Safeguarding: Child Protection Conferences
Child Protection Conferences are held when there are worries that a child may not be safe, or their needs are not being met. The conference is to support the family to address these issues and help the child flourish. It is important to note that children are not removed as a result of Child Protection Conferences, only the court and police can do that.
We understand that this process may seem worrying, and you may feel overwhelmed
There are 3 main stages in the process:
Getting ready for the conference,
What happens at the conference,
What happens after the conference
First let’s talk about how you could prepare for the conference so you can get the best out of it.
Before the conference you will be sent three things by your social worker via email:
a full report about your family, a short report which summarises the most important parts of this, and ‘The My Views” form.
In some cases, you may receive these documents via post.
The full report is written by your social worker and includes all the information that your family or any professionals attending the conference might want to know about why a conference is taking place
There are strict rules about how personal information from other organisations is shared and we realise it can be sensitive. However, having a complete picture of the family is vital in order make the best plan for the child and family. That is why the law allows the attendees at the Child Protection conference access to this information.
The summary report is a 1-page document that outlines key information such as:
- current worries that professionals have about your child,
- how these affect the child,
- the strengths in your family
- and other complicating factors.
We recommend that you read the summary report and if you want more information, you could read the full report
The details in these reports will be the basis for the discussion during the child protection conference so make sure you read at least the summary document in advance so you are aware of what professionals will want to discuss. The ‘My Views” form is a form that will help you set out your worries and share with us your thoughts and wishes for your family. Use the ‘My Views” form to give your opinions about what is written in the report and what support you think would help your family
You can complete it in whichever way you prefer: alone, with your social worker, with another professional or with a trusted friend or member of your family.
Everything you share in the “My Views form will be discussed at the conference and the aim is to think about how to achieve as much of it as possible as a group.
This will help to make the plan as useful to you as possible. In terms of the people that attend the conference, the main people are your family, including children if appropriate. We encourage both parents, or carers, to attend where possible but also wider family members if they are important to the family and you are comfortable with having them hearing the discussion. Your child’s social worker will also attend, who will have the background on why the conference is taking place.
A Conference Chair will chair the meeting and help to formulate the plan based on what she/he hears. The conference will also include a range of professionals depending on who has had contact with your family.
This could include your GP, health visitor, teacher, the Police, or a pediatrician if they have information to share that may help. If there is someone you don’t want to be in the meeting, including a professional or a parent, you can talk about this with your child’s Social Worker before the meeting takes place, but the chair will make the final decision about who attends and how. We understand that it can be difficult to take part in a conference and so you are welcome to bring someone with you as a supporter. This could be another member of your family or a trusted friend. This should be someone you can rely on to give good advice and trust with sensitive information about your family. Your supporter is there for you and will not be asked to give their views and opinions. You may also bring your solicitor; however, they will be there to provide you with support or advice and not to represent you legally.
The Conference Day
On the conference day, you will be asked to come 30 minutes before the start of the conference to meet the chair. You will have the opportunity to discuss the “My Views” form, any concerns, and ask any questions you may have. You may also ask to arrange this for another time, if more convenient.
When you are ready, the other professionals will enter the room. Child Protection Conferences are usually held in large rooms with everyone sitting in a ‘U’ shape with the Chair at the front. This is currently not possible due to the Coronavirus pandemic and so the meetings are currently held online with families and professionals using a video-calling app called Microsoft Teams available for computers and smartphones. If that is the case, the social worker will provide you with all the information you need to easily participate in the virtual meeting.
You can also ask your social worker if it is possible to join the virtual meeting with him or her, from the same place.Everyone attending the meeting will be asked to introduce themselves and explain who they are and where they are from. During the conference, there will be a group discussion about the concerns about your family as well as your family’s strengths. A set of actions will be agreed on which will form the basis of your plan. Use the “My Views” form to help you put forward your ideas about what might go into the plan.As a parent or carer your point of view is vital for professionals to understand what may be happening in your family. During the conference, it’s really important that you tell the group what you think about what is written in the plan and what would be helpful to address the concerns set out in the report.
The plan that is created in the conference outlines what all parties, including the family, need to do to keep your child safe and flourishing. At the end of the conference, the Chair will decide if it needs to be a Child Protection Plan or a Child in Need Plan. Children and families that are viewed as in need of support will be given a Child in Need Plan. If a child is seen as a significant risk of harm a Child Protection Plan will be put in place. The actions in the plan will stay the same but you may have more contact with your social worker if a Child Protection plan is put in place.
After the Conference
Attending a Child Protection conference can be emotionally draining. It may be worth scheduling some time to speak to a close friend or family member soon after the conference, especially if you attend it alone. If you are feeling low or overwhelmed and would like to talk to someone, there are a number of services you can contact as well, such as “Samaritans” and “NHS talking therapies”.
After the conference, you will receive an email outlining the plan that was agreed upon by you and the group. Later you will receive a written record of what was said at the conference for your reference. Over the next six months, you will work with your social worker to carry out the actions set out in your plan. The plan will be a useful document to use in discussions with your social worker as you work through the process with professionals. Within 10 days from the conference, you will have a first meeting with the ‘Core Group’ of professionals from the conference and then monthly meetings with the same group.
These meetings are a chance to check progress against the plan, share what is going well and what is going less well in achieving the plan. You can work as a group to make changes to the plan if new circumstances arise or if you feel there is a better approach to achieving the outcome for your family.
A review conference will be held first at three months and then at six months after the original conference. Here the group will decide whether the concerns have been addressed and if a plan is still required going forwards. Ideally the plan will end or step down at this point. For example, a Child Protection plan can become a Child in Need plan if concerns have been partially addressed. If a plan is still needed, it will be updated and further core groups meetings will be put in place, as well as another review meeting. The meetings continue until the concerns have been addressed and a plan is no longer needed.