watermark
London Safeguarding Children Board: Child Protection Procedures 5th Edition London SCB Powered by tri.x Powered by tri.x
regsiter for alerts Search

8. Best Practice Guidance for Child Protection Conferences

Text Size: View this website with small text View this website with medium text View this website with large text View this website with high visibility


For amendment and updates see the Amendments and Archives tab above.


Contents

8.1

Who Should Attend a Child Protection Conference?

8.2

Enabling Parental Participation

8.3

Criteria for Excluding Parents or Restricting their Participation

8.4

Enabling Children's Participation

8.5

Responsibilities of Social Worker before the Conference

8.6

Responsibilities of Other Professionals/Agencies

8.7

Responsibilities of the Conference Chair


8.1

Who Should Attend a Child Protection Conference?

 

8.1.1

Any conference should consist of the smallest number of people consistent with effective case management, but the following should normally be invited:

  • Parents and those with Parental Responsibility and /or family members;
  • The child and/or his/her representative or Advocate where deemed to be age appropriate;
  • The child's social worker and first line manager;
  • The Police, Public Protection Unit;
  • Health services staff involved with the child/ren - e.g. health visitor, school nurse, GP;
  • Schools, education welfare officers etc.;
  • The Consultant Paediatrician or other senior doctor responsible for any Medical Assessment of the child.

8.1.2

In addition, invitees may include those whose contribution relates to their professional expertise and/or knowledge of the family and/or responsibility for relevant services, and should be limited to those with a need to know or who have a contribution to make to the assessment of the child and family.

8.1.3

These may include:

  • Supporter (including advocate), friend or solicitor (as supporters for the child and parent/carers;
  • Health services involved with parent(s)/carers e.g. specialist doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists;
  • Midwifery services where the conference concerns an unborn or new-born child (see Section 4.1, Child protection conferences);
  • Probation service and/or staff in youth justice system where relevant;
  • Housing services;
  • Mental health (adult or child) services;
  • Alcohol and substance misuse services;
  • Domestic Violence Services;
  • Any professional or service provider involved with the children or adults in the family, including foster carers, residential staff and/or Early Years staff;
  • A representative of the armed services welfare services, where relevant;
  • Any other relevant professional or service provider;
  • Legal services - if it is anticipated that legal advice will be required;
  • The Children's Guardian and the child's solicitor where there are current court proceedings.

8.1.4

A professional observer can only attend with the prior consent of the Conference Chair and the family, and must not take part in discussions or decision-making. There will only be one observer at any conference.  It is the responsibility of the professional requesting the attendance of the observer to seek the permission of the family at least one day before the conference.

8.1.5

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

  • Arrange wherever possible for another agency representative to attend;
  • Inform the Conference Administrator and Conference Chair;
  • Submit a written report in the agreed format with copies.

8.1.6

The time of day at which a conference is convened should be determined to facilitate attendance of the family and key contributors.

 

8.2

Enabling Parental Participation

 

8.2.1

All parents and persons with Parental Responsibility must be invited to conferences (unless exclusion is justified as described below). Parents will be encouraged to contribute to conferences; usually by attending, unless it is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child.

8.2.2

The social worker must facilitate the constructive involvement of the parents by ensuring in advance of the conference that they are given sufficient information and practical support to make a meaningful contribution, including providing them with a copy of the Conference report prior to the meeting (see Section 4.7.2 LA children's social care report).

8.2.3

Invitations for the parent(s) to attend the conference should be conveyed verbally by the social worker and will be confirmed in writing by the Safeguarding and Reviewing Unit.

8.2.4

The social worker must explain to parents/carers the purpose of the meeting, who will attend, the way in which it will operate, the purpose and meaning if their child is deemed to require a Child Protection Plan and the complaints process. 

8.2.5

Provision should be made to ensure that visually or hearing impaired or otherwise disabled parents/carers are enabled to participate, including whether they need assistance with transport to enable their attendance.

8.2.6

Preparation should also include consideration of childcare and travel arrangements to enable the attendance of parents.

8.2.7

Those 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.

8.2.8

The parents should be provided with a copy of the relevant leaflet which includes information regarding the right to bring a friend, supporter (including an advocate) or solicitor (in the role of supporter), details of any local advice and advocacy services and  Section 4.12 Complaints by children and/or parents.

8.2.9

If parents 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 (subject to the Conference Chairs agreement);
  • Enabling the parent to write, or tape, or use drawings to represent their views;
  • Meeting the Conference Chair prior to conference;
  • Agreeing that the social worker, or any other professional, expresses their views.
 

8.3

Criteria for Excluding Parents or Restricting their Participation 

 

8.3.1

In circumstances where it may be necessary to exclude one or more family members from part or all of a conference the request to exclude or restrict a parents participation should be discussed with the Conference Chair and confirmed in writing if possible at least 3 days in advance.

8.3.2

The agency concerned must indicate which of the grounds it believes is met and the information or evidence the request is based on.  The Conference Chair must consider the representation carefully and may need legal advice before coming to a decision.

8.3.3

The decision should be made according to the following criteria:

  • Indications that the presence of the parent may seriously prejudice the welfare of the child, for example where information shared could further victimise the child or increase the child's vulnerability to further abuse;
  • Sufficient evidence that a parent/carer may behave in such a way as to disrupt 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 (but in their absence a friend or advocate may represent them at the conference);
  • A child requests that the parent/person with parental responsibility or carer is not present while s/he is present;
  • The need (agreed in advance with the Conference Chair) for members to receive confidential information that would otherwise be unavailable, such as legal advice or information about a third party or criminal investigation;
  • Conflicts between different family members who may not be able to attend at the same time e.g. in situations of domestic violence;
  • It is necessary to present information to the conference which, if shared with certain family members, might increase the risk to the child;
  • Attendance by a known, alleged or suspected perpetrator may threaten or otherwise place the child at risk;
  • Their presence may prejudice any legal proceedings or Police investigation, for example because they have yet to be interviewed or because bail conditions restrict their attendance;
  • There is a serious threat of violence toward any person at the conference.

8.3.4

Exclusion at one conference is not reason enough in itself for exclusion at further conferences.

8.3.5

The possibility that the parent may be prosecuted for an offence against a child is not in itself a reason for exclusion although in these circumstances the Conference Chair may take advice from the Police and, if criminal proceedings have been initiated, the Crown Prosecution Service, about the implications arising from an alleged perpetrators attendance.

8.3.6

If the Conference Chair makes a decision to exclude or restrict the participation of a parent, the decision should be communicated to the following people:

  1. The person making the request;
  2. All other professionals invited to the meeting;
  3. The parent concerned (in writing) – unless a decision is made that they should not be informed at all of the conference (see below).

8.3.7

The letter to the parent must be signed by the Conference Chair and set out

  • The reason for exclusion or restriction;
  • An explanation of any other methods the parents have open to them to ensure their views and wishes are considered;
  • How the parents will be told the outcome of the conference;
  • The complaints procedure.

8.3.8

Any exclusion period should be for the minimum duration necessary and the decision to exclude must be clearly recorded in the conference minutes.

8.3.9

Those excluded should usually be provided with a copy of the social workers report to the conference and be provided with the opportunity to have their views recorded and presented to the conference.

8.3.10

If, in planning a conference, it becomes clear to the Conference Chair that there may be conflict of interests between the children and parents, the conference should be planned so that the welfare of the child can remain paramount.

8.3.11

This may mean arranging for the child and parents to participate in separate parts of the conference and make separate waiting arrangements.

8.3.12

It may also become clear in the course of a conference, that its effectiveness will be seriously impaired by the presence of the parent/s. In these circumstances, the Conference Chair may ask them to leave.

8.3.13

Where a parent is on bail, or subject to an active police investigation, it is the responsibility of the Conference Chair to ensure that the Police can fully present their information and views and also that the parents participate as fully as circumstances allow.

8.3.14

The decision of the Conference Chair over matters of exclusion is final.

8.3.15

Where a parent/carer attends only part of a conference as a result of exclusion, s/he will receive the record of the conference. The Conference Chair should decide if the entire record is provided or only that part attended by the excluded parent/carer.

 

8.4

Enabling Children's Participation

 

Involving the Child

8.4.1

The child must be kept informed and involved throughout the Section 47 Enquiry and, if their age and level of understanding is sufficient, should be invited to contribute to the conference.  The child's attendance at the Conference must be actively considered and the reasons for and against recorded. It is helpful to think of participation as a process rather than an event; the aim is to enable the child to understand  and contribute to the decision making.


Criteria for Attendance of Child at Conference 

8.4.2

A decision about whether to invite the child should be made in advance of the conference by the Conference Chair, in consultation with the social worker, their manager and any other relevant professional, including the child's independent advocate where relevant.

8.4.3

The key considerations are:

  • Has the process been properly explained the child in an age appropriate way?
  • Has s/he expressed an explicit or implicit wish to be involved?
  • What are the parents' views about the child's proposed presence?
  • Is inclusion assessed to be of benefit to the child?
  • Will the conference be able to fulfil its aims of protecting the child if the child is present?

8.4.4

The test of 'sufficient understanding', is partly a function of age and partly the child's capacity to understand. A guiding principle is that usually a child under 10 should not be invited to attend the Conference in person, but their views ascertained and included in the Social Workers report.

8.4.5

In order to establish her/his wish with respect to attendance, the child must be first provided with a full and clear explanation of the purpose, conduct, membership of the conference and potential provision of an independent advocate - see The Child's Independent Advocate.

8.4.6

Written information translated into the appropriate language should be provided to children able to read and an alternative medium e.g. tape, offered to those who cannot read.

8.4.7

A declared wish not to attend a conference (having been given such an explanation) must be respected.

8.4.8

Where there is a conflict between the wishes of the child and the views of the parents, the child's interests should be the priority.

8.4.9

Consideration must be given to the impact of the conference on the child.  Where it will be impossible to ensure they are kept apart from a parent who may be hostile and/or attribute responsibility onto them, separate attendance should be considered.

8.4.10

The decision of the Conference Chair should be recorded, with reasons.


Indirect Participation

8.4.11

If it is decided that the child should not attend or to restrict participation, every effort should be made by the social worker to obtain and present the views and wishes of the child, which can include:

  • A submission by letter, email, text message, a picture, an audio or video tape - prepared alone or with support;
  • The child's independent advocate, or other professional speaking on the child's behalf (for example, a person with specialist skills or knowledge);
  • The child meeting the Conference Chair before the conference to share their views;
  • The child attending to observe rather than to contribute him or herself.


Direct Participation

8.4.12

If the decision is that the child is to attend the conference, then the social worker should:

  • Identify and agree a supporter/independent advocate with the child (see Support to the Child After the Conference below);
  • Ensure that the child has an opportunity to discuss any concerns that he/she may have about attendance;
  • Explain to the child who will be at the conference, their roles and responsibilities in the meeting, the information likely to be discussed and the possible outcomes;
  • Decide with the child the extent to which he/she wishes to participate and how his/her wishes and views will be presented;
  • Share and discuss the content of the social work report for the Conference.

8.4.13

If the child is attending the Conference it is the responsibility of the Conference Chair (see also Responsibilities of the Conference Chair) to:

  • Clarify with the social worker what information will be available to the child both before and during the conference;
  • Meet with the child and independent advocate/supporter prior to the conference and meet separately from the parents if required;
  • Ensure that the child has sufficient support to present their wishes and views during the conference;
  • Monitor the child's welfare throughout the conference, and arrange for them to have a break if necessary;
  • Ensure that the child is informed of the decisions and recommendations of the conference;
  • Write personally to the child to confirm the decision and recommendations;
  • Ensure that the conference record adequately reflects the child's contribution.

8.4.14

If the child is attending the conference, it is the responsibility of all professionals to:

  • Make it clear which parts of the report can be shared with the child;
  • Use language that is understandable to both the child and their family;
  • Discuss with the social worker any potential difficulties arising from the child's participation.

8.4.15

It is essential that planning takes place prior to the conference to ensure that the practical arrangements are suitable. The social worker should in discussion with the Conference Chair:

  • Identify a venue where the child will feel comfortable;
  • Identify and meet any special needs;
  • Arrange the timing of the conference to minimise disruption to the child's normal routine;
  • Ensure that adequate time is available before the start for the child and his/her independent advocate to meet with the Conference Chair.


The Child's Independent Advocate

8.4.16

The social worker should inform the child about any advocacy service and help them to make contact if they wish to contact the service themselves. When a conference is being convened, a referral for an independent advocacy service may be made by the social worker in relation to any eligible child, subject to the child's consent.

8.4.17

Where access to the advocacy service is denied, this should be discussed with the Conference Chair in advance of the conference. Where this is because of the lack of parental consent, this should be included in the social workers assessment report to the conference.

8.4.18

The advocate will attend the conference with the child, subject to the child's consent. The advocate will not be present for any part of the conference where information is presented which will not be made available to the child.


Support to the Child after the Conference

8.4.19

The advocate should ensure that immediately after the conference the child has an opportunity to discuss what happened during the conference, the decisions made and, where appropriate the outline child protection plan. If the advocate has concerns about the child these should be discussed immediately with the social worker.

8.4.20

The social worker should meet with the child immediately after the conference to:

  • Feedback and discuss the outcomes of the conference and to allow the child to ask any questions about the decisions made;
  • Identify what support they want informally through family, friends and the professional network.

8.4.21

Identify what actions and outcomes the child believes should be included in any plan of intervention. This would include the Child Protection Plan or the  Child in Need Plan.

 

8.5

Responsibilities of the Social Worker before the Conference 

 

General Responsibilities

8.5.1

The social worker is responsible for the following:

  1. the participation of parents and children in the conference;
  2. Arranging for the child to attend if appropriate;
  3. Arranging the parent(s)' attendance unless a decision is reached to exclude them;
  4. Preparing the child and parent(s) and informing them about the role, purpose and process of the conference (unless a decision is reached not to inform them). This information should include an explanation of who will be there and why. Parents should be helped to understand their own responsibilities and rights, including the fact that they may wish to invite a supporter who may be their solicitor.  

    They should be provided with support and advice to help them prepare for and contribute to the conference.  

    If the child or parents are not invited or do not wish to attend, they should be encouraged to present their contributions in writing or in another form and assisted to do so;
  5. Establishing whether an interpreter is required and briefing the interpreter as necessary;
  6. Establishing whether parent(s) or children need assistance, for example, with transport or child care arrangements;
  7. Completing the Section 47 Enquiry and preparing and presenting a written report to the conference using the relevant pro forma;
  8. Consider if legal advice is required.


Social Worker's Report To Conference

8.5.2

The social worker should provide to the conference a typed, signed and dated written report, which must be endorsed and counter signed by their manager. The report 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.

8.5.3

Information about all children in the household must be provided; the report should be clear about which children are the subjects of the conference, and reasons given if any children are not to be subjects. 

8.5.4

For a Child Protection Conference, the report should include:

  • The concerns leading to the decision to initiate the Section 47 Enquiry, the dates of Strategy Discussions, agency consultations and the outcome of the Enquiry;
  • A chronology of significant events and agency and professional contacts with the family;
  • Information on the child's current and past health and developmental needs;
  • Information on the capacity of the parents and other family members to ensure that the child is safe from harm, and to respond to the child's developmental needs, within the 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, parents and other family members; and:An analysis of the implications 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 needs are responded to by parents/carersHow 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.

8.5.5

The report should be provided to parents and older children (to the extent that it is believed to be in their interests) in advance of the Child Protection Conference to enable any factual inaccuracies to be identified, amended and areas of disagreement noted.  Comments or suggestions made by the child/parents as a result of seeing the report must be included or conveyed verbally to the conference.

8.5.6

In exceptional circumstances where confidential information cannot be shared with the child or parent(s) beforehand, the social worker should seek guidance from their manager, who may wish to consult the Conference Chair.

8.5.7

Where necessary, the reports should be translated into the relevant language, taking account of the language and any sensory or learning difficulties of the child/parents.


 

8.6

Responsibilities of Other Professionals/Agencies 


 

General Responsibilities 

8.6.1

All participants are responsible for the following:

  • To make attendance at conferences high priority;
  • To make available relevant information in a written report to the conference (see Other Agency Reports to Conference) and contribute to the discussion, assessment of risk and decision;
  • To confirm in advance with the Safeguarding and Reviewing Unit their attendance at the conference or informing the Unit if they are unable to attend;
  • To ensure that information to be presented by them at conference is known to, and if possible shared with, the child and parents beforehand;
  • To ensure that their contribution is non-discriminatory;
  • In exceptional circumstances where confidential information cannot be shared with the child or parent(s) beforehand, to seek guidance from their manager, who may wish to consult the Conference Chair;
  • To ensure that information is communicated/translated in the most appropriate way taking account of the language and any sensory or learning difficulties of the child or parents;
  • To ensure that they are clear about their role within the conference and the extent to which they have authority to make decisions on behalf of their agency.
  • To be familiar with multi-agency assessment tools (e.g. Signs of Safety) that are used in Child Protection Conferences.


Other Agency Reports to Conference

8.6.2

All agencies which have participated in a Section 47 Enquiry or have relevant information about the child and/or family members should make this information available to the conference in a written report.

8.6.3

The report should include details of the agencies involvement with the child and family, and information concerning the agencies knowledge of the child's developmental needs, the capacity of the parents to meet the needs of their child within their family and environmental context.

8.6.4

Agency representatives attending conferences should confer with their colleagues before preparing their contribution to a conference, to make sure it contains all relevant and available information and, where a written report is prepared, bring sufficient copies of the report (legible and signed) to the conference.

8.6.5

The reports must make it clear which child/ren are the subject of the conference, but address any known circumstances of all children in the household.

8.6.6

Where possible, the reports should be shared with the parents and the child (if old enough) before the conference, in the same way as described for social workers.

8.6.7

Such reports should also be made available to the Conference Chair, where possible, at least 1 working day in advance of the conference with copies for all those invited.

8.6.8

Where agency representatives are unable to attend the conference, they must ensure that their report is made available to the conference, preferably in writing, through the local Safeguarding and Reviewing Unit, and that a colleague attends in their place.

8.6.9

The reports will be attached to, or summarised within the minutes, for circulation.


 

8.7

Responsibilities of the Conference Chair 

 


8.7.1

The Conference Chair must not have any operational or line management responsibility for the case.

8.7.2

The Conference Chair must ensure that, in addition to the social worker, at least two professional disciplines are represented at the conference unless agreed otherwise - The Conference Chair is responsible for ensuring that conferences are conducted in line with these procedures and in an anti-discriminatory manner, ensuring that everyone uses unambiguous respectful language.


Before the Conference

8.7.3

Prior to the conference, the Conference Chair should meet with the child, parents and any advocate(s) to ensure that they understand the purpose of the conference and how it will be conducted. This may, where the potential for conflict exists, involve separate meetings with the different parties. Generally, meetings between the Conference Chair and family members and children, where appropriate, should take place 15 minutes or more before the conference formal starting time.

8.7.4

Explicit consideration should be given to the potential of conflict between family members and possible need for children or adults to speak without other family members present.

8.7.5

The level and manner of any supporters involvement in the conference will be negotiated beforehand with the Conference Chair. Supporters may seek clarification of information given by a conference member through the Conference Chair, but they will not be allowed to question conference members directly. 


At the Start of the Conference

8.7.6

At the start of the conference the Conference Chair will:

  • Set out the purpose of the conference;
  • Confirm the agenda;
  • Emphasise the confidential nature of the meeting;
  • Address equal opportunities issues e.g. specifying that racist, homophobic and threatening behaviour will not be tolerated;
  • Facilitate introductions;
  • Clarify the contributions of those present, including supporters of the family.

8.7.7

If the parent(s) or the child brings an advocate/supporter, the Conference Chair will need to clarify the advocate/supporter's role, ensuring that any solicitor who attends in this role is clear that he/she may support parent(s), clarify information but may not cross-examine any contributor.


During the Conference

8.7.8

The Conference Chair will ensure that:

  1. Parents are given a reasonable opportunity to:
    1. Understand the purpose of the meeting and the role of all agencies involved in the protection of their children;
    2. Consider and respond to any information or opinions expressed by other participants;
    3. Contribute as fully as possible to the assessment and planning process;
    4. Play a part in helping to safeguard and promote their children's welfare;
  2. The conference maintains a focus on the welfare of the child/ren;
  3. Consideration is given to the welfare and safety of all children in the household and within the family network;
  4. All relevant people, including the subject child/ren and parents, have been given appropriate opportunities to make a full contribution and that full consideration is given to the information they present;
  5. Reports of those not present are made known to parties;
  6. The wishes and feelings of the child/ren are clearly outlined;
  7. Needs arising from the child's gender and any disabilities, as well as those arising from the child's racial, cultural, linguistic or religious background are fully considered and accounted for when making decisions or developing plans;
  8. Appropriate arrangements are made to receive third party confidential information;
  9. A debate takes place which examines the findings of reports, and risk assessments and analysis is encouraged, all options are considered and that the conference reaches decisions in an informed and non-discriminatory way;
  10. All concerned are advised/reminded of the complaints procedure;
  11. Where a decision has been taken to exclude or restrict the level of parental or child participation, arrangements are made with the social worker for absent parents or carers to be informed of the decisions of conferences.