AMENDMENTThis chapter was reviewed and updated in November 2018 following the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018.
The Initial Child Protection Conference brings together family members, the child, where appropriate, and those professionals most involved with the child and family following a Section 47 Enquiry. Its purpose is:
Those professionals and agencies who are most involved with the child and family, and those who have taken part in a Section 47 Enquiry, have the right to request that Children's Social Care convene a conference, if they have serious concerns that a child's welfare may not be adequately safeguarded. Any such request that is supported by a senior manager, or a Named Professional or a Designated Professional, should normally be agreed. Where there remain differences of opinion as to the necessity of a conference, every effort should be made to resolve them through discussion or explanation using the Guidance for Safe Recruitment, Selection and Retention for Staff and Volunteers Procedure.
All Initial Child Protection Conferences should take place within 15 working days of the Strategy Discussion, or, where more than one Strategy Discussion took place, of the Strategy Discussion at which the Section 47 Enquiry was initiated.
Any delay should be agreed with the relevant senior manager within Children's Social Care. Records must be kept by the senior manager of conferences that occur after 15 working days of the strategy discussion and the reasons for this recorded in the minutes of the conference and the reasons why the conference has been held after 15 days.
In the case of concerns about the safety of unborn children, a conference may be held as a result of:
The timing of the conference should be such that there is time for proper plans to be made prior to the birth of the baby, but not so far before the baby is born that circumstances might significantly change. Pre-birth child protection conferences should therefore normally be held after the 24th week of pregnancy and not less than 6 weeks prior to the expected delivery date.
The relevant midwife should always attend pre-birth conferences.
The purpose of the Review Child Protection Conference is to:
The first Review Conference should take place within 90 days of the Initial Conference.
Further Review Conferences must be held at intervals of not more than 6 months, for as long as the child is judged to be at risk of harm and there is the need for a Child Protection Plan.
Consideration must always be given to bringing the date of the conference forward when:
Professionals attending conferences should be there because they have:
The local authority social work manager should consider whether to seek advice from, or have present, a medical professional who can present the medical information in a manner which can be understood by the conference attendees and enable such information to be evaluated from a sound knowledge base.
There should be sufficient information and expertise available - through personal representation and written reports - to enable the conference to make an informed decisions and plans. However a conference that is larger than it needs to be can inhibit discussion and intimidate the child and family members.
Those who have a relevant contribution to make to a conference may include:
Before a conference is held, the purpose of the conference, who will attend and the way it will operate should be explained to the child of sufficient age and understanding, the parents and other involved family members. They should be given a leaflet explaining the child protection conference and informed that they may choose to bring a friend, advocate or supporter to help them fully participate in the conference and express their view. This may be a solicitor acting in the role of a supporter, not as an advocate.
Subject to consideration of their age and understanding, the child/ren should be given the opportunity to attend the conference should they so wish. They should be told that they may bring an advocate, friend or supporter. The child/ren social worker should ensure that the child/ren should have access to an advocate to support them at conference or attend on their behalf.
In deciding whether to give a child the opportunity to attend the conference the primary questions to be addressed are:
Normally it should be assumed that a child of twelve or over should be eligible to attend unless there is a reason not to do so.
If the child states that they do not wish to attend the conference this must be respected; similarly, if they wish to attend, this should be acceded to unless it can clearly be shown that this is contrary to their best interests.
When the child does not attend the social worker must ensure that every effort is made to ensure the child's views are conveyed to conference members. This may be via:
Where the child or the parents/carers are bringing a friend, supporter or advocate it should be explained to them that:
Where the child's attendance is neither desired by them, nor appropriate, the local authority's Children's Social Care professional who is working most closely with the child should ascertain their wishes and feelings and make these known to the conference
Parents should normally be invited to attend the conference and be helped to participate fully in the conference. Such help is the responsibility of the child's social worker and should include:
The child's social worker should brief the Conference Chair if there are any reasons why it may not be possible to involve all family members at all times in the conference, for example if there is a high level of conflict between family members or adults, and any children who do not wish to speak in front of one another
There is an expectation that all information should be shared, with the exception of information relating to a third party. Any concerns which the professional concerned has must be discussed with the Conference Chair before the conference. This decision should be recorded in the minutes of the meeting.
Parents/carers should only be excluded partially or completely from the conference if one of the criteria below applies. The decision to exclude rests with the chair of the conference. Reasons for exclusion should be conveyed to the parents, both orally and in writing. Reasons for exclusion should also be recorded in the minutes of the meeting.
If parents are excluded or unable to attend, they should be enabled to communicate their views to the conference by another means, for example via a written report. The chair, in consultation with conference members, will agree what information from the minutes of the meeting will be received by the excluded person.
|Full Exclusion||Partial Exclusion|
|A strong risk of violence or intimidation by a family member at or subsequent to the conference, towards a child or anybody else||The presence of an alleged perpetrator may affect the outcome of criminal proceedings.|
|If the parent or carer presents on the day or during the meeting in a way which indicates that they are likely to cause disruption to the meeting|
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.
The minimum representation for quoracy is Children's Social Care and at least 2 other agencies which have had direct contact with the child and family
Where a conference is inquorate it should not normally proceed and in such a circumstance the chair must ensure that either:
In exceptional circumstances the chair may decide to proceed with the conference despite lack of agency representation. This may occur where:
All information provided to the conference, whether written or verbal, should take care to distinguish between fact, observation, allegation and opinion. It should be organised using the Strengthening Families headings and all professionals should use the Strengthening Families Report to Conference format or the Agency Report Conference checklist. Social Workers must use the Report to Conference Template.
At the Initial Conference, Children's Social Care should provide the conference with a report relating to each child in the form of a Single Assessment and recommended Child and Family Plan. This information should be available to the Conference Chair and shared with the family at least three working days before the conference. This should be consistent with the information set out in the Initial Child Protection Conference Report (Department of Health 2002). The Social Worker's Report to Conference should include the dates when the child was seen by the Lead Social Worker during the Section 47 Enquiry, if the child was seen alone and if not, who was present and for what reason.
The report will therefore summarise and analyse the information obtained so far. The report should include:
Other professionals attending the Initial Conference who have had direct contact with the child and family should provide a report in advance, outlining:
For the Review Conference, the Core Group has a collective responsibility to contribute to the ongoing Single assessment which together provide an overview of the work undertaken by family members and professionals and evaluate progress against the outcomes specified in the detailed Child Protection Plan. The content of the report to the Review Conference should be consistent with the information set out in the Child Protection Review (Department of Health 2002).
The parents and each child (if appropriate) will be provided with a copy of the Single Assessment and recommended Child and Family Protection Plan at least 3 working days in advance of the conference. The contents of reports should be explained and discussed with the child and relevant family members in advance of the conference itself in the preferred language(s) of the child and family members.
It is the role of the conference to:
It is the role of the Conference Chair to:
The questions to ask as part of the decision-making process are:
The test for the likelihood of the child is suffering Significant Harm in the future should be that either:
The conference decision should result from the Conference Chair ensuring that:
The Conference Chair, as chair of the conference, is responsible for the conference decision. The Conference Chair will consult conference members; take account of any written contributions received and aim for a consensus as to the need for a Child Protection Plan, but ultimately will make the decision and note any dissenting views.
When more than one agency records a dissenting view to the decision of the conference, the Conference Chair will refer the case for review by their senior manager (Head of Quality Assurance in Bedfordshire). If the outcome of the review is that the senior manager considers it would be appropriate to reconvene the Child Protection Conference, this should occur within 20 working days. Alternatively if the result of the review is that whilst it is appropriate for the decision of the conference to stand, there are issues which require further discussion with managers from other agencies, these will be taken up accordingly.
If a decision is taken that the child is at continuing likelihood of suffering Significant Harm and hence a Child Protection Plan is necessary, the Conference Chair should determine which category of abuse or neglect the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering. The category used (i.e. physical, emotional, sexual abuse or neglect) will indicate to those consulting the child's social care record the primary presenting concerns at the time the child became subject to a Child Protection Plan.
Where a child is to be made subject of a Child Protection Plan, it is the responsibility of the conference to consider and make recommendations on how agencies, professionals and the family should work together to ensure that the child will be safeguarded from harm in the future.
The conference should:
Where a child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, Significant Harm in the future it is the local authority's duty to consider the evidence and decide what, if any, legal action to take. The information presented to the Child Protection Conference should inform that decision-making process but it is for the local authority to consider whether it should initiate, for example, Care Proceedings.
Where a Looked After Child remains the subject of a Child Protection Plan, there should be a single planning and reviewing process, led by the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO), leading to the development of a single plan.
Consideration should be given to the IRO chairing the Child Protection Conference where a Looked After Child remains subject to a Child Protection Plan. Where that is not possible, it will be expected that the IRO will attend the Child Protection Review Conference.
The Looked After Review, when reviewing the child protection aspects of the plan, should consider whether the criteria continue to be met for the child to remain the subject of a Child Protection Plan.Consideration must be given to ensuring that the multi-agency contribution to the review of the Child Protection Plan is addressed within the review of the Care Plan.
If it is decided at the Initial Conference that the child does not need a Child Protection Plan, the conference should develop an outline Child in Need Plan. It may be helpful to use a Family Group Meeting to complete the Child in Need Plan, and to engage the wider family group in this process.
A child should no longer be subject of a Child Protection Plan if:
When a child is no longer subject of a Child Protection Plan:
A copy of the Child Protection Child and Family Plan and a letter confirming the membership and date of first the Core Group will be sent within 24 hours to parents, children (where appropriate) and all those invited to the conference.
A letter outlining the decisions and recommendations of the conference and date of first the Core Group will be sent within 24 hours to parents, children (where appropriate) and all those invited to the conference.
A copy of the outline Child Protection Plan will be distributed to members of the Core Group prior to the first Core Group meeting, together with information explaining their roles and responsibilities.
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 endeavor 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 Conference Chair 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)  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 contained in the previous Data Protection Act (1998), 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.
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)
The Lead Social Worker is responsible for:
Children, Parents and caregivers are entitled to make representations or complain, in respect of one or more of the following aspects of the functioning of child protection conferences:
Complaints about individual agencies, their performance and provision (or non-provision) of services should be responded to in accordance with the relevant agency's complaints handling process.
Complaints about aspects of the functioning of conferences described in 5.52 should be addressed to the Review Manager Conference Chair. Such complaints should be passed on to Children's Social Care which, since they relate to Part V of the Children Act 1989 should be responded to in accordance with the Complaints Directions 2006. In considering and responding to complaints the local authority should form an inter-agency panel made up of senior representatives from the Local Safeguarding Children Board and member agencies. The panel should consider whether the relevant inter-agency protocols and procedures have been observed correctly, and whether the decision that is being complained about follows reasonably from the proper observation of the protocol(s).
Professionals contributing to the child protection process do not have a formal means of complaint against it as do family members. However, professionals who dissent from the consensus view of the child protection conference will have their dissent recorded and in the event that professional views are equally split between the need for a Child Protection Plan or not the Conference Chair will decide.
More generally a professional from any agency may formally express their concern to Children's Social Care about the management of a particular child's circumstances. In this instance the file will be read and reviewed by a Head of Service Manager, the professional raising the concerns will be met with and spoken to and the outcome will be recorded on the case file and any actions implemented.For further details see Complaints arising from Child Protection Conferences Procedure.
The Conference Chair should:
The Conference Chair should:
Prior to the meeting:
During the meeting:
Following the meeting:
Only valid for 48hrs