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To Transfer a Child and Family to a Different Team

Scope of this chapter

This chapter sets out the principles which should be used to guide decision making when transferring responsibility for children from one social worker or social work team to another.


This chapter was previously known as Case Transfer Policy. This chapter was updated in February 2022 and should be re-read.

February 1, 2022

All children deserve the best experiences in life. From excellent parenting which promotes good health and educational attainment, to a wide range of opportunities to develop their talents and skills in order to have an enjoyable childhood and successful adult life. Stable placements, good health and support during transition are all essential elements, but children will only achieve their potential through the ambition and high expectation of those involved in their lives (The Children Act 1989: Guidance and Regulations. Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review).

The relationship between social worker, child and their family is central to good care planning and positive outcomes for the child. Whenever children are consulted, both locally and nationally, they overwhelmingly point out the importance to them of having a good relationship with a social worker they know and trust.

The primary consideration in all case transfer decisions and negotiations must be the needs and best interests of the child/young person and their family. The number of transfers will be kept to a minimum and wherever possible the child's wishes and feelings will be taken into account.

Transfer of social worker should not be undertaken at the same time as other key events or transitions in a child's life. It should also be undertaken prior to key transitions to support planning and preparation.

If a child's circumstances change, the decision as to when a child will transfer team will depend on the long term plan for the child.

Transfer should not cause delay to social work intervention with families and should not cause delay in the progression of the child's care plan.

Moving to dedicated teams builds on standards of good practice in the delivery of effective and efficient services for children, young people and their families. Assessments of all children, young people and their families should be undertaken in a timely way and be evidence based. All children and young people receiving a service should have a clear plan subject to their status i.e. Child in Need, child subject to a child protection plan or a child looked after.

The protocol outlined below must be used flexibly and with discretion between teams in order to provide high quality services for children and their families. This will involve professional judgement, assessment, cooperation and effective communication between managers and the teams they manage.

Before any case transfer business support should complete a casefile check – Appendix A: Business Support Case File Check

The protocol is here to provide guidance - not rigid rules.

If at the point of referral it is clear that the child meets the eligibility criteria for CHAD (see Protocol between Child Health and Disability Teams (CHAD) and the Locality Teams Procedure contact should be made with the area CHAD Team Manager to discuss a transfer to their duty in box.

If at the point of referral it is clear that one or more of the children meets the CHAD eligibility criteria contact should be made with the area CHAD team manager (or vice versa) to arrange a joint approach. This would include any referral reason including Section 47 at the point of referral.

A working agreement to address the allocation of tasks to prevent duplication and ensure clarity for the family should be arranged in discussion with the team managers and recorded on Mosaic on all children within the family.

The primary worker for the disabled child(ren) should be the CHAD worker and the cluster team the co-worker and vice versa for the non-disabled child(ren). In complex on-going cases joint supervision should be arranged every three months.

This arrangement should continue for the duration of Children's Social Work Service (CSWS) involvement including cluster transfer to Children Looked After Service.

If the non-disabled child are to close to the cluster team this is to be discussed between the Team Managers and the decision recorded on all children.

If at the point of referral it is unclear but suspected that the child may meet the CHAD eligibility criteria the cluster Team Manager should contact the CHAD Team Manager to consider a joint initial visit. Following this a case discussion is to be held with the team managers to agree the appropriate team or joint working. This discussion should be added to Mosaic to aid future decision making.

If during the involvement of the area cluster team the child's circumstances change and they either become disabled or receive a clear diagnosis. A planned transfer will be as per Section 7, Transfer between Cluster Based Social Work Teams and Restorative Early Support (RES) Teams.

Wherever possible, one social worker should work with the whole family group. However, where this is not in the interests of individual children, a lead family social worker will be agreed as a clear joint working arrangement is required. In these situations, the lead family worker will coordinate all actions in relation to the family and be the point of contact for the family.

Where a looked after young person is to become a parent if any pre-birth assessment is required (due to the risk of significant harm) this will be led by the cluster team and will be the responsibility of the team where the young person is living permanently (or the birth family address if their placement is out of area). The allocated social worker for the young parent will contribute to the assessment, though their main role is to support the young person. Once the baby is born the social worker for the baby, where required, will be a cluster based social worker. This ensures that the best interests of both the parent and the baby are represented fairly.

Children should not transfer social worker or team until the completion of care proceedings. Upon completion of the care proceedings the child should retain their social worker through the adoption process except when there are unusual and mitigating circumstances. These circumstances will be agreed by the relevant Service Delivery Managers within the Cluster Based Social Work Teams and Children Looked After Teams. Examples are:- where the adoption process exceeds 6 months as a result of factors such as a siblings group, age and child/ren with additional needs.

Children who are subject of Secure Orders and placed in secure settings should not transfer social worker or team until the exit planning from the secure setting is finalised and the child has left secure accommodation to move back into the community.

If the permanence plan is for the child not to return home within a clearly planned timescale (e.g. 3-9 months), the child should transfer to the Children Looked After service.

A child accommodated subject to Section 20 with a plan to return home within the next six months will retain a social worker in the locality social work team to ensure the plan is completed.

Where the plan is for a child to remain looked after on Section 20,   this is to be agreed at Permanence Panel before transfer to the Child Looked After Team.

Before any transfer to the CLA teams occurs, the life story book should have been started, and be brought up to date by, the cluster team social worker.

The transfer should be considered as part of the child's permanence planning. All records should be fully complete, with an up to date assessment and care plan along with a transfer summary, to be quality assured by the team manager before transfer.

Good practice would be for the outgoing social worker to facilitate introductions of birth parents to the new social worker.

The cases will be discussed at a monthly transfer panel meeting to be allocated.

Children who cease to be looked after and have a need for on-going social work support must have a Child in Need meeting to determine the plan of support.

The Children Looked after Social Worker will remain the allocated worker to offer support through the transition period and case closure. On occasion where it is assessed it is appropriate for ongoing, targeted support, the Children Looked after Social Worker will complete a transfer summary. The case will be allocated to a Cluster Based Social Work Team following agreement between the relevant Service Delivery Managers.  

Where the young person who leaves care from S20 and is 16 or 17 years old, a decision is required by the Nominated Officer (Deputy Director) as to whether this young person is eligible for care leaver support. If the young person is entitled to care leaver support, their allocated worker would transfer to a PA in the care leaver service.

If a Special Guardianship Order is granted and a CIN plan developed the area team will continue to work with the family even if the child lives in another area within Leeds. After six months if the CIN plan is to continue for the foreseeable future a discussion is to be had between team managers as to whether it is a good point to transfer.    

If a Supervision Order is granted the area team will continue to work with the family for the duration of the Order.

The transfer of children between these teams should be a dynamic process and take place first and foremost in line with the best interests of children, taking into consideration the relationship they have with the allocated social worker. This process will fully consider the young person's needs, wishes and feelings to determine whether it is appropriate to transfer from 0 – 12 Children Looked After Team to 13 plus Children Looked After Teams. Examples being: - at the request of the young person, if the allocated social worker leaves. A transfer summary will be completed and these cases will be discussed at the monthly transfer panel.

If at the point of referral, it is felt that an intervention by the RES Team would be appropriate, the Cluster Based Area Team Manager should discuss the case with the relevant RES Team Manager. If it is agreed that the RES Team will take the case, the Cluster Based Area Team Manager will close the referral to Children's Social Work Service and send an outcome of Early Help Contact to the RES Team Manager on Mosaic. The RES Team Manager will then allocate the case within their team.

If the case is de-escalating to RES following a child and family assessment or support offered under Child in Need, the Cluster Based Area Team Manager should have a conversation with the RES Team Manager to agree if the case is suitable for RES. If agreed, there should be a joint visit arranged between the allocated Social Worker and RES worker to the family. It is expected that all activities will be concluded on Mosaic within 10 days and the Cluster Based Area Team Manager will close the case to Children's Social Work Services and send a transfer to Early Help to the RES Team Manager on Mosaic.

If the case is escalating from the RES Team to a Cluster Based Social Work Team, the RES Team Manager should discuss this with the relevant Cluster Based Area Team Manager. A joint visit should be undertaken between the RES Worker and the identified Cluster Based Area Social Worker to the family. An agreed date of transfer should be agreed between the team managers (e.g Initial Child Protection Conference) and the RES Team Manager should ensure all RES work is completed on Mosaic at the point of transfer.

When a decision is made that there is no further involvement required for social work (beyond a child and family assessment, co-ordinating a child in need or child protection plan) yet there are outstanding needs, the Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 (HM Government 2018) states it may be appropriate for a referral to be made to non-statutory services; defined as 'step down'. In Leeds such non-statutory services are inclusive of a wide range of partner agencies and settings (schools, children centres, cluster teams, health colleagues) committed to supporting this continuity of support for children and their families as a part of the Leeds Early Help Offer. As such any one of these agencies may take forward this on-going support as lead agency and identify a named lead practitioner.

The guidance to successfully transfer to early help is as follows:

When to transfer: when there is no further role for children social work service yet there are outstanding needs of the child and family that can be met by universal and targeted services. A single or multi-agency response may be required to improve the child's outcomes; in either instance an early help plan is appropriate.

Who to transfer to: social workers explore with the family who would be an appropriate early help lead practitioner. This practitioner should be from an agency/setting with whom the child/family has an established relationship and who has an on-going role working with the child/family. The social worker liaises with the potential named early help lead practitioner to secure their commitment to lead the early help plan.

The social worker shares the child and family assessment with the young person/parent/carer and gains consent from them for this assessment to form the basis of the early help plan. The social worker liaises with the early help lead practitioner to ensure a shared understanding of the outcomes and recommendations of the child and family assessment. The social worker and early help practitioner agree what needs to be prioritised and, determines realistic expectations of timescales (i.e. not all interventions can always commence on immediate closure of children social work service due to capacity/resource within early help). The lead practitioner is responsible for progressing and registering the early help plan.

When there has been an established plan (CIN/CP), the multi-agency meeting is to be utilized to ensure the team around the child/family is aligned to this transfer to early help for a seamless continuity of provision for the child/family to an Early Help Plan. The social worker shares the plan with the young person/parent/carer and liaises with the early help lead practitioner to ensure a shared understanding of the outcomes and recommendations of the plan. The lead practitioner is responsible for progressing and registering the early help plan.

In terms of recording the transfer, not all lead practitioners are using the local authority's MOSAIC recording database. The social worker needs to clarify with the lead practitioner whether or not they are using MOSAIC and, subject to this, follow one of the following steps:

If the lead practitioner is using MOSAIC – at the point of Case Closure from Assessment or Child Case Closure, social workers use the next action steps Case Closed to Children's Services and Early help: Transfer from Social Work. The Early help: Transfer from Social Work action must be assigned to the relevant early help service/practitioner.

If the lead practitioner is not using Mosaic - at the point of Case Closure from Assessment or Child Case Closure, social workers use the next action step of Case Closed to Children's Services. The social worker emails the Lead Practitioner a copy of the Child and Family Assessment and, where relevant the CIN/CP Plan.

When a child is at risk of significant harm or being harmed, early help will contact the Front door Safeguarding Hub (FDSH) where a decision is made to send a referral to the appropriate area children social work team. However, some families may be discussed at meetings between Early Help and area Team managers such as at Support and Guidance meetings and in those case the Team Manager will accept the referral directly.  

On receipt of the referral, beyond contact with the family, social workers will liaise with the referrer and other relevant agencies that have been delivering early help provision. In some instances there may be a scheduled visit or an early help plan or review meeting and it is for the social worker to agree with the early help lead practitioner as to whether this activity should progress and clarify the involvement of the social worker. Such activity can form an effective part of the information gathering process and support the continuity of support for the child and their family whilst the social worker progresses their child and family assessment.

Where needs escalate and outcomes are not being achieved, a request for early help from one of the specialist targeted services can be made to the Allocation Panel through completion of an Early Help Request Form. A decision is made by the panel as to which of these targeted services is best placed to meet the child and family's needs. A discussion should take place with the appropriately identified service and social worker regarding whether the allocated social worker needs to remain involved. An initial joint visit organised by the social worker with the family is expected to facilitate their engagement with the assigned team and to ensure a shared understanding of the work to be undertaken.

All decisions for transfers should be based on the best interest of the child at that time. When transferring the following process should be followed:

  • The transfer should be considered as part of the child's permanence planning for example if a child becomes Looked After but is 17 this should remain with the area team unless there are exceptional circumstances and this could be discussed. If the plan is for a looked after child in a kinship placement to be transferred to a SGO within six months this should also remain with the area team. All files should be fully complete, with an up to date assessment and care plan with a transfer summary, to be audited by the team manager before transfer;
  • The transfer of responsibility should be discussed and agreed between the relevant Service Delivery Managers;
  • The two social workers should have a case discussion and any issues brought to the attention of the team managers. A joint visit should then be undertaken to the child by the next applicable statutory visit if not sooner. If there is an arranged meeting with in the next two weeks both social workers will attend;
  • The parents, carers and child should be informed of the transfer and given clear contact details from the outset;
  • All other professionals involved with the child should similarly be notified of the case transfer and given contact details.

If a family is re-referred within three months after a closed assessment or plan it is to return to the original team regardless of where the family now live.

If the move is substantial in terms of geography or the original social worker is no longer in post this is to be discussed by the Team Managers.

There may be circumstances where transfer should not be undertaken as prescribed above. This may include situations where:

  • The child has a significant relationship with their current social worker and has additional short term issues);
  • The child and the family's relationship with their worker is preventing positive outcomes for the child;
  • The child's social worker is leaving the service and it is expedient to change teams at this time.

If the family move to the adjacent area but none of the professionals are to change (school, cluster etc.) then the case is to remain with the original social worker.

If there are any specific reasons beyond this then the service delivery managers for the looked after and cluster teams must discuss this and determine a clear rationale for their decision. This should be recorded on a decision record.

In exceptional circumstances where the Service Delivery Managers cannot reach agreement, this must be referred to the Heads of Service.

Last Updated: August 3, 2022