1.4.42 Safeguarding Children who Move Across Local Authority Boundaries / Abroad
This chapter sets out the actions to be taken when children and families move across local authority boundaries, either on a temporary or permanent basis. It covers both when the family are in contact with statutory services and there are concerns about the child's welfare, as well as situations when children are in receipt of Early Help or Early Intervention Services (i.e. they are receiving additional support but this is below the threshold for statutory safeguarding services). In this chapter, the term 'originating authority' is used to describe the local authority area where the family previously lived or moved from, and the term 'receiving authority' is used to describe the local authority area to which the family has moved.
Where a child moves and cannot be located, the Children and Families who go Missing Procedure should be followed.
In January 2022, a note from Working Together to Safeguard Children was added to remind all practitioners of the importance of sharing information when a child moves from one local authority into another; due to the risk that knowledge pertinent to keeping a child safe could be lost.
This chapter is currently under review.
1. Movement of Children and Families
At any stage in the process of working with children and families, the parents and/or the child/children may move from one household to another, on either a permanent or temporary basis. This could result in either a change of address within the local authority area or a move into another local authority area.
Such moves may be planned and relevant information may be shared in advance with the practitioners working with the family and child/children.
However, in some circumstances, the move may take place in haste or even as a deliberate attempt to avoid the involvement of and scrutiny from practitioners and agencies. Where this is the case, the agencies involved with the family must always consider the impact of the move on the child/children and assess whether such a move increases risk to the child.
Moves may be temporary or permanent; however if the parent /carer is not prepared to give information as to their longer term plans, the host authority and the receiving authority should assume the move is permanent and act accordingly. Uncertainty about whether the move is permanent or temporary should not be allowed to cause a delay in the transfer of the case to services in the new area. To ensure children are safeguarded they become the responsibility of the area where they are currently residing, regardless of the length of time they have been there.
Working Together to Safeguard Children is clear that all practitioners should be particularly alert to the importance of sharing information when a child moves from one local authority into another; due to the risk that knowledge pertinent to keeping a child safe could be lost.
Children who move across local authority boundaries in the following circumstances may be a particular cause for concern:
- A moved which is clearly unplanned and which was not notified to services involved with the family;
- Where there is a history of non compliance and avoidant behaviour from parents and carers;
- Where there is a history of frequent moves;
- A child and family, or pregnant woman, who move and who are not registered with a GP;
- A child who moves and does not have a school place or whose attendance is irregular (see also Children Missing from Education Procedure);
- A child or family who move despite having no fixed abode e.g. living temporarily with friends, relatives or in temporary accommodation (including Bed and Breakfasts);
- When either the child or other family members have identified vulnerabilities (e.g. a very young baby, child with disabilities, history of domestic abuse, young parents, parental learning difficulties).
2. Ensuring Continued Access to Universal Services when a Family Moves
Whenever a practitioner (from any agency) becomes aware of a child / family who has recently moved into their area they should establish whether the family are in receipt of universal services (e.g. ask them if they have registered with a GP / Heath Visitor? Are the children attending school or early year's provision?) In these circumstances practitioners should engage with the family in order to link them into universal services, in the new area as soon as possible.
- To aid this process practitioners should:
- Ensure that all forenames and surnames 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 earlier addresses within the last 2 years;
- Clarify relationships between the child and other household members, if possible with documentary evidence;
- Ask the child / family with which statutory or voluntary organisations they are in contact with if any, including those which they had contact with in their previous area.
- Provide information to the family about relevant services; and
- Always follow 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. The transfer of some agency records can be delayed until there is a request from the new provider of a service. It is unlikely therefore that GP records will be transferred until the family have been registered with their new surgery for some time.
REMEMBER - Whenever a child or family moves into an area, securing support from universal services for the family in the new area should be a priority.
3. Children who were Receiving Early Help / Early Intervention Services
When a child, who was in receipt of Early Help / Early Intervention services moves to another local authority area, the multi agency team in the originating authority must assess the likely impact of the move on the child and their family. If move was planned, the agencies involved with the child and family should ask the parents / carer to consent to the sharing of their information with the equivalent agencies in the receiving authority. If parents / carers agree, practitioners should be clear who is responsible for notifying the equivalent agencies and in what timescale.If no parental consent for transfer of information is given and there is no increase in risk or need, the agencies involved should ensure that their records are up-to-date and accurately reflect their involvement with the family. Practitioners working in universal services should forward records to the receiving authority in a timely manner in accordance with their own procedures.
If the move is unplanned, the agencies involved should hold a multi-agency meeting in order to discuss the change in circumstances and consider whether or not the needs of, or risks to the child may have increased as a result of the unplanned move. The outcome of this meeting should be recorded on the child's record. If practitioners are of the opinion that the unplanned move will not lead to an increase in need or risk, agreement should be reached about how information will be shared with universal services in the receiving authority. Practitioners attending the multi agency meeting should be clear who is responsible for notifying the equivalent agencies and in what timescale.
Before information on a family is transferred, the Lead Practitioner should ensure that their records are up-to-date and accurately reflect their involvement with the family; these should then be forwarded equivalent agencies in the receiving authority in a timely manner in accordance with their own agency procedures for the transfer of records.
If possible a Lead Professional should be identified in the receiving authority and they should review and update the Early Help Assessment and action plan within 4 weeks, and transfer information to their local documentation/systems.
Wherever possible and to ensure continuous support, a handover meeting with the new Lead Professional will be arranged prior to a family moving.
If any practitioner concludes that there is an increase in risk or that the child may be suffering or likely to suffer significant harm as a result of the move, a referral to Children's Social Care in the receiving authority should be made without delay.
If the whereabouts of the child and family are unknown and any professional concludes the Children and Families Who Go Missing Procedure should be followed.
4. Children in Need
If a family with children subject to a Child in Need plan moves to another area, then the originating authority should ensure that all relevant information is shared with the receiving authority as soon as possible including:
- Copies of the most recent assessments of the children;
- Copies of the Child in Need Plan;
- A case summary and, if the case summary is not up to date, a social work report identifying the needs of each of the children;
- If the children have previously been the subject of a Child Protection Plan, than the originating authority should ensure that the risks and protective factors are clearly described in the case summary.
The receiving local authority should consider whether support services are still required and discuss with the child and family what might be needed, based on a timely re-assessment of the child's needs. Support should continue to be provided by the original local authority in the intervening period. The receiving authority should work with the original authority to ensure that any changes to the services and support provided are managed carefully.
Although there is no formal requirement to hold a meeting to discuss the transfer of a Child in Need Plan, it would be good practice for the receiving authority to hold such a meeting, especially where the family situation is complex or the children have previously been the subject of a Child Protection Plan.
The arrangements described above for the transfer of information about Children in Need between authorities are subject to the consent of the family. Information about child protection concerns or a concern that a child may be missing education may be transferred without consent.
The transfer of cases where assessments are outstanding or incomplete (including because of parental avoidance or non compliance) are particularly risky. In these cases it is especially important that practitioners are clear about their primary concerns and sources of perceived risk.If a family refuses to consent to sharing of information about a Child in Need Plan or move without notice to another area, this may indicate an increased level of risk to the child(ren) and a referral to Children's Social Care in the receiving area should be considered.
5. Where there are Concerns about Significant Harm / Child Protection Enquiries are Underway
Where there are concerns about risk of Significant Harm, information should be shared immediately as all information about a child should be held in the area where the child is currently residing.
Where a child moves across local authority boundaries and a Section 47 Enquiry is being considered or is in progress and/or a Child Protection Conference is proposed but has not yet taken place, the local authority where the concerns originated should make decisions as to how to proceed.
In these circumstances, therefore, the originating authority must continue with the Section 47 Enquiry and should convene a Strategy Discussion/Meeting - this should take place within 72 hours of notification of the child's move. Timescales may be varied depending on the individual circumstances e.g. proximity of the two areas and/or the gravity of the situation. In all circumstances, however, the Strategy Discussion/Meeting will always involve representatives of both the originating and the receiving authority and their respective roles and responsibilities will be agreed. The Strategy Discussion/Meeting should consider how the timescales for the completion of the Section 47 Enquiry and holding of the Child Protection Conference (if appropriate) will be met. The social worker from the originating authority will attend and provide a report for the Child Protection Conference.
Where a Section 47 Enquiry is in progress, as soon as the originating authority becomes aware of the child's move to a new area, the following action should be taken:
The child's social worker or duty worker will:
- Notify the Children's Social Care Services in the receiving authority of the change in the child's circumstances within 1 working day of discovering the move;
- Send the child's relevant personal details to Children's Social Care Services in the receiving authority;
- Inform their line manager of the change;
- Inform any other agencies working with the family of the change in circumstances and ask them to inform their colleagues in the new area;
- Attend any handover meetings in the receiving authority;
- Ensure that all information is updated and the correct address is displayed on the child's electronic record.
The social worker's line manager will:
- Inform the relevant team manager in the receiving authority of the current details and forward any relevant documentation;
- Agree any urgent action and roles and responsibilities;
- Agree the convening of a Strategy Meeting within 72 hours.
Particular care and attention must be paid where the family has a history of moving between areas and the timing of their moves appears to suggest that they are seeking to avoid the child protection process.
If children and families about whom there are concerns move and cannot be contacted, this in itself will heighten such concerns and lead practitioners to consider that the children are likely to suffer Significant Harm.
In such circumstances the agencies involved must share information with one another so that every effort is made to locate the child/children. The responsibility for the family will remain with the local authority for the area of the child's last known address. If the child still cannot be located, the Children and Families who go Missing Procedure should also be followed.
6. Children Subject to a Child Protection Plan
6.1 Actions to be taken in the child's originating area
Where a Child subject to a Child Protection Plan moves out of the home area, anyone who becomes aware of the plan to move or the move taking place, must inform the child's Lead Social Worker or, if not available, the Lead Social Worker's line manager.
The Lead Social Worker will:
- Immediately inform the Children's Social Care Services in the new area of the change in the child's circumstances;
- Send the child's relevant personal details to the new area including a copy of the most recent Child Protection Plan;
- Inform the 'home' Designated Manager (Children subject to a Child Protection Plan) of the changes;
- Inform the Core Group of the change in circumstances;
- Attend any Initial Child Protection Conference in the new area.
The Designated Manager (Children subject to a Child Protection Plan) will:
- Inform the new area's Designated Manager (Children subject to a Child Protection Plan) of the current details and forward any relevant documentation such as copies of minutes of the Initial Child Protection Conference and the most recent Review Conference;
- Inform the local Designated Nurse of the relevant information in order for the health agencies in the new area to be informed.
Only when the new area has made a decision whether the child is to become subject to a Child Protection Plan or not should the child's details be removed from the List of Children who have a Child Protection Plan in the original area.
The date that the child's name is removed from the List in the original area will therefore be the date of the Initial Child Protection Conference in the new area when the decision is made.
6.2 Actions to be taken in the child's new area
At the point of notification, the Designated Manager (Children subject to a Child Protection Plan) or their nominated representative in the child's new area will be expected to:
- Request information from the originating Local Authority, including copies of the Initial Child Protection Conference and the last Review Conference minutes from the originating area;
- Inform the relevant Children's Social Care Services team of the details of the incoming child;
- Inform the Designated Nurse;
- Make arrangements to hold an Initial Child Protection Conference within 15 working days of the notification of the child moving in;
- Request representation from the originating local authority's Children's Social Care Services to attend the conference to ensure that up to date and accurate information is shared and discussed;
- Confirm the outcome of the Initial Child Protection Conference with the originating local authority's Designated Manager (Children subject to a Child Protection Plan) and forward a copy of the Conference Minutes for their records.
The relevant Children's Social Care Services team will:
- Undertake enquiries to ensure that protective action is taken in order to safeguard the child in the new area until the Initial Child Protection Conference has taken place;
- Undertake an assessment to determine if there are concerns about Significant Harm in the new area and work with the child and family to prepare for the Initial Child Protection Conference.
6.3 Temporary moves
A temporary move could cover a range of situations from holiday stays to short stay placement moves to relatives or residential units; the circumstances should always be checked with the child's Lead Social Worker.
Where it is known that the child has moved out of the area for a temporary period, however long or short, the area where the child is temporarily residing must be provided with the relevant information and contact numbers as follows:
- The Lead Social Worker must contact the Designated Manager (Children subject to a Child Protection Plan) and the Children's Social Care Services team where the child is temporarily resident, providing them with the relevant personal details and the last Child Protection Plan;
- The 'home' Designated Manager (Children subject to a Child Protection Plan) must write to the Designated Manager (Children subject to a Child Protection Plan) in the area of the temporary residence and include any relevant information.
The child 's name and details will remain on the List of Children subject to Child Protection Plans in the permanent home area until the criteria for discontinuing the Child Protection Plan are met.
7. Moving Abroad
Whenever practitioners are working with a family and there are outstanding concerns about a child or unborn baby's safety or welfare, and they suspect that a family may have moved overseas, Children's Social Care Services and the Police should be informed immediately.
Where a child subject of a Child Protection Plan moves abroad (whether planned or unplanned) the Lead Social Worker and Conference Chair should consider whether to reconvene a Review Conference or Core Group to determine what action to take. Appropriate steps should be taken to inform the relevant local and overseas authorities in the country to which the child has moved of any concerns.
Consideration needs to be given to appropriate legal interventions, where it appears that a child, who has outstanding concerns in relation to their safety and welfare, may be removed from the UK by their family in order to avoid the involvement of agencies with safeguarding responsibilities. This also applies when a child who is subject to a Care Order has been removed from the UK. Children's Social Care Services, the Police Child Abuse Investigation Team and the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit at the Ministry of Justice should be informed immediately.In the case of children taken overseas it may be appropriate to contact the Consular Directorate at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which offers assistance to British nationals in distress overseas (020 7008 1500). They may be able to follow up a case through their consular post(s) in the country concerned.
8. Best Practice
Whenever a case is transferred but the worker in the receiving authority is unable to make contact with the child / family, this should be a cause for concern; advice should be sought from the designated safeguarding lead in the worker's organisation without delay.
Case transfer is a time when there is a need for clarity about the status of intervention that is required- Workers who are transferring cases / case records should make sure that there is clarity about the level of assessed risk and that it is easy for workers in the new area to identify the primary concerns and sources of risk.