Child Protection Conferences Procedure
AMENDMENTIn December 2021, a note has been added into Section 1, The Initial Child Protection Conference to remind all practitioners of the importance of establishing the nationality and immigration status of children and families. This will ensure they can be signposted for immigration advice and support where required. Furthermore- if as EU / EEA nationals they have been granted pre- settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme - it will ensure that they can be supported to apply for settled status when they accrue 5 years’ continuous residence in the UK.
1. The Initial Child Protection Conference
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:
- 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' or 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;
- To consider the evidence presented to the conference, make judgements about the likelihood of a child suffering Significant Harm in future and decide whether the child is at continuing risk of harm; and
- To decide what future action is required to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child, how that action will be taken forward, and with what intended outcomes;
- Child Protection Conferences use a strengths-based model that considers the strengths and risks of the child and family and supports collaborative outcomes, focused evaluation of the lived experience and progress for children. This strength-based approach is well established in both Child Protection conferences and core groups and helps families and professionals to focus on the areas that need support and risk intervention.
Conferences should routinely seek to establish / confirm the nationality and immigration status of children and families. This will ensure that, where required, families can be signposted for immigration advice and support. Furthermore, if as EU / EEA nationals they have been granted pre- settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme - it will ensure practitioners can also support them to apply for settled status at the point at which they accrue 5 years’ continuous residence in the UK. (see Switch from pre settled status to settled status (GOV.UK)).
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 outcomes of a Single Assessment indicating that the unborn child may be suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm; and/or
- Previous children having been removed from the family as a result of legal proceedings and the family are known to Children's Social Care; and/or
- Previous historical knowledge indicates that there is a strong likelihood of the baby suffering Significant Harm;
- An adult or child who is a risk to children resides in the household or is known to be a regular visitor.
The timing of the conference may be as early as 13 weeks of pregnancy but should be no later than twenty-four weeks of pregnancy to allow sufficient time for an assessment of parenting ability, planning support during the pregnancy and following the birth of the baby.
Where there is a known likelihood of a premature birth, the Conference should be held earlier.
The relevant midwife should always attend pre-birth conferences.
2. The Review Child Protection Conference
The purpose of the Review Child Protection Conference is to:
- Review the safety, health and development of the child against the intended outcomes set out in the Child Protection Plan;
- Ensure the plan continues to adequately protect the child from risk of harm;
- Bring together and analyse information about the child's health and development and the parent/carers' capacity to ensure the child's safety and welfare;
- Make judgements about the likelihood of the child suffering Significant Harm in the future;
- Decide what action is required to safeguard the child and promote their welfare;
- To consider whether the child protection plan should continue or should be changed.
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:
- There is a new incident of abuse;
- There are difficulties in carrying out the Child Protection Plan;
- A child is to be born into the household of a child who is subject to a Child Protection Plan;
- An offender convicted of offences against a child joins or commences regular contact with the household;
- There are significant changes in the family circumstances, not anticipated at the previous conference that have implications for the safety of the child;
- The Core Group, at any early stage, believes that the child no longer needs to be subject to a Child Protection Plan.
3. The Conference Process - Initial and Review Conferences
Professionals attending conferences should be there because they have:
- Professional expertise relevant to the case; and/or
- Knowledge of the child and family;
- In relation to contextual safeguarding any other party who may be relevant in discussing the safeguarding issue.
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:
- The child, or his or her representative/advocate;
- Family members;
- Staff from Children's Social Care who may have led or been involved in an assessment of the child and family;
- Foster carers (current or former);
- Residential care staff;
- Professionals involved with the child (for example, health visitor, midwife, school nurse, Children's Guardian, paediatrician, school staff, early years staff, GP, CAMHS or other mental health professional, staff in the youth justice system, where relevant);
- Professionals involved with the parents or other family members (for example, family support services, adult mental health services, the Probation Service, GP, staff in the youth justice system, domestic abuse advisor (where relevant);
- Professionals with expertise in the particular type of harm suffered by the child or in the child's particular condition, for example a disability or long term illness;
- Those involved in investigations (for example the police);
- Local authority legal services (child care);
- NSPCC or other involved voluntary organisations;
- A representative of the armed services, in cases where there is a Service connection;
- In relation to contextual safeguarding any other party who may be relevant in discussing the safeguarding issue.
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:
- Does the child have sufficient understanding of the process?
- Have they expressed an explicit or implicit wish to be involved?
- What are the parents' views about the child's attendance?
- Is inclusion assessed to be of benefit to the child?
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:
- A pre-meeting with the Conference Chair;
- Written statements/e-mails/text messages and recorded comments;
- Attendance of an advocate on their behalf.
Where the child or the parents/carers are bringing a friend, supporter or advocate it should be explained to them that:
- The role of a friend or supporter is not to represent the parent/child or to speak on their behalf, but to provide emotional support and assist them in understanding the information presented to the conference and in expressing their view. In exceptional circumstances a Conference Chair may prevent a friend or supporter from attending a conference, e.g. where their presence is disruptive or where the person is deemed to be a risk to children;
- The role of an advocate is to speak on behalf of a parent/carer or child, having ascertained their view in advance of the meeting.
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:
- Assistance with preparing for the conference, including thinking in advance what they want to convey and how best to do this. Some may wish to prepare a written report, and assistance with this should be given should the parent/carer so wish;
- Help with travel arrangements to and from the conference;
- Provision of an interpreter for parents/children whose first language is not English or, who are deaf and use sign language;
- Assistance with reading written material if this is required;
- Ensuring that the exact requirements needed to support fully the participation of parents with disabilities are identified, and that these requirements are met;
- Informing the Conference Chair if the child or family are bringing a friend, relative or supporter;
- Alternative child care arrangements should be supported for them with the help of the social work team where necessary.
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. Every effort should be made to include all parties.
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|
|If the child requests parents not to be present at the same time as them.|
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:
- An immediate Child Protection Plan is produced;
- Any existing plan is reviewed with the professionals and family members that do attend so as to safeguard the welfare of the child;
- The notes of this discussion must be included in the minute and circulated to all those who should have attended the conference;
- Another conference date is set immediately.
In exceptional circumstances the chair may decide to proceed with the conference despite lack of agency representation. This may occur where:
- A child has not had relevant contact with 3 agencies;
- Where sufficient information is available and delay will be detrimental to the welfare of the child.
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:
- A Genogram that has been prepared with the family;
- A Chronology of significant events and agency and professional contact with the child and family;
- Information on the child's current and past 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;
- Information on the family history and both the current and past family functioning;
- The expressed views, wishes and feelings of the child, and the views of the parents and other family members with regard to the services or actions being considered.
- 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;
- How the parenting strengths and difficulties are affecting each other;
- How the family and environmental factors are affecting each other;
- How the 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; and
- How the family and environmental factors are impacting on parenting and/or the child directly; and
- The local authority's recommendation to the conference.
Other professionals attending the Initial Conference who have had direct contact with the child and family should provide a report in advance, outlining:
- A Chronology of their involvement with the child and family;
- Knowledge they have concerning the child's health and development, the capacity of the parents and other family members to safeguard the child and family and environmental factors which might affect parenting capacity;
- Their analysis of the implications of the information for the child's future safety and meeting of his or her developmental needs.
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 and any other agency reports (with exception of Police reports), including any information/reports that have contributed to other assessments 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. If sharing any report with the family prior to the meeting is deemed to be a safeguarding risk, this should be discussed with the conference chair.
It is the role of the conference to:
- Decide whether the child is at continuing likelihood of suffering Significant Harm and therefore requires inter-agency help and intervention delivered through a formal Child Protection Plan;
- Agree any amendments to the outline plan presented by the social worker;
- Ensure that, where a child is not judged as being at continuing likelihood of suffering Significant Harm, consideration is given as to whether the child may need services to promote his or her development.
It is the role of the Conference Chair to:
- Determine which of the Categories of Abuse or Neglect the child has suffered. The category used (that is Physical Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Sexual Abuse or Neglect) will indicate to those consulting Children's Social Care record the primary presenting concerns at the time the child became the subject of a Child Protection Plan.
The questions to ask as part of the decision-making process are:
- Has the child suffered Significant Harm?
- Is the child likely to suffer Significant Harm?
The test for the likelihood of the child is suffering Significant Harm in the future 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 Abuse, Emotional Abuse, or Sexual Abuse or Neglect, and the professional judgement is that further ill-treatment or impairment are likely; or
- Professional judgement, substantiated by the findings of enquiries in this individual case or by research evidence, is that the child is likely to suffer ill-treatment or the impairment of health or development as a result of Physical Abuse, Emotional Abuse, or Sexual Abuse or Neglect.
The conference decision should result from the Conference Chair ensuring that:
- All the information available to conference has been scrutinised by the conference members and information that is missing has been noted;
- All conference members have had an opportunity to present their views and challenge the views of others.
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:
- Appoint the lead statutory body (either the local authority's Children's Social Care or the NSPCC) and a Lead Social Worker, who should be a qualified, experienced social worker and a member of the lead statutory body. Where it is not possible to appoint a Lead Social Worker at the conference it becomes the responsibility of the team manager whose team is bringing the case to ensure the Lead Social Worker role and functions are met and that a Lead Social Worker is appointed by the first Core Group meeting;
- Identify the membership of a Core Group of professionals and family members who will develop and implement the Child Protection Plan as a detailed working tool;
- Consider whether a Family Group Meeting would be an effective way of engaging the wider family group in developing and implementing the Child Protection Plan;
- Establish how children, parents (including those with Parental Responsibility) and wider family members who take a parental role within the household who do not have PR such as step-parents and partners should be involved in the ongoing assessment, planning and implementation process and the support, advice and advocacy available to them;
- Establish timescales for meetings of the Core Group, production of a Child Protection Plan, child protection review meetings and the minimum statutory visits;
- Identify in outline what further action is required to complete or update the Single Assessment and what other specialist assessments of the child and family are required to make sound judgements on how best to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
- In the case of an Initial Conference, outline the Child Protection Plan, especially identifying what needs to change in order to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
- Ensure a Contingency Plan is in place if agreed actions are not completed and/or circumstances change;
- Agree a date for the Review Child Protection Conference, and clarify under what circumstances it might be necessary to convene the conference before that date.
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:
- It is judged that the child is no longer at continuing likelihood of suffering Significant Harm requiring safeguarding by means of a Child Protection Plan. Under these circumstances only a child protection conference can decide that a Child Protection Plan is no longer necessary;
- The child and family have moved permanently to another local authority area. In such cases the receiving local authority should convene a child protection conference within 15 working days of being notified of the move. Only after this event, and after written confirmation has been received, should the Child Protection Plan be discontinued in the original authority;
- Where the child's parents are in the armed services and are moving to an overseas command, Children's Social Care should ensure that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) Safeguarding Partnership Board can confirm that appropriate resources exist in the proposed location to meet identified needs (Contact details: telephone on 01980 615563 or by email at DCYPfirstname.lastname@example.org);
- The child has reached 18 years of age to end the Child Protection Plan, the local authority should have a review around the child's birthday and this should be planned in advance), has died or has permanently left the UK;
- To avoid the duplication of two safeguarding processes working in parallel, a multi-agency consultation to consider discontinuation of a child protection plan when a child is looked after by the local authority should only be agreed if one of the following criteria applies to support a single review process in line with the care planning regulations.
- The Local Authority has secured an Interim Care Order (ICO) and consequently share parental responsibility for the child therefore a legal framework is in place to protect the child;
- The Local Authority has submitted an application for care proceedings and the No Order Principle applies;
- A child is accommodated subject to Section 20 of the Children Act 1989: this is a voluntary arrangement with the agreement from a person with parental responsibility and there is no plan for the child to return home and there is no identified risk of the child being removed from the care of the Local Authority. This must be evidenced in the Care Plan for the young person which is written in conjunction with the young person and the person with parental responsibility. Evidence of legal planning must be reflected in the Care Plan with a clear contingency plan should the person with parental responsibility unexpectedly withdraw from the agreed care plan and take steps to remove the child from Local Authority Care.
When a child is no longer subject of a Child Protection Plan:
- Notification should be sent to all those agencies' representatives who were invited to attend the Initial Child Protection Conference, subsequent reviews or Core Group meetings;
- The Review Child Protection Conference should discuss with the child (if attending) and family what services continue to be required in order to meet the child's developmental needs. Recommendations should be made concerning whether the child continues to be a Child in Need, and the content of any Child in Need Plan or Team Around the Child Plan;
- The Conference will agree a date for the Lead Social Worker to meet with the child and family within 10 working days of the discontinuation of the Child Protection Plan in order to confirm the content of any Child in Need Plan and the process for implementation and review;
- The Conference will identify the lead Professional and fix the first date for group to meet with the family and Child/ren following the conference should the recommendation be stepped down to Team Around the Child.
- Children's Social Care will be responsible for ensuring that all child protection conferences have a dedicated person to take notes and produce minutes of the meeting;
- The conference minutes will include the following information:
- A list of those present and apologies for absence;
- Family composition and legal status of the children;
- A record of any delay in convening the conference with the reasons;
- Reasons for the decision to convene a conference;
- The essential facts of the case;
- A summary of discussion at the conference;
- All decisions reached, and reason for the decisions;
- The outline or revised Child Protection Child and Family Plan.
- A copy of the minutes will be distributed to all agencies and parents invited to the conference, whether or not they were present, except where any agency has indicated that there is no current involvement with the family or any planned for the future;
- Minutes will not be distributed to any friends, supporter or advocates who have attended the conference;
- Full minutes will be distributed within 15 working days;
- Minutes are a confidential document and should not be passed by professionals to third parties without the consent of either the Conference Chair or the Lead Social Worker. However in cases of criminal proceedings, the police may reveal the existence of the notes to the Crown Prosecution Service in line with the Criminal Procedure and Investigation Act 1996. Arrangements must be made to keep the minutes securely and retained by the recipient agencies in accordance with their record retention policies. They should not be filed in professional records that have open access.
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.
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 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 UK 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.
The Lead Social Worker is responsible for:
- Co-ordinating the work of the Core Group to ensure that the outline Child Protection Plan is developed into a more detailed inter-agency plan;
- Ensuring that all Core Group members understand the role and function of the Core Group and have a copy of the leaflet Attending Core Group Meetings;
- Updating the Single Assessment, securing contributions from Core Group members and others as necessary;
- Acting as lead worker for the inter-agency work with the child and family;
- Seeing the child as agreed in the Child Protection Plan in order to monitor their wellbeing and actively seeking their wishes and feelings;
- Co-ordination of the actions required to put the Child Protection Plan into effect and reviewing progress against the objectives set out in the plan.
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:
- The process of the conference;
- The outcome, in terms of the fact of and/or the category of primary concern at the time the child became the subject of a Child Protection Plan;
- A decision for the child to become or not become, the subject of a Child Protection Plan or not, or to cease the child being the subject of a Child Protection Plan.
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.
4. Practice Guidance - The Child Protection Conference
The Conference Chair should:
- Should be a qualified and experienced worker in Children's Social Care, independent of operational or line management responsibilities for the case;
- Must 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.
The Conference Chair should:
Prior to the meeting:
- Meet the child and family members to ensure that they understand the purpose of the conference, what will happen and explain about the complaints procedure;
- Decide whether a conference is quorate within the terms of the LSCB protocol.
During the meeting:
- Set out the purpose of the meeting to all those present, confirming the agenda and emphasising the confidential nature of the occasion;
- Enable all those present and absent contributors to make their full contribution to discussion and decision making;
- Encourage detailed scrutiny of the information presented to conference and constructive challenge between conference members;
- Ensure that neither the content of the meeting, nor the way in which it is conducted, is discriminatory and that any discriminatory behaviour is addressed;
- Ensure that the conference takes the decisions required of it in an informed, explicit and systematic way.
Following the meeting:
- Ensure that the conference minutes are circulated to the correct people within the expected timescale;
- Decide if a copy of the minutes should be shared with the child (if appropriate).