SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter outlines the process for holding child protection conferences, the purpose of the conference, who should attend, possible outcomes, developing the child protection plan and involving the child and family members.
Working with Foreign Authorities: Child Protection Cases and Care Orders - Departmental Advice for Local Authorities, Social Workers, Service Managers and Children's Services Lawyers (Department for Education, July 2014)
Multi-Agency report for initial child protection case conference (ICPC) (see Document Library, Report Forms and Templates Section)
Multi-Agency report for review child protection case conference (RCPC) (see Document Library, Report Forms and Templates Section)
Multi-Agency Record of Core Group Meeting (see Document Library, Report Forms and Templates Section) - these forms should be used to record the discussions and outcomes of meetings.
In January 2018, this procedure was revised to reinforce the following practice points:
- When a child is being returned to carers in whose care the significant harm originally occurred, a Child Protection Plan should be considered appropriate for a minimum of 6 months. If the child is placed out of county notification should also be sent to the host authority;
- When a child, who is the subject of a Child Protection Plan and is also Looked After by the Local Authority, is being returned to the circumstances where there were previous concerns around their care, an early review of the Child Protection Plan may be appropriate and should be discussed with relevant managers. In these circumstances, a Child Protection Plan should be considered appropriate for a minimum of 6 months.
- Child Protection Conferences
- Looked After Children and Child Protection Conferences
- Children Subject to a Supervision Order
- Membership of Child Protection Conferences
- Involving Children and Family Members
- Exclusion of Family Members from a Conference
- The Absence of Children and/or Parents
- Information for the Conference
- Chairing the Conference
- The Child Protection Plan
- Child does not Require a Child Protection Plan
- Professional Dissent from the Conference Decision
- Complaints by Children and/or Parents
- Administrative Arrangements for Child Protection Conferences and Parents Recording Conferences
- Managing and Providing Information about a Child
1. Child Protection Conferences
A Child Protection Conference brings together family members (and the child/ren where appropriate), supporters/Advocates and those professionals most involved with the child and family to make decisions about the child's future safety, health and development. If concerns relate to an unborn child, any conference should be held prior to birth at 28 weeks pregnancy.
The tasks for all conferences are to:
- Consider the information presented to the conference and, taking into account the child's present situation and information about his or her family history and present and past family functioning, to decide whether the child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm;
- Bring together and analyse, in an inter-agency setting the information which has been obtained about:
- The child's developmental needs;
- The child's wishes and feelings; and
- The parents' capacity to respond to the child's needs to ensure their safety and promote the child's health and development within the context of their wider family and environment.
- Recommend what future action and timescales are required in order to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child, including the child becoming the subject of a Child Protection Plan, what the planned outcomes are for the child and how best to intervene to achieve these;
- Appoint a lead Social Worker from Local Authority Children's Social Care for each child who requires a child protection plan. The Social Worker is responsible for ensuring that the child protection plan is developed, co-ordinated and fully implemented to timescale;
- Consider the need to inform the relevant Embassy if the child has links to a foreign country;
- Identify a Core Group of professionals and family members to develop, implement and review the progress of the child protection plan;
- Put in place a contingency plan if the agreed actions are not completed and/or circumstances change impacting on the child's safety and welfare.
The Local Authority Children's Social Care manager in consultation with a Child Protection Manager is responsible for making the decision to convene a child protection conference and the reasons for calling the conference (or not calling a conference following completion of a Section 47 Enquiry) must be recorded.
A conference may be convened, by agreement with a Child Protection Manager, if requested by a professional, supported by a senior manager / named or designated professional where there is disagreement between agencies. The Derby and Derbyshire SCB's Escalation Policy and Process (see Documents Library, Guidance Documents Section) should be used.
Types of conference
Depending on the circumstances there are several different types of child protection conferences:
- Initial conferences;
- Pre-birth conferences;
- Transfer in conferences;
- Review conferences.
Note: All types of child protection conferences should include not only the child subject of the specific concerns but must also include consideration of the needs of all other children in the household.
An Initial Child Protection Conference must be convened following a s47 Enquiry to safeguard and promote the welfare of a child who is suspected of, or likely to be, suffering Significant Harm.
A child who is subject of Care Proceedings without any order, pending the outcome of the final family court proceedings hearing or is subject to a PLO, should also be considered at an initial conference and will normally be subject to a Child Protection plan.
A Child Protection plan should be considered appropriate for a minimum of 6 months where a child is returning to carers in whose care the significant harm originally occurred.
The initial child protection conference should take place within 15 working days of the Strategy Discussion / Meeting when the Section 47 Enquiries were initiated.
If there is any delay, this must be reported to the Local Authority Children's Child Protection Manager (including reasons for the delay) and Local Authority Children's Social Care must ensure risks of harm to the child are monitored and action taken to safeguard the child.
A Pre-birth Conference is an initial child protection conference concerning an unborn child. Such a conference has the same status and must be conducted in a comparable manner to an initial child protection conference. The conference should be held at 28 weeks pregnancy, especially as some babies are born prematurely.
A pre-birth conference should be held where:
- A pre-birth assessment gives rise to concerns that an unborn child likely to suffer significant harm;
- A previous child has died or been removed from parent/s as a result of significant harm;
- A child is to be born into a family or household that already has children who are subject of a child protection plan;
- An adult or child who is a risk to children resides in the household or is known to be a regular visitor.
Other risk factors to be considered are:
- The impact of risk factors such as severe and enduring mental ill health, problematic or chaotic substance misuse and high risk domestic abuse;
- Where there are concerns about the parental ability to self care and/or care for the child e.g. where the parent is learning disabled;
- An expectant mother is under 13 years of age or where the mother is under 16 years and there are additional concerns regarding her ability to self-care and/or to care for the child.
All agencies involved with pregnant women, where there are concerns about the unborn, should consider whether there is the need for an early referral to Local Authority Children's Social Care so that assessments are undertaken as early as possible in the pregnancy.
See Derby City and Derbyshire Multi-Agency Protocol for Pre-Birth Assessments and Interventions for guidance (Document Library, Protocols Section) about decision making and assessment processes when working with pregnant women, their partners and family.
Transfer in conferences should take place when a child, who is the subject of a child protection plan, moves from the original Local Authority area to another Local Authority area to live there permanently e.g. for a period of more than 3 months with the intention to remain or have a current tenancy agreement in the area. On receipt of notification of a transfer in, the child protection office will notify the Police, Health and other relevant organisations.
The transfer in conference should receive reports from the original Local Authority, and the original authority should be invited to attend the conference which should take place within 15 working days of the notification. Such a conference has the same status and purpose and must be conducted in a comparable manner to an initial child protection conference.
A review conference is intended:
- To review whether the child is continuing to suffer, or is likely to suffer, significant harm, and review developmental progress against the child protection plan outcomes;
- To consider whether the child protection plan should continue or should be changed.
Every review should consider explicitly whether the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm and hence continues to require safeguarding from harm through adherence to a formal child protection plan. If the child is considered to be suffering significant harm, the Local Authority should consider whether to initiate family court proceedings. For further guidance see the Public Law Outline (2014).
If not, then the child should no longer be the subject of a child protection plan and the conference should consider what continuing support services may benefit the child and family and make recommendations accordingly.
Thorough, regular review is critical to achieving the best possible outcomes for the child and should focus on the progress of all aspects of the child protection plan. It should consider any significant changes or areas of harm to the child. The review should decide if changes to the child protection plan are necessary.
The first child protection review conference should be held within 3 months of the date of the initial child protection conference. If the initial conference was a pre-birth conference the review conference should take place within 1 month of the child's birth or within 3 months of the date of the pre-birth conference, whichever is sooner.
Further reviews should be held at intervals of not more than 6 months for as long as the child remains the subject of a child protection plan.
All review conferences should consider the timescales to meet the needs and safety of the child. An infant or child under the age of 5 where there are serious concerns about the levels of risk might require the timescales to be shorter than those set above. The decisions should reflect the circumstances of the child and the impact on the child of the concerns rather than any agency constraints.
Where an early review is being considered, this should be discussed and agreed with the Child Protection Manager where / when:
- Child protection concerns relating to a new incident or allegation of abuse have been sustained;
- There are significant difficulties in carrying out the child protection plan;
- A child is to be born into the household of a child or children already subject of child protection plans;
- An adult or child who poses a 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 of a child protection plan is also Looked After by the Local Authority and consideration is being given to returning them to the circumstances where care of the child previously aroused concerns (unless this step is anticipated in the existing child protection plan). In these circumstances a child protection plan should be considered appropriate for a minimum of 6 months;
- The core group believe that an early cancellation of the need for a child protection plan should be considered.
2. Looked After Children and Child Protection Conferences
Looked after children with child protection plans
Children who are already looked after will not usually be the subject of child protection plans, though they may be the subject of a Section 47 enquiry; a strategy meeting or child protection conference must be held at the conclusion of a S47 investigation involving a looked after child, depending on the level of risk to the child. This should be attended by the child's IRO so they can monitor any future safeguarding concerns. Where a child is believed to be at ongoing risk of abuse or neglect of any form within their placement, first consideration should always be given to removing the child from that placement; exceptionally where that is not assessed as in the child's best interests, a child protection plan must be considered.
The Care Plan and Placement Plan for a child who is looked after (whether there are proceedings pending an outcome, an Interim Care Order or a Care Order in place) should provide the means to safeguard the child. The Care Plan and Placement Plan should be reviewed and updated regularly at the LAC Review and in response to new information or concerns about the welfare of the child. If it is proposed that a child subject to a Care Order should be returned to their birth family / returned home, the members of the statutory LAC Review (Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2015)) when considering the proposal for rehabilitation must decide and record whether an initial child protection conference should be convened prior to the change. If the decision of the Review is that an initial child protection conference should be convened, the child's Social Worker must request it to take place within 15 days of the LAC Review decision.
A child looked after under s20 of the Children Act 1989, who has been or is about to be returned to a parent's care may be subject of a S47 enquiry and a child protection conference. See The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2015) and the Practice Guidance for the Use of S20 Provision in The Children Act 1989 in England and the Equivalent S76 of The Social Services and Well-Being (Wales) Act 2014 in Wales.
The Local Authority Social Worker must discuss the case with the Local Authority Children's Social Care Manager who will make a decision about whether a child protection enquiry should be initiated. If a child protection enquiry is initiated, the reasons for this must be clearly recorded on the child's record and may lead to an initial child protection conference. In these circumstances, the Local Authority Children's Social Care Social Worker and manager should consider whether legal action is required to protect the child.
Children with protection plans who become looked after
If a child subject of a child protection plan becomes looked after under Section 20, their legal situation is not permanently secure and the Looked After Review should consider the child's safety in the light of the possibility that the parent can simply request their removal from the Local Authority's care. The Looked After Review must be sure that the looked after child care plan provides adequate security for the child and sufficiently reduces or eliminates the likelihood of the child suffering significant harm as identified by the initial child protection conference. The Looked After Review, chaired or attended by the Independent Reviewing Officer, in consultation with the chair of the most recent child protection conference, will decide if the child protection plan should continue or not.
If a child ceases to be subject of a child protection plan as a result of a decision at a Looked After Review, and the parent then unexpectedly requests the return of the child from the Local Authority's care, the Local Authority Children's Social Care Social Worker should discuss with the Child Protection Manager and Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) the need for an initial child protection conference. The Social Worker must record the reasons for the decision whether or not to hold a conference.
If a court grants a Care Order in respect of a child who is subject of a child protection plan, the subsequent Looked After Review must make an assessment about the security of the child, considering issues such as the placement arrangements, contact and the looked after Care Plan for the child. If the care plan for the child involves remaining in or returning to the family of origin, the Looked After Review should give careful consideration to whether the child can be adequately protected through the framework of the child care reviews or whether the CP plan should continue.
Review conferences and children who are looked after
Where a looked after child remains the subject of a child protection plan there must be a single plan and a single planning and reviewing process, chaired or attended by the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO). This should be considered on an individual case basis and managed to ensure that the independence of the independent reviewing officer is not compromised.
This means that the timing of the review of the child protection aspects of the care plan under the requirements of these Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children procedures should be the same as the review under the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2015 (also see the IRO Handbook (DfE website)) and the accompanying statutory guidance Putting Care into Practice. This will ensure that up to date information in relation to the child's welfare and safety is considered within the review meeting and informs the overall care planning process.
Consideration should be given to whether the criteria continue to be met for the child to remain the subject of a child protection plan. Significant changes to the care plan should only be made following the looked after child's review.
3. Children Subject to a Supervision Order
Where a child is subject to a Supervision Order or Interim Supervision Order, consideration must be given to the need for a child protection plan or child in need plan, depending on the level of risk of harm and the Supervision Order must be shared with other professionals involved with the child and family. A Child Protection plan should be considered appropriate for a minimum of 6 months where a child is returning to carers in whose care the significant harm originally occurred. If the child is placed out of county, notification should also be sent to the host authority.
4. Membership of a Child Protection Conference
A conference will be chaired by a Child Protection Manager and should consist of only those people who have a significant contribution to make due to their knowledge of the child and family or their expertise relevant to the case. This is likely to include:
- The child and/or their representative / Advocate;
- Parents and those with parental responsibility and/or Advocate (particularly where parents have a learning disability or mental health problems);
- Upon discussion with the conference chair, significant family members including the wider family;
- Foster carers (current or former);
- Residential care staff;
- Suitably qualified, Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registered Local Authority Children's Social Work professionals who have led and been involved in an assessment of the child and family and their line manager where necessary;
- Midwifery services, where the conference concerns an unborn or new-born child;
- Health professionals involved with the child should attend the initial conference (e.g. Health Visitor, School Nurse, Paediatrician, GP and CAMHS) and at subsequent conferences the health representative should consist of the nominated lead health professional along with other agreed health staff, as relevant to the health needs of the child;
- Education or early years staff involved with the child, including Education Welfare Officers;
- Other agencies involved with the child including the Youth Offending Team or third sector organisations;
- Professionals involved with the parents or other family members e.g. Family Support Services, Adult Mental Health Services, Substance Misuse Services, Domestic Abuse Advisors, Adult Offenders Services i.e. National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), GP's;
- Professionals with expertise in the particular type of harm suffered by the child or in the child's particular condition e.g. a disability or long term illness;
- Those involved in investigations:
- The Paediatrician who conducted the medical assessment;
- The Police should also be invited to all initial conferences whether they have been involved in the investigation or not (attendance will be prioritised when there is an on-going investigation otherwise relevant information will be shared).
- When there is an individual subject to MAPPA arrangements, the lead agency for the MAPPA plan (DPMU/Probation);
- Local Authority Housing Services;
- A representative of the armed services, in cases where there is a service connection;
- Any other relevant professional or service provider.
Either the Local Authority Social Worker and/or Child Protection Manager may seek legal advice prior to the conference.
Solicitors attending conferences must comply with the Law Society guidance: Attendance of solicitors at local authority Children Act meetings 2013.
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.
Professionals who are invited but unable to attend for unavoidable reasons should:
- Inform the conference administrator;
- Submit a written report; and
- Consider with the Child Protection Manager if a well-briefed agency representative to attend and speak to the report is required.
Agencies are expected to share a report about the child and family in written form with the family and other agencies as appropriate, prior to the conference, whether or not they are able to attend the conference.
Babies and young children should not normally be present during the conference as they will cause distraction from the focus of the meeting. Parents should be assisted to make arrangements for their care where necessary.
Location, timing and safety of conferences
The location and timing of the conference should be planned to ensure maximum attendance from the most critical attendees. In exceptional circumstances it may be considered for key professionals to contribute via conference calls. Conferences should not be scheduled for times when parents will be busy looking after children at home e.g. after the end of the school day. Wherever possible, Local Authority Children's Social Care should provide parents with the opportunity to utilise appropriate daycare for their children to enable their attendance at the conference.
Local Authority Children's Social Care is responsible for taking into account health and safety issues and security arrangements when planning each conference. See also Section 6, Exclusion of Family Members from a Conference.
As a minimum quorum, at every conference there should be attendance by Local Authority Children's Social Care and at least two other professional groups or agencies, which have had direct contact with each child who is the subject of the conference.
In exceptional circumstances, the Chair may decide to proceed with the conference despite lack of agency representation. This would be relevant where:
- A child has not had relevant contact with three agencies e.g. pre-birth conferences;
- Sufficient information is available; and
- A delay will be detrimental to the child.
Where an inquorate conference is held, an early review conference should be arranged.
5. Involving Children and Family Members
It is important that the principles of partnership with children and parents are maintained in the child protection process. The following are minimum requirements for all attendees of the conference and the responsibility of the Chair of the conference to uphold:
- Parents must be invited and encouraged to participate in all child protection meetings unless it is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child;
- Parents should be supported to enable them to participate by timely preparation and information, such as leaflets, being provided about the process and their role;
- Advocates should be facilitated to support parents where necessary;
- A meeting with the Independent Chair immediately prior to the conference should take place;
- Those parents (and/or children) for whom English is not a first language must be offered and provided with an interpreter, if required. A family member should not be expected to act as an interpreter of spoken or signed language.
Exceptionally, it may be necessary to exclude one or more family members from a conference, in whole or in part. Where a parent attends only part of a conference as a result of exclusion, they must receive the record of the conference. The Chair should decide if the entire record is provided or only that part attended by the excluded parent (see Section 6, Exclusion of Family Members from a Conference).
Explicit consideration should be given to the potential for conflict between family members and possible need for children or adults to speak without other family members present.
The child, subject to their level of understanding, needs to be given the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the conference. (See Derby Children's Social Care Procedures Manual, Participation in Child Protection Conferences and Derbyshire's Children and Young People Participation Process.
In practice, the appropriateness of including an individual child must be assessed in advance and relevant arrangements made to facilitate attendance at the initial part of the conference and then taken back home or to school by an appropriate person. As soon as possible after the conference the Social Worker must inform the child of the outcome.
Where it is assessed, in accordance with the criteria below, that it would be inappropriate for the child to attend, alternative arrangements should be made to ensure their wishes and feelings are made clear to all relevant parties e.g. use of an Advocate, written or taped comments.
Criteria for presence of child at conference, including direct involvement
The primary questions to be addressed are:
- Does the child have sufficient understanding of the process?
- Have they expressed an explicit or implicit wish to be involved?
- What are the parents' views about the child's proposed presence?
- Is inclusion assessed to be of benefit to the child?
The test of 'sufficient understanding' is partly a function of age and partly the child's capacity to understand. The following approach is recommended:
- A (rebuttable) presumption that a child of less than twelve years of age is unlikely to be able to be a direct and/or full participant in a forum such as a child protection conference;
- A presumption (also rebuttable by evidence to the contrary) that from the age of twelve and over, a child should be offered such an opportunity.
A declared wish not to attend a conference (having been given such an explanation) must be respected.
Consideration should be given to the views of and impact on parent/s of their child's proposed attendance.
Consideration must be given to the impact of the conference on the child e.g. if they have a significant learning difficulty or where it will be impossible to ensure they are kept apart from a parent who may be hostile and/or attribute responsibility onto them. Consideration must be given in particular to the extent to which it is appropriate for a child to hear details of a parent's personal difficulties and a parent's view about this must be respected.
In such cases, energy and resources should be directed toward ensuring that, by means of an Advocate and/or preparatory work by a Social Worker, the child's wishes and feelings are effectively represented.
Direct involvement of a child in a conference
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 or parents and/or siblings;
- The child should be present with one or more of their parents;
- The Chair meets the child alone or with a parent prior to the meeting.
If a child attends all or part of the conference, it is essential that they are prepared by the Social Worker or independent Advocate who can help them to present their views. Normally, attendance would be at the initial part of the conference and the child then taken back home or to school by an appropriate person. As soon as possible after the conference the Social Worker must inform the child of the outcome.
Provision should be made to ensure that a child who has any form of disability is enabled to participate.
Consideration should be given to enabling the child to be accompanied by a supporter or an Advocate. See the Derby Safeguarding Children Board website and the Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Board website.
In Derbyshire a child or young person of secondary school age is normally expected to be able to attend their conference, although this is subject to each individual case and their capacity for sufficient understanding.
Indirect contributions when a child is not attending
Indirect methods include written statements, e-mails, text messages and taped comments prepared alone or with independent support, and representation via an Advocate.
Childcare professionals should all be able to represent a child's views and a particular responsibility falls upon the Social Worker to do so. It is more important that the child feels involved in the whole process of child protection assessment rather than merely receiving an invitation to the conference.
6. Exclusion of Family Members from a Conference
The conference Chair, or other participants, 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. The Chair should make a decision according to the following criteria:
- Indications that the presence of the parent may seriously prejudice the welfare of the child;
- Sufficient evidence that a parent 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). In their absence, a friend or Advocate may represent them at the conference;
- A child requests that the parent / person with parental responsibility is not present while they are present;
- The presence of one or both parents would prevent a professional from making their proper contribution through concerns about violence or intimidation (which should be communicated in advance to the conference Chair);
- 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;
- Conflicts between different family members who may not be able to attend at the same time e.g. in situations of domestic abuse;
- Where a parent or carer is subject to either Police or Court imposed bail, Police advice should be sought.
Where a worker from any agency believes a parent should, on the basis of the above criteria, be excluded, representation must be made, at least 3 working days in advance, to the Chair of the conference.
The agency concerned must indicate which of the grounds it believes is met and the information or evidence on which the request is based. The Chair must consider the representation carefully and may need legal advice.
If, in planning a conference, it becomes clear to the Chair that there may be a conflict of interest between the children and the parents, the conference should be planned so that the welfare and safety of the child remains paramount.
Any exclusion period should be for the minimum duration necessary and must be clearly recorded in the conference record.
It may also become clear 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.
Where a parent is on bail, or subject to an active Police investigation, it is the responsibility of the Chair to ensure that the Police representative can fully present their information and views. The parents should also be supported to participate as fully as circumstances allow without the risk of incriminating themselves in any criminal investigation. In some circumstances this might mean that if the Police representative may be asked to leave a conference after providing information.
The decision of the Chair over matters of exclusion is final regarding both parents and the child/ren.
If, prior to the conference, the Chair has decided to exclude a parent, this must be communicated in writing with information on how they may make their views known, how they will be told the outcome of the conference and about the complaints procedure.
Those excluded should be provided with a copy of the Social Worker's report to the conference and be provided with the opportunity to have their views recorded and presented to the conference. The Chair will determine whether or not the excluded parent should receive the record of the conference.
If a decision to exclude a parent is made, this must be fully recorded in the record. Exclusion at one conference is not reason enough in itself for exclusion at further conferences.
7. The Absence of Children and/or Parents
If children and/or parents do not wish to attend the conference they must be provided with full opportunities to contribute their views. The Social Worker must facilitate this by:
- The use of an Advocate or supporter to attend on behalf of the child or parent;
- Enabling the child or parent to write or tape or use drawings to represent their views;
- Agreeing that the Social Worker, or any other professional, expresses their views.
The Social Worker must record the absence and the reasons for absence.
8. Information for the Conference
In order for the conference to reach well-informed decisions based on evidence, it needs adequate preparation and sharing of information on the child/ren's needs and circumstances by all agencies that have had significant involvement with the child and family, including those who were involved in the assessment and the s47 enquiry. All reports must be clear and distinguish between facts, allegations and opinions.
Local Authority Children's Social Care report
Local Authority Children's Social Care should provide all conferences with a written report that summarises and analyses the information obtained in the course of the assessment undertaken in conjunction with the child protection enquiries under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 and information in existing records relating to the child and family. Reports to Review conferences should include a clear analysis of the implementation and progress of the child protection plan including any new information or obstacles to implementation. The report for a child protection conference should be consistent with the information set out in local LSCB procedures.
Where decisions are being made about more than one child in a family the report should consider the safeguarding needs of each child.
The record of the assessment by the Social Worker should form a part of the report to the initial conference.
The conference report should include information on the dates the child was seen by the Social Worker during the course of the Section 47 enquiries, if the child was seen alone and if not, who was present and for what reasons.
All children in the household need to be considered and information must be provided about the needs and circumstances of each of them, even if they are not the subject of the conference.
The report should be provided to parents and older children (to the extent that it is believed to be in their interests) at least 3 working days in advance of the initial conferences and a minimum of 3 working days before review conferences to enable any factual errors to be corrected and the family to comment on the content.
The report should be available to the conference Chair at least 2 working days prior to the initial conference and 3 working days in advance of the review conference.
Reports from other agencies
Information by all agencies about their involvement with the family should be submitted in a written, legible and signed report for the conference. The report should be available to the conference Chair 2 working days in advance of the conference and 3 working days for a review conference. All agencies should have a conference report proforma, or can use the DSCBs' template for Multi-Agency Reports for Initial Child Protection Conferences (ICPC) (see Document Library, Report Forms and Templates Section) or for reviews the template for Multi-Agency Reports for Review Child Protection Conference (RCPC) (see Document Library, Report Forms and Templates Section). The report should be discussed with the child, if appropriate and the family prior to the conference.
Medical reports will not be shared amongst conference members. A copy should be provided to the conference Chair. The Paediatrician attending the meeting will interpret relevant information for the conference; if the Paediatrician is not able to attend a relevant Health professional will support this process.
Information from children and families
Children and family members should be helped in advance to consider what they wish to convey to the conference, how they wish to do so and what help and support they will require (e.g. they may choose to communicate in writing, by tape or with the help of an Advocate).
Families may need to be reminded that submissions need to be sufficiently succinct to allow proper consideration within the time constraints of the child protection conference.
9. Chairing the Conference
The Chair of a child protection conference will be a Child Protection Manager, accountable to the Director of Children's Services. They must not have or have had operational or line management responsibility for the case. Wherever possible, the same person should also chair subsequent child protection reviews in respect of a specific child.
If a decision is made that a child requires a protection plan to safeguard their welfare, the Chair should ensure that:
- The risks to the child are stated and what is needed to change is specified;
- A qualified Local Authority Children's Social Worker is identified as a Lead Social Worker to develop, co-ordinate and implement the child protection plan;
- A Core Group is identified of family members and professionals;
- A date is set for the first core group meeting within 10 working days of the initial conference and timescales set for subsequent meetings;
- A date for the child protection review conference is set;
- The outline Child Protection Plan is formulated and clearly understood by all concerned including the parents and, where appropriate, the child.
If the conference determines that a child does not need the specific assistance of a protection plan but does need help to promote their welfare, the Chair must ensure that:
- The conference draws up a child in need plan or makes appropriate recommendations for a plan;
- The conference considers any local protocols in place referred to as "step down procedures" or Family Group Conference processes.
10. The Child Protection Plan
Threshold for a child protection plan
The conference should consider the following question when determining whether a child requires a multi-agency child protection plan:
- Has the child suffered Significant Harm? and
- Is the child likely to suffer significant harm in the future?
The test for likelihood of suffering harm in the future should be that either:
- The child can be shown to have suffered maltreatment or impairment of health or development as a result of neglect or physical, emotional or sexual abuse, and professional 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, predicts that the child is likely to suffer maltreatment or the impairment of health and development as a result of neglect or physical, emotional or sexual abuse.
If a child is likely to suffer significant harm, then they will require multi-agency help and intervention delivered through a formal child protection plan.
The primary purposes of this plan are to:
- Ensure the child is safe from harm and prevent him or her from suffering further harm;
- Promote the child's health and development; and
- Support the family and wider family members to safeguard and promote the welfare of their child, provided it is in the best interests of the child.
Decision that a child needs a child protection plan
If a decision is taken that the child is likely to suffer significant harm and hence in need of a child protection plan, the Chair should determine which category of abuse or neglect the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering. The category used (that is Physical Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Sexual Abuse or Neglect, will indicate to those consulting the child's social care record the primary presenting concerns at the time the child became the subject of a child protection plan.
The need for a protection plan should be considered separately in respect of each child in the family or household.
Where a child is to be the subject of a child protection plan, the conference is responsible for recommendations on how agencies, professionals and the family should work together to ensure that the child will be safeguarded from harm in the future. This should enable both professionals and the family to understand exactly what is expected of them and what they can expect of others.
The plan should:
- Describe specific, achievable, child-focused outcomes intended to safeguard each child;
- Describe the actions required for each child by family, professionals and, where appropriate, the child themselves, including the nature and frequency of contact by professionals with children and family members;
- Set a timescale for the completion of these actions;
- Reflect the requirements of a MAPPA plan if there is one, and vice versa;
- Lay down points at which progress will be reviewed, by the core group and next conference;
- Identify a contingency plan to respond if the family is unable to make the required changes and the child remains likely to suffer significant harm.
11. Child does not Require a Child Protection Plan
If the conference decides that a child is not likely to suffer significant harm then the conference cannot make the child the subject of a child protection plan. The child may nevertheless require services to promote his or her health or development. In these circumstances, the conference should consider the child's needs and make recommendations for further help to assist the family in responding to them. Where appropriate, an outline child in need plan may be drawn up.
The decision must be put in writing to the parent(s), and agencies as well as communicated to them verbally.
Discontinuing a current child protection plan
The conference should use the same decision-making process to reach a judgement for when a protection plan is no longer needed. This includes situations where other multi-agency planning might need to replace a protection plan.
A child may no longer need a protection plan if:
- A review conference judges that the child is no longer likely to suffer significant harm and no longer requires safeguarding by means of a child protection plan;
- A child has come into care and is sufficiently protected in this way;
- The child has moved permanently to another local authority (in which case the protection plan can only cease after the receiving authority has convened a transfer child protection conference and confirmed in writing responsibility for case management);
- The child has reached eighteen years of age, has died or has been judged to have permanently left the UK, when their name can be removed.
A plan may only be discontinued at the first (3 month) review conference if:
- Criteria b, c or d (above) apply; OR
- The original concerns are evidenced to be unsubstantiated to the satisfaction of conference attendees; AND
- The review conference is attended by key agencies including those who attended the initial conference, OR they have been consulted prior to conference and expressed their views in writing.
In Derbyshire it is the exception rather than the rule that a child will be removed from a Plan at the first Review.
No Child Protection Plan may be discontinued at any review whilst key safeguarding actions are incomplete.
Where a child has come into care, the need for a plan will be considered at the first Looked After Review, chaired or attended by the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) after consultation with the relevant Child Protection Manager, Team Manager and agencies present at the last conference.
It is permissible for the Local Authority Child Protection Manager to agree to the discontinuing of a child protection plan without the need to convene a child protection review conference only when:
- One or other of the criteria c or d outlined above are satisfied; AND
- The manager has consulted with relevant agencies present at the conference that first concluded that a child protection plan was required.
When this process is followed to discontinue a child protection plan, the consultation with other agencies and the decision to discontinue the child protection plan must be clearly recorded in the Local Authority Children's Social Care child's record and the child health record.
When a child is no longer subject of a child protection plan, notification should be sent, as a minimum, to the agencies' representatives who were invited to attend the initial conference that led to the plan. This applies both when a plan is discontinued at a conference or, as described above, when it is permissible for the Local Authority child protection manager to agree the discontinuing of a child protection plan without a conference.
When a child protection plan is discontinued, the conference must agree with the parents and child/ren what services might be needed and required, based on the needs of the child and family. Where applicable, a Child in Need Plan (CiN Plan) should be developed for any continuing support. In Derbyshire all children who have been subject to a child protection plan will be supported by a CiN Plan for a minimum of 3 months. The plan can however be discontinued by agreement of ALL the CiN membership following the first CiN Review.
Any CiN Plan following step down from a conference must be robust, with:
- A clear plan addressing any outstanding actions and with a contingency in the event of further concerns, as agreed in conference. The plan must be circulated within 2 weeks of the conference;
- The plan must identify appropriate visiting frequency for all agencies;
- In Derby: a CiN review should be booked at 3 months and at least one network meeting held mid-way during the review period;
- In Derbyshire: CiN reviews booked 6 weekly.
12. Professional Dissent from the Conference Decisions
If an agency does not agree with a decision or recommendation made at a child protection conference, their professional dissent will be recorded in the record of the conference. The procedures to apply the Escalation policy for professional disagreements should be implemented as soon as practicable after the conference has concluded, see the Derby and Derbyshire Escalation Policy and Process (see Documents Library, Guidance Documents Section).
In Derbyshire where a professional formally dissents from the decision to make, cease or not make a child protection plan, the case will be referred to the DSCB Quality and Performance Subgroup by the Child Protection Manager responsible for chairing the conference. The case will be formally reviewed and should the formal dissent be upheld this could result in a further Initial Child Protection Conference being recommended. Please see the Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Board Child Protection Conference Professional Dissent and Escalation Process for further information.
In Derby, where an agency formally dissents from a conference decision to make, continue, cease or not make a child protection plan, the case will be referrer for independent review by the DSCB Quality Assurance Subgroup.
13. Complaints by Children and/or Parents
Parents and, on occasion, children, may have concerns about which they wish to make representations or complain, in respect of one or more of the following aspects of the functioning of child protection conferences:
- The process of the conference;
- The outcome, in terms of the fact of and/or the category of primary concern at the time the child became the subject of a child protection plan;
- A decision for the child to become, to continue or not to become, the subject of a child protection plan.
Complaints about aspects of the functioning of conferences described above should be addressed to the conference Chair. Such complaints should be passed on to the Chair's manager. Complaints about the outcome and decision should be passed to the Social Worker and their manager for consideration at the next Core group meeting, and a response given by the Social Work manager.
Whilst a complaint is being considered, the decision made by the conference stands.
The outcome of a complaint will either be that a conference is re-convened under a different Chair, that a review conference is brought forward or that the status quo is confirmed along with a suitable explanation.
Complaints about individual agencies, their performance and provision (or non-provision) of services should be responded to in accordance with the relevant agency's own complaints management process.
14. Administrative Arrangements for Child Protection Conferences and Parents Recording Conferences
Local Authority Children's Social Care is responsible for administering the child protection conference service and the organisation of child protection conferences including:
- Arrangements for sending out invitations to children, parents and professionals;
- Information leaflets for children and for parents translated into appropriate languages.
All conferences should be recorded by a dedicated person whose sole task within the conference is to provide a written record of proceedings in a consistent format.
The conference record, signed by the conference Chair, should be sent to all those who attended or were invited to the conference within 20 working days of the conference. Any amendments should be received within 1 week of receipt of record.
A copy of the conference record should be given to and discussed with the parents by the Local Authority Social Worker within 20 working days. The conference Chair may decide that confidential material should be excluded from the parent's copy. The Decision letter should be given to parents at the conclusion of the Conference.
Where a friend, supporter or Solicitor has been involved, they will not receive a copy of the record.
The Local Authority Children's Social Worker should inform the child about the outcome of the conference; this should take into account the age and level of understanding of the child concerned. Relevant sections of the record should be explained to and discussed with the child by the Local Authority Children's Social Worker. The conference Chair should decide whether a child should be given a copy of the record. The record may be supplied to a child's legal representative on request.
Where parents and/or the child/ren have a sensory disability or where English is not their first language, the Local Authority Children's Social Worker should ensure that they receive appropriate assistance to understand and make full use of the record. A family member should not be expected to act as an interpreter of spoken or signed language.
Audio Recording of Conferences
In principle we would aim to achieve openness and transparency and acknowledge at times that parents may wish to record the conference, however there are practical difficulties in doing so. Derbyshire and Derby City have are unable to provide fit for purpose recording facilities and do not have means to store audio recordings practically and confidentially. The Data Protection Act 1998 does not prevent parents recording meetings; however this was designed to apply to organisations processing data, not individuals, particularly if the data is collected for personal use.If a parent requests to record a conference it is advised that the conference Chair has a discussion with them in advance of the meeting to explain how conferences are minuted with Derbyshire and Derby City and that they will receive copies. It would also be helpful to explore the parent's reasoning for requesting to record the meeting and what they intended to do with the recording. The conference Chair should make the parent aware of issues relating to sensitivity and confidentiality of the recording and refer to the information that is already given to families prior to conference.
Conference records are confidential and should not be shared with third parties without the consent of either the conference Chair or an order of the court.
In criminal proceedings the police may reveal the existence of child protection records to the Crown Prosecution Service, and in care proceedings the records of the conference may be revealed in the court.
The record of the decisions of the child protection conference should be retained by the recipient agencies in accordance with their record retention policies.
The outline plan, signed by the conference Chair, should be sent together with the decision letter, to all those who attended or were invited to the conference, including the parents and where appropriate the child, within one working day of the conference. The letter should give details of conference decisions and recommendations, the name of the Social Worker and details about the right to complain.
15. Managing and Providing Information about a Child
Each local authority should designate an experienced Social Care Manager who has responsibility for:
- Ensuring that records on children who are subject of a child protection plan are kept up to date;
- Ensuring enquiries about children about whom there are concerns or who are subject of child protection plans are recorded and reviewed in the context of the child's known history;
- Managing notifications of movements of children who are subject of a child protection plan, looked after children and other relevant children moving into or out of the local authority area;
- Managing notifications of people who may pose a risk of significant harm to children who are either identified within the local authority area or have moved into the local authority area;
- Managing requests for local authority checks to be made to ensure unsuitable people are prevented from working with children. E.g. prospective child minders, foster carers etc.
Information on each child known to Local Authority Children's Social Care should be kept up-to-date on the local authority's electronic record system. This information should be confidential but accessible at all times to legitimate enquirers. The details of enquirers should always be checked and recorded on the system before information is provided.