Section 7: Child Protection Conferences
7.1 Initial Child Protection Conference
Purpose of an Initial Child Protection Conference
The Initial Child Protection Conference brings together family members (and the child where appropriate), supporters/advocates and those professionals most involved with the child and family following a S47 enquiry. Its purpose is to:
- Bring together and analyse, in an inter-agency setting, the information that has been obtained about the child's developmental needs, and the parents' or carers' capacity to respond to these needs;
- Ensure the child's safety and promote the child's health and development within the context of their wider family and environment;
- Consider the evidence 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, make judgments about the likelihood of a child suffering significant harm in future. Also decide whether the child is at continuing risk of significant harm;
- Decide what future action is required to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child, including the child becoming the subject of a Child Protection Plan, what the planned developmental outcomes are for the child and how best to intervene to achieve these;
- Allocate a lead social worker from Children's Social Care for each child who requires a Child Protection Plan. The key worker is responsible for ensuring that the Child Protection Plan is developed, co-ordinated and fully implemented to timescales;
- Identify a multi-agency core group to develop and monitor implementation of the Child Protection Plan.
Convening an initial conference
An Initial Child Protection Conference 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 S47 enquiry) must be recorded (NYSCB Procedures Section 6.16) within the child or young person's ICS 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 Children's Social Care does 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's Social Care. (See also Section 15, 'Resolution of a Professional Disagreement')
Criteria for Convening an Initial Child Protection Conference
An Initial Child Protection Conference is to be held where, following the Strategy Meeting and Section 47 child protection enquiries, concerns of significant harm are substantiated and the child is judged to be suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm. This includes:
- Where a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm caused by any person with whom the child lives or has significant contact;
- Where a child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm due to failure on the part of the parent/carer to provide adequate protection;
- Where there are mounting concerns for a child and it is believed the child needs a Child Protection Plan;
- Where there is an unborn baby for whom a Child Protection Plan needs to be made (this applies whether or not Children's Social Care intend to seek a Court Order on the birth of the child);
- Where a person who is likely to pose a risk to the child has joined or is planning to join the family or has significant contact;
- When an Emergency Protection Order has been obtained;
- Where a child, subject to a court order, is to be placed with a parent/carer and agencies consider this will put the child at risk of significant harm;
- Where an application for a court order has been refused and the child is still considered to be at risk of significant harm in the care of their parents/carers;
- When a child who is subject to a Child Protection Plan in another area moves to live in North Yorkshire;
- Where a Child Protection Plan was not made/ discontinued, due to an agreed long-term plan to protect the child but there has been a significant change to this plan;
- Where a child has died as a result of the parenting or care received and there are other children in the household.
Timing of an Initial Child Protection Conference
All Initial Child Protection Conferences should take place within 15 working days of:
- the strategy meeting (at which the S47 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 IRO Manager to the Group Manager, Children's Social Care ( including the reasons for the delay) and Children's Social Care must ensure risks of harm to the child are monitored and action taken to safeguard the child.
7.2 Looked after children and Child Protection Conferences
Where concerns of significant harm are substantiated and the child is judged to be suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm in the future it is Children’s Social Care’s duty to decide whether to initiate legal action e.g. care proceedings. Where a child who is the subject of a child protection plan becomes looked after by Children’s Social Care, the child protection plan should form part of the Looked After Child’s overarching care plan
Children who are already looked after will not normally be subject to child protection conferences, although they may be the subject of S47 enquiries. The circumstances in which a child who is looked after may be the subject of a Child Protection Plan or be considered for a child protection conference if:
- The child who is subject to an interim care order who remains at home pending the outcome of the final family court proceedings hearing;
- The child subject to a care order who is to be returned to their birth family/ returned home;
- The child looked after under s20 of the Children Act 1989 who has been or is about to be returned to a parent's care about whom there are concerns in terms of safeguarding the child's welfare; and
- The child who's behaviour is likely to result in significant harm to themselves or others e.g., a child who presents a risk of sexual abuse or other harmful behaviour to other children or adults.
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 looked after child care review (child care review) considering the proposal for rehabilitation must decide and record whether an Initial Child Protection Conference should be convened. If the decision is that an Initial Child Protection Conference should be convened, the child’s social worker must request it.
If a child is made subject to an interim care order as a result of proceedings commenced whilst the child is subject to a s47 enquiry, there should be consideration of whether the child should be the subject of an Initial Child Protection Conference. If the decision is not to convene an Initial Child Protection Conference, the issue of the child’s safety must be considered at every child care review until the final hearing and the Chair must record whether an Initial Child Protection Conference is necessary and what steps have been taken to ensure the child is protected from significant harm.
If a parent removes or proposes to remove a child looked after under s20 from the care of North Yorkshire County Council and there are serious concerns about that parent’s capacity to provide for the child’s needs and protect them from significant harm, the CSC Social Worker must discuss the case with their manager and 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 such circumstances, the Social Worker and Manager should consider whether legal action is required to protect the child.
7.3 Membership of Child Protection Conferences
If a strategy meeting has decided that an Initial Child Protection Conference is needed and for whatever reason the conference is not quorate information must be heard and an Interim Child Protection plan put in place that will protect the child until such time as a full meeting can be arranged – Within one month of the inquorate Initial Child Protection Conference.
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.
A Conference should be no larger than it needs to be as this can inhibit discussion and intimidate the child and family members.
The Social Worker and their manager should draw up a list of professionals to invite and this list should be agreed with the Chair. Membership is likely to include:
- The child or their representative;
- Parents and those with parental responsibility;
- Family members (including the wider family);
- Foster carers ( current or former);
- Residential care staff;
- Children's Social Care staff who have been involved in an assessment of the family (e.g. their Social Worker);
- Children's Social Care manager;
- Professionals involved with the child (e.g., health visitor, school nurse, paediatrician, GP, designated lead for child protection in schools or early years settings, education social worker);
- Professionals with expertise in the particular type of harm suffered by the child or the child's particular condition (e.g., a disability or long term illness);
- Those involved in investigations (e.g., police);
- Involved third sector organisations;
- Standing members, if applicable;
- The Independent Reviewing Officer.
Additional invitations to conference should be provided to all professionals with a need to know or who have a contribution to the task involved. These may include:
- The child's guardian where there are current court proceedings;
- Local authority legal services, if it is anticipated that legal advice will be required;
- Professionals involved with the parents or other family members ( for example adult mental health services, probation, GP, Family support services);
- Midwifery services where the conference concerns an unborn or new born child (see NYSCB Procedures Section ###);
- Probation or the Youth Justice Service;
- Local authority housing services;
- Domestic abuse advisors;
- Alcohol and substance misuse services;
- A representative of the armed services where there is a service connection;
- Any other relevant professional or service provider;
- A supporter/advocate for the child and/or their parents.
Solicitors must comply with the Law Society guidance Attendance of Solicitors at Child Protection Conferences, 1997
See also the National Standards for the Provision of Children's Advocacy Services, 2002, DOH which outlines ethical and practice issues when advocates become involved in helping parents.
Professionals who are invited but unable to attend for unavoidable reasons should:
- Inform the IRO Business Support Team/IRO ;
- Submit a written report; and
- Arrange for a well-briefed representative to attend to speak to the report.
A professional who wishes to observe a Conference may only attend with the agreement of the child (where of sufficient age and understanding to give permission), those with parental responsibility and the Chair. Agreement for observers to attend a Conference should be obtained from the parents and the child prior to the day of the conference by contacting the Chair.
Babies and young children
Babies and young children should not normally be permitted to enter the conference room as this will cause distraction from the meeting. The Social Worker should assist parents to make arrangements for their care where necessary.
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’s Social Care should provide parents with the opportunity to utilise appropriate day care for their children to enable their attendance at the conference.
Children’s Social Care 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.
The primary principle for determining quoracy is that there should be sufficient agencies present to enable safe decisions to be made in the individual circumstances. As a minimum there should be attendance by Children's Social Care and at least two other professional groups or agencies that have had direct contact with the child subject to the Conference. In this context a school is a separate agency from the rest of the local authority children's services.
Attendees whose contribution relates to professional expertise or responsibility for relevant services are not counted in determining quoracy.
If a strategy meeting has decided that an Initial Child Protection Conference is needed and for whatever reason the conference is not quorate information must be heard and an interim Child Protection plan put in place that will protect the child until such time as a full meeting can be arranged – Within one month of the inquorate Initial Child Protection Conference.
An early RCPC conference must be set immediately to take place no later than one month after the inquorate ICPC.
In some cases, where there has not been contact with this number of professional groups, this minimum quorum may be breached. The Chair will decide whether or not to hold a conference where quorum is not met. This would be relevant where:
- A child has not had relevant contact with three agencies (e.g., pre-birth conference);
- Sufficient information is available; and
- Delay would be detrimental to the child.
The Chair may also decide to hold an early RCPC conference if it becomes apparent in the course of the meeting that there is insufficient information. This information must then be recorded within the child/young person's case file within ICS.
7.4 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:
- Treat all family members with dignity and respect and offer a caring and courteous service;
- Ensure family members know the child’s safety and welfare have priority;
- Minimise infringement of privacy consistent with protecting the child;
- Be clear about powers and purpose of any intervention;
- Be aware of the impact on the family of professional actions;
- Respect confidentiality and pass on information / observations about the family only with permission or to protect the child;
- Listen to and try to understand the concerns, wishes and feelings of the child and family before formulating explanations and plans;
- Learn about the child’s religious, cultural, community and familial context;
- Consider strengths, potential and limitations of family members;
- Ensure all family members know their responsibilities and rights with respect to receipt or refusal of services and its consequences;
- Use simple jargon-free language appropriate to age and culture of each individual;
- Be open and honest about concerns and professionals’ responsibilities, plans and limitations;
- Allow individuals time to absorb professional concerns and processes;
- Distinguish between personal feelings, values, prejudices and beliefs, and professional roles and responsibilities and seek and use supervision to check achievement of this;
- Always acknowledge errors, failures or oversights and the distress caused to families. Family attendance at a conference must be carefully planned. It may not always be possible to involve all family members throughout the conference. The conference should be planned so that the welfare of the child always remains paramount.
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.
All parents and carers must be invited to conferences (unless exclusion is justified below).
The Social Worker must assist their involvement by making sure before the conference that they have sufficient information and practical support to make a meaningful contribution. This includes consideration of child care and travel arrangements to enable attendance.
The Social Worker must explain to parents/carers the purpose of the conference, who will attend, the way in which it will operate and the complaints process.
Written information should be sent to 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.
The role of the supporter is to enable the parent to put their point of view, not to take an adversarial position or cross-examine participants.
Those for whom English is not a first language must be offered and provided with an interpreter, if required. A family member should not act as an interpreter of spoken or signed language.
Provision should be made to ensure that visually or hearing impaired or otherwise disabled parents/carers are enabled to participate.
If parents/carers feel unable to attend the conference, alternative means should be provided for them to communicate with the Chair. Consideration should be given to the use of an advocate, independent person or the Social Worker to give the parent's view within the Conference. Consideration should also be given to parents/carers giving their views through a letter, audio tape or any other suitable means.
Immediately prior to the conference, the Chair should meet with any family members to ensure they understand the process. This may, where the potential for conflict exists, involve separate meetings, in separate rooms with the different parties.
Involving parental supporters
The right to bring a friend, supporter or advocate must be explained. Parents must also be informed that they may bring a Solicitor as a supporter to the Conference. 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 'voice of the child', including the very young child, is of crucial importance to Child Protection Conferences in conveying their experience, wishes and feelings. The child, subject to her/his level of understanding, must be given the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the Conference.
The responsible Social Worker must ensure the child has a clear explanation of the Conference and, where possible, potential provision of an advocate or supporter. For older children, written information should be provided.
In considering whether it would be in the child's interest to attend the Conference, account should be taken of the following:
- Each child's case will be assessed on its merits taking into account the understanding the child has of the situation vis-a-vis their age and development,
- Whether the child has expressed an explicit or implicit wish to be involved;
- The parents' views about the child's proposed presence;
- Whether, overall, it appears to be of benefit to the child to attend.
A declared wish not to attend a Conference must be respected.
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 (rebuttal) presumption that a child of less than 12 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.
In order to establish their wishes with respect to attendance, the child must first be provided with a full and clear explanation of purpose, conduct and membership of the conference and potential provision of an advocate or support person.
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.
If a child is not attending the conference it is the responsibility of the Social Worker to let the conference know what the child wishes to convey.
Written information translated into an appropriate language should be provided to those able to read and an alternative medium (e.g., CD) offered to those who cannot read.
Direct involvement of a child in a conference
The social worker should help prepare the child when they are to attend their conference. This should include whether the child wishes to be present with their parent (or supporter where available) when meeting the Chair of the conference.
The Chair of the conference should be advised of the above by the Social Worker and told whether the child has any special needs. This should be in good time for the conference.
The Chair will decide the extent of the attendance of the child within the Conference, taking into account confidentiality issues in relation to parents and/or siblings. The Chair in discussion with the social worker will agree whether:
- The child attends for all or part of the conference, taking into account confidentiality of parents and/or siblings;
- The child should be present with one or more 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 prepare a report or rehearse any particular points that the child wishes to make.
Those for whom English is not a first language should be offered and provided with an interpreter. A family member should not be expected to act as an interpreter of spoken or signed language. See section 5.47. Working with interpreters / communications facilitators.
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.
7.5 Exclusion of family members from a conference
Exceptionally it may be necessary to exclude one or more family members in full or in part from the conference. These situations will be rare and 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 parent's presence may seriously prejudice the welfare of the child;
- Sufficient evidence that a parent/carer's behaviour may interfere seriously with the work of the conference. This includes violence, threats, racist or other forms of discriminatory or oppressive behaviour or by being in an unfit state, e.g. through drug or alcohol consumption or an acute mental health difficulty;
- A child requests that the parent/person with parental responsibility or carer is not present while s/he is present;
- The presence of one or both parents would prevent a professional from making their proper contribution through concerns of violence or intimidation (which should be communicated in advance to the Conference Chair);
- The need for members to receive confidential information that would otherwise be unavailable, such as legal advice or information about a criminal investigation;
- Conflict between different family members who may not be able to attend at the same time, e.g. in situations of domestic violence.
Where a worker from any agency believes a family member should be excluded, representation must be made to the Chair, as soon as possible and at least three working days before the meeting. The agency concerned must indicate which of the above grounds is believed to be met and the information or evidence to support this. The Chair must consider the representation carefully and may need to take 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 of the child can remain paramount.
Any exclusion period should be for the minimum duration necessary and must be clearly noted in the conference records.
It may become clear in the course of a conference, that its effectiveness will be seriously impaired by the presence of the parent/s, the conference should be planned so that the welfare of the child can remain paramount. In these circumstances, the Chair may ask them to leave and may mean arranging for the child and parents to participate in separate parts of the conference as well as making separate waiting arrangements. This will be recorded on the child's ICS file.
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 and also that the parents participate as fully as circumstances allow. This might mean that if the police representative is a police officer they may be asked to leave a conference after providing information. It is not appropriate for a police officer to administer a caution to parents prior to the conference; the purpose of the conference is to enable analysis and not to progress a criminal investigation.
Again any exclusion period should be for the minimum duration necessary and must be clearly noted in the conference records.
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 can fully present their information and views whilst at the same time allowing the parents to participate as fully as circumstances allow.
The decision of the Chair over matters of exclusion is final regarding both parents and children.
If, prior to the conference, the Chair has decided to exclude a parent or family member, this must be communicated in writing with information on how s/he may make their views known, how s/he will be told the outcome of the conference and about the complaints procedure.
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.
The Chair will determine whether or not the excluded parent should receive the record of the conference.
On occasions it may be appropriate to share medical information about the child or another member of the household on a confidential basis. Family members who should not be party to this information should be excluded for this part of the meeting.
Finally, exclusion at one conference is not enough reason in itself for exclusion at further conferences.
7.6 The absence of parents and/or children
If parents and/or children do not wish to attend the conference they must be provided with full opportunities to contribute their views. This can involve agreeing that a conference member can express views on their behalf, writing a letter or making a tape for the meeting or arranging for an advocate to attend on their behalf.
7.7 Child Protection Conferences and Domestic Abuse
When domestic violence is known, or believed, to be an issue, particular care must be taken in arranging Child Protection Conferences and other meetings. All staff should be aware that the safety of the child and the non-abusing parent might be at risk before, during and after a Conference.
The Conference should proceed on the basis that the victim and the perpetrator each have separate time within the meeting. It will be for the Conference Chair to decide, taking into account the views of the victim, whether any part of the Conference can proceed on the basis of both parties being present at the same time.
Consultation with and/or invitation to any specialist representative, for example, a Domestic Violence Coordinator is highly recommended.
Consideration should be given as to whether it is in the interests of the child and non-abusing parent/carer to allow a parent or carer, who is a perpetrator of abuse, to attend the Conference.
In a situation of domestic abuse, the parent who is not the perpetrator of abuse must be seen alone by Conference members for at least part of the Conference. The parent/partner who is the perpetrator must also be given the opportunity to be seen alone.
If the perpetrator is to attend, there is to be safety planning to ensure that the Conference does not provide an opportunity for further intimidation or abuse, for example, by the provision of information which may lead to further abuse. It may be necessary to be selective about which Conference papers and information a perpetrator of abuse is given.
The business of the Conference should include issues of safe contact arrangements for the child, bearing in mind that perpetrators of abuse may use contact with children to perpetrate further violence.
Any Child Protection Plan should take full account of the issue of domestic violence along with all the other welfare and safety issues which may apply. The Child Protection Plan should be based on inter-agency action to support the child and the non-abusing carer, to keep them safe and to manage the behaviour of the perpetrator. It should not rely primarily on unrealistic expectations that the adult victim of abuse can control the behaviour of the perpetrator.
7.8 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 have a conference report form approved by the NYSCB.
Information from Children's Social Care
Reports from Children's Social Care and agencies in contact with the family should be provided to parents and to the child where the child is of sufficient age and understanding, at least two working days in advance of the Conference.
Reports and sufficient copies should be made available to the Conference Chair as soon as possible and always be at least two working days before an ICPC and five working days before an RCPC
The Social Worker should provide an Initial Child Protection Conference Report (DOH 2002). The report should include the outcome of the Section 47 Enquiry report and additional information arising from the Assessment (as far as it has been completed to that stage). There should be a report on each child. Each report should include:
- The reason for conveying the conference
- A chronology of significant events and agency and professional contact with the family, incorporating relevant historical information;
- Information on the child's current and past state of developmental needs;
- Information on the capacity of the parents and other family members to ensure the child is safe from harm and to respond to the child's developmental needs, within their wider family and environmental context;
- The expressed views, wishes and feelings of the child, parents, and other family members;
- Information about how the children's needs have been and are currently being met;
- Views, wishes and feelings of the child, parents and other significant family members;
- An analysis of the information gathered and recorded using the assessment framework dimensions to reach a judgement on whether the child is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm and consider how best to meet his or her developmental needs. This analysis should address how the:
- child’s strengths and difficulties are impacting on each other
- parenting strengths and difficulties are affecting each other
- family and environmental factors are affecting each other
- parenting that is provided for the child is affecting the child’s health and development both in terms of resilience and protective factors, and vulnerability and risk factors
- family and environmental factors are impacting on parenting and/or the child directly; and
- Recommendations to the conference outlining a proposed plan for future safeguarding of the child and promotion of their welfare.
The report should include information on the dates the child was seen by the lead 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.
The report must make clear the distinction between fact, observation, allegation and opinion. When information is provided from another source (i.e. it is second or third hand), this should be made clear.
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 contents of the report should be explained and discussed with the child and relevant family members, (where necessary adapted for younger children and those with special needs) and language/s of the child and family members. A family member should not be expected to act as an interpreter of spoken or signed language.
Information from other agencies
All the agencies invited to the conference should provide details of their involvement with the family and their assessment of the situation.
Agencies are expected to share information about the child and family in written form prior to the conference, whether or not they are able to attend the conference.
Information should be submitted in a written, legible and signed report. Reports should be made available to the Chair two working days before the ICPC and five working days before an RCPC. All agencies should have a conference report form approved by the NYSCB.
The report must make clear which child/children are the subject of the conference, whilst also addressing any known needs and circumstances of all children in the household
Agency reports should use the template attached in Appendix 10: Templates for Conference Reports.
Reports from other agencies should detail their involvement with the child and family, including:
- Their knowledge of the child's developmental needs;
- The capacity of parents to meet the needs of their child within their family;
- The wider family context;
- Any area of concern;
- Any other information they consider relevant;
- Any recommendations they wish to make in relation to future safeguarding of the child and promotion of their welfare.
Where decisions are being made about more than one child in a family the report should consider the safeguarding needs of each child. The report should make clear which children are the subject of the conference, whilst also addressing any known needs and circumstances for all children in the household.
The report must make clear the distinction between fact, observation, allegation and opinion. When information is provided from another source (i.e. it is second or third hand), this should be made clear.
It should be noted that all reports will be distributed with the record of the Conference to agencies involved and to the parents. Exceptionally certain reports or part of reports may not be circulated.
If any professional has a particular problem in relation to sharing information with one or more family members, they should discuss this with their agencies designated person for child protection and the Chair of the Conference. Such issues should be brought to attention as far in advance of the Conference as possible.
Where any agency representatives are unable to attend the conference, they must ensure that a written report is made available to the conference and, where possible, that a colleague attends in their place.
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, with the help of an advocate or by other means requested by the child or family).
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.
See section 7.4. Involving child/children and family members.
7.9 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's Social Care and independent of the case management. IROs will be registered with the General Social Care Council (GSCC). 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 child protection plan. Wherever possible, the same person should also chair subsequent child protection reviews in respect of a specific child.
A conference Chair should be trained in the role and should have:
- A good understanding and professional knowledge of children’s welfare and development and best practice in working with children and families;
- The ability to look objectively at, and assess the implications of, the evidence on which judgements should be based;
- Skills in chairing meetings in a way which encourages constructive participation, while maintaining a clear focus on the welfare of the child and the decisions which have to be taken;
- Knowledge and understanding of anti-discriminatory practice;
- Knowledge of relevant legislation, including that relating to children’s services and human rights.
The responsibilities of the Chair include:
- Meeting the child and family members in advance of the conference and ensuring they understand the purpose of the conference and how it will be conducted;
- Setting out the purpose, tasks and process of the Conference to all present and determining the agenda. Ensuring that confidentiality is stressed;
- Address equal opportunities issues and ensure necessary interpreters are present;
- Clarifying the contributions of those present, including supporters/advocates for the family;
- Enabling all those present (and absent contributors) to make their full contribution to discussion and decision-making;
- Ensuring all those present, including the parents and child/children, are enabled to make a full contribution and that full consideration is given to the information they present;
- Ensuring, as far as possible, that the voice of the child/children is heard and represented throughout the meeting;
- Ensuring that the Conference takes the decisions required in an informed, systematic and explicit way;
- Ensuring that NYSCB principles are reflected in all aspects of the Conference;
- Summarising the discussion and the risk of harm to the child and what needs to change;
- Ensuring the needs and circumstances of all the children in the household are considered;
- Ensuring that the needs of the family are identified;
- Issues of race, language, class, gender, sexuality and disability are fully taken into account in the work of the conference;
- Appropriate arrangements are made for those attending only part of the conference and that third party confidential information is received where necessary;
- Deciding the category of abuse if it is decided that a Child Protection Plan is required;
- Ensuring the conference reaches decisions in an informed, systematic and explicit way and the formulation of an effective Child Protection Plan;
- Informing the local authority children's data systems of the outcome of the Conference;
- Consideration is given to the issue of criminal injury compensation, if appropriate
- All concerned are advised / reminded of the Children’s Social Care complaints procedure;
- Ensure that arrangements are made with the LA children’s social worker for absent child/children and/or parents to be informed of the decisions of conferences.
7.10 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 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 child protection plan
- 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;
- The outline child protection plan is formulated and clearly understood by all concerned including the parents and, where appropriate, the child (see section 7.12. Outline Child Protection Plan)
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 may ensure that the conference draws up a child in need plan or makes appropriate recommendations for a plan. See section
7.11. Outline Protection Plan.
The child protection plan 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.
7.12 Criteria for a Child Protection Plan
The aim of the child protection plan is to:
- ensure the child is safe from significant harm and prevent him or her from suffering further significant 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.
After consideration of the information available and discussion, the Conference should decide whether the child should be the subject of a Child Protection Plan by asking the following question:" is the child at risk of suffering significant harm?"
The test should be that either:
- 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, and professional judgment is that further ill-treatment or impairment are likely or;
- Professional judgment, 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 physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect.
Conference participants should base their judgments on:
- Known family history, including previous contacts with relevant agencies;
- The Assessment undertaken following the initiation of the S47 enquiries; and
- Written and verbal communications in the conference.
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 formal child protection plan. 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. See section 7.17 Complaints by service users.
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 Child Protection Plan, 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 child protection plan, 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.
7.13 The Outline Child Protection Plan
Where it is decided that a child is at continuing risk of significant harm, the Conference is to formulate an outline Child Protection Plan as outlined in the section below.
In formulating the Child Protection Plan, the Conference must consider and make recommendations in sufficient detail on how agencies, professionals and the family should work together to ensure that the child will be safeguarded from significant harm in the future. The aim of the plan is to assist the core group to form a plan in as much detail as possible and ensure that it is implemented.
It is important that the family and professionals understand exactly what is expected of them, also that services are provided to give the child and family the best chance of achieving the required changes.
The Child Protection Plan should:
- Identify the key worker who should be a qualified, experienced social worker from Children's Social Care;
- Identify the members of a Core Group of professionals and family members who will develop and implement the Child Protection Plan as a detailed working tool
- establishing how the child, their parents (including all those with parental responsibility) and wider family members should be involved in the ongoing assessment, planning and implementation process, and the support, advice and advocacy available to them;
- Establishing timescales for meetings of the core group, production of a child protection plan, and for child protection review meetings;
- Describe specific, achievable, child-focused outcomes intended to safeguard each child;
- Describe the types of services required by each child (including family support) to promote their welfare;
- Show short-term and longer-term aims and objectives that are clearly linked to reducing the likelihood of harm to the child and promoting the child's welfare, including contact with family members;
- Outline what further action is required to complete the core assessment, and what other specialist assessments of the child and family are required to make sound judgments on how best to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child, basing these on the 'five outcomes';
- Outline ways of monitoring and evaluating progress against the planned outcomes set out in the plan;
- Develop robust contingency plans if agreed objectives and actions are not completed and/or circumstances change. E.g. if a caregiver fails to achieve what has been agreed, a court application is not successful or a parent removes the child from a place of safety;
- Clarify who will have responsibility for what actions – including actions by family members, specifying timescales;
- Be clear about which professional is responsible for checking that the required changes have taken place, and what action will be taken, by whom, when they have not;
- Show the agreed date of the first child protection review Conference, and under what circumstances it might be necessary to convene the Conference before that date;
- Show the date by which the Core Group is to have its first meeting (within 10 working days of the Conference).
Key to these considerations is what is in the child's best interests, informed by the child's wishes and feelings.
7.14 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 Child Protection Plan, 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.
7.15 Dissent from a conference decision
In all cases, the conference minutes should record clearly where there is dissent from a conference decision and the reasons why there is this 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.
7.16 Pre-Birth Protection Conference
A Pre-birth Child Protection Conference is an Initial Child Protection Conference concerning an unborn child. It carries the same status and conveys the same purpose as an Initial Child Protection Conference (NYSCB Procedures, Section 9: Unborn child further outlines referral and planning).
A pre-birth conference should be held where:
- A pre-birth assessment gives rise to concerns that an unborn child may be at risk of 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 parental risk factors such as mental ill health (see section 9.34), learning disabilities (see section 9.35), substance misuse (see section 9.36) and domestic violence (see section 9.14);
- A mother under 18 years of age about whom there are concerns regarding her ability to self-care and/or to care for the child.
All agencies involved with pregnant women should consider the need for an early referral to Children’s Social Care so that assessments are undertaken as early as possible in the pregnancy.
Timing of the conference
This Conference should take place as soon as practical and at least ten weeks before the due date of delivery so as to allow as much time as possible for planning support for the baby and family.
Pre-birth conferences should always be convened where there is a need to consider if a multi-agency child protection plan is required. This decision will usually follow from a pre-birth assessment.
Where there is a known likelihood of a premature birth, the conference should be held earlier.
Those normally invited to an Initial Child Protection Conference must be invited. In addition, representatives of the midwifery and relevant neo-natal services should also be invited.
Parents and carers should be invited as they would be to other child protection conferences and should be fully involved in plans for the child's future.
Pre-Birth Child Protection Plan
If a decision is made that the unborn child needs the safeguarding of a protection plan, this must be set out in terms that will commence prior to and following the birth of the child.
The Core Group must be established and meet if at all possible prior to the birth and definitely prior to the baby's return home after a hospital birth.
Where a Child Protection Plan is made, Children's Social Care should convene a separate planning meeting with hospital staff to detail the steps that need to be taken to ensure the infants safety at the time.
Points to be included are:
- That legal advice should be sought where necessary;
- That the hospital is to have the contact details of the Key Worker/ Team Manager;
- That the hospital is to inform Children's Social Care when the baby is born;
- The expectation that the parent(s) will follow medical advice regarding discharge of the baby from hospital;
- The name of any identified person who should not have contact with the baby;
- A statement to say whether the baby should go home with the parent(s) or not;
- Where the plan is that the baby should not go home with the parent(s) the action to be taken should there be any attempt to remove the baby from hospital, including consideration of Police Protection or Emergency Protection Order;
- Where the baby is not to go home with the parent(s), the contact arrangements and whether this is to be supervised and by whom;
- Where appropriate, details of alternative carers;
- That a copy of the Protection Plan and Conference minutes are to be sent to the Named Nurse for Child Protection and the Emergency Duty Team;
- That if the baby is transferred or placed in a different hospital, a copy of the Child Protection Plan is sent immediately to the new venue;
- Contingency arrangements if the Child Protection Plan does not progress as expected.
Timing of Review Conference
The first review conference should take place within one month of the child's birth or within three months of the date of the pre-birth conference, whichever is sooner.
Children's Social Care undertaking or commissioning a Pre Birth Assessment should ensure that the assessment is structured in such a way as to provide a comprehensive report to the Review Child Protection Conference.
Where a Pre Birth Initial Child Protection Conference is held and the decision is made that the baby should not be made the subject of a Child Protection Plan but it is considered that the child will be in need, the Conference should make recommendations in respect of support for the baby and family, particularly with reference to a Child in Need Plan.
7.17 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 child protection plan;
- 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, signed by the conference Chair, 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 Child Protection Plan 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 Child Protection Plan 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.
7.18 Complaints from families about a conference
Complaints made about the process of the Child Protection Conference should be made in line with the NYSCB Complaints Procedure (Section 15.3).
7.19 Transfer Child Protection Conferences
Transfer Child Protection Conferences are required to be held within 15 working days of a child subject to a Child Protection Plan moving to live in North Yorkshire on a permanent basis. This is outlined in NYSCB Procedures, Section 9.10 Cross Boundary Issues.
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.
Procedure Last Updated: 30 January 2014
Next Scheduled Review: 30 January 2015