FAQs on help available and how to ask for support

What help can a mother ask for under a child in need or child protection plan?

Children’s Services can provide a range of services to help keep mother and child safe. This can include a combination of practical and emotional support. It might also involve referring families to specialist agencies.

 If you are worried that the mother and her child are not being offered support because the child is not on a child protection plan, you can politely remind the social worker that government guidance states that getting support is based on assessed needs and is not dependent on a child being at risk of harm.

You can find out more about helpful services under what help can you get under a child protection plan. Services can also be offered under early help or family support services.

Family Group Conference

You might also want to check with the mother if she would like a family group conference (FGC) to be held. This is a family-led meeting which brings together her family network to make a plan which helps her care for her child and keep them safe and/or identifies anyone else in the family who could care for her child, if needed.

Of course, any meeting would have to be safe for her and her child. If she would find this helpful you could help her ask the social worker to arrange this. The FGC should respect the family’s cultural needs. To find out more about this process see the FRG advice sheet on family group conferences  or watch our FGC film.

How can I confidently ask for a particular type of support for a mother and her child?

If you and the mother you are supporting have identified a specific service which would help her and/or her child but she needs Children’s Services funding or a referral from them to access it, it might be worth making this request in writing.

In the letter, you should provide all relevant information including costs and dates etc and explain clearly how this would help, emphasising the child’s needs or how the service might help the mother to better meet her child’s needs. You could also raise at any relevant planning meetings such as team around the child, child in need meetings or core group meetings where other professionals may support your request if they agree it would help. By being clear about what you are asking for and why, you will enable the social worker to confidently present your request for specific support to their manager or resource panel who should consider your request and respond appropriately.

If help is refused always ask for reasons in writing.

If the mother is dissatisfied with the services offered or with a decision made by Children’s Services, she can make a complaint. Children’s Services must deal with the complaint within specific time limits. The process and tips for making a complaint are described fully in the FRG advice sheet on challenging decisions and making complaints.

How can I obtain support from Children’s Services for a family affected by domestic violence when a pregnant woman or a mother has no recourse to public funds?

A pregnant woman or mother trying to keep her child and herself safe from domestic violence faces enormous challenges where she has no recourse to public funds.

As her advocate it may be useful to be aware that Children’s Services must provide support to children who are assessed as in need in their area, to help their families care for them and keep them safe.

You can ask for the child’s needs to be assessed, explaining how the child’s health or development is affected and setting out what help the child’s mother thinks is needed and why it will help her child to stay safe and thrive. A child without accommodation or living in an unsafe environment is likely to be considered to be a child in need.

You can refer to section 17 (6) of the Children Act 1989 (CA 1989) which states that Children’s Services may provide families with practical help (including cash) to buy essential equipment, food and other necessary items or even help with housing costs.

You can also highlight that schedule 2 paragraph 5 (CA 1989) provides that the local authority can provide accommodation to an adult in order to protect a child.

If mothers have uncertain immigration status, it might be more difficult to obtain this form of help and in some circumstances Children’s Services may pass on their details to the Home office. If the mother is concerned about this happening, it is important that she gets specialist immigration advice before approaching Children’s Services.

Do ask for a copy of the local eligibility criteria.

You may also need to remind Children’s Services of the relevant case law in R (G) v Barnet (2004) which states that a destitute child will be a child in need.

  1. They do not have adequate accommodation or any means of obtaining it (whether or not their other essential living needs are met); or
  2. They have adequate accommodation or the means of obtaining it, but cannot meet their other essential living needs.

You may be able to clearly show how the mother and child you are assisting fit this description of destitution and need help to address it.

Where Children’s Services state that they will financially support or accommodate a child only and not the child’s mother this should be challenged, with the help of a solicitor where possible. You can point out that the local authority should house a family together to prevent a breach of their human rights. You can reiterate Children’s Services section 17 (3) power to provide support to a whole family if it safeguards and promotes the child’s welfare.

This can be a difficult area of advocacy so do look at where you and the family can obtain further help.