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Child Protection Conferences

Contents

  1. Child Protection Conferences
  2. Looked After Children and Child Protection Conferences
  3. Membership of Child Protection Conference
  4. Involving Children and Family Members
  5. Exclusion of Family Members from a Conference
  6. The Absence of Parents and / or Children
  7. Information for the Conference
  8. Chairing the Conference
  9. The Child Protection Plan
  10. A Discontinuation of a Current Child Protection Plan
  11. Professional Dissent from the Conference Decision
  12. Complaints by Children and / or Parents/Carers
  13. Administrative Arrangements for Child Protection Conferences

    Related Documents

    Amendments to this Chapter


1. Child Protection Conferences

All 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, consideration should be given as to whether to hold a Child Protection Conference prior to the child's birth.

The tasks for all Conferences are to:

  • Bring together and analyse, in an inter-agency setting the information which has been obtained about the child's developmental needs, and the parents' / carers' capacity to respond to these needs to 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 their family history and present and past family functioning, to decide whether the child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm;
  • Recommend what future action is 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 developmental outcomes are for the child and how best to intervene to achieve these;
  • Appoint a lead Social Worker from 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;
  • 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 Children's Social Care Team Manager is responsible for making the decision to convene a Child Protection Conference and the reasons for this (or for not calling a Conference following completion of a Section 47 Enquiry) must be recorded.

A Conference should be convened, if requested by a professional from another agency, supported by a senior manager / named or designated professional where there is disagreement about the decision to not hold a Conference. The Resolving Inter Agency Disagreements Guidance (Escalation Policy) should be applied if agreement cannot be reached.

Types of Conferences

Depending on the circumstances there are several different types of child protection conferences:

  • Initial Conferences (including 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 Section 47 Enquiry to safeguard and promote the welfare of a child who is suspected to be, or likely to be, suffering Significant Harm.

The Initial Child Protection Conference should take place within 15 working days of:

  • The most recent Strategy Meeting / Discussion when the Section 47 Enquiries being initiated; or
  • Notification by another local authority that a child subject of a Child Protection Plan has moved into the area.

Where there is delay, this, and the reasons for the delay, must be reported to the Team Manager and Children's Social Care must ensure that 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. It has the same status as, and must be conducted in a comparable manner to an Initial Child Protection Conference. The timing of the Conference should be carefully considered bearing in mind the need for early action to allow time to plan for the birth and support for the baby and family. Wherever possible, the Pre Birth Conferences should take place at least 10 weeks before the due date of delivery. Where there is a known likelihood of a premature birth, the Conference should be held earlier.

A Pre-birth Conference should always be convened where there is a need to consider if a multi-agency Child Protection Plan is required.

A Pre-birth Conference may be held where:

  • A Pre-birth assessment gives rise to concerns that an unborn child may be likely to suffer significant harm;
  • A previous child has died or been removed from parents/carers 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.
  • There are parental risk factors such as mental ill health, learning disabilities, substance misuse and domestic abuse.

All agencies involved with pregnant women, where there are concerns about the unborn child, should consider whether there is the need for an early referral to Children's Social Care so that assessments are undertaken as early as possible in the pregnancy.

Transfer In Conference should take place when a child, who is the subject of a Child Protection Plan, moves from the original Local Authority area to Hull to live there permanently. Children’s Social Care, Designated Health Professionals and the Police should be notified promptly.

The Transfer In Conference should receive reports from the original Local Authority who should be invited to attend the meeting. The Conference must be convened to place within 15 working days of the notification.

A Review Conference must:

  • Review whether the child is continuing to suffer, or is likely to suffer, significant harm, and review their health and developmental progress against the Child Protection Plan outcomes;
  • Ensure that the child continues to be safeguarded from harm; and
  • Consider whether the Child Protection Plan should continue or should be changed.

If the child is considered to be suffering significant harm, the Conference should determine whether to recommend that the Local Authority should consider whether to initiate family court proceedings. For further guidance see the Public Law Outline.

If a child is not suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm, then s/he 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 includes:

  • Sharing and analysing up-to-date information about the child's health, development and functioning and the parent's / carer's capacity to ensure and promote the child's welfare;
  • Maintaining contact with other professionals about the child;
  • Considering the impact on the child of the capacity and functioning of the parent/carer;
  • Ensuring that the measures already in place to safeguard the child from harm are effective and in line with local arrangements;
  • Regularly reviewing the progress of all aspects of the Child Protection Plan;
  • Making changes to the Child Protection Plan (e.g. where a family is not co-operating or a service is no longer available);
  • Setting or re-setting desired outcomes and timescales, including if there is a need for a new assessment;
  • Seeking and taking into account the child's wishes and feelings;
  • Making judgements about the likelihood of the child suffering significant harm in the future.

The date of the first Child Protection Review Conference should be held within 3 months of the date of that first meeting.

A Review Conference following a Pre-birth Conference must be held within 3 months from the Initial Conference (i.e. not from the date of birth).

Subsequent 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.

A Review Conference should consider the timescales to meet the needs and safety of the child, and the Plans made should reflect this rather than any agency constraints.

A Review Conference should be brought forward when there have been significant improvements or positive changes in relation to the child’s safety such that a Child Protection Plan may no longer be needed:

Most of the following circumstances would normally be dealt with by the Core Group which meets in relation to the child, but there may be consultation with the Independent Conference and Reviewing Officer (ICRO) to determine if an earlier Review Conference would be appropriate if:
  • 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;
  • An adult or child who poses a risk to children is to join, or commences regular contact with, the household; or
  • There is a significant change in the circumstances of the child or family not anticipated at the previous Conference which have implications for the safety of the child.

The Review Conference requires as much preparation, commitment and management as the Initial Child Protection Conference. Each member of the Core Group has a responsibility to produce an individual agency report on the child and family for the Review Conference. Together, these reports provide an overview of work undertaken by family members and professionals, and evaluate the impact of the interventions on the child’s welfare against the planned outcomes set out in the Child Protection Plan.


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 a Child Protection Conference (though they may be the subject of a Section 47 Enquiry). The circumstances in which a child who is Looked After may be considered for a Child Protection Conference or may be subject to a Child Protection Plan can vary. 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 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 Looked After Child Review, 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 case review decision. (See The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case (2015)).

A child Looked After under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989, who has been or is about to be returned to a parent's care about whom there are safeguarding concerns may be subject of a Section 47 Enquiry and a Child Protection Conference. See The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (June 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.

Children with Child Protection Plans who become Looked After

If a child subject of a Child Protection Plan becomes Looked After under a Section 20 voluntary accommodation arrangement, their legal situation is not permanently secure and therefore the next Child Protection Review Conference should consider the child's safety in the light of the possibility that the parent can request their removal from the Local Authority's care. The Child Protection Review Conference must be sure that the Looked After Child Care Plan and Placement Plan provide adequate security for the child and sufficiently reduces or eliminates the likelihood of significant harm.

A Review Conference for Looked After Children

Where a Looked After Child remains the subject of a Child Protection Plan there must be a single plan and linked planning and reviewing process, led by the Independent Conference and Reviewing Officer (ICRO). This means that the timing of the Child Protection Review Conference and the child’s Looked After Review should be linked. This will ensure that up to date information in relation to the child's welfare and safety is considered within both review settings and informs the overall care planning process.

Consideration should be given to the ICRO chairing the Child Protection Conference and Looked After Child Review although it is acknowledged there are differences in the:

  • Requirements for independence of the ICRO function compared to the chair of the Child Protection Conference; and
  • Formality and attendance arrangements for a Child Protection Conference and a Looked After Child Review.
This should be decided on an individual case basis and managed to ensure that the independence of the ICRO is not compromised. The child or family might benefit from having different Chairs for the two types of meetings, and where possible should be consulted about this.


3. Membership of Child Protection Conference

A Conference should only consist of those people who have a significant contribution to make due to their knowledge of the child and family or their relevant expertise. This is likely to include:

  • The child;
  • Parents / carers and those with Parental Responsibility;
  • Family members (including the wider family);
  • Foster carers (current or former);
  • Residential care staff;
  • Children's Social Care professionals who have led and been involved in an assessment of the child and family (and their first line manager);
  • Professionals involved with the child (e.g. Health Visitor, Midwife, School Nurse, Paediatrician, GP, school staff, CAMHS, Youth Justice, Early Years Staff, Education Welfare Officers);
  • 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 (e.g. the Police);
  • Third sector organisations;
  • An Independent Conference and Reviewing Officer (ICRO) who will chair the meeting; and
  • A minute taker to keep a written record of the meeting

Invitations to a Child Protection Conference should be provided to all professionals with a need to know or who have a contribution to the task involved. These may include:

  • Local Authority legal services (child protection), if it is anticipated that legal advice will be required;
  • The child/ren's guardian where there are current court proceedings;
  • Professionals involved with the parents or other family members (e.g. family support services, domestic abuse services, adult mental health services, housing services, Probation Providers and Substance Misuse Services;
  • A representative of the armed services, in cases where there is a service connection;
  • A supporter / advocate for the child and/or parents/carers (e.g. a friend or solicitor). Solicitors must comply with the Law Society guidance Attendance of solicitors at local authority Children Act Meetings and related Code of Conduct (2011);
  • Professional observers may only attend with the prior consent of the Chair and the family, and must not take part in discussions or decision-making.

PLEASE NOTE: When a child has been the subject of a Forensic Medical Examination (FME) for the purpose of a Section 47 Enquiry, the medical examiner/ Paediatrician concerned will be an essential attendee and all efforts should be made to facilitate their attendance.

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

  • Inform the Conference conveyor or Chair;
  • Submit a written report; and / or
  • Arrange for a well-briefed agency representative to attend and speak to the report;

All agencies are expected to share their report 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. See Section 7, Information for the Conference.

Babies and young children should not normally be present during the Conference as discussions can sometimes be difficult and thus the environment is not always suitable for young children. It can be difficult for parents / carers to focus if they have to attend to young children. Parents should be assisted by the child’s Social Worker to make arrangements for childcare where necessary.

Location, timing and safety for a Conference

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 a conference call, but this should not be the norm. A Conference should be scheduled at times which assist parent’s attendance, i.e. not when they will be busy looking after children at home (e.g. after the end of the school day). Children's Social Care should, where necessary, support parents with appropriate day care for their children to enable their attendance.

Children's Social Care is responsible for taking into account health and safety issues and security arrangements when planning each Conference. See also Section 5, Exclusion of Family Members from a Conference.

Electronic and Digital Recording

Advances in technology make the recording of meetings and other conversations e.g. via smart phones much more easily available to individual service-users. This may be simply because they wish to have a verbatim record of the conversation to refer back to, or because they have difficulties in following or recalling conversations. They may, however, seek to use the recording for other purposes such as admission into evidence in family court proceedings, or even for wider broadcast.

This may arise in the context of child protection / safeguarding meetings, private law or public law proceedings, and may involve recording of conversations between parents, between parents and professionals, conversations between parents and children or discussions in meetings.

The recording may take place overtly or covertly.

There are no specific legal restrictions on the recording of face-to-face conversations, whether this is overt or covert. Thus, whilst good practice would suggest that advance consent should be sought for any planned recording, a blanket ban on recording is unlikely to be lawful.

This is not a clear-cut area, and legal advice must be sought as appropriate. Practitioners should be mindful that covert recording may be taking place, and should endeavour to ensure that they do not make statements during ‘private’ conversations which they would not be prepared to hear produced as evidence in court.

If the scale or style of recording is excessive, oppressive or disproportionate, then this may cross a threshold. For example, a parent recording their questioning of the child in a manner which is oppressive may in fact be evidence of possible emotional abuse of the child by that parent.

 Where the making of an audio or video record of a child protection/safeguarding meeting is proposed then this request should be considered by an LA Senior Manager who will consult participating agency managers and others as required, in the light of up-to-date local policy and legal advice.

In the case of Child Protection Conferences the Independent Conference and Review Officer should determine the response in consultation with Conference members and/or by taking legal advice. For Core Group meetings the chair, often an LA Manager, or Lead Social Worker will determine the response.

In considering the request by any party, it should be ensured that agreeing to such a request will not impact on the quality of the information-sharing and discussion, or compromise the decision-making with regard to the safeguarding of the child. The interests of the child must be the primary concern and confidentiality must be observed.

Whilst the recording itself may well be legitimate, there may be restrictions on its use.

If a party seeks to admit such material into court proceedings, then it is at the discretion of the court whether to allow this or not. Such evidence will only be admitted if it is relevant to the issues in the case and not, for example, in furtherance of a personal grievance by a parent against a social worker.

The Data Protection Act 2018 does not apply to the processing of personal data by an individual in the course of a purely personal or household activity. However the scope of this provision in the context of recording is not clear. Jackson J in M v F (Covert Recording of Children) [2016] EWFC 29 expressed the view that a similar exemption contained in the previous Data Protection Act (1998) was intended to protect normal domestic use, and would not cover the covert recording of individuals, and particularly children, for the purpose of evidence-gathering in family proceedings and Ward of Court proceedings.

Wider distribution of any material recorded as a part of a Child Protection Conference, for example, making such recordings available via the internet, would be in contravention of the General Data Protection Regulations and the Data Protection Act 2018. Such recordings are likely to contain information (including possible ‘sensitive personal information’) relating to third parties, and the distribution of such information so as to enable those third parties to be identified would be in breach of data protection legislation. If the issues in question are the subject of ongoing court proceedings, then there is also a possible contempt of court.

Good Practice

A clear process should be in place for dealing with requests to record meetings/conversations or for situations where it seems likely that covert recording is taking place or is likely to take place. It is preferable for this to be addressed with all service-users at an early stage, rather than waiting until the situation arises at the start of a meeting. The process should set out how the request should be made, who will consider the request and how far in advance of the meeting the request should be made. It should also make clear to the service-user the limitations upon the use of the recorded material, e.g. that it can only be used in relation to the ongoing family proceedings/ child protection processes and cannot be broadcast more widely. The service-user will preferably be invited to sign to indicate their agreement to and understanding of these limitations.

It is important that each such request is considered on its own merits. If the decision-maker is minded to refuse the request, then legal advice should be sought.

For Further Information see:

Parents recording social workers - A guidance note for parents and professionals (the Transparency Project)

Conference quorum

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 addition, attendees may also include those whose contribution relates to their professional expertise or responsibility for relevant services.

In exceptional circumstances, the Chair may decide to proceed with the Conference despite lack of quoracy. This would be relevant where:

  • A child has not had relevant contact with three agencies (e.g. Pre-birth Conferences);
  • Sufficient information is available from the relevant agencies; and
  • A delay would be detrimental to the child.

Where a non-quorate conference is held, an early Review Conference should be arranged. The Chair must ensure that the reasons for proceeding with the Conference and any arrangements to safeguard the child are noted in the Conference record.


4. Involving Children and Family Members

It is important that the principles of working in partnership with children and parents/carers 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/carers must be invited and encouraged to participate in all child protection meetings unless it is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child;
  • Parents/carers should be supported to enable them to participate by timely preparation and information, such as the provision of leaflets about the process and their role in it;
  • Advocates should be accessed to support parents / carers when appropriate;
  • A meeting should take place with the Chair prior to the meeting;
  • Those parents/carers 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. See Working with Interpreters Safeguarding Practice Guidance.

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 Conference Record. The Chair should decide if the entire record is provided or only that part attended by the excluded parent (see Section 5, Exclusion of Family Members from a Conference).

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.

Direct or Indirect 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 their age and understanding confidentiality of parents/carers and / or siblings;
  • The child should be present with one or more of their parents/carers;
  • The Chair meets the child alone or with a parent/carer prior to the meeting;
  • The child needs an independent Advocate arranging to support them in providing their views or attending the Conference;
  • The child requires an interpreter if English is not their main language;
  • How the child’s views will be relayed if they are unable to attend.


5. 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/carers for all or part of a Conference. The Chair should make a decision based on the following:

  • Indications that the presence of the parent/carer may seriously prejudice the welfare of the child;
  • Evidence that a parent/carer may behave in such a way as to seriously interfere 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 / carer / 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 contribution due to concerns about 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;
  • Conflicts between different family members who may not be able to attend at the same time (e.g. in situations of domestic abuse) or legal restrictions such as injunctions which would be breached of both parties were in the room at the same time.

Where a professional believes a parent should, be excluded, representation must be made, if possible at least 3 working days in advance, to the Chair of the Conference who should:

  • 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 child and the parents / carers, 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 parents / carers. In these circumstances the Chair may ask them to leave.

Where a parent / carer 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 / carers prior to the Conference; the purpose of the Conference is to enable analysis and not to progress a criminal investigation.

The decision of the Chair over matters of exclusion is final regarding both parents / carers and the child/ren.

If, prior to the Conference, the Chair has decided to exclude a parent / carer, 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. See Section 11, Professional Dissent from the Conference Decision.

Those excluded should be provided with a copy of the Social Worker's report to the Conference and 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 Conference Record.

Domestic Abuse

The following arrangements should be considered by the Chair in advance of the meeting, or can be proposed to the Chair by other agencies e.g. Hull Domestic Abuse Project (DAP).

The victim and perpetrator may be asked to withdraw for part of the meeting so that an advocate can provide the victim’s views and intentions. This would be particularly valuable where the couple are still in a relationship and the exclusion of the perpetrator on their own may create risks to the victim after the conference e.g. if the perpetrator subsequently pressures the victim to relay the discussion which took place in their absence.

All parties should be aware that domestic abuse services, such as DAP, may be supporting a victim without the perpetrator’s knowledge. In such circumstances, it would increase risk if the perpetrator should hear of the support being provided e.g. via the Child Protection Plan. This information should therefore be discussed with the chair in advance to ensure safety planning.


6. The Absence of Parents and / or Children

If parents/ carers and / or children 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 parent / carer or child;
  • Enabling the child or parent to write or tape or use drawings to represent their views in other formats;
  • Agreeing that they or any other professional relay their views.


7. Information for the Conference

In order for the Conference to reach well-informed decisions based on evidence, there needs to be 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 Section 47 Enquiry.

Children's Social Care Report

Children's Social Care should submit a written report that summarises and analyses the information obtained in the course of the assessment undertaken in conjunction with the Section 47 Enquiries 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 should consider the safeguarding needs of each individual child in the household.

It 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.

The report should be provided to parents / carers and older children (subject to their age and understanding and where is believed to be in their interests) at least 2 working days in advance of an Initial Conference and a minimum of 5 working days before a Review Conference to enable the family to comment on and correct any of the content.

It should be available to the conference Chair at least 24 hours in advance of an Initial Conference and 3 working days in advance of a Review Conference.

Reports from Other Agencies

Information by all agencies about their involvement with the family should be submitted on the Multi agency report - Initial / Review Child Protection Conference with the exception of the Police and GPs who have their own respective report formats. This report format is based on the Strengthening Families Framework. The headings - Danger/ Harm, Complicating Factors, Safety, Strengths and Grey Areas in the report relate directly to the conference process.

All professionals attending the Conference will asked to contribute under these headings. It is therefore essential that all of these areas are completed to ensure that a full and accurate picture of what life is like for the child can be gained and appropriate decisions made / support offered to safeguard the child.

Prior to the Conference and before submission to the chair each agency should:

  • Share the their report with the parent/ carer, child (dependant of the child’s age and understanding);
  • Have sought the parent/ carer, child’s views on the report, recorded their comments and obtained signatures.

N.B. the child should be informed that their comments may be shared at the Conference and that in the event that they do not wish this to occur, they can be passed separately to the Chair

  • Provide a copy of the report to the parent/ carer and child (where appropriate).

The report should be available to the Conference Chair 24 hours in advance of an Initial Conference and 3 working days in advance of a Review Conference. All agencies should use the conference report template.

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, in a digital format 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.

See Section 4, Involving Child/ren and Family Members.


8. Chairing the Conference

Conference Chair

The Chair of a Child Protection Conference will be an Independent Conference and Reviewing Officer (ICRO). Wherever possible the same ICRO should consistently chair subsequent Review Conferences for the family. The Chair’s role is to raise issues, ask questions and give procedural guidance that will facilitate a decision being reached between agencies which are in the interests of the child and in accordance with these procedures. If a decision is made that a child requires a Child Protection Plan to safeguard their welfare, the Chair should ensure that:

  • The risks to the child are stated within the Risk Statement and what is needed to change is specified in the Safety Statement;
  • A Qualified Social Worker is identified as the Lead Professional to develop, co-ordinate and implement the Child Protection Plan;
  • A Core Group is identified which consists of family members and the professionals involved in working with the family;
  • 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 a Child Protection Review Conference is set; and
  • The outline Child Protection Plan is formulated and clearly understood by all concerned including the parents and, where appropriate, the child.
If a Conference determines that a child does not need the specific assistance of a Child Protection Plan, but does need help to promote their welfare, the Chair must ensure that the Conference draws up a Child in Need Plan.


9. The Child Protection Plan

Threshold for a Child Protection Plan

A 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 purpose of a Child Protection Plan is to facilitate and make explicit a co-ordinated approach to:

  • Ensure that each child in the household is safe from harm and prevent them from suffering further harm;
  • Promote the child's welfare health and development; and
  • Provided it is the best interests of the child, 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.

Professional’s Responsibilities

Responsibility for professional judgement on the need for a Child Protection Plan rests with all professionals involved in the Conference. Every professional present at the meeting should ensure that they develop a view as to whether a Child Protection Plan is required. This view should be based on an analysis of the information provided to the meeting.

The Decision Making Process 

The Conference Chair must ensure that the decision about the need for a Child Protection Plan takes account of the views of all agencies represented at the Conference and also takes into account any written contributions that have been made. This discussion will normally take place with the parents / carers present.

The decision will be taken by professionals attending the Conference i.e. those eligible to be counted for the purpose of establishing a quorum (see Conference Quorum). For example this would not include the child, parents, carers, supporters.

If a unanimous decision cannot be achieved, a majority decision is acceptable. All professional opinions which differ from the majority view must be accurately reflected in the Conference Record.

In the event that there is no clear majority decision, it is the responsibility of the Chair to capture and summarise the respective professional views and ensure that these are reflected within the Conference Record. In this situation the Chair will exercise their professional judgement and make the decision about whether there is a need for a Child Protection Plan, with the option of bringing forward the Review Child Protection Conference.

Decision that a child needs a Child Protection Plan

If a decision is taken that the child has suffered, or is likely to suffer Significant Harm and hence in need of a Child Protection Plan, the Conference, with the support of the Chair, should determine which category of abuse or neglect the child has suffered or is likely to suffer. The category used (that is physical, emotional, sexual abuse or neglect, see Definitions, Context and Principles for definitions) 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 Child Protection Plan and the category 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 determining 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 will formulate the outline Plan which should they can expect of others.

  • Describe the key specific, achievable, child-focused outcomes intended to safeguard each child;
  • Describe the type(s) of service(s) required by each child (including family support) to promote their welfare;
  • Set a timescale for the completion of the assessment, if appropriate;
  • Identify any specialist assessments of each child and the family that may be required to ensure that sound judgements are being / can be made on how best to safeguard each child and promote their welfare;
  • Clearly identify roles and responsibilities of professionals and family members, including the nature and frequency of contact by professionals with children and family members;
  • Identify the resource implications for each agency as far as possible and determine the agency representation, who can commit agency resources, to the first Core Group meeting;
  • Develop a robust contingency plan to respond if the family is unable to make the required changes and the child continues to be at risk of significant harm (e.g. recommend the consideration of legal action and the circumstances which would trigger this).

Recording that a child is the subject of a Child Protection Plan

The Social Worker must record in a child's case record when the child is subject of a Child Protection Plan, including where the child is also Looked After by the local authority. This enables legitimate enquirers such as Police and Health professionals to obtain relevant information about a Child in Need who is or has been known to the local authority. It is essential that this information is also available out of hours (See Local Contacts, Immediate Help).

What happens after the Child Protection Conference?

Click here to view What Happens after the Child Protection Conference Flow Diagram.

Difficulties in implementing the Child Protection Plan

Where any member of the Core Group is aware of difficulties implementing the Child Protection Plan, the Social Worker must be informed immediately and a Core Group meeting / discussion co-ordinated to review the Plan.

Alternatively a Strategy Discussion/Meeting should be convened to consider the need for actions such as:

  • The need for immediate emergency Police action to gain access to premises;
  • A Section 47 Enquiry;
  • Legal action; and/or
  • To hold an early review Child Protection Conference.

Arranging a legal planning meeting should be considered by the Social Worker with their manager.

Circumstances about which the Social Worker should be informed include, inability to gain access to a child who is subject to a Child Protection Plan, for whatever reasons, on two consecutive home visits (the second visit being a second attempt to see the child in close succession of the first attempt).

If members are concerned that there are difficulties implementing the Child Protection Plan arising from disagreement amongst professional agencies or a Core Group member not carrying out agreed responsibilities this must be addressed by:

  • Firstly, discussion with Core Group members; and
  • Secondly, if required, involvement of respective managers / child protection advisers.
If the situation remains unresolved see Resolving Inter Agency Disagreements Guidance (Escalation Policy).


10. A Discontinuation of a Current Child Protection Plan

A 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;
  • The child has moved permanently to another Local Authority and the receiving authority has convened a transfer Child Protection Conference and confirmed in writing their responsibility for case management;
  • The child has reached 18 years of age, has died or has been judged to have permanently left the UK.

It is permissible for the ICRO manager to agree to discontinue a Child Protection Plan without the need to convene a Child Protection Review Conference only when:

  • One or other of the latter two criteria in the paragraph above are satisfied; and
  • The ICRO manager is satisfied that there has been consultation with relevant agencies present at the Conference that first concluded that a Child Protection Plan was required, and this consultation has been recorded within the child’s social care record.

When a child is no longer subject of a Child Protection Plan, notification should be sent by the IRCO team, to the agencies' representatives who were invited to attend the Conference that led to the Plan.


11. Professional Dissent from the Conference Decision

If an agency does not agree with a decision or recommendation made at a Child Protection Conference, their professional dissent will be recorded within the Conference Record. The Resolving Inter-agency Disagreements Guidance (Escalation Policy) should be implemented as soon as practicable after the Conference has concluded.


12. Complaints by Children and / or Parents / Carers

Parents / carers and, on occasion, children (with sufficient age and understanding) 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 a Child Protection Conference:

  • The process of the Conference;
  • The factual basis of the outcome, in that it does not support the category of an Initial or continuing Child Protection Plan;
  • A decision to make a child subject of a Child Protection Plan, to discontinue a Child Protection Plan or to continue with 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 in Children's Social Care and the Local Authority Children, Young People and Family Service (Complaints Service). See Complaints in Relation to Child Protection Conference Procedure.

The complaints process can not in itself change a Child Protection Conference decision and during the course of the considering of a complaint, the decision made by the Conference stands.

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.


13. Administrative Arrangements for Child Protection Conferences

The Independent Conference and Reviewing Officer (ICRO) Team, on behalf of Children's Social Care and Hull Safeguarding Children Board is responsible for administering Child Protection Conferences and has clear arrangements for sending out invitations to children, parents / carers and professionals and distributing the Conference outcomes and records.

All Conferences are 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 decision including any Child Protection or Child in Need Plan is distributed to all parties within 24 working hours The full Conference record, confirmed by the Chair, should be sent to all those who attended or were invited to the Conference within 28 working days of the Conference. Any amendments should be received within 5 working days of receipt of the record.

Invitations, Plans and Conference records should be delivered to parents/carers by the child’s Social Worker so that explanations can be given if needed, unless this may entail risks to children, staff or third parties. The Conference Chair may decide that confidential material should be excluded from the parent's / carer’s copy.

Where a friend, supporter or solicitor has been involved, Conference records would not normally be provided to these parties but the Chair should clarify this with the parent / carer.

Once the Chair has decided if the child should be given a copy of the record, the relevant sections should be explained to, and discussed with, the child by the Social Worker, The record may be supplied to a child's legal representative on request.

Where parents/carers and / or the child/ren 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. See Working with Interpreters Safeguarding Practice Guidance.

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

Managing and providing information about children

Each Local Authority should nominate a Designated Officer who has responsibility for:

  • Ensuring that records on children who have a Child Protection Plan (including their category of harm) are kept up to date. These categories help to indicate the nature of current concerns;
  • Being able to produce a list of all the children resident in the area who are considered to be suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, and for whom there is a Child Protection Plan;
  • Managing other notifications of movements of children into or out of the Local Authority area, such as children who are subject of a Child Protection Plan or are Looked After;
  • Recording the information in a way that allows for the collation and analysis of information locally and nationally and for its use in planning the provision of services;
  • Verifying that those seeking information are legitimate enquirers;
  • Ensuring that legitimate enquirers such as Police and Health professionals are able to obtain this information both in and outside office hours;
  • Ensuring enquiries about children about whom there are concerns or who have Child Protection Plans are recorded and considered by relevant staff;
  • 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.

This Designated Officer should be accountable to the Director of Children's Services. The Department for Education holds lists of the names of Designated Officers and should be notified of any changes.


Related Documents

Amendments to this Chapter

In July 2018, this procedure was updated to include links to the following templates to used when submitting reports to Initial and Review Child Protection Conferences:

  • Agency Report Initial / Review Child Protection Conference;
  • GP Report for an Initial Child Protection Conference;
  • GP Report for a Review Child Protection Conference.

End.