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1.2.1 Child Protection Conferences

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1. Inter-Agency Collaboration

1.1

All agencies must make reasonable efforts to ensure that staff involved in child protection work are committed to:

  • Sharing of information;
  • Careful preparation for conferences, including the provision of reports;
  • Attendance at conferences;
  • Contribution to decision making;
  • Delivery of actions that are planned to safeguard the child /ren.

2. Types of Child Protection Conferences

Initial Child Protection Conference

Purpose of Initial Conference

2.1

The Initial Child Protection Conference brings together family members, the child (where appropriate), supporters / Advocates and those professionals most involved with the child and family to:

  • Share and evaluate information in an inter-agency setting regarding the child’s health, development and functioning and the parent/carer’s capacity to ensure the child’s safety and promote their well being within the context of their wider family and environment;
  • Make judgements about the likelihood of the child suffering Significant Harm in future;
  • Decide if the child should be the subject of a Child Protection Plan and if so the category of abuse or neglect the child has suffered;
  • Decide what future action is needed to safeguard the child and promote her/his welfare, how that action will be taken forward and with what intended outcomes and time-scales.
2.2 The conference must consider all the children in the household (including those visiting or staying for significant periods), even if concerns are only being expressed about one child.

Threshold for Convening an Initial Conference

2.3 Children’s Social Care must convene an Initial Child Protection Conference when it is believed that a child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm.
2.4 This decision will be the outcome of the assessment undertaken during the Section 47 Enquiry that concludes that the concerns were substantiated and the child is judged to be suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm.
2.5 The Children's Social Care responsible manager, in consultation with the Child Protection Coordinators, makes the decision to convene a Child Protection Conference and must record her/his reasons.
2.6 Where the outcome of a Section 47 Enquiry was not to convene a conference, a senior member of another agency may request a conference be convened if s/he has serious concerns that a child’s welfare may not otherwise be adequately safeguarded. Any such request should normally be agreed (see also Complaints, Non-Compliance and Conflict Resolution Procedure).

Timing of Initial Child Protection Conference

2.7 The Initial Child Protection Conference should take place (offering those invited as much notice as is practicable) within 15 working days of the initiation of the Section 47 Enquiry.
2.8 The initial conference should, where possible, be held before expiry of an Emergency Protection Order, if further legal action is planned.
2.9 Where a Child Assessment Order has been made the conference should be held immediately on conclusion of examinations and assessments.
2.10 Any delay must have written authorisation from the Assistant Director, Safeguarding and Quality (including reasons for the delay) and Children’s Social Care must ensure risks to the child are monitored and action taken to safeguard the child.

Review Child Protection Conference

Purpose of Review Child Protection Conference

2.11

The purpose of the review conference is to:

  • Review the safety, health and development of the child against the intended outcomes set out in the Child Protection Plan;
  • Ensure measures put into place to ensure the child is adequately protected from the risk of harm are effective and appropriate;
  • Bring together and analyse information about the child’s health, development and functioning and the parent / carer’s capacity to ensure the child’s welfare and promote their welfare;
  • Make judgements about the likelihood of the child suffering Significant Harm in the future;
  • Decide if the child should continue to be the subject of a child protection plan and if so, the category of abuse or neglect s/he has suffered;
  • Decide what future action is needed to safeguard the child and promote her/his welfare, how that action will be taken forward and with what intended outcomes and time-scales;
  • Consider any required changes to the child protection plan.
2.12

The conference must decide explicitly if the child continues to be likely to suffer Significant Harm and hence whether a Child Protection Plan is required. If so, the category of abuse or neglect the child has suffered must be re-considered.

2.13

If the child is judged to no longer require a Child Protection Plan, the conference should consider what support may benefit the child and family and who is responsible for providing that support.

Timing

2.14

The first review conference must be held within 3 months of the initial conference. Further reviews must be held at intervals of not more than 6 months, for as long as the child remains subject to a Child Protection Plan.

2.15

Consideration should always be given to bringing the date of a conference forward where:

  • Child protection concerns relating to a new incident or allegation of abuse have been substantiated;
  • There are significant difficulties in carrying out the Child Protection Plan;
  • A child is to be born into the household of a child who is the subject of a Child Protection Plan;
  • A person identified as presenting a risk, or potential risk, to children is to join or commences regular contact with the household;
  • There is a significant change in the circumstances of the child or family not anticipated at the previous conference and with implications for the safety of the child;
  • A child subject to a Child Protection Plan is Looked After by the local authority and consideration is being given to returning the child to the circumstances where care of the child initially required a Protection Plan (unless this step is anticipated in the existing Child Protection Plan);
  • The Core Group believe that consideration should be given to ending the Child Protection Plan.

Pre-Birth Conference

See also Pre Birth Procedure.

Purpose

2.16 A pre-birth conference is an Initial Child Protection Conference concerning an unborn child. Such a conference has the same status and purpose and must be conducted in a comparable manner to an Initial Child Protection Conference.
Threshold for pre-birth conference
2.17 Pre-birth conferences should always be convened where there is a need to consider if an inter-agency Child Protection Plan is required. This decision will usually follow from a pre-birth assessment.
2.18

A pre-birth conference should be held where a:

  • Pre- birth assessment gives rise to concerns that an unborn child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm;
  • Decision to initiate Care Proceedings has been made as a result of a pre-birth assessment;
  • Previous child has died or been removed from parent/s as a result of Significant Harm;
  • Child is to be born into a family or household which already have child/ren subject to Child Protection Plan/s;
  • Person identified as presenting a risk, or potential risk, to children resides in the household or is known to be a regular visitor.
2.19

Other risk factors to be considered are:

  • The impact of parental risk factors such as mental ill-health, learning disabilities, substance misuse and domestic abuse;
  • A mother under 16 about whom there are concerns regarding her ability to self care and/or to care for the child.
2.20 If the conclusion of the pre-birth assessment is that a pre-birth child protection conference should be held, or the criteria in 2.19 apply, the conference must still be convened if the prospective parent/s plan to move to another local authority.
2.21 All agencies involved with pregnant women should consider the need for an early referral to Children’s Social Care, so that assessments are undertaken and family support services provided as early as possible in the pregnancy.

Timing of Conference

2.22 The pre-birth conference should take place as soon as practical and at least 10 - 12 weeks before the due date of delivery, so as to allow as much time as possible for planning support for the pregnancy and the birth of the baby.
2.23 Where there is a known likelihood of a premature birth, the conference should be held earlier.

Timing of Review Conference

2.24 The first review conference will be scheduled to take place within 6 weeks of the child’s birth

 Receiving-In Conference

2.25 When Children’s Social Care is notified that a child, subject to a Child Protection Plan in another area, is living within its own boundaries, a Receiving-In conference should be held within 15 working days of the notification of the move by the originating authority. See Children and Families Moving Across Boundaries Procedure.
2.26 Responsibility for the case rests with the original authority until the conference has been held, but local staff should co-operate with the Lead Social Worker from the originating authority to implement the child protection plan and record a ‘temporary child protection plan’ on the child’s social care record.
2.27 The Lead Social Worker from the originating authority must be invited to the Receiving-In Conference and asked to submit a report.
2.28 The Receiving-In Conference is an Initial Child Protection Conference. However, discontinuation of the Child Protection Plan from the previous local authority should only be agreed at this conference following a full assessment of the child and family in their new situation.
2.29 If a Child Protection Plan is agreed at a Receiving-In Conference, a Review Conference should be held after 3 months.

3. Membership of Child Protection Conferences

3.1

A conference should consist of the smallest number of people consistent with effective case management, but the following should normally be invited:

  • Parents / carers;
  • Child (if of sufficient age and understanding (see Section 5, Involving Children);
  • Social / Lead Social Worker and team/group manager;
  • Police CAIU officer;
  • Health services staff involved with child/ren - e.g. health visitor, school nurse, GP;
  • Education services (schools, education welfare officers etc);
  • Probation Providers or YOT (to attend if relevant);
  • Legal services (to attend if relevant).
3.2

Additional invitations to conference should be limited to those who have a need to know / contribution to the task and may include:

  • Health (including mental health) services involved with or able to provide relevant medical information regarding parent/s / carers and / or child/ren e.g. paediatricians, specialist doctors, ward staff, psychiatrists, community psychiatric nurses, social workers;
  • Midwifery and relevant neonatal services where the conference concerns an unborn or new-born child (see Pre-Birth Conference);
  • Housing services;
  • Alcohol and substance misuse services;
  • Domestic Abuse adviser;
  • A representative of the Armed Services (where appropriate);
  • Any professional or service provider currently or previously involved with the children or adults in the family, including foster carers, family centre and early years staff;
  • Any other relevant professional or service provider (including involved voluntary organisations);
  • Supporter (including advocate), friend or solicitor (as supporters for the child and parent / carers);
  • Wider family members.
  • The Children’s Guardian where there are current court proceedings (in the role of an observer, but entitled to a copy of the notes to use in court proceedings).

Legal Attendance at Conferences

3.3 The Law Society provides professional guidance on attendance by lawyers at child protection conferences. The local authority legal advisor is both a legal advisor to the chair and to the local authority, although will not normally provide advice during a conference. S/he may not question parents directly and in exceptional circumstances may have to withdraw if there are any indications that admissions are to be made by parents.
3.4 Solicitors for a parent/child may attend in the role of adviser and not as participants in the conference in their own right.  The role of a solicitor in this situation is to assist her/his clients to participate.  In inviting a Solicitor to speak on behalf of a parent or carer, the chair will be guided by the principle of encouraging the fullest participation of the parent or carer consistent with retaining the focus on the overall purpose of the conference.  Chairs will ensure Solicitors are reminded that all questions need to be directed through the chair.

Attendance of Agency Representations

3.5

Professionals who are invited but unable to attend for unavoidable reasons should:

  • Arrange wherever possible for another representative to attend on her / his behalf;
  • Inform the conference administrator;
  • Submit a written report.
3.6 A professional observer can only attend with the prior consent of the chair and the family and must not take part in discussions or decision-making. Requests should be made to the chair a minimum of 3 working days before the conference.

Quorate Conferences

3.7 The primary principle for determining quoracy is that there should be sufficient information, and sufficient agencies or key disciplines present to enable safe decisions to be made in the individual circumstances.
3.8 Normally, minimum representation is Children's Social Care and at least two other agencies or key disciplines that have had direct contact with the child and family.
3.9 Where a conference is inquorate it should not ordinarily proceed.
3.10

If the chair makes the decision not to go ahead with the conference, the chair must ensure that either:

  • An interim Child Protection Plan is produced; or
  • The existing plan is reviewed with attending professionals and family members so as to safeguard the welfare of the child/ren;

    and that
  • Another conference date, usually within a month is set immediately.
3.11

In exceptional circumstances the chair may decide to proceed with the conference. This would be relevant:

  • *Where a child has not had relevant contact with three agencies - e.g. pre-birth conferences, where concerns have decreased over a considerable time; or
  • Where sufficient information is available to enable safe decisions to be made in the individual circumstances; and
  • Where a delay will be detrimental to the child.
3.12 Where an inquorate conference is held the conference chair will explain the exceptional circumstances that have prompted the decision to proceed and, if a child is made subject to a child protection plan, will arrange a date for an early review conference.
3.13 If the decision of the inquorate conference was to discontinue the protection plan, the chair should seek the views of other agencies involved with the child first. This should be done in writing within 10 working days, and written responses provided within 10 working days.

4. Involving Parents / Carers & Family Members

4.1 Parents and carers must be invited to conferences (unless exclusion is justified as described (see Section 6, Exclusions of Family Members).

Information Provision & Planning

4.2 The social worker must facilitate their constructive involvement by ensuring in advance of the conference that they are given sufficient information and practical support to make a meaningful contribution.
4.3 The social worker must explain to parents / carers the purpose of the meeting, who will attend, the way in which it will operate, the purpose and meaning of registration and the complaints process.
4.4 Preparation should include consideration of childcare arrangements to enable the attendance of parent/s.
4.5 Written information should be left with the family regarding conferences, the right to bring a friend, supporter (including an advocate) or solicitor (in role of supporter), details of any local advice and advocacy services and the conference complaints procedure.
4.6 The role of the supporter is to enable the parent / carer to put her/his point of view, not to take an adversarial position or cross-examine participants. The family need to be aware that any supporter will hear personal information about the child/ren, parents and partners.

Use of Interpreters

4.7 Those for whom English is not a first language must be offered and provided with an interpreter, if required. Provision should be made to ensure that visually or hearing impaired or otherwise disabled parents/carers are enabled to participate.
4.8 A family member should not be expected to act as an interpreter of spoken or signed language (see Interpreters, Signers & Others with Special Communication Skills Procedure).

Presentation of Parent / Carer views to the Conference

4.9 Parents / carers should be helped in advance to consider what they wish to convey to the conference within its time constraints, how they wish to do so and what help and support they will require e.g. the family may choose to communicate in writing or by tape, to provide a summary of where they see concerns and their own strengths to meet their child’s needs.
4.10

If parents / carers are unable or do not wish to attend the conference they must be provided with full opportunities to contribute their views and the social worker must facilitate this by:

  • Providing alternative means to communicate with the chair;
  • Exploring the use of an advocate or supporter to attend on behalf of the parent / carer;
  • Enabling the parent / carer to write or tape their views;
  • Agreeing that the social worker, or any other professional, expresses their views.

Prior Meeting with Chair

4.11 Immediately prior to the conference, the chair should meet with family members to ensure they understand the process. This may, where the potential for conflict exists, involve separate meetings with the different parties.

Potential of Conflict Between Family Members

4.12 Explicit consideration should be given to the potential of conflict between family members and possible need for children or adults to speak without other family members present (see Section 6, Exclusions of Family Members).

5. Involving Children

5.1 The child, subject to her/his level of understanding, needs to be given the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the conference.
5.2 In practice, the appropriateness of including an individual child must be assessed in advance and relevant arrangements made to facilitate attendance at all or part of the conference.
5.3 Where assessed in accordance with the criteria below, that it would be inappropriate for the child to attend, alternative arrangements should be made to ensure her/his wishes and feelings are made clear to all relevant parties - e.g. use of an advocate, written or taped comments. 
  The Children's Commissioner has said that: 'Children have a right to an advocate to speak on their behalf in their dealings with the care system. Children in other situations such as those in custody or in secure mental health facilities can also benefit from advocacy.' Helping children get the care experience they need, June 2016.

Criteria for presence of child at conference

5.4

The primary questions to be addressed are:

  • Does the child have sufficient understanding of the process?
  • Has s/he expressed an explicit or implicit wish to be involved?
  • Parents’ views about the child’s proposed presence;
  • Is inclusion assessed to be of benefit to the child?
5.5 The test of ‘sufficient understanding’, is partly a function of age and partly of capacity to understand. Generally, a child of less than 10 years is unlikely to be able to be a direct and/or full participant in a conference. An older child is potentially able to contribute. However, each child should be considered individually and consideration taken of their maturity, intellectual and cognitive development.
5.6 To establish her/his wish with respect to conference attendance the child must be first provided with a full and clear explanation of its purpose, conduct and membership and potential provision of an advocate or support person.
5.7 Written information translated into the appropriate language should be provided to those able to read and an alternative medium e.g. tape, offered those who cannot read.
5.8 A declared wish not to attend a conference (having been given such an explanation) must be respected.
5.9

Consideration should be given to the:

  • Views of and impact on parent/s of the child’s proposed attendance;
  • Impact of the conference on the child e.g. if s/he has a significant learning difficulty or if it will be impossible to ensure s/he is kept apart from a parent who may be hostile and/or attribute responsibility to the child.

Indirect contributions when a child is not attending

5.10

When a child is not attending, the social worker must ensure her/his wishes and feelings are effectively represented. Means to achieve this include one or more of the following:

  • A pre-meeting with the conference chair;
  • Representation via an advocate or supporter;
  • Written statements, e-mails, text messages, taped comments and/or drawings prepared alone, with the social worker or with independent support;
  • Agreeing the social worker / any other professional, expresses her/his views.

Direct involvement of a child in a conference

5.11

In advance of the conference, the chair and social worker should agree whether:

  • The child attends for all or part of the conference, taking into account confidentiality of parents and/or siblings;
  • S/he should be present with one or more of her/his parents;
  • The chair meets the child alone or with a parent / carer prior to the meeting.
5.12 If the child attends all or part of the conference, it is essential that s/he is prepared by the social worker or independent advocate, who can help her/him prepare a report / tape recording or rehearse any particular points that the child wishes to make.
5.13 Those for whom English is not a first language should be offered and provided with an interpreter.
5.14 Provision should be made to facilitate a child who has a disability to participate.
5.15 Consideration should be given to enabling the child to be accompanied by a supporter or an advocate.

6. Exclusion of Family Members From a Conference

6.1 Exceptionally it may be necessary to exclude 1 or more family members from part or all of a conference.
6.2 These situations will be rare, and the conference chair, must be notified as soon as possible by the social worker if it is considered necessary to exclude one or both parents for all or part of a conference.
6.3

The chair should make a decision according to the following criteria:

  • Indications that the presence of the family member may seriously prejudice the welfare of the child;
  • Sufficient evidence that a parent / carer may behave in such a way as to interfere seriously with the work of the conference such as violence, threats of violence, racist, or other forms of discriminatory or oppressive behaviour or being in an unfit state e.g. through drug, alcohol consumption or acute mental health difficulty (but in their absence a friend or advocate may represent them at the conference);
  • A child requests that the parent / person with Parental Responsibility or carer are not present while s/he is present;
  • The presence of parents would prevent a participant from making her/his proper contribution;
  • The need (agreed in advance with the conference chair) for members to receive confidential information that would otherwise be unavailable, such as legal advice or information about a criminal investigation;
  • Potential conflicts between different family members may suggest they attend at separate times e.g. in situations of domestic abuse.
6.4 Where a worker from any agency believes a parent should, on the basis of the above criteria, be excluded, representation must be made, if possible at least 3 days in advance, to the conference chair.
6.5 The agency concerned must indicate which of the grounds it believes is met and the evidential basis of its request. The chair must consider the representation carefully and may need legal advice.
6.6 If, in planning a conference, it becomes clear to the chair there may be conflict of interests between child/ren and parents, the conference should be planned so that the welfare of the child/ren remain paramount.
6.7 This may mean arranging for the child and parents to participate in separate parts of the conference and for separate waiting arrangements to be made. Any exclusion period should be for the minimum duration necessary and must be clearly recorded in the conference minutes.
6.8 It may also become clear at the beginning or in the course of a conference, that its effectiveness will be seriously impaired by the presence of the parent/s. In these circumstances, the chair may ask them to leave.
6.9 Where a parent is on bail, or subject to an active police investigation, it is the responsibility of the chair to ensure the police can fully present their information and views and also that the parents participate as fully as circumstances allow. This may involve the chair and police having a confidential meeting prior to the conference.
6.10 The decision of the chair over matters of exclusion is final regarding both parents and the child/ren.
6.11 If the chair has decided, prior to the conference, to exclude a parent, this must be communicated in writing to the parent who must be informed about how to make their views known, how s/he will be told the outcome of the conference and about the conference complaints procedure (see Section 12, Complaints by Service Users).
6.12 If a decision to exclude a parent is made, this must be fully recorded in the minutes. Exclusion at one is not reason enough in itself for exclusion at further conferences.
6.13 Those excluded should be provided with a copy of the social workers report to the conference and be provided with the opportunity to have their views recorded and presented to the conference.
6.14 Where a parent / carer attends only part of a conference as a result of exclusion, s/he should receive the record of the decisions made at the conference.
6.15

The chair has the authority to decide:

  • If the entire record may be provided; or
  • (Usually) only that part attended by the excluded parent / carer.
6.16

A decision to withhold part of the record is justifiable on the basis of:

  • Health and safety, where to provide the entire record might increase the risk to the child or relevant others; or
  • Sensitive 3rd party information the sharing of which is unjustified e.g. health related information; or
  • A current criminal investigation, the effectiveness of which might otherwise be undermined; or
  • Other legal considerations (usually on basis of legal advice).
6.17 The relevant procedural responses to professional or service user dissatisfaction about the above decisions are provided in the complaints procedure (see Section 12, Complaints by Service Users) and Complaints, Non-Compliance and Conflict Resolution Procedure respectively.

7. Information for Conference

Social Work Report

7.1

The Children and Families Assessment will be the social worker’s report for an Initial Child Protection Conference. The report will include details of the section 47 enquiry.

7.2

The minutes of the most recent Core Group Meeting prior to the Review Child Protection Conference will be the social worker’s report for a Review Conference. This should include:

  • Update since the last Conference/Core Group
  • Review of the Child Protection Plan
  • Parents’/Children’s views
  • Legal advice (where relevant)
  • Any other business/issues
  • Date, time and venue of next Core Group meeting/Review Child Protection Conference
All reports must include an up-to-date analysis of risk and the local authority's recommendation to the conference.
7.3 Even if not the subject of the Conference, all children in the household need to be considered at the Initial Child Protection Conference and information provided on each of them.
7.4 The report should be completed on ICS and shared with parents and older children  (to the extent that it is believed to be in their interests) at least 24 hours in advance of initial conferences and 3 working days before Review Conferences to enable any factual inaccuracies to be identified, amended and areas of disagreement noted.
7.5 Where necessary, the reports should be translated or provided in a form that will be understood by each individual.
7.6 The report will be sent out after the conference (with the chair's report) to those invited to the conference.

Information From Other Agencies

7.8 It is the responsibility of all the agencies who have participated in the enquiry or who have relevant information to make this available to the conference in the form of a written, legible and signed report.
7.9 All agencies should have a pro forma for reports.
7.10 The reports must make it clear which child/ren are the subject of the conference, but address any known circumstances of all children in the household.
7.11 The report should be provided to parents and older children (to the extent that it is believed to be in their interests) at least 48 hours in advance of initial conferences and 5 working days before review conferences to enable any factual inaccuracies to be identified, amended and areas of disagreement noted.
7.12 Where necessary, the reports should be translated or provided in a form that will be understood by each individual.
7.13 The report should be provided to the chair at least 24 hours prior to the initial conference and 3 working days in advance of the review conference.
7.14 The reports will be attached or incorporated into the chair’s record for circulation.
7.15 Where any agency representatives are unable to attend the conference they must ensure that a written report is made available to the conference, through the chair and, if possible, that a colleague attend in their place.

8. Chairing of Conference

8.1

The chair of a child protection conference:

  • Should be a professional with sufficient status to ensure inter-agency commitment to the conference and child protection plan;
  • Should be independent of operational or line management responsibilities for the case;
  • Is accountable to the Director of Children’s Services.
8.2 Wherever possible the chair of the initial conference should also chair any subsequent review conferences.
8.3 The chair must meet with child and family members (and interpreters if required) prior to the conference to ensure they understand the purpose of the conference and how it will be conducted.
8.4

At the start of the conference the chair should:

  • Set out the purpose of the conference;
  • Confirm the agenda;
  • Emphasise the need for confidentiality;
  • Address diversity issues e.g. specifying that racist, sexist, homophobic and threatening behaviour will not be tolerated;
  • Clarify contributions of those present, including family supporters.
8.5

During the conference the chair should ensure that:

  • The conference maintains a focus on the welfare of the child/ren;
  • Consideration is given to all the children in the household;
  • All those present (including if relevant parents and child/ren) make a full contribution and that full consideration is given to the information they offer;
  • Reports of those not present are made known to parties;
  • The wishes and feelings of the child/ren are clearly outlined;
  • Issues of race, religion, language, class, gender, sexuality and disability are fully taken into account;
  • Appropriate arrangements are made to receive 3rd party confidential information;
  • Decisions are reached in an informed and systematic way;
  • All concerned are advised / reminded of the complaints procedure;
  • Arrangements are made with the social worker for absent parents or carers to be informed verbally (wherever possible) of the decisions of conferences, in addition to written notification.
8.6

If the child is made the subject of a Child Protection Plan the chair should ensure that:

  • A Lead Social Worker from Children’s Social Care is identified to develop, co-ordinate and implement the child protection plan (if this is not possible, the relevant team/group manager should be the point of contact and procedures relating to unallocated cases followed). See Unallocated Child Protection Cases Procedure;
  • A Core Group is identified of family members and professionals;
  • A date is set for the 1st core group meeting within10 working days of the initial conference and timescales set for subsequent meetings;
  • A date for the child protection review conference is set (unless an alternative system is in place to ensure this process);
  • The child protection plan is outlined and clearly understood by all concerned including the parents and where appropriate the child.
8.7 If the child is not made the subject of a Child Protection Plan or the child protection plan is discontinued, the chair must ensure consideration is given to any need to promote the child’s welfare, through the use of a child’s plan and/or other appropriate recommendations made.
8.8 If parents / carers disagree with the decision of the conference, the chair must further discuss their concerns and explain the complaints process (See Section 12, Complaints by Service Users).
8.9 The chair should ensure that the decision of the conference is entered into agency records through use of the appropriate forms at the end of the meeting and forwarded to the designated Children’s Social Care manager.

9. Actions & Decisions of the Conference

Threshold for a Child Protection Plan

9.1

The conference should consider the following question when determining whether the child needs to be the subject of a Child Protection Plan:

  • Has the child suffered  Significant Harm?
  • Is the child likely to suffer Significant Harm?
9.2

The test for the likelihood of the child suffering Significant Harm in the future should beeither:

  • The child can be shown to have suffered ill-treatment or impairment of health or development as a result of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect, andprofessional judgement is that further ill-treatment or impairment is likely; or
  • A professional judgement, substantiated by the findings of enquiries in this individual case or by research evidence, is that the child is likely to suffer ill-treatment or the impairment of health and development as a result of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect.
9.3

If the child is likely to suffer Significant Harm in the future, s/he will require inter-agency help and intervention delivered through a formal Child Protection Plan. Where a child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, Significant Harm in the future it is the local authority's duty to consider the evidence and decide what, if any, legal action to take. The information presented to the Child Protection Conference should inform that decision-making process but it is for the local authority to consider whether it should initiate, for example, Care Proceedings. Where a child who is the subject of a Child Protection Plan becomes Looked After, the Child Protection Plan should form part of the child's Care Plan.

9.4 This threshold must be considered at both initial and review conferences, for each subject child.

Agreeing to a Child Protection Plan

9.5

The chair of a conference is responsible for the conference decision, and s/he should:

  • Consult conference members;
  • Take account of any written contributions received;
  • Aim for a consensus as to the need for a child protection plan, but where this cannot be agreed accept a majority view;
  • Ultimately make the decision (generally this will be in accordance with the consensus or majority view, but in exceptional circumstance the chair may have to over-ride the majority to ensure the decision is in accordance with the criteria for implementing / discontinuing the child protection plan).
9.6 Any dissent by professionals must be recorded in the conference minutes.
9.7 The decision making process will normally take place with parents / carers present.
9.8 The need for a child protection plan should be considered separately in respect of each child.
9.9 Where a pre-birth conference has decided that an unborn child is in need of a child protection plan, her/his surname and expected d.o.b. must be entered into the social care record immediately and their name and d.o.b. confirmed at birth (see also Pre Birth Procedure).
9.10 The name and correct date of birth must be entered into agency records (including those held by the child protection co-ordinator) at birth.

Category of Abuse or Neglect

9.11 If the decision is that the child is at continuing risk of Significant Harm and in need of aChild Protection Plan, the chair should determine under which category of abuse or neglect the child has suffered.
9.12 This decision making process must occur at both initial and review conferences. Where the category is changed at a review conference, the chair must ensure there are sufficient grounds.
9.13 The category/ies used (Physical Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Sexual Abuse andNeglect) must indicate to those consulting the child’s social care record the primary presenting concerns (reflecting all information obtained during assessments and analysis) at the time the child became subject of a Child Protection Plan.
9.14 Multiple categories should not be used to cover all eventualities, but it may, on occasions be appropriate to use more than one category if each of the categories reaches the threshold for Significant Harm and if a specific risk might otherwise be underestimated.
9.15 Emotional Abuse should only be used as a 2nd category if substantial concern is indicated.

Unborn Baby

9.16 If a decision is made that an unborn baby will be subject to a child protection plan, the main cause for concern must determine the category and the plan outlined to commence prior to the birth of the baby.
9.17 The Core Group must be established and meet if at all possible prior to the birth, and certainly prior to the baby’s return home after a hospital birth.

‘Outline’ Child Protection Plan

9.18

Where it has been agreed that the child should be subject to a Child Protection Plan, the chair should ensure that the outline Child Protection Plan drawn up by conference members enables both professionals and the family to understand exactly what is expected of them and what they can expect of others. This should include:

  • Any immediate action to safeguard the child/ren;
  • Time limited short and longer term objectives clearly linked to action to promote the child/ren’s health and development and reduction of the likelihood of harm;
  • Required outcomes, linked to a reduction in the risk to the child/ren i.e. what needs to change;
  • Identification of further action and specialist assessments of the child and family that may be required to ensure sound judgements can be made on how best to safeguard the child and promote her/his welfare;
  • Consideration of the use of a Family Group Conference;
  • Responsibility for tasks ascribed to specific members of the conference, including family members;
  • Method of monitoring and evaluating progress, including identifying which professional is responsible for checking required changes and frequency and nature of agency contact;
  • Consideration of a contingency plan if agreed actions not completed and / or circumstances change e.g. legal action and the circumstances that would necessitate its use;
  • Identification of a Lead Social Worker;
  • Identification of Core Group membership, and timescales for their meetings and the production of the protection plan.
9.19 There should be an individual plan outlined for each child subject to a Child Protection Plan (see Planning and Implementation Procedure) for further details of outline Child Protection Plan, Lead Social Worker and core group role.

Discontinuing the Child Protection Plan

9.20 The same decision making procedure (described above) for agreeing the use of a Child Protection Plan, is used to discontinue the use of a Child Protection Plan for a specified child.
9.21

A child’s name should no longer be the subject of a Child Protection Plan if:

  • It is judged that the child is no longer continuing to, or is likely to, suffer significant harm and therefore no longer requires safeguarding by means of a child protection plan;
  • The child and family have moved permanently to another local authority area. In such cases, the receiving local authority should convene a child protection conference within 15 working days of being notified of the move. Only after this event may the original local authority discontinue its child protection plan; or
  • The child has reached 18 years of age (to end the child protection plan, the local authority should have a review around the child's birthday and this should be planned in advance), has died or has permanently left the United Kingdom.
9.22 See Looked After Children Subject to Child Protection Plans with regard to discontinuing the child protection plan for Child in Care.
9.23

It is permissible for the child protection manager to discontinue a Child Protection Plan, without the need to convene a child protection conference, only when:

  • One or other of the latter 2 criteria in 9.21 are satisfied; and
  • S/he has consulted with relevant agencies present at the conference which first concluded that a Child Protection Plan was required.
9.24 When a Child Protection Plan has been discontinued on the authorisation of the child protection manager, the decision and the consultation with other agencies must be clearly recorded in the child’s social care record.
9.25 When a Child Protection Plan has been discontinued as a result of a conference conclusion, notification should be sent, as a minimum, to all agencies representatives who were invited to attend the initial conference, which led to formulation of a Child Protection Plan.

If Child is not the Subject of a Child Protection Plan

9.26 If it is considered that the circumstances do not meet the threshold for a Child Protection Plan to be made or if a Child Protection Plan is to be discontinued, but the child is judged to be in need of help to promote her/his health or development, the conference must ensure that recommendations are made to this effect.
9.27

Subject to the family’s views and consent, it may be appropriate to:

  • Make recommendations about support and help;
  • Establish commitment to inter-agency working, particularly where the child’s needs are complex (this should involve a regularly reviewed child’s plan).
9.28 Any on-going support should be provided using an ICS child’s plan, using multi-agency meetings (and/or Family Group Conferences) as the vehicle to make and review plans.

10. Challenges by Professionals

10.20 The chair of a conference is responsible for the conference decision. S/he will consult conference members and aim for a consensus, but ultimately will make the decision and note any dissenting views.
10.21 When dissent occurs, the social worker must involve that agency in future decision-making and in any Child Protection Plan or Child in Need Plan.
10.22 Research and fatal case reviews have shown that differences of opinion between agencies can lead to conflict resulting in a less favourable outcome for the child.
10.23 The agency or individual who dissents from the chair’s decision must determine whether s/he wishes to further challenge the result.
10.24 If the dissenting professional believes the decision reached by the chair places a child at (further) risk of Significant Harm, s/he should seek advice from her/his named / designated / lead professional or manager and follow the Complaints, Non-Compliance and Conflict Resolution Procedure.
10.25 The Complaints, Non-Compliance and Conflict Resolution Procedure may also be employed if a participating professional has serious concerns about the process followed by the conference and feels unable to resolve these on a face to face basis with those concerned.

11. Administrative Arrangements

11.20 Children’s Social Care is responsible for administering the child protection conference service.
11.21

Each authority must have clear arrangements for the organisation of child protection conferences including:

  • Information leaflets for children and for parents translated into appropriate languages; and
  • Standard invitations to children, parents / carers and professionals;
  • Report formats for initial and review conferences.
11.22 The social worker will book the conference and the social worker/chair (according to local arrangements) will determine the invitation list, using the appropriate pro-forma and the invitations sent out by the child protection administrator from the reviewing service.
11.23

Those attending should be notified of conferences as far in advance as possible and the conference held at a time and place likely to be convenient to those invited.

11.24 All initial and review conferences should be noted by a dedicated person whose sole task within the conference is to provide a written record of discussion in a consistent format.
11.25

Conference records for each subject child should include:

  • Name, date of birth and address of the subject/s of the case conference, parents / carers, household members and other significant adults;
  • Who was invited, who attended the conference and who submitted their apologies;
  • A list of written reports available to conference and whether open to parents or not;
  • The purpose of the conference;
  • All the essential facts;
  • Views of child and family members;
  • A summary of discussion at the conference, accurately reflecting contributions made;
  • All decisions reached, with information outlining the reasons;
  • An outline or revised child protection plan enabling everyone to be clear about their tasks (if applicable);
  • What needs to change for the child protection plan to be discontinued (if applicable);
  • Name of Lead Social Worker;
  • Members of the Core Group and date of first meeting;
  • Date of next conference.
11.26

The decision of the conference and where appropriate details of the category of abuse or neglect, outline CP plan the name of the Lead Social Worker and Core Group membership should circulated to those invited to the conference within 1 working day.

11.27 The conference record, signed by the conference chair, will be sent to all those who attended, or were invited, within 20 working days of the conference. Any amendment to accuracy of record should be sent, in writing, within 5 working days of receipt of minutes.
11.28 Copies of the conference record should be given to the parents by the social worker. Confidential material, shared in any exclusion period, may be excluded from the parent/s’ copy.
11.29 Where a friend, supporter or solicitor has been involved the chair should clarify with the parent whether the record should be provided for those individuals.
11.30 Where a young person has attended a child protection conference, the social worker must arrange to see her/him and arrange to discuss relevant sections of the minutes.
11.31 Consideration should be given to whether a child should be given copies of the minutes. They may be supplied on request, to her/his legal representative.
11.32 Where parents and / or the child/ren have a sensory disability or where English is not their first language, steps must be taken to ensure that they can understand and make full use of the minutes.
11.33 Conference minutes are confidential and should not be passed to 3rd parties without the consent of either the conference chair or order of the court.
11.34 In criminal proceedings the police may reveal the existence of child protection records to the Crown Prosecution Service and in Care Proceedings the record of the conference may be revealed in court.
11.35 Every agency must establish arrangements for the storage of child protection conference records in accordance with their own confidentiality and record retention policies.

12. Complaints by Service Users

See also Complaints, Non-Compliance and Conflict Resolution Procedure


Eligibility

12.1

Parents / caregivers or a child (considered by the conference chair to have sufficient understanding), may make a complaint in respect of one or more of the following aspects of the child protection conference:

  • The process employed during the conference e.g. information shared during an exclusion period or conduct of the conference;
  • A decision that the child become the subject of a Child Protection Plan and/or the category selected.
12.2

All parties must be made aware that this complaints procedure:

  • Must not be used (overtly or covertly) to prevent all involved professionals (doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers etc) from exercising their professional obligation to express verbal or written opinions formed in good faith;
  • Cannot itself change the decisions made, and that during the course of a complaint’s consideration, the decision made by the conference stands.
12.3

The end result for a complaint about the process employed during a conference will either be:

  • An acknowledgement that it was flawed and action taken (if required); or
  • Confirmation that the process followed was reasonable.
12.4

The end result for a complainant about a decision for the child to become subject of a child protection plan and/or the category of primary concern will be either that:

  • A review conference is brought forward and convened under a different chair or that
  • The status quo is confirmed
12.5 Complaints about an individual agency and its performance and provision (or non-provision) of services should be responded to in accordance with that agency’s complaints handling procedure.

Immediate Resolution

12.6 An expressed concern about the conference itself, which arises in the course of the meeting, must be noted and an attempt made by the chair to resolve it with the service user.
12.7 If this initial attempt to resolve matters fails, the service user should be reminded of the conference complaints procedure, and be invited (and if necessary assisted by the social worker) to write within 28 days of receipt of minutes, to the conference chair.

Stage 1 - Exploration by Conference Chair

12.8 The conference chair should inform the Children’s Social Care complaints manager, designated safeguarding manager, relevant service manager and all professionals who attended the conference that s/he has received a complaint (which may have been raised at or following the meeting).
12.9 Complaints made outside the 28 day time limit may, in exceptional circumstances and at the discretion of the conference chair, be accepted.
12.10

The conference chair should meet with the complainant (who may be supported by a friend or relative) within 7 working days of receipt of the complaint so as to:

  • Ensure the complainant sufficiently understands the child protection procedure;
  • Clarify the grounds for, and nature of, the complaint/s;
  • Establish the outcome desired by the complainant;
  • Ensure the complainant understands the scope and relevance of this complaints procedure with regard to their circumstances;
  • Gather relevant information.
12.11 At the meeting with the complainant the conference chair should be accompanied by a colleague who can take notes.
12.12 Within a further 7 working days, the conference chair should provide written confirmation to the complainant of the agreed outcome and actions arising from their meeting. This letter should include information on how to pursue concerns further (see 12.14 below) if the complainant remains dissatisfied.
12.13 The response provided to the complainant should be copied to the Children’s Social Care complaints manager.

Stage 2 – Formal Consideration by LSCB Panel

12.14 If, within 28 days of receipt of the stage 1 letter, the complainant notifies the complaints manager that s/he remains dissatisfied and specifies reasons, arrangements must be made to convene, within a further 28 days, a panel of members drawn from LSCB agencies.
12.15 The complaints manager in liaison with the designated safeguarding manager will make arrangements for this meeting (the representative of Children’s Social Care would not normally be the chair).
12.16 The panel should be made up of 3 LSCB members (including representatives from at least 2 from amongst police, Children’s Services and health agencies, none of whom should have previous or present direct or supervisory involvement in the case in question.)
12.17 The complainant and (if s/he requests such an arrangement) a supporter, who may be a family member, friend or a solicitor, should be invited to attend.
12.18

All those attending the panel should be provided with the following documentation a minimum of 5 working days before it meets:

  • A formal request to convene;
  • A copy of the relevant conference minutes and the reports that were made available to the conference (excepting minutes from any exclusion period);
  • Stage 1 meeting correspondence;
  • Any written submissions from the complainant and the chair of the child protection conference.
12.19

Panel members should be provided by the complaints manager with the following additional documentation:

  • Minutes from any exclusion period during the conference in question;
  • Any legal advice obtained by the complaints manager.
12.20 The complaints manager will liaise with the complainant throughout, and be available at the panel, to advise on relevant procedures and processes.
12.21

The panel should be convened within 28 days of the receipt of the complainant’s letter and consider whether:

  • Any decision in dispute follows reasonably from the processes employed and information presented;
  • Relevant inter-agency protocols and procedures have been observed correctly.
12.22

The panel will:

  • Hear directly or in writing from the complainant, her/his supporter (who may speak on her/his behalf) as well as the chair of the relevant child protection conference;
  • Consider written material;
  • Reach a decision;
  • Agree the content of its decision letter to the complainant.
12.23

The panel chair should ensure that the panel’s conclusions and decisions are sent to the complainant within 7 days of its meeting and will:

  • Confirm membership of the panel;
  • State the decision reached;
  • Provide concise information about how the decision was reached.
12.24

If a panel concludes that the processes relating to the conference were not correctly followed it should confirm:

  • An early review is to be convened (with a different chair) and provide reasons; and/or
  • Any other action to be taken and provide reasons.
12.25

If the panel concludes that processes relating to the conference were correctly followed it must:

  • Confirm that conclusion and provide reasons.
12.26 The panel should also consider any specific concerns relevant to involved agencies and may make recommendations relating to practice or procedure to any LSCB agency.

Review Conference Brought Forward

12.27 The chair of a review conference that has been brought forward must ensure that all those present have seen or are briefed at the conference about the decisions reached by the panel.
12.28 A distinction must be made by the conference chair between need to discuss the panel’s conclusions and the task of the child protection conference, which is to consider the child/ren’s current circumstances.

Further Challenge

12.29 No further internal processes exist in those cases where the panel concludes that all relevant procedures and processes were followed.
12.30 A complainant who nonetheless remains dissatisfied may wish to pursue her/his grievances via the Ombudsman (in the case of a challenge to procedure / protocol) or Judicial Review (where a professional decision is not accepted).
12.31 In what are likely to be very rare cases, where an early review conference has been convened and the complainant does not accept its outcome, s/he would need to initiate a fresh complaint.


This page is correct as printed on Sunday 22nd of July 2018 11:52:06 PM please refer back to this website (http://mkscb.procedures.org.uk) for updates.
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