This page provides information for parents, or carers, whose child has been identified as needing to have their case discussed at a Child Protection Conference. At this point, you will already be aware that enquiries have been made and an assessment undertaken about the safety and welfare of your child and that an outcome of those activities is that a Child Protection Conference is now required. The information below aims to answer any questions you may have about the process, your involvement, how you can find out more and get any support you need. Your role as a parent is absolutely vital to the child protection process and it is important that you understand and are comfortable with what will happen both before, during and after the Child Protection Conference.
What is a Child Protection Conference?
A Child Protection Conference is a meeting where a family and professionals meet to share information and discuss concerns about a child or young person because they have either been subject to some form of harm or abuse, or are at risk of it. Conferences are chaired by Child Protection Case Conference Chairs who are qualified social workers. They are employed in the Safeguarding and Care Planning Service within London Borough of Redbridge Children’s Services, which is separate from the Child Protection and Community Social Work Service, and are therefore independent of the daily management of your child’s case. The Chair has a key role in conducting the meeting and ensuring that all have an opportunity to engage and provide input into the discussion and decision making process. In Redbridge, Child Protection Conferences are usually held at Lynton House, in Ilford Town Centre. All Child Protection Conferences are conducted under the guidance of the London Child Protection Procedures (see Chapter 4).
Why is a Child Protection Conference being held?
A Child Protection Conference happens because children’s social care or another agency that know your child(ren) are concerned that they may have suffered some form of harm or be at risk of harm. The decision to go ahead with a conference may be the result of a Child and Family Assessment that you as a parent, and your child, would have been involved in.
What is the difference between an Initial Child Protection Conference and a Review Conference?
An Initial Child Protection Conference – sometimes referred to as an ICPC – is the meeting where the discussion first takes place and a decision is made as to whether the child or young person should be placed on a Child Protection Plan. A Review Conference is what any follow on or subsequent conferences are called. At Review Conferences the Child Protection Plan is looked at and a discussion takes place as to whether the outcomes intended from the Plan have been reached and whether the child or young person is safe. The first review conference will take place three months are the initial conference, and any subsequent conferences every six months until the child is taken off of the Child Protection Plan.
Who attends the Conference?
There are a number of professionals that will be invited to the conference. These will include your child’s Social Worker and other professionals that know your child and have been working with them. This can include their GP, teacher or early years practitioner, Health Visitor, police and probation officer. As a parent or carer, you will receive an invitation to the conference and are encouraged to attend. You can bring with you a supporter which might be a family member, friend or, following prior notification to the Conference Chair, a legal representative. Your child will also be invited to attend the conference if they are sufficiently old enough to do so. They can be supported by a advocate. If needed, an interpreter can be provided for you. There may be other professionals at the Conference that you don’t know. This is because they may be working with your family in the future or because they are able to provide specialist advice or support. If you have concerns about which family members may be at the Conference, for example, if there is conflict between parents, please discuss this with your child’s Social Worker in advance. Occasionally, as a parent, you may be asked by the Conference Chair to leave the room for a short while if it is felt that your child may feel more comfortable sharing without you there. Very occasionally a parent is excluded from a Conference. This is rare but the reasons for this might include if a parent is intimidating another person who needs to be at the conference, is believed to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or is physically or verbally abusive to any professional.
What happens at the Conference?
Prior to the conference, parents have an opportunity to meet with the Conference Chair and to talk through the various reports that will be presented by professionals at the meeting and to discuss the process and any concerns they may have. The Conference, which usually lasts around two hours, will always start with introductions so that everyone knows who is present and what their role is. The professionals will take it in turns to talk about their involvement with the child and family. These discussions will be based very much on the reports provided to the Conference which you will be given a copy of in advance. They will share information about what they feel is going well and any concerns that they have. There will be opportunity for questions to be asked by anyone, including parents. Parents are given a specific opportunity to talk about their child and their family situation. If the child is present, or has provided some form of input into the conference, there will be the opportunity to hear their voice. The conference will have a general discussion about the positives, what might be worrying and anything that needs to change to enable the child to be safer. At the end they will make decision about whether the child needs to be placed on a Child Protection Plan or, if it is a Review Conference, whether the existing Plan should be extended or can be stepped down to a Child in Need Plan with support from the Families Together Hub. If there is a disagreement, the Chair will make the final decision based on the best interests of the child.
What happens if my child needs a Child Protection Plan?
When deciding whether the threshold for a Child Protection Plan has been reached in relation to your child, the Conference will ask whether he or she has suffered significant harm and whether they are likely to suffer significant harm in the future, if agencies do not intervene. If the decision is made that your child would be best safeguarded by being placed on a Child Protection Plan, that will begin to be developed at the Conference with the main priorities for action identified. Whilst as a parent you will not be part of the decision making process, which is for professionals, you will have the opportunity for your views to be heard and noted if you disagree. Please be assured, that whatever decision is made, it has been taken in the best interests of your child. Work will continue to further develop the Plan and progress monitored through regular meetings of a Core Group, a smaller group of professionals and you as a parent, who will meet every four to six weeks, perhaps in your home or at another agreed venue, such as your child’s school.
If the decision is made that your child does not need a Child Protection Plan, you are still entitled to help and support for your family and your child’s Social Worker will discuss this with you.
What does the Child Protection Plan include?
The Plan itself will include actions to be taken to keep your child safe from harm and prevent any further harm or abuse. It will also include activities that will promote their health, wellbeing and general development and feature ways in which the whole family can be supported to enable this. The Plan will clearly set out what is expected as outcomes, who needs to undertaken each of the actions and in what timescale. The Plan is a really important tool in measuring how things have developed and improved and it is important that as a parent you understand the Plan and agree to work with it. If you are unclear about any aspect, please speak to your child’s Social Worker.
What if I am unhappy about any aspect of the Conference?
If following the Conference, you feel unhappy about the way it was conducted, what information was made available to you or the way in which you were involved, you do have a right to make a complaint under the LSCB Child Protection Case Conference Complaint Policy. Full information on the Policy and a complaint form is available here. Please note, the decision of the Conference is final and the complaints process cannot change that. If your concerns relate more to any single professional or agency, rather than the conference itself, please contact your child’s Social Worker or their Social Work Team Manager to discuss.
What if I need more information or independent help?
Further helpful information is available from your local Citizens Advice Bureau or the Family Rights Group free Advice Line on 0808 801 0366. You could also either consult a solicitor that specialises in working with children or contact the Children’s Legal Centre on 0808 802 000.