EPS PRE-PROCEEDINGS SPECIALIST PSYCHOLOGICAL SERVICES:
The Family Justice Review (2011), Revised Public Law Outline implementation (2013) and Supreme Court and Appeal Court Hearings (Re: B, Re; B-S) have placed increasing pressure on Local Authorities to ensure that they have fully assessed and attempted to meet all of the support needs of the family at Pre-Proceedings stage or even earlier, meaning that if the Local Authority applies to permanently separate the child from their family, they must have clear evidence that ‘nothing else will do’ (Baroness Hale; Re: B) and the Local Authority must conduct the required ‘balance sheet analysis’ set out in Re: B-S, to analyse the relative risk and benefit of every placement option (from staying with birth parents to adoption). Failure to adhere to these guidelines risks delay, expensive Appeal Court challenges and even Breach of Human Rights actions (Re: CA). The 26 week timetable introduced in the Public Law Outline expects cases that do reach Court to do so with all required evidence in place and Local Authorities are clearly expected by the Ministry of Justice and Family Division to use the Pre-Proceedings phase to deliver an intensive range of services designed to safely divert families from Court Care Proceedings.
Expert psychological solutions has developed a portfolio of cost effective expert clinical psychology services which can be commissioned at any stage of the Safeguarding process, from preventative consultations with child protection social workers to increase diversion from Court Proceedings for children on Child Protection Plans to direct assessments of children and parents during the Pre-Proceedings phase. Director of EPS, Lisa Wolfe has worked in a variety of multi-agency settings assessing and therapeutically intervening with the most complex families, and working in partnership with Child Protection, Learning Disability, Forensic and Youth Justice Social Workers offering consultation and supervision on aspects of Social work intervention with complex families, children and young people.
EPS can offer specialist psychological input to the Local Authority, children and families at Children in Need or Pre-Proceedings stage of Local Authority involvement
1) FAMILY FORMULATION MEETING - A fast and cost effective preventative approach, this involves:
- Psychologist undertaking limited background reading on the referred family (subject to consent and confidentiality agreements)
- ‘Family Formulation Meeting’ with the social worker (and team manager if required) to try and hypothesise all possible causes for family difficulties and offer a preliminary analysis of risk factors. *Family Formulation Meeting can take place using Skype or conference call facility allowing cost effective access to specialist psychological opinion for Local Authority Child Protection teams in any UK locality*
- Production of Psychological report summarising possible causes of parent/child/family presentation, providing a list of practical strategies for social worker to try stemming from psychological formulation, identifying other areas requiring assessment and intervention and making clinical referrals to other agencies (CAMHS, Third Sector) (with client permission and consultation)
- This can represent a one-off consultation or can involve on-going case supervision, written evaluation of case progress or time limited intervention with the family.
1) CREATING A FAMILY SERVICE PATHWAY – What services does this complex family need and how can I find them and refer into them? Case managing social workers may know or suspect the family has certain support needs (for example learning disabilities or mental health problems) but be unsure what specialist assessments or interventions are required to establish this and how to access these. As a highly experienced mental health professional with multi-agency and NHS commissioning experience with client groups with complex needs across the lifespan, Lisa Wolfe Clinical Director or EPS associate can:
- Undertake a ‘paper exercise’ review of possible family needs in all areas of functioning (parenting risks, mental health, cognitive, educational, offending behaviour, domestic violence, substance misuse, capacity to engage with professionals). This can include the needs of parents, the needs of the children or the needs of the whole family.
- Provide written document detailing a Family Service Pathway of local assessment and intervention services suitable to meet the all the identified needs of the family, plus make clinical referrals to any of the identified services (with client permission) without having to rely on the GP.
*This service can be provided as a fast and cost effective online and telephone consultation to any UK Local Authority Child Protection team*
2) CRISIS RESOLUTION MEETINGS – MEDIATING BETWEEN FAMILIES AND CHILD PROTECTION PROFESSIONALS: Relationships between families and social services sometimes break down, families disengage and the case can be forced to the edge of Proceedings, even when relationships have previously been good. In addition to the benefits to the child of being able to stay with their birth family if relations with social services can be repaired, a brief crisis resolution intervention can be highly cost effective if it prevents a child being taken into Foster Care (in the short or long term). Lisa Wolfe, Director of EPS, has extensive multi-agency experience of crisis resolution with high risk client groups (mentally ill offenders, young offenders, high risk child protection cases) and in Child Protection, adoption and fostering support and can offer the following:
- Crisis Resolution Meeting involving a meeting with the family and social services (separately) to identify the underlying cause of the relationship breakdown.
- Prepare a Crisis Formulation report summarising the cause of the breakdown, practical strategies for repairing the relationship and identifying any additional support required by family (for example if a parent has a mental health crisis) plus any additional risk management strategies that Social Services might wish to adopt to manage the crisis
- Identification of high risk crisis which may require immediate action to keep the children safe. Certain parental mental health conditions (such as paranoid psychosis with delusions or hallucinations) can be extremely risk and need to be identified as a matter of emergency by a qualified mental health professional.
PRE-PROCEEDINGS PSYCHOLOGICAL INTERVENTIONS:
Once a family have entered the Pre-Proceedings phase of Local Authority involvement, parents are entitled to limited Legal representation and Local Authorities are now expected to offer an intensive programme of intervention and support to either divert the family from Proceedings or gather clear evidence that Care proceedings are the only viable option. Specialist Psychological input in the form of Key Issue Psychological Assessments designed to provide cost effective psychological evidence on the key Child protection and Risk issues can greatly assist the Local Authority and parents’ lawyers at this crucial decision making stage. Brief Therapeutic Assessments with parents at Pre-Proceedings are also cost and time effective as they rapidly establish, using an evidenced based framework, the extent to which the parent has the capacity to engage with therapy and make long-term changes to reduce future risk to the child. The 26 week Care Proceedings timetable may not permit testing of this issue in proceedings yet Local Authorities are at risk of Appeal on the grounds of B-S compliancy if they fail to obtain a qualified mental health opinion on parental capacity to change. Standard Full Psychological Assessments of Children, Adults and Whole Families as would be commissioned as part of Care Proceedings are also available as Pre-Proceedings assessments Click here to see CV of Lisa Wolfe
SOME EXAMPLES OF KEY ISSUES PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENTS:
‘Have parents in a domestically violent relationship really separated?’
When the key child protection concern relates to domestic violence in parental or adult relationships there is often an expectation that parents/adults will separate as part of any Child Protection Plan. Research evidence proves that a number of psychological factors including personality, mental health, learning disability, substance misuse, attachment and personal trauma history affect whether parents can truthfully separate from a violent partner and help predict whether they are likely to form violent relationships in future. Clear Psychological evidence on this key issue at Pre-Proceedings stage can help determine the best course of action for the family:
‘Can the parent with a history of erratic engagement with professionals, periods of withdrawing from services, and periods of apparent dishonesty be helped to work honestly and openly with the Local Authority?’
There are many possible psychological factors affecting how a parent works with social services some of which have a good prognosis for change with the right treatment (such as withdrawal and dishonesty related to untreated depression and anxiety where the parent is too ashamed to admit their psychological problems) and some of which may signify the presence of high risk problems (like paranoid psychotic delusions or hallucinations which perceive professionals as being a dangerous ‘threat’ to the family or dishonesty specifically designed to ‘hide’ levels of substance misuse which represent a threat to the child). The key issue of what psychological issues underlie potentially problematic parental engagement with the Local Authority, if assessed during pre-proceedings, can result in successful treatment and diversion from Court for children who might otherwise have to be removed and Looked After, at significant emotional and financial cost.
SOME EXAMPLES OF BRIEF THERAPEUTIC ASSESSMENTS (PARENTS)
Lisa Wolfe (Director of EPS) has been undertaking brief therapeutic assessments of adults with a full range of complex needs, for 20 years and has developed and applied (since 1999) a specialised brief therapeutic assessment process incorporating the ‘treatability criteria’ of Fitzgerald (2002), with parents involved in Care Proceedings or Private Family Law. This assessment covers:
- Parental insight into child protection concerns
- Parental acceptance of their role in the concerns and their responsibility to tackle concerns
- Is the parent personally motivated to make changes (or do they blame others or seek to change because they feel it will impress the Court)
- Parental experience of seeking therapeutic help and do they see professionals as potentially helpful
- Presence of formal Psychiatric Disorder
- Analysis of whether therapy is likely to de-stabilise parent to a risky level for the child and assessment of practical, emotional and child protection support network required to manage risk
- Analysis of future risk of harm
- Specific local recommendations of suitable therapeutic interventions available from NHS, Local Authority, Third Sector and Private Providers together with referral criteria, waiting list and treatment timescales and cost.
FULL PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENTS OF CHILDREN, ADULTS AND WHOLE FAMILIES DURING PRE-PROCEEDINGS PHASE: