Child Protection Conferences

Convening an Initial Conference

An Initial Child Protection Conference (ICPC) must be convened when concerns of significant harm are substantiated and the child is judged to be suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm.

The conference must consider all the children in the household, even if concerns are only being expressed about one child.

Flow Chart 1 - Action following a strategy discussion

For all cases going to a conference there should have been a Strategy Meeting/Discussion including the Police and a relevant Health representative.

The Team Manager is responsible for making the decision to convene a Child Protection Conference. The reasons for calling it (or deciding not to call a conference following completion of a Section 47 enquiry) must be recorded within the Children’s Social Care Case Management System.

A request for an initial conference from any involved professional, which is supported by a senior manager/named or designated professional in their agency, should normally be agreed. If NYCC Children and Families do not agree, the NYSCB Professional Resolutions procedure should be followed.

Child Protection Conference Process

Flow chart 5 – Child Protection Conferences

Convening an Initial Conference

An ICPC must be convened when concerns of significant harm are substantiated and the child is judged to be suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm.

The conference must consider all the children in the household, even if concerns are only being expressed about one child.

For all cases going to a conference there should have been a Strategy Meeting/Discussion and a referral to the Police.

The Team Manager is responsible for making the decision to convene a Child Protection Conference. The reasons for calling it (or deciding not to call a conference following completion of a Section 47 enquiry) must be within the child or young person's case file.

A request for an initial conference from any involved professional, which is supported by a senior manager/named or designated professional in their agency, should normally be agreed. If NYCC Children and Families do not agree, a meeting to discuss this should be held as a matter of urgency.  The meeting should involve the responsible Group Manager, or their representative, from Children and Families.  (See NYSCB Professional Resolutions Practice Guidance).

Timing of an Initial Child Protection Conference

All Initial Child Protection Conferences (ICPCs) should take place within 15 working days of:

  • The Strategy Meeting (at which the Section 47 enquiries were initiated), or
  • Notification by another authority that a child subject to a Child Protection Plan has moved into North Yorkshire.

Where a Child Assessment Order has been made, the conference should be held immediately on conclusion of examinations and assessments.

Where a child has been subject to an Emergency Protection Order the Conference should be held in time to agree next steps prior to the end of the Emergency Protection Order.

Where there is delay, this must be reported by the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) to the  IRO Manager and the Group Manager, Children and Families (including the reasons for the delay) and Children and Families must ensure risks of harm to the child are monitored and action taken to safeguard the child.

Membership of Child Protection Conferences

Those attending conferences should only be there because they have a significant contribution to make either because of their expertise relevant to the case or their knowledge of the child or family.  

There should be sufficient information and expertise available, through attendance and written reports, to enable the Conference to make an informed decision about what action is necessary to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child.

If a strategy meeting has decided that an ICPC is needed and for whatever reason the conference is not quorate information must be heard and an Interim CPP put in place that will protect the child until such time as a full meeting can be arranged – this must be within one month of the inquorate ICPC.

The Social Worker and their manager should draw up a list of professionals to invite and this list should be agreed with the Chair.

Location, Timing and Safety for Conferences

The location and timing of the conference should be planned to ensure maximum attendance from key agency representative. 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, LA Children and Families should provide parents with the opportunity to utilise appropriate day care for their children to enable their attendance at the conference.

Children and Families is responsible for taking into account health and safety issues and security arrangements when planning each conference.  See also Section 7.5 Exclusion of family members from a conference.

Information for the Conference

All reports should distinguish between fact, observation, allegation and opinion.  Where information is provided from another source this should be made clear.

All reports should be made available to the Chair two working days before the ICPC and five working days before a RCPC. All agencies should prepare their report on a conference report form approved by the NYSCB.

Chairing the Conference: The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO)

All Child Protection Conferences will be chaired by an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO). This person will be a suitably trained social work professional, experienced in child protection at management level or above in Children and Families and independent of the case management. IROs will be registered with the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC).  They will not have or have had operational or line management responsibility for the case.

The status of the Chair should be sufficient to ensure multi-agency commitment to the conference and the CPP. Wherever possible, the same person should also chair subsequent child protection reviews in respect of a specific child.

Structure of the Conference

Child Protection Conferences in North Yorkshire are based around the following structures:

  • The Chair will meet with the parents/child before the review to clarify the conference process whilst the professionals read all the reports;
  • The Chair provides a brief explanation of the purpose of the meeting, introducing all participants and noting apologies;
  • Professionals will be invited to contribute any additional information including any developments since the reports were written.

If a decision is made that a child requires a protection plan to safeguard their welfare, the Chair should ensure that:

  • They summarise and state the risks to the child, strengths in the family on which safety for the child may be developed and specify what is needed to change;
  • A qualified Children’s Social Worker is identified as a key worker to develop, co-ordinate and implement the CPP
  • A core group is identified of family members and professionals;
  • A date is set for the first core group meeting within ten working days of the initial conference and timescales set for subsequent meetings
  • A date for the child protection review conference is set;
  • A date is set for a core group meeting to be held at least two weeks before the RCPC
  • The outline CPP 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 should ensure that the conference draws up a child in need plan or makes

The Child Protection Plan

The Chair must ensure that the conference elicits and records the views of each agency present or invited and the views of the parents and the child/children, as appropriate.

The Chair must make the decision about whether to make the child subject of a CPP. In so doing the Chair must take into account the views of other professionals, but they are not bound to them. Any dissent must be recorded. 

If parents disagree with the decision, the Chair must discuss the issue with them and explain their right to and the process for complaint.

If a decision is taken that the child is at continuing risk of significant harm the Chair should determine (following discussion with conference members) which category or categories of abuse or neglect the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering (physical, emotional, sexual abuse or neglect, see NYSCB Procedures Section 4: Recognition of abuse and Neglect for definitions). Normally only one category should be used and only in very exceptional circumstances may more than one be used. All multiple categorisations must be audited by an IRO Manager.

Where consensus cannot be reached, the chair will decide whether or not the child will become subject of a CPP, giving the reasons for the decision. These should be clearly recorded on the conference record.

Where a child is to be the subject of a CPP, the conference is responsible for outcome focussed 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.

Outline Protection Plan

The CPP should be reviewed at regular intervals of no more than every six months (initially three months).

The Chair is responsible for holding the conference in a timely manner - unless in exceptional circumstances, an initial conference should be no more than two hours and review conferences no more than one and a half hours.

Decision Not to Make a Child Protection Plan

If a decision is taken that a child does not need to be the subject of a CPP, the Conference, together with the family, should consider the child's needs and what further help would assist the family in responding to them. Subject to the family's views and consent, it may be appropriate to continue with and complete an assessment to help determine what support might best help promote the child's welfare.

Where the child's needs are complex, inter-agency working will continue to be important. Where appropriate, a Child in Need Plan should be drawn up and reviewed at regular intervals, on a multi-agency basis.  Conference may wish to set the date for the first CIN review meeting and recommend how often the multi-agency meetings should take place.

Dissent from a conference decision

In all cases, the conference record should set out clearly where there is dissent from a conference decision and the reasons why there is disagreement.

If a professional considers that a conference decision places a child at risk of significant harm, they must seek advice from their agency's designated person for child protection or manager. They should make verbal and written representation to the Conference Chair copied to an IRO Manager and if this fails to resolve the issue, then follow the complaints procedure provided in Section 15.

Administrative Arrangements for Child Protection Conferences

Conference records should include:

  • The purpose of the conference;
  • Name, date of birth and address of the subject/s of the conference, parents and other adults in the household;
  • 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;
  • All the essential facts;
  • Opinions of conference members, clearly identified as such;
  • Views of child;
  • Views of parents;
  • A summary of discussion at the conference, accurately reflecting contributions made;
  • All decisions reached (e.g. to make a child subject of a protection plan, category of abuse or neglect), with information outlining the reasons;
  • An outline or revised CPP;
  • Name of the lead social worker (i.e. the social worker who is the lead professional for the case);
  • Members of the core group and date of first meeting;
  • Date of next conference.

The conference record, , should be sent to all those who attended or were invited to the conference within fifteen working days of the conference. Any amendments should be received within one week of receipt of record. The record is confidential and should not be passed by professionals to third parties without consent of the Chair.

A written copy of the outline CPP should be made available to parents and professionals within one working day.  The conference record should be discussed with the parents by the Social Worker. The conference Chair may decide that confidential material should be excluded from the parent’s copy.

The child should be given a copy of the CPP written at a level appropriate to his or her age and understanding.

Where a friend, supporter or solicitor has been involved, the Chair should clarify with the parent whether a record should be provided for those individuals.

Relevant Sections of the record should be explained to and discussed with the child by the 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/children have a sensory disability or where English is not their first language, the 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.

Conference records are confidential and should not be shared with third parties without the consent of either the conference Chair or 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.

Complaints from families about a conference

Complaints made about the process of the Child Protection Conference should be made in line with the NYSCB Professional Resolutions Procedure and Practice Guidance.

Transfer Child Protection Conferences

Transfer Child Protection Conferences are required to be held within 15 working days of a child subject to a CPP moving to live in North Yorkshire on a permanent basis. Please see the NYSCB Cross Boundaries Procedures and Practice Guidance for further information.

It should be noted that an action from a Serious Case Review in which North Yorkshire took part was to reiterate that wherever a Transfer Child Protection Conference is held, a representative from the child's home authority should attend and all information gleaned from the authority to allow full information sharing.

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