Difficult or dangerous families

Public enquiry reports have highlighted difficult or dangerous families as being an issue in ensuring the protection of children. The behaviour of such families or their individual members can be so intimidating that the professionals or agency concerned are, or feel, unable to fulfil their assessment, supervision or intervention tasks.

The behaviour can be threatening to the safety of individual family members and/or agency staff.

This can challenge the resources of all agencies involved and for which there is no obvious immediate formal or statutory solution.

Families behaving in the way described, can challenge the agencies in the exercise of their functions. Review of recent national cases indicates that there is an expectation, both public and professional, of an effective and immediate response. This is not always possible and a breakdown in communication can result, which may lead to lack of partnership working. This protocol is designed to give agencies a formal and professionally defensible mechanism in which to plan that response.

There may be no single or effective solution to the behaviour causing concern. It is however necessary for each of the agencies to work in a co-ordinated fashion, to understand the limitations of each others formal and informal functions and to agree a course of action and have realistic expectations of each others involvement.

Remember – if you feel threatened, what is life like for the child?


The protocol

This protocol does not affect or replace existing lines of management, accountability or the conduct of statutory duties.

The protocol will formally recognise a group of multi-agency staff meeting together to consider the issues raised in relation to a family or individual who present difficult or dangerous behaviour which prevents the agency from exercising its statutory duties or duties of care.

The MARP will meet at the request of a health, education, social work, housing or police representative.

Each agency will designate the appropriate postholder able to call a meeting. It is most likely that this will occur when:

      • The difficult behaviour of a family or individual cannot be managed within the resources of the agency involved and for which there is no obvious immediate formal or statutory solution, and/or
      • The behaviour is threatening, either to the care of a child or other family member, the safety of the worker or the pursuance of statutory duties or a duty of care and for which there is no obvious immediate formal or statutory solution.

The MARP will meet at the earliest opportunity; the meeting will be called by the concerned agency who will also chair and minute the meeting. The urgency of the matter will determine how quickly the MARP will meet, although it is anticipated that a MARP will only be called when an urgent response is required.

The meeting will discuss the concern, review the roles of each agency present and agree a plan of intervention, which will specify each agency’s responsibility. This plan will be recorded. (It may be recognised that no proactive plan of intervention is achievable in which case this should be recorded as such). The minute will be circulated to each attending agency within seven days of the meeting.

The MARP may arrange a second meeting within a specified period of time to review the plan and any outcome.

The MARP may invite another agency to be present where a specialist opinion or resource is required. In these circumstances it will be understood that the information shared will be on a basis of absolute confidentiality.

The MARP will submit a copy of its minute to the Chair of the Child Protection Committee who will advise the committee of activity in this area at its regular meeting.