8. Agency Response / Responsibilities
  9. Pathway for Support
  10. Quality Assurance


1. Introduction

Children who experience frequent changes of address and/or are placed in temporary accommodation can be subject to particularly transient lifestyles. They are likely to lose contact with previous support networks and may become disengaged from services.

Frequent movers can find it difficult to access the services they need. For those already socially excluded, moving frequently can worsen the effects of their exclusion.

Children and families who move most frequently between Local Authorities are often homeless families, asylum seekers and refugees, gypsy and traveller families, Looked After Children, children in the criminal justice system, and families experiencing Domestic Violence. It is important to note that some families move deliberately in order to avoid professionals from discovering abuse within the family and will access a multiple of services in order to avoid one professional building a picture of the family. It is however, equally important to note that not all families that move frequently are doing so to avoid professional scrutiny and in fact some families just like to move. Nevertheless, this does not mean that frequent moves do not have a detrimental effect on children and young people, particularly in relation to feelings of social isolation and lack of educational consistency.

It is vital that services working with children maintain an awareness of how easily information and networks can be lost in moves. Effective systems must be put in place and robust action taken to ensure that as soon as such highly mobile, vulnerable children and unborn babies are identified that appropriate multi-agency planning is put in place.

Local authorities, the police, education, housing and the health service, in fact all agencies have a specific 'duty to co-operate' to ensure better outcomes and to improve the well-being of all children, including children who move frequently.


2. The Picture in Lincolnshire

Building a picture of how mobile families are within Lincolnshire is difficult as there is no set of data that is recorded which tracks family moves within the District and moves in and out of County. The following statistics are an attempt to help professionals get an idea of the transient nature of families within Lincolnshire.

In 2014/15 the Health visiting service received 2789 cases for the year, which includes transfers of service users in from out of county and also transfers across from one quadrant of the county to another e.g. from South East to South West due to house moves.

From April 2011 to August 2015 there were a total of 6235 changes of address for young people on a Child Protection Plan, Child in Need Plan and Looked After Children. 191 of those moves were out of County. However the average number of address changes for each young person on a Child Protection Plan is two, which is the same for Looked After Children and children subject to a Child in Need Plan.


3. Identifying Children at Risk

When families move frequently, it is more difficult for agencies to identify risks and monitor a child's welfare. Professionals in all agencies should be alert to the possibility that a child or family who has moved may not be in receipt of universal services. Any professional who comes into contact with a family should proactively engage with the family in order to link them into local universal services, e.g.;

  • Seeking information about the child / family (full names, dates of birth, previous address, GP's name, if attending any school, etc.);
  • Providing information about relevant services;
  • Following up to ensure that the family has managed to make contact and register with a local GP, school and other relevant services to which the child is entitled;
  • Engaging appropriately with relevant agencies regarding any concerns which emerge.

A number of Serious Case Reviews from around the Country identify that a risk factor to children is them missing from universal services.

The following circumstances associated with children and families moving across district authority boundaries are a cause for concern:

  • A child and family, or pregnant woman, not being registered with a GP;
  • A child not having a school place or whose attendance is irregular and who isn’t being electively home educated, (see Lincolnshire Children's Services Procedures Manual, Elective Home Education Policy);
  • A child or family having no fixed abode (e.g. living temporarily with friends or relatives);
  • Several agencies holding information about the child and family, which is not co-ordinated and / or which has not followed the child or family, (i.e. information which is missing or has gaps).


4. Professional Curiosity

Professional curiosity is the capacity and skill for proactive questioning and challenge rather than making assumptions or professional optimism not based on assessment of history and current circumstances. Never be frightened to ask the obvious question and share concerns with colleagues or your supervisor: a "fresh pair of eyes" looking at a case can really help practitioners and organisations to maintain good practice standards and develop a critical mindset.

Professional curiosity is much more likely if practitioners:

  • Are given good quality training to help them develop;
  • Have access to good management, support and supervision so that they can reconsider challenging and potentially upsetting work with families;
  • Time to review the lived experience of children and families and undertake regular assessment to ensure new information and developments are reflected;
  • The capacity to keep 'working away' to find what might have happened.

Practitioners should always try to see all family members separately; however when that is not possible and particularly when a victim (this could be an adult or a child) is not being allowed to be seen alone, professionals should also be alert to the following combination of signals:

  • The victim waits for her/his partner to speak first;
  • The victim glances at her/his partner each time (s)he speaks, checking her/his reaction;
  • The victim smoothes over any conflict;
  • Someone speaks for most of the time;
  • Someone sends clear signals to the victim, by eye / body movement, facial expression or verbally, to warn them;
  • Someone has a range of complaints about the victim, which (s)he does not deny.


5. Information to Record

For agencies to maintain contact with children and families who move frequently, information needs to be accurate. Professionals should:

  • Ensure that all names used by the family are provided, and clarification is obtained about the correct spelling;
  • Ensure that accurate dates and places of birth are obtained for all household members, wherever possible;
  • Obtain the previous full addresses, and any earlier addresses;
  • Clarify relationships between the child and other household members, if possible with documentary evidence (e.g. birth certificates, marriage certificates, Department for work and pensions documentation, passport/visa);
  • Ask the child / family with which statutory or voluntary organisations they are in contact;
  • Be vigilant about Identification.


6. What is Expected of Organisations

  • Use your professional curiosity, whilst respecting the family's privacy and recording the information that is detailed above;
  • Include the risks that mobile families can pose to children within the organisational safeguarding policy;
  • Make relevant staff aware of the risks to mobile families and their children and the need for vigilance when working with such families;
  • Include information in relation to mobile families in existing training and briefing programmes;
  • Ensure internal organisational monitoring systems are in place that help identify families that have significant moves and pose a risk to children;
  • Agency transfer in and out processes that includes the transfer of information when families move out of the area of the service provider – this should be with consent where required;
  • Robust mechanisms in place for professionals to discuss concerns with managers/supervisors.


7. Information Sharing

Knowing when and how to share information isn't always easy, but it's important to get it right. Families need to feel reassured that their confidentiality is respected. In most cases you will only share information about them with their consent, but there may be circumstances when you need to override this.

The Seven Golden Rules for information sharing:

  1. Remember that the Data Protection Act 1998 and human rights law are not barriers to justified information sharing, but provide a framework to ensure that personal information about living individuals is shared appropriately;
  2. Be open and honest with the individual (and/or their family where appropriate) from the outset about why, what, how and with whom information will, or could be shared, and seek their agreement, unless it is unsafe or inappropriate to do so;
  3. Seek advice from other practitioners if you are in any doubt about sharing the information concerned, without disclosing the identity of the individual where possible;
  4. Share with informed consent where appropriate and, where possible, respect the wishes of those who do not consent to share confidential information. You may still share information without consent if, in your judgement, there is good reason to do so, such as where safety may be at risk. You will need to base your judgement on the facts of the case. When you are sharing or requesting personal information from someone, be certain of the basis upon which you are doing so. Where you have consent, be mindful that an individual might not expect information to be shared;
  5. Consider safety and well-being: Base your information sharing decisions on considerations of the safety and well-being of the individual and others who may be affected by their actions;
  6. Necessary, proportionate, relevant, adequate, accurate, timely and secure: Ensure that the information you share is necessary for the purpose for which you are sharing it, is shared only with those individuals who need to have it, is accurate and up-to-date, is shared in a timely fashion, and is shared securely (see principles);
  7. Keep a record of your decision and the reasons for it – whether it is to share information or not. If you decide to share, then record what you have shared, with whom and for what purpose. 

(Based on ‘DCSF, Information Sharing: Guidance for practitioners and managers, (2009)’ (Archived)).

Points for Consideration:

  • Is there a legitimate purpose for sharing information?
  • Does the information enable a person to be identified?
  • Is the information confidential?
  • If so, do you have consent to share?
  • Is there a statutory duty or court order to share the information?
  • If consent refused/there are good reasons not to seek consent,
  • Is there sufficient public interest to share information?
  • If the decision is to share, are you sharing the right information in the right way?
  • Have you properly recorded your decision?

See The Information Sharing – Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents (March 2015)


8. Agency Response / Responsibilities

Although all agencies can play a role in identifying mobile families and subsequently the signals that may cause concern, it is acknowledged that some agencies will be more likely to identify transient families, those being Health professionals, Schools, Housing Authorities, Children’s Services and Department for Work and Pensions. In addition it is acknowledged that many of these agencies have their own procedures and practices in relation to transfers in and out of their service, either within the County or outside of the County. The following is a summary of those processes or a link to the statutory guidance which is in place:

8.1 Education

Schools and Education Support services should apply professional curiosity where information demonstrates that a child and their family have moved frequently within a short period of time. School admissions are able to identify when a number of mid-year applications have been submitted for one child. Any such discovery would be escalated within the admissions service area to an appropriate team manager. This however would only find children who have moved within the authority and therefore schools have a key role in identifying children who have moved from school to school within and from outside the local authority. Not all mobile families are in need of support, however, where a school have further evidence to suggest they are, the school would follow their appropriate safeguarding and welfare procedures.

Children who move frequently are also more likely to be at risk of becoming a child missing education (CME). It is important that a school does not take a child off roll until they know the next school a child will be attending. The school should then transfer school files as soon as possible. If despite all reasonable attempts, the school cannot locate the family, then they should report the child as CME and upload the child’s file to S2S lost pupil database.

Any child missing form education should be reported to Children's Services Customers Services 01522 782111.

8.2 Further Education

As with schools, further education establishments should apply professional curiosity where information demonstrates that a child and their family have moved frequently within a short period of time. Further education establishments are required to have robust admissions and attendance policies and procedures which clearly outline their arrangements for checking previous education prior to admission and monitoring once on programme. If concerns are raised then the establishment should follow their safeguarding procedures.

Children who move frequently are also more likely to be at risk of becoming a child missing education (CME). It is important that a further education (FE) establishment does not take a child is safe and well. FE should then notify the Local Authority Children's Services Customers Services on 01522 782111. that the child has ceased education at their establishment. The LA would then follow the CME procedures.

Where a college operates a 14-16 provision they need to follow the guidance above in 9.1.

Where a student has an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) the education establishment must conduct an early review before a student place is removed from the establishment.

8.3 Children’s Services

If a child is known to Children's Services and has left the area or is about to leave the area on a Child in Need Plan, a transfer will take place when the carer/parent has consented to information being shared and wants continuation of service from another local authority. If the carer/parent does not consent or does not want a service from another local authority consideration shall be given to whether the discontinuation of the child's plan will result in safeguarding issues. In these circumstances a referral will be still be made to the other local authority. The Social Worker will also send a letter notifying the Lincolnshire GP, Health Visitor, school and any other agencies involved of the details of the move, including the date and new address. This should be sent in all circumstances, planned or unplanned moves.

If a child is on a Child Protection Plan on establishing that the child is moving, or has moved out of the county, the social worker must make immediate telephone contact with the new authority to exchange information regarding reasons for the original Child Protection Plan, current level of concern and date of last visit. This should be followed up as soon as possible by written confirmation with relevant reports. The Lincolnshire Social Worker has responsibility for taking any immediate action necessary to safeguard the health or welfare of the child; informing Children's Social Care in the new authority, and establishing temporary arrangements for case responsibility; ensuring that all agencies involved in Lincolnshire are aware of the move and that they are taking responsibility where relevant for informing their equivalent agency in the new authority; informing the Child Protection Referral Unit who will contact their equivalent within the receiving Local Authority and ensuring that the child/ren are on temporary plans. The Social Worker (Lincolnshire); will send initial and most recent child protection conference minutes; attending and/or providing relevant information for the child protection conference in the receiving authority.

For more information regarding Lincolnshire's transfer in process (see Arrangements for Children who are Subject to a Child Protection Plan Procedure, Movement into Lincolnshire and Movement out of Lincolnshire).

There is a LSCB policy with regard to children subject to Cross Border Child Protection Cases under the Hague Convention.

8.4 General Practitioner (GP)

General Practitioners and their staff should be aware of the discontinuity of care that may affect mobile families and the effect this can have on their health. They should also be knowledgeable of which families tend to move frequently (homeless families, asylum seekers and refugees, gypsy and traveller families, Looked After Children and families experiencing Domestic Violence).

Whilst children and families who move most frequently may not register permanently with a GP, they may seek treatment as a temporary resident. The practice should ensure information about the child and family is accurate, ask about the planned duration of stay, assess healthcare needs and liaise with other agencies as appropriate.

Evidence from local Serious Case Reviews highlights the vulnerabilities that mobile families present. In order to embed lessons learnt from these serious case reviews, the practice should ensure that records of mobile families are fully reviewed upon registration.

8.5 ULHT

Within ULHT, guidance for managing patient transfers out of area, or to another Trust is available in varying formats. There is specific guidance available for Maternity staff, via the guidance entitled ‘Transfer of Care between Professionals, Hospitals and Trusts’. Maternity staff can also access guidance (with an associated Proforma) for completion when a patient, with who there is an existing or potential SG concern, leaves the area. On such occasions, the Safeguarding Specialist Midwife will also liaise verbally with the ongoing Named Midwife (if the location is known) or will instigate a National Alert, if the patient’s whereabouts is unknown.

The Trust’s ‘Policy for Safeguarding Children and Young People’ also provides guidance for staff in ensuring that all of the appropriate information is shared with receiving Professionals/Agencies, when a child’s care is transferred from ULHT. Information is shared verbally and in written form (with a Chronology of Events also recommended, if indicated).

8.6 Community Health

The Health Visiting service in Lincolnshire receives notification of almost 3000 transfer in to their caseloads every year. Transfers in include families who have moved into Lincolnshire either from another county or from abroad. They also receive transfer in notification when families move between areas within Lincolnshire. The LCHS Transfer in and out policy has been developed to support the Health Visiting Teams in ensuring that all pre-school age children receive all the services offered in the Health Visiting core offer as guided by the Healthy Child Programme (Department of Health/DCSF, 2009). The aim of the policy is to ensure referral, support and early intervention agreed between all agencies is provided in a timely way. The policy also gives guidance on the process to follow to ensure all pre-school aged children who transfer out of their care are notified to the relevant Health Visiting service in their new location.

8.7 Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

All staff working across the Trust’s services including both Child and Adolescent Mental Health, drug & alcohol and Learning Disability Teams engage with mobile families. The Trust’s staff are trained to recognise the additional risks and vulnerabilities that families with multiple moves and transient lifestyles face. The Trust has a robust transfer and discharge policy which ensures the relevant sharing of information with other areas and agencies. Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services have a do not attend policy which identifies where children and young people do not attend and the appropriate liaison with other agencies should there be concerns. The Trust also engages with the local procedures for families which are missing on a local and national level.

8.8 Social Housing

Social housing has a very broad remit and is different dependent on district, varying further with landlord functions. In Lincolnshire, each District Council has the responsibility for delivering housing advice, homelessness prevention and statutory homeless services, furthermore those that have their own housing stock are responsible for allocations of tenancies and general landlord functions. Those that do not have their own housing stock work closely with other registered providers. As with earlier reference to general professional curiosity, this can be in the context of a housing register application disclosing multiple addresses of short stays with different friends and/or family members or not disclosing details of universal providers working with them. All staff are appropriately trained in safeguarding in context of their role particularly in identifying risks, should a member of staff identify a household with particularly high number of moves in relative short periods or a reluctance to share required residency information, the safeguarding lead would be informed and agree/determine next steps in line with organisational safeguarding policies and procedures.

Social Housing providers are independent organisations. As such they should have their own policies, procedures and staff training programmes to ensure they are alert and able to respond to the needs of their tenants.


9. Pathway for Support

Early Help for Children

The EHA process (see Team Around the Child Supporting Documentation) has been designed to help practitioners assess needs at an early stage and then work with the child/young person, their family and other practitioners and agencies to meet these needs. As such, it is designed for use when:

  • You are worried about how well a child/young person is progressing;
  • You might be worried about their health, development, welfare, behaviour, progress in learning or any other aspect of their wellbeing;
  • A child / young person or their parent/carer raises a concern with you;
  • The child’s or young person’s needs are unclear, or broader than your service can address alone;
  • The child or young person would benefit from an assessment to help a practitioner understand their needs better.

If you have any of these concerns complete an Early Help Assessment with the child and family. If on completion a need is identified that you are unable to address you will need to initiate a Team Around the Child (TAC).

If you are unsure what action to take you may want to have a consultation with and Early Help Advisor, call Children's Services CSC on 01522 782111.

Safeguarding Children Referral Process

If you believe a child or young adult under the age of 18 years might be suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm (including any mistreatment or abuse), contact the Children Services CSC on 01522 782111. If it is outside normal office hours you can contact the Emergency Duty Team on 01522 782333. If your referral is assessed as a safeguarding concern then you will be required to complete the Safeguarding Referral Form as written confirmation of your referral. Send this via secure email (or post) to the locality area team as directed by the call advisor at the time of referral.

If your concern is in relation to an unborn child then you should follow the Pre-Birth Protocol.

For all safeguarding children policies and procedures go to the LSCB website.


10. Quality Assurance

As part of the quality assurance and audit principles within Lincolnshire, the LSCB is committed to continuous development of policies and procedures. Consequently it is important that new guidance or protocols are assessed to ensure they are being used effectively, that professionals are familiar with the guidance and that amendments are made to improve new protocols and guidance through the feedback from professionals in practice.

With this in mind the LSCB will devise a self- assessment for organisations to complete within 6 months to a year of the publication of the guidance.


11. Useful Links

CFAB - Protecting Children and Families Across Borders

Ecpat UK – Protecting Children Everywhere

LSCB Polices:

Working with Uncooperative and Hostile Families Practice Guidance

LSCB Joint Protocol for Missing Children and Young People

Safeguarding Children who may have been Trafficked Procedure

Professional Resolution and Escalation Protocol

End