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2.1.7 Initial Child Protection Conferences

AMENDMENT

This chapter was extensively revised and updated in April 2016 and should be re-read in full.


Contents

  1. Purpose of Initial Child Protection Conference   
  2. When an Initial Child Protection Conference Should be Convened 
  3. Timing of Initial Child Protection Conference 
  4. Who Should Attend? 
  5. Quorum 
  6. Enabling Parental Participation 
  7. Criteria for Excluding Parents or Restricting their Participation 
  8. Enabling Children’s Participation 
  9. Pre-Birth Conferences 
  10. Convening the Conference 
  11. Responsibilities of Social Worker before the Conference  
  12. Responsibilities of Other Professionals/Agencies
  13. Responsibilities of the Conference Chair 
  14. Dissent from the Conference Decision 
  15. Minutes of Child Protection Conferences 


Timescale
: Where a Section 47 Enquiry determines that an Initial Child Protection Conference should be held, the Conference must be held within a maximum of 15 days of the Strategy Discussion or where more than one has taken place, of the Strategy Discussion at which the Section 47 Enquiry was initiated.

The urgency of the situation, however, may dictate that the timescale is shorter.

In the time between the conclusion of the Section 47 Enquiry and the Initial Child Protection Conference, an interim plan must be agreed with clear roles and responsibilities, based on the outcome of the Section 47 Enquiry, in order to ensure that the child is protected until the Conference is held. It is the responsibility of the members of the Strategy Discussion to develop the Interim Plan. The Interim Plan should identify immediate child protection issues and agree actions, timescales and the professionals responsible for completing these actions.

In exceptional circumstances where there is a delay, the reasons for the delay must be agreed and documented by the Service Manager (Kent).


1. Purpose of Initial Child Protection Conference

The Initial Child Protection Conference brings together family members, the child (where appropriate - see Section 8, Enabling Children’s Participation), supporters/advocates and those professionals most involved with the child and family to share information, assess risks and to formulate an agreed plan of management and services, with the child’s safety and welfare as its paramount aim.

Within this, there are the following tasks:

  1. To share and evaluate information in a multi-disciplinary setting about the family history, the child’s health, development and functioning and the parent/carer’s capacity to ensure the child’s safety and promote his or her well-being;
  2. To consider the evidence and form a view about the likelihood of the child suffering Significant Harm in the future and  whether they require a Child Protection Plan;
  3. If the child is at continuing risk of Significant Harm the Initial Conference will agree the category of harm and develop an inter-agency Child Protection Plan. The Inter-Agency Child Protection Plan will set out what actions have been agreed to safeguard the child / children, who will complete these actions with intended outcomes and time-scales;
  4. To nominate a Lead Social Worker, to develop, co-ordinate and implement the Child Protection Plan;
  5. To identify the membership of the multi-agency Core Group who will develop and monitor the Child Protection Plan;
  6. In Kent the first core group should take place immediately after the initial conference unless there are exceptional circumstances and this will be chaired by the Conference Chairperson. If it is not possible to convene the core group immediately the meeting must take place within 10 working days of the Initial Conference, a date will be agreed at conference;
  7. It is the responsibility of the operational team to chair and ensure a core group is held following the Review conference. The Core Group will need to be held within 20 working days but may need to be convened earlier dependant on the circumstances of the case. The date of the Core Group will be set at the Review Conference
  8. Where the Initial Conference concludes the child / children do not meet the threshold for a Child Protection Plan but is considered to be a Child In Need, the Conference will develop a Child in Need Plan In order to ensure that services are provided to promote the child’s health and development. The development of this Initial Child in Need Plan will be chaired by the Conference Chair.


2. When an Initial Child Protection Conference Should be Convened

An Initial Child Protection Conference is to be held where, following the Strategy Meeting and Section 47 child protection enquiries, concerns of significant harm are substantiated and the child is judged to be suffering, or likely to suffer, Significant Harm. The Specialist Children’s Services (Kent)/Integrated Family Services Manager/Children and Young People Manager is responsible for authorising the decision to convene an Initial Child Protection Conference and the reasons for calling the conference must be recorded.

Where a senior manager from another agency requests that an Initial Child Protection Conference is convened, this request will be given serious consideration by the relevant Specialist Children’s Services (Kent)/Children’s Social Care Services Manager and a response will be given to the request in writing. Where any issue of professional difference is not resolved, see Resolving Professional Disagreements Procedure.


3. Timing of Initial Child Protection Conference

The Initial Child Protection Conference should take place within 15 working days of the:

  • Strategy Discussion or where more than one has taken place, of the Strategy Discussion at which the Section 47 Enquiry was initiated; or
  • Notification by another local authority that a child subject to a Child Protection Plan has moved into the Kent area, there needs to be consultation with the originating local authority providing that the move is permanent. See Children Moving Across Local Authority Boundaries Procedures.

In the exceptional circumstance of complex enquiries or pre-birth assessments, the Initial Child Protection Conference may be delayed with senior management permission.

Any such delay must be justified and proportionate and have written authorisation from the Manager of the Specialist Children’s Services (Kent) who ensures that risks to the child are monitored, and an interim plan is in place to safeguard the child and that the social worker notifies all relevant agencies.


4. Who Should Attend?

See Section 6, Enabling Parental Participation.

See Section 8, Enabling Children's Participation.

The 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 who are significant to the child;
  • 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 Combined Safeguarding Team;
  • Health services staff involved with the child/ren - e.g. Named Nurse Safeguarding Children, health visitor, school nurse, GP;
  • Schools, attendance officers, education psychologists etc;
  • The Consultant Paediatrician or other senior doctor responsible for any Medical Assessment of the child;
  • Named Nurse Safeguarding Children – Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

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.

These may include:

  • Supporter (including advocate) or 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 9, Pre-Birth 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 Abuse 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, 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;
  • Advocacy/support service e.g. Home Start (Medway).

It is an expectation that Agencies provide reports for Conference.

A professional observer can only attend with the prior consent of the Conference Chair and the family, and should 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 and the chair in advance of the day of the conference. 

If agencies are intending to send more than one representative the Agency should discuss the need for this with the lead social worker and / or Conference Chair in advance of the day of the Conference.

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.

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


5. Quorum

The primary principle for determining a quorum is that there should be sufficient agencies present to enable safe decisions to be made in the individual circumstances.

At initial conferences, minimum representation is the social worker, the police and at least two other relevant professional disciplines which have had direct contact with the child and family.

Where a conference is inquorate it should not ordinarily proceed, however in these circumstances the Conference Chair must ensure that either:

  • An interim plan is produced; or
  • Another conference date is set within 5 working days of the inquorate conference. Where a Conference is unable to go ahead the Chair should notify the Service Manager and Head of Quality Assurance. The chair should escalate the lack of attendance where appropriate with the relevant agency.

In exceptional circumstances, and having regard to the impact upon the child and family of a postponement, the Conference Chair may decide to proceed with the conference despite lack of agency representation. This would be relevant where:

  • The child has not had relevant contact with 3 professional disciplines - e.g. pre-birth conferences;
  • Where sufficient information is available, including where written reports from non-attendees have been submitted;
  • A delay will be detrimental to the child.


6. Enabling Parental Participation

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. Parents will be sent a Parents Report for Conferences form with their invitation and will be offered support to communicate their views (link to parents report for conference form).

See Section 7, Criteria for Excluding Parents or Restricting their Participation.

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. 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 operational team. 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/Appeal process - see Complaints and Appeals against the Conference Decision and about the Conference Process.

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.

Preparation must also include consideration of childcare arrangements to enable the attendance of parents. Parents for whom English is not a first language must be offered and provided with an interpreter, if required. A family member should not act as an interpreter of spoken or signed language at Conference.

The parents should be provided with a copy of the relevant leaflet which includes information regarding the right to bring a friend, or supporter (including an advocate) or solicitor (in the role of supporter), details of any local advice and advocacy services by the allocated social worker. The Complaints and Appeals against the Conference Decision and about the Conference Process Procedure can also be provided as appropriate by the social worker.

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; (written confirmation is needed from the parent if another is to attend in their place);
  • Enabling the parent to write, or express their views in a manner that is appropriate to their needs;
  • Arranging for parents to meet the Conference Chair prior to conference; any such request made to the chair, must be at least 48hrs prior to the conference;
  • Agreeing that the social worker, or any other professional, expresses their views.


7. Criteria for Excluding Parents or Restricting their Participation

In certain circumstances it may be necessary to exclude one or more family member from part or all of a conference the request to exclude or restrict a parent’s participation should be discussed with the Conference Chair in advance of the conference.

The agency concerned must indicate which of the criteria 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.

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 with permission from the excluded parent);
  • 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, or where information shared by one parent could place them at further risk regarding domestic abuse;
  • Conflicts between different family members who may not be able to attend at the same time e.g. in situations of domestic violence/abuse;
  • 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.

Exclusion at one conference is not reason enough in itself for exclusion at further conferences, further health and safety risk assessments should be undertaken.

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.

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).

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.

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

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

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.

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

It may also become clear in the course of a Conference, which its effectiveness will be seriously impaired by the presence of the parent/s or there is a threat of violence. In these circumstances, the Conference Chair may exclude them.

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.

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

Where a parent/carer attends only part of a Conference as a result of exclusion, s/he will usually receive the record of the part of the Conference that they attended. The Conference Chair should decide, in conjunction with the allocated social worker and manager if the entire record should be provided.


8. Enabling Children’s Participation

8.1 Involving the Child

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; which can include attendance, with prior knowledge and agreement of the Chair. In practice, the appropriateness of enabling an individual child to attend must be assessed in advance and relevant arrangements made to facilitate attendance at all or part of the Conference.

8.2 Criteria for Attendance of Child at Conference

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

The key considerations are:

  • Does the child have sufficient understanding of the process?
  • 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?

The test of ‘sufficient understanding’, is partly a function of age and partly the child’s capacity to understand. The majority of children over 12 should be invited, unless there are reasons why this is not appropriate.

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 Section 8.5, The Child's Independent Advocate.

Written information translated into the appropriate language should be provided to children able to read and an alternative medium considered to those who cannot read. The Children’s Report for Conference Form should be used.

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

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.

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.

The Conference Chair may decide that although a child has been brought to Conference it is not appropriate/in their best interest that they attend all or part of the Conference. In these exceptional circumstances, the Chair and the allocated social worker will consider appropriate ways of ensuring that the child’s voice is captured in the conference process. The decision of the Conference Chair over matters of exclusion is final.

8.3  Indirect Participation

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 (see Section 8.6, Support to the Child After the Conference below) or other professional speaking on the child’s behalf (for example, a person with specialist skills or knowledge);
  • The child should have the opportunity to meet the Conference Chair before the conference to share their views and to identify what actions and outcomes they believe should be included in any plan of intervention. The allocated social worker should inform the Chair in advance in order that this can be arranged;
  • The Children’s Report for Conference Form will be used by the allocated social worker with the child to ensure that they understand the reasons for the Conference being held and to encourage their participation.

8.4  Direct Participation

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 Section 8.6, 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;
  • The Children’s Report for Conference Form will be used by the allocated social worker with the child to ensure that they understand the reasons for the Conference being held and to encourage their participation.

If the child is attending the Conference it is the responsibility of the Conference Chair (see also Section 13, 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 decisions and recommendations. Ensure that the conference record adequately reflects the child’s contribution.

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

  • Make it clear which parts of their report can be shared with the child on the day of the conference;
  • 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.

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.

8.5 The Child’s Independent Advocate

The social worker should inform the child about any advocacy service available and help them to make contact if they wish to contact the service themselves. This should be done when the child is informed that a child protection Conference will be held.

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. The advocate should only be given information, which is available to the child.

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. Where access to the advocacy service is denied by parents and the child is not considered as reaching a sufficient understanding and intelligence to be capable of making up their own mind on the matter of using an advocate, 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.

8.6 Support to the Child After the Conference

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. The social worker will need to ensure that a room is available for this purpose.

If the advocate has concerns about the child these should be discussed immediately with the social worker.

The social worker should meet with the child as soon as possible 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.


9. Pre-Birth Conferences

A pre-birth conference is an Initial Child Protection Conference concerning an unborn child. Such a conference has the same status and purpose and must be conducted in a comparable manner to an Initial Child Protection Conference.

Pre-birth conferences should be convened following Section 47 Enquiries, where there is evidence that the child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm and where there is a need to consider if a Child Protection Plan is required.

This decision will usually follow from a pre-birth Child and Family Assessment and a conference should be held:

  • Where a pre-birth assessment gives rise to concerns that an unborn child may be likely to suffer Significant Harm;
  • Where a previous child has died or been removed from parent/s as a result of Significant Harm;
  • Where a child is to be born into a family or household which already have children who are the subject of a Child Protection Plan;
  • Where a person known to pose a risk to children resides in the household or is known to be a regular visitor;
  • Other risk factors to be considered are:
    • The impact of parental risk factors such as mental ill-health, learning disabilities, substance and alcohol misuse and domestic violence/abuse;
    • A mother under sixteen about whom there are concerns regarding her ability to care for herself and/or to care for the child.

All agencies involved with the expectant mother should consider the need for an early referral to the Specialist Children’s Services (team so that assessments are undertaken and family support services provided as early as possible in the pregnancy.

9.1 Timing of Pre-Birth Conferences

The pre-birth conference should take place at the latest between 20 and 24 weeks of pregnancy to allow sufficient time for an assessment of parenting ability and the preparation of a discharge plan.

The pre-birth conference should be held within 15 working days of the the strategy meeting which determined that a child protection enquiry (s47) should be undertaken.

It is recognised that in some cases it will not be possible to follow good practice guidelines, for example where a concealed pregnancy is identified. In such cases a Strategy Meeting will be required to progress to Pre-birth Child Protection Conference as a matter of urgency.

9.2 Attendance

In addition to those who normally attend an initial child protection conference, midwifery, relevant neo-natal and support services must be invited. The invitation letter should highlight the importance of their attendance to enable an informed discussion as to the concerns and protective factors around the unborn baby and their family.

Parents or carers should be invited as they would be to other Child Protection Conferences and should be fully involved in plans for the child’s future.

9.3 An Unborn Child with a Child Protection Plan

If a decision is made that the unborn child should be made subject to a Child Protection Plan, the main cause for concern must determine the Category of Significant Harm and the Child Protection Plan must be outlined to commence prior to the birth of the baby. The Child Protection Plan should address the need for a birth plan and formal discharge meeting / planning meeting being held prior to the baby’s discharge. (See Pre-birth Procedures Procedures).

If an initial Child Protection Conference is held and it is agreed that a child protection plan is provided for the unborn baby, a core group meeting must take place at least 4 weeks prior to the expected date of delivery (EDD) and earlier if the baby is likely to be premature.

If a decision is made for an unborn child to have a Child Protection Plan, the child’s name (or ‘baby’, if not known) and expected date of delivery should be input on the  child’s case file (ICS)  pending the birth. The Lead Social Worker must then ensure that the name and correct birth date is  updated immediately on ICS following the birth.

If the child is resident outside of the area at birth, the local authority in whose area the child is resident must be advised that the child is in their area and is the subject of a Child Protection Plan.

9.4 Timing of Review Conference

A review conference will be scheduled to take place within 4 to 6 weeks of the child’s birth. This may be extended to 2 months with the written authorisation of an Integrated Family Services Manager if information from a postnatal assessment is crucial for a well informed review conference.


10. Convening the Conference

Initial conferences must be convened within a maximum of 15 working days of the last Strategy Discussion or where more than one has taken place, of the Strategy Discussion at which the Section 47 Enquiry was initiated. In consultation with the person requesting the conference, the Children’s social care team (Kent) Safeguarding and Reviewing Unit (Medway) will be responsible for:

  1. Agreeing the date and time of the conference;
  2. Sending out invitations to professional representatives, the child and family members as appropriate;
  3. Ensuring that agencies are informed whether or not the parents have been invited and that they are clear about their responsibilities;
  4. Consulting with the Conference Chair where there has been a request to exclude or limit the participation of parents or children;
  5. Collating and presenting to the Conference Chair relevant written contributions where available;
  6. Making any necessary arrangements as advised by the social worker e.g. for trained interpreters to attend;
  7. Providing with the invitation the Information Leaflet about conferences for children and parents.


11. Responsibilities of the Social Worker before the Conference

11.1 General Responsibilities

The social worker is responsible for the following:

  1. Considering as described in Section 6, Enabling Parental Participation and Section 8, Enabling Children's Participation above the participation of parents and children in the conference;
  2. Arranging for the child to attend if appropriate, in consultation with parents and the Conference Chair;
  3. Arranging the parent(s)’ attendance unless a decision is reached to exclude them;
  4. Arranging advocates (if requested) for parents and/or child;
  5. 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 invited 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;
  6. Establishing whether an interpreter is required and briefing the interpreter as necessary;
  7. Establishing whether parent(s) or children need assistance / advice, for example, with transport or child care arrangements;
  8. Completing the Section 47 Enquiry and preparing and presenting a written report to the conference using the relevant pro forma;
  9. Consider level of risk and whether legal advice is required.

11.2 Social Worker's Report to Conference

The social worker should provide to the conference a printed and dated report, which must be endorsed and authorised 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.

The Child Protection Conference must consider all the children in the household even if concerns are only being expressed about one child. 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. 

Children not part of the household who are considered at risk of significant harm due to them regularly frequenting the household should be considered by a separate strategy discussion/s47 investigation and child protection process.

For an Initial 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 Liberi chronology of significant events and agency and professional contacts with the family;
  • Genogram on child’s file;
  • 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 Child and Family Assessment 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;
      • A Danger Statement.
  • The local authority’s recommendation to the conference.

The report should be provided to parents and older children (to the extent that it is believed to be in their interests / or an edited version) at least 2 working days in advance of the Initial 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 and their wishes and feelings must be included or conveyed verbally to the conference.

The social worker should ensure their report is shared with both parents / carers with Parental Responsibility, particularly when a parent /carer does not reside with the children.

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 will also consult the Conference Chair.

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

The social worker / minute taker should ensure the final copy of the report is provided to the Conference Chair at least 1 working day prior to the Initial Child Protection Conference.

All professionals and family members invited to a Conference will be provided with a copy of the social work report. Should reports be taken away by attendees following the Conference, it is expected that they will be kept in a safe place to ensure against a confidentiality breach.


12. Responsibilities of Other Professionals/Agencies

12.1 General Responsibilities

All participants are responsible for the following:

  • To have a full understanding of the Child Protection Conference Process;
  • To make attendance at Conferences a high priority;
  • To make available relevant information in a written report to the conference (see Section 12.2, Other Agency Reports to Conference) and contribute to the discussion, assessment of risk and decision on all children considered at conference, based on the information presented. The report is to be typed / printed using the appropriate pro forma from the KSCB website;
  • To confirm in advance with the operational team their attendance at the conference or informing the team if they are unable to attend; To ensure that information to be presented by them and the report compiled for conference is known to, and shared with, the child (where appropriate) 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.

12.2 Other Agency Reports to Conference

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.

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.

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 from their service. The report should be provided on the Kent Safeguarding Children’s Board pro forma (link?) and be shared with family members no less than 2 days prior to the Initial Child Protection Conference. It should be emailed to the appropriate administrator (email address on invitation letter) no less than 2 days prior to the Initial Child Protection Conference using a secure email address.

Any agency report should be emailed to the Chairperson by the appropriate administrator at least one working day prior to the Conference.

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 And any comments or suggestions made by the child/parents as a result of seeing the report and their wishes and feelings must be included or conveyed verbally to the conference.

Where agency representatives are unable to attend the conference, they must ensure that their report is made available to the conference, and attempts should be made for a representative to attend in their place.

All reports will be attached to the minutes when they are circulated.


13. Responsibilities of the Conference Chair

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

If a Conference Chair is allocated a case where they have personal knowledge of the family they have a responsibility to discuss this with their manager as soon as possible and a decision will be made as to whether another Chair needs to be identified. If a change in Chair is not deemed necessary, the Chair will declare their connection at the start of the Conference which will be minuted. 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 - see quorum for conference in Section 5, Quorum.

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.

Conference chairs have a responsibility to ensure that the child protection plan is monitored and progressed in a timely manner. Any drift and delay should be identified and escalated.

13.1 Before the Conference

The responsibilities of the Conference Chair in relation to decision-making about enabling/restricting parents’ and children’s participation are set out in Section 6, Enabling Parental Participation and Section 8, Enabling Children's Participation.

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 at least 30 minutes or more before the conference formal starting time.

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.

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. 

13.2 At the Start of the Conference

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.

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 participate in the meeting or cross-examine any contributor.

13.3 During the Conference

The child protection case conference will be held using the Signs of Safety approach which explores harm and danger. With the same rigour it simultaneously explores strengths and safety.

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/ appeal 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.

13.4 The Decision Making Process

The conference should examine the following questions when determining whether the child should be subject to a Child Protection Plan.

Has the child suffered Significant Harm? And is the child likely to suffer Significant Harm?

The test for the likelihood of the child suffering Significant Harm in the future should be either that:

  • The child is shown to have suffered ill-treatment or impairment of health or development as a result of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect, and professional judgement is that further ill-treatment or impairment are likely; or
  • Professional judgement, substantiated by finding 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, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect.

If the child is at continuing risk of Significant Harm, it will therefore be the case that safeguarding the child requires inter-agency help and intervention delivered through a Child Protection Plan.

The Conference Chair must ensure that the decision about the need for a Child Protection Plan takes account of the views of all agencies represented at the conference and also takes into account any written contributions that have been made. This discussion will normally take place with the parents/carers present.

The decision will be taken by professionals attending the conference, i.e. those eligible to be counted for the purposes of establishing a quorum (see Section 5, Quorum); but not including  the child, parents, carers, supporters although they may be asked to comment on what is going well, the worries and complicating factors, risks and future plans.

Where there is no consensus, the Conference Chair will make the decision, taking into consideration the views of the majority. However, in some cases the chair may disagree with the majority view, in which case the Conference Chair makes the final decision.

The Conference Chair must ensure that all members of the conference are clear about the conclusions reached, the decision taken and recommendations made, and that the conference minutes accurately reflect the discussions, the decision and, where relevant, the reasons for the Conference Chair exercising his or her decision-making powers.

Any dissent by professionals at the conference must be recorded in the conference minutes (see also Section 14, Dissent from the Conference Decision).

If parents/carers disagree with the decision, this also must be recorded in the minutes and the Conference Chair must discuss the issue with them and explain their right to and the process for challenge – see Complaints and Appeals against the Conference Decision and about the Conference Process Procedure.

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 child who is the subject of a Child Protection Plan becomes Looked After, the Child Protection Plan should form part of the child’s Care Plan.

13.5 Categories of Significant Harm

If the decision is that the child is or is likely, to suffer Significant Harm and is therefore in need of a Child Protection Plan, the Conference Chair should determine the category of Significant Harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering.

The category used must indicate to those consulting the Specialist Children’s Services (Kent)/Children’s Social Care Services (Medway) List of Children Subject to a Child Protection Plan what the primary presenting concerns were at the time the child was made the subject of a Child Protection Plan.

The need for a Child Protection Plan should be considered separately in respect of each child in the family or household.

13.6 If a Child is Made the Subject of a Child Protection Plan

Where a decision is reached that a child needs to be the subject of a Child Protection Plan, the Conference Chair must ensure that:

  1. A Child Protection Plan is outlined and clearly understood by all concerned including the parents and where appropriate, the child; and the plan sets out what needs to change in order to safeguard the child;
  2. A Lead Social Worker (i.e. a qualified social worker) is appointed to develop, coordinate and implement the Child Protection Plan (if this is not possible, the relevant manager should be the point of contact) and makes arrangements for the times and dates of Core Group meetings, following the first Core Group which takes place immediately after the initial conference unless there are exceptional circumstances;
  3. The membership of a Core Group of professionals and family members is identified, who will develop, implement and progress the Child Protection Plan as a detailed working tool;
  4. It is established how children, parents and wider family members should be involved in the ongoing assessment, planning and implementation process, and the support, advice and advocacy available to them;
  5. Any further action required to complete the Child and Family Assessment is outlined and any other specialist assessments of the child and family identified, which are required to make sound judgements on how best to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
  6. A contingency plan is in place if agreed actions are not completed and/or circumstances change, for example if a carer fails to achieve what has been agreed or a court application is not successful;
  7. The parents and child know the name of the Lead Social Worker and Core Group members;
  8. The parents/carers and child/ren are advised of their right to invoke the appeals and complaints procedure and their right to challenge the decisions made by those present at the conference;
  9. The decisions and recommendations of the conference have been recorded in a clear manner;
  10. A date is set for the Child Protection Review Conference, and under what circumstances it might be necessary to convene the conference before that date.

The Minute Taker must ensure that the decision to make the child the subject of a child protection plan is recorded on Liberi the same day that the conference is held.

13.7 If a Child is not Assessed as being in Need of a Child Protection Plan

A child may not be the subject of a Child Protection Plan, but he or she may nonetheless require services to promote his or her health or development. In these circumstances, the Conference, together with the family, should consider the child’s needs and what further help would assist the family in responding to them. Subject to the family’s views and consent, it may be appropriate to continue with and complete the Child and Family Assessment of the child’s needs to help determine what support might best help promote the child’s welfare. Where the child’s needs are complex, inter agency working will continue to be important. Where appropriate, a Child in Need (CIN) Plan should be drawn up and reviewed at regular intervals - no less frequent than every 3 months. Where a CIN Plan is agreed the Conference Chair will lead this planning immediately following the ICPC and the CIN meeting date will be set as appropriate to the needs of the child.


14. Dissent from the Conference Decision

In cases where there is disagreement regarding the threshold for Significant Harm being met or not being met (see Section 13.4, The Decision Making Process), the Conference Chair will attempt to facilitate the conference to reach a consensus by drawing the conference members’ attention to the threshold and considering this in the light of the information which has been shared and the child’s assessed needs.

Section 13.4, The Decision Making Process sets out the decision-making powers of the Conference Chair where there is no consensus.

If an agency does not agree with a decision or recommendation made at a conference, the dissent will be recorded in the minutes of the conference.

If a professional concludes that a conference decision places a child at risk, s/he must seek advice from her/his Designated Professional or Named Professional or manager.

Where the issue is not resolved, the agency may consider taking action under the Resolving Professional Disagreements Procedure.

If parents/carers disagree with the conference decision, the Conference Chair must further discuss their concerns and explain their rights to challenge under the Complaints and Appeals against the Conference Decision and about the Conference Process Procedure.


15. Minutes of Child Protection Conferences

The record of the conference is a crucial working document for all relevant professionals and the family.

All conferences will be minuted by administrative staff whose sole task within the conference is to provide a written record of proceedings in a consistent format. The Conference Chair is responsible for ensuring that the minutes accurately reflect the discussion held and decisions and recommendations made.

All written reports submitted to the Conference will be appended to the minutes when they are distributed unless redacted were appropriate.

The decision of the Conference and, if the child is subject to a Child Protection Plan, details of the category of Significant Harm, the name of the Lead Social Worker and Core Group membership should be recorded and circulated to all those invited to attend the conference within 1 working day. If the child is subject to a Child in Need Plan, then the decision of the Conference and name of the Lead Professional should be recorded and circulated as above.

The minutes of the conference authorised by the Conference Chair, will be sent to all professionals who attended or were invited and to relevant family members as soon as possible after the Conference and within a maximum of 15 working days.

Copies of the minutes should be given to the parents, child (if old enough) and the child’s advocate by the Lead Social Worker where appropriate. 

Where parents and/or the child/ren have a sensory disability steps must be taken to ensure that they can understand and make full use of the minutes. Where English is not their first language the minutes should be translated.

Where a parent or child has been fully excluded from the conference, the decision on what information they should receive will be taken by the Conference Chair in consultation with other conference members.

Where a supporter, solicitor, other family member or observer has attended a conference, the minutes will not be distributed to them unless they have a role in the Child Protection Plan and the conference agrees it appropriate.

Where a child has attended a Child Protection Conference, the social worker must arrange to see her/him and arrange to discuss relevant sections of the minutes. Careful consideration should be given to the appropriateness of the child having a copy of their own minutes dependant on their age and understanding and their circumstances.

Conference minutes are confidential and should not be passed to third parties without the consent of the Conference Chair and/or Lead Social Worker, or by a Court Order.

Where there are ongoing criminal proceedings, there should be consultation between the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service in relation to the sharing of the minutes within the criminal proceedings.

The recipient agencies and professionals should retain the minutes of the Child Protection Conference in a manner which ensures their confidentiality and in accordance with their agencies record retention policy. Agencies should determine who it is appropriate to be given access to the minutes - usually this will be restricted to relevant staff, their manager and any person who has a role in the Child Protection Plan.

Subsequent requests for access to the minutes by professionals who do not have a legal or direct role in the case should be referred to the relevant team that deal with information requests.

Children (if of sufficient age and understanding) and/or parents on their behalf may have the right of access to their records held by the Specialist Children’s Services (Kent)/Children’s Social Care Services (Medway). Access can be refused if it is likely to result in serious harm to someone or on other limited grounds, but where the criteria for refusal do not apply, the team who deal with data subject access requests will release the open access sections of the conference minutes without any further checks with professional colleagues. The closed access section of the minutes will not be released without full consultation with all parties and any disclosure will be in line with the Data Protection Act 1998.

End