Contingency Planning is essential particularly when working with potential crisis situations and as part of Transfer and Closing Summaries.
Professionals and families need to be aware when certain situations will lead to major concerns. For example, a vulnerable single parent who manages on their own, but is prone to bringing in unsuitable new partners in who may abuse the children in the family. Another example is a parent with mental health issues who when stable is able to look after themselves, but when unstable can deteriorate rapidly and become a danger to themselves and their children.
A number of Serious Case Reviews locally and nationally have highlighted the lack of Contingency Plans through to complex situations outlined in Child Protection Plans.
A Contingency Plan should be recorded on each child's file and should be kept up to date to take into account the child's changing needs and circumstances.
2. Recording of the Contingency Plan
Contingency Plans can be relatively simple. In such cases it would be appropriate to record the Contingency Plan on the child's electronic record making it explicit that it is a Contingency Plan. The Plan should state what needs to happen in a given set of circumstances.
For example: Contingency Plan – grandparents are appropriate alternative carers should the mother become unwell.
In more complex longer term cases the contingency plan should be contained within the current Child in Need Plans; Care Plans; Pathway Plans; Special Guardianship Order Support Plans, Placement with Parent Agreement or in Child Protection Plans.
For example: Contingency Plan – can be found in the Child Protection Plan.
3. Care Plans, Child Protection Plans and Child in Need Plans and Contingency Plans
- Care Plans for children and/or vulnerable parents ill-health and Child Protection Plans and Child in Need Plans should consider how the parent's vulnerability could affect children i.e. does the vulnerability affect motivation, ability to care for self and child and/or the ability to prioritise? Does the child witness any behaviour that may be distressing i.e. self-harm, general inability to function, bizarre or frightening behaviour? If so, what strategies and/or support can be put in place to support children and improve their safety?
- Professionals should always consider how changes in circumstances for a parent/carer and their child will be managed. This should clearly record care arrangements in the event that parents or carers are admitted to hospital, for example, or actions to be taken should a parent's mental health deteriorate;
- For professionals in agencies it is good practice to complete the agency Child Protection risk assessment with a view to preventative support and crisis management;
- Care Plans, Child Protection Plans and Child in Need Plans and Contingency Plans should be agreed with the family and include, as appropriate, contact with extended family members to provide additional support if the situation deteriorates. Contingency Plans should clearly articulate what will be in place to identify and communicate concerns to family members and/or professionals;
- Professionals need to consider carefully the implications for children when ceasing their support for vulnerable parents.