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1.5.4 Initial Child Protection Conferences


Contents

1. Introduction
2. Criteria for Convening a Child Protection Conference
3. Timing
4. Pre-Birth Conferences
5. Attendance at Child Protection Conferences
6. Quoracy
7. Involving the Child
8. Involving Family Members
9. Exclusions
10. Child Protection Conferences using the Strengthening Families Framework
  10.1 Strengthening Families Framework Methodology
  10.2 The Process of the Child Protection Conference
11. The Role of the Social Worker
12. Providing Professional Information to a Child Protection Conference
  12.1 Reports from Partner Agencies
  12.2 The Report from the Social Worker
13. The Role of the Conference Chair
  13.1 General Duties
  13.2 Meeting with Family Members
  13.3 Agenda
14. Decision Making at a Child Protection Conference
15. Child Not at Continuing Risk of Significant Harm
16. Action Following the Initial Child Protection Conference
  16.1 Talking to Parents/Carers/Children about Decisions and Outline Plan
  16.2 Minutes of the Child Protection Conference
17. Transfer of Cases to Rotherham where the Child/Young Person is the Subject of a Child Protection Plan from Another Local Authority
18. Transfer of Cases to Another Local Authority where the Child/Young Person is the Subject of a Child Protection Plan and Rotherham is the Responsible Authority
  Appendix 1: Flowchart for Action Following an Initial Child Protection Conference


1. Introduction

A child protection conference is a meeting of professionals and parents (and children if of the sufficient age and understanding) to discuss the concerns about a child/children and have access to all the information about a family.

The aim of a child protection conference is to make a decision as to whether a child is suffering, or likely to suffer Significant Harm after hearing all of the information. If the answer to that is yes, then the child protection conference will develop a plan that will reduce the level of risk/harm to the child.

The purpose of an Initial Child Protection Conference (ICPC) is to:

  • Bring together and analyse in an inter-agency setting the information which has been obtained about the child’s developmental needs, and the parents’/ carers’ capacity to respond to these needs to ensure the child’s safety and promote the child’s health and development within the context of their wider family and environment;
  • Consider the information presented to the conference, make judgments about the likelihood of the child suffering future significant harm; and
  • Decide what future action is needed to safeguard the child and promote her/his welfare, how that action will be taken forward, and with what intended outcomes.


2. Criteria for Convening a Child Protection Conference

An Initial Child Protection Conference should be convened in the following circumstances:

  • Following Section 47 Enquiries, assessment has indicated that a child has suffered or is likely to suffer Significant Harm and that a Child Protection Plan is necessary;
  • When it is considered that there is risk of significant harm to an unborn child and a Child Protection Plan needs to be in place before birth;
  • On the birth of a child into a household where there is already a child or children who are subject of a Child Protection Plan;
  • Where a child is living in a household where a Person Posing a Risk to Children (PPRC) lives or frequently visits, following Section 47 Enquiries;
  • When a child subject to a Child Protection Plan moves into the area;
  • Where “child to child” abuse is suspected following Section 47 Enquiries and an assessment that a child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm and that a Child Protection Plan is necessary in respect of the alleged victim; or in respect of the alleged abuser, who might also be a victim. For more information see Abuse by Children and Young People Procedure.


3. Timing

The timing of an initial child protection conference will depend on the urgency of the case and on the time needed to obtain relevant information about the child and family. If the conference is to reach well-informed decisions based on evidence, it should take place following adequate preparation and assessment. At the same time, in cases where children are at risk of significant harm there should not be drift. Consequently, all initial conferences should take place within 15 working days of the strategy discussion/meeting, or where more than one Strategy Meeting took place, of the Strategy Meeting at which the Section 47 Enquiry was initiated.

Where a child from another area subject to a Child Protection Plan moves into Rotherham permanently, the conference should take place within 15 working days of the receiving local authority being notified of the permanent move. For more information see Section 17, Transfer of Cases to Rotherham where the Child/Young Person is the Subject of a Child Protection Plan.

Any departure from 15 working days should only be in consultation with the Manager of the Safeguarding Unit and should not jeopardise the protection needs of a child. This decision should always be recorded on the child’s file.


4. Pre-Birth Conferences

In relation to unborn children a child protection conference should be held according to the timeframes determined by the Section 47 Enquiries and Pre-birth assessment – for more information see Safeguarding Unborn and Newborn Babies Procedure.


5. Attendance at Child Protection Conferences

The practitioners attending a child protection conference should be there because they have a significant contribution to make, arising from professional expertise, knowledge of the child or family, or services they can offer in the future.

There should be sufficient information and expertise available, through personal representation and written reports, to enable the conference to make an informed decision about what action is needed to safeguard the child and promote her/his welfare, and to make realistic and workable proposals for taking that action forward. Consideration should be given to whether any additional practitioners with specialist knowledge should be invited to participate.

If there are practitioners that provide support to the parents of a child, they should be invited. This can include (but is not limited to) professionals from criminal justice, adult mental health and Social Care teams, substance misuse teams, and domestic abuse workers. If there are voluntary agencies involved with the child and/or parents, they can be invited if they play a key role in supporting the family.

The police should be invited in order to provide information about convictions and any intelligence that may provide information about risk to a child.

However, a conference that is larger than it needs to be can inhibit discussion and intimidate the child and family members.

If the child is of sufficient age and understanding they should be invited to participate – see Section 7, Involving the Child for more information.

Parents should be involved (see Section 8, Involving Family Members) unless there are reasons to exclude them (see Section 9, Exclusions).

The social worker and their manager convening conferences should consider which of the following may have a contribution to make:

  • Children’s Social Care staff (including early help) who have undertaken an assessment of the child and family or are working with the family;
  • Foster carers (current or former if relevant);
  • Residential care staff;
  • Practitioners involved with the child (e.g. health visitor, midwife, school nurse, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), paediatrician, GP, early years staff, teacher, education welfare officer, youth worker, youth offending team, Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS);
  • Practitioners involved with the parents (e.g. family support services, adult Social Care services, adult mental health services, probation, GP, substance/alcohol; domestic abuse services);
  • Practitioners with expertise in the particular type of harm suffered by the child or the child’s particular condition, for example, a disability or long term illness;
  • Practitioners involved in enquiries/investigations (e.g. the police);
  • Local authority legal services;
  • Housing services staff;
  • Voluntary organisations, e.g. substance/alcohol misuse services, domestic abuse services; and
  • A representative of the Armed Services, in cases where there is an Armed Service connection;
  • Youth justice system where relevant.

An observer, (e.g. a student, a new worker or trainee) may accompany a professional colleague who is attending a child protection conference where the experience is felt to be relevant. However, prior agreement must be sought from the Chair of the conference and from the child if of sufficient age and understanding and the parents/carer.


6. Quoracy

At every initial child protection conference there should be attendance by Children’s Social Care staff and at least two other practitioner groups or agencies who have had direct contact with the child who is the subject of the conference. In cases where a child has had contact with three agencies but one or more are not represented, the Chair should make a decision about whether the contact is relevant. If it is, the conference should be postponed until a representative can attend. In cases where a child has not had relevant contact with three agencies (i.e. Children’s Social Care and two others), the decision to proceed rests with the Conference Chair. If the conference is not to proceed, the Chair will indicate what additional action needs to be taken and by whom to ensure the child is safeguarded in the interim period.


7. Involving the Child

It is essential that the child (of sufficient age and understanding) participates in the conference process if possible. However, children’s participation in conferences is in practice quite different than in theory. The general view is that children over the age of 11 should be invited to attend but as every child’s development is different, so the judgement has to be made case by case. An advocate can attend either with the child, to support them, or to represent the child.

The purpose and processes of a conference should always be explained to a child of sufficient age and understanding. If a child has had assistance with communication in the course of the police investigation/child protection enquiries, it may be helpful to provide the same assistance with this explanation.

There is a leaflet which the child or advocate can access for more information:

What are Child Protection Conferences about? Questions and Answers Booklet Information for Children and Young People – under review.

Children who are the subject of a child protection conference have the right to attend if they wish. They should attend all or part of the meeting if:

  • They are of sufficient age and understanding, are able to express their wishes and feelings, and want to attend; and
  • Their attendance would not cause them distress or further abuse; and
  • Their attendance would not increase the risk to their welfare.

A child has the right to express their views and may welcome the opportunity to do so. The social worker should actively seek the best way for a child to do this, and a conference can expect this to have been done.

The child has the right to be supported by an advocate, who can accompany the child to the conference or speak on their behalf. Although a child may have the cognitive ability to attend, they may not have the emotional strength to do so. An advocate can help prepare the child if he or she is attending or take clear instructions if they are making representations on their behalf to the conference.

Having made a judgement that the child is to attend the meeting, the social worker should brief the Chair well in advance of the meeting, so that the process of the meeting can be tailored as far as possible to the child’s needs. The Conference Chair should meet with the child prior to the Conference to ensure the child understands what will happen and their rights within their process.

The social worker should consider whether the child needs assistance in contacting a supporter or advocate. A copy of the leaflet What are Child Protection Conferences about? Questions and Answers Booklet Information for Children and Young People – under review should be given to their advocate/supporter.

If the conference is considering more than one child, care should be taken to ensure that confidentiality is maintained. It may not be appropriate for one child to hear information about another.

If there is likely to be a criminal prosecution, or a conflict of interest with their parents/carers, consideration should be given to any implications for the way in which the child participates in the conference. Consideration needs to be given to how the child may come into contact with possible perpetrators, or where there could be questions about evidence that the child may later give in court being affected by information heard at the conference. For more information about this see Practice Guidance: 2013 Protocol and Good Practice Model Disclosure of information in cases of alleged child abuse and linked criminal and care directions hearings (October 2013).

Agencies may hold relevant information about parents/carers that parents/carers would not wish the child to have. Discussion with the Chair prior to the conference should clarify how this information should be shared and with which conference participants.

Whenever children attend a child protection conference, the Chair should meet them beforehand to ensure they understand what will be happening and how and when they will be able to contribute.

If the child does not want to attend the meeting, the social worker should actively seek alternative means for them to express their views. An advocate might speak for them. The child might wish to write their views down and have them read out. The child might record their views on tape to be played to the meeting. The child might wish to pass on their views in person to the Chair of the conference.

If the child does not attend, their wishes and feelings should be gathered by their social worker and, on occasions, by the other professionals involved, for example, teacher, school nurse, GP, psychologist, advocate. These should be part of the assessment and when possible part of the plan.

If English is not the first language of the parents/children, then an interpreter should be used to ensure they can understand the process. See Working with Interpreters and Others with Special Communication Skills Procedure.


8. Involving Family Members

When it has been decided that a child protection conference will be held, the parents and child need to be informed about the process and what they can expect at the conference. The parents should be given information about advocacy services to help them represent their views.

It is worth spending time with the family to explain the process. Many families think ‘Child Protection Plans’ mean the social worker is going to take their child away. It is important to reassure the family that, in actual fact, it is the opposite.

We should tell families that if we were that worried, we would go to court. This process means we hope that with the right level of support they can make the necessary changes to ensure their child is safe and thrives.

Family members from the wider family can also be invited if they play a significant role in the family. The approval of the parents should be obtained before the extended family are invited and careful consideration should always be made. The guiding principle is the welfare of the child is paramount and therefore there may be occasions when an extended family member is invited against the parents’ wishes because of that principle.

Families need to be supported to share their views at the conference. Some families may find it helpful to provide a written report.

Family members who will normally be invited to attend a child protection conference are:

  • Any person with Parental Responsibility;
  • Fathers who do not have parental responsibility but who are actively involved with the child;
  • Others who have day to day care of the child;
  • The partner of a parent/carer; and
  • Other family members in exceptional circumstances, where the Chair agrees that their attendance would be in the best interests of the child.

Where a parent has had no significant contact with their children and is unlikely to have future involvement, a decision needs to be made about their attendance. In some circumstances a decision may be made not to inform them that the conference is being held. Advice may be sought from the local authority legal services.

The Children’s Social Care team manager is responsible for ensuring that the social worker, as a matter of routine, addresses the following issues with parents/carers:

  • Agree a convenient time and date for the conference, giving reasonable consideration to their wishes, working hours, religious or cultural needs, etc.
  • Clarify with the parent who is caring for the child whether involving an absent parent would compromise their safety or that of the child. It may be that there has been domestic abuse in the past. In such circumstances, a reasonable decision should be made and recorded in each case, bearing in mind the child’s best interests. If the attendance of several family members creates a conflict of interests, the Chair should seek to plan the meeting in such a way that all family members’ interests may be expressed. It may well not be possible for all relevant family members to be present for the whole meeting;
  • Explain the purpose and structure of the conference and who else has been invited;
  • Explain the decision-making powers of the conference and the implications of any decisions/recommendations made;
  • Ensure the social worker’s report (single assessment) is provided to them and explained at least two days prior to the conference;
  • Explain the purpose of a Child Protection Plan. Explain that parents/carers may bring a supporter or advocate to the meeting. Parents/carers should be given a copy of the leaflet What are Child Protection Conferences about? Questions and Answers Booklet Information for Parents Families and Carers – under review;
  • Where the parents/carers preferred language is not English, consideration should be given to the engagement of a professional interpreter. This is because the issues to be discussed at the conference are complex and may involve technical language that may inhibit participation. The interpreter should not attend the conference as the parents/carers’ supporter, but as interpreter for the conference. Consideration will need to be given to the timing of the conference, as it is likely to last longer than the usual conference. For more information see Working with Interpreters and Others with Special Communication Skills Procedure;
  • Where parents/carers use British Sign Language, the social worker should make arrangements for a signer to attend the conference;
  • Parents/carers may have young children to care for. The social worker should ensure that young family members are appropriately cared for at the time of the conference so that parents/carers are able to give their full attention to the business of the meeting;
  • The social worker may need to give consideration to financial assistance to enable family members to attend.

The Chair should meet family members before the conference to ensure they understand what will happen. S/he should also explain to family members how and when they can contribute to the meeting.

Parents/carers should be advised of their right to appeal a decision made by the Child Protection Conference – for more information see Appeals in Relation to Child Protection Conferences Procedure.


9. Exclusions

Decisions about excluding someone from a child protection conference rest with the Chair. All invited practitioners should consider the following exclusion criteria in relation to family members and notify the Chair of concerns in advance of the meeting where:

  • There is a history of violence or threats that may endanger any conference member. This may be particularly relevant where there is evidence of domestic abuse;
  • Proper consideration of the issues is likely to be impeded by the actions and behaviour or presence of a parent/carer;
  • The case requires detailed consideration of the child’s allegation and/or evidence and the parent/carer is the alleged abuser.

The possibility that a parent may be prosecuted for an offence against a child is not in itself a reason for exclusion, although in these circumstances the Chair should take advice from the Police about any implications arising from the alleged perpetrator’s attendance. If criminal proceedings have already been implemented, the view of the Crown Prosecution Service should be taken into account.

Where there is a decision to exclude a parent/carer from the whole conference, s/he should be notified of the exclusion and the reason for it, in writing. The Chair should also indicate the exclusion at the meeting, provide the reason for it, and ensure it is minuted.

Where the Chair has decided a family member who would normally be invited should be excluded from the conference, consideration should be given as to how or whether any relevant views/information from that individual will be provided. Consideration should also be given to whether the excluded individual should receive any part of the minutes of that conference.


10. Child Protection Conferences using the Strengthening Families Framework

10.1 Strengthening Families Framework Methodology

Rotherham has introduced the Strengthening Families Framework as a methodology to conduct Child Protection Conferences.

The 'Strengthening Families' framework builds upon the principles of brief solution-focussed therapy and restorative practice. The process incorporates a stage of information sharing in which all those present at the conference – including the family members – are asked to participate. Family members are asked to put forward their views, to talk about their own strengths/concerns and to contribute ideas about the best way forwards.

The information sharing process goes beyond the more traditional focus of Child Protection Conferences on risk and harm to also look at the strengths and protective factors within the family – strengths based approach. The aim is to provide a more balanced view of safety and risk.

The model aims to be:

Collaborative: Whilst some power imbalance is unavoidable in the context of child protection, the 'Strengthening Families' model aims to foster as far as possible a spirit of collaborative working between professionals and families. By the end of the conference, there should be a mutually agreed set of goals that both the family and professionals agree to work towards.

Strengths-based: Information that is shared within the context of a 'Strengthening Families' conference is organised using a specific framework that also acts as a tool for risk assessment. By completing the framework in full, conference members are made aware, not just of the risks and concerns within a family, but also of their strengths and protective factors. It provides a balanced picture of the family, and an awareness of some of the positives that already exist, and can be built upon.

Prospective: Although it is important to be aware of the events that precipitated a particular child protection conference, the 'Strengthening Families' model assists professionals to look beyond specific incidents. By listening to family members and by completing the framework, conference participants build up a full and balanced understanding of the family and its needs. This knowledge is then be used to develop a realistic and meaningful plan.

Relationship-focussed: Social work research consistently informs us that the quality of relationship between worker and client is one of the best predictors of outcomes. Relationships have an impact on outcomes even when clients are mandated to work with Social Care. The 'Strengthening Families' model seeks to achieve positive outcomes by developing partnerships between professionals and families, by establishing a sense of equality within these relationships and by ensuring that families are listened to, respected and actively involved.

One of the other key features of this approach is the environment of the conference: See Strengthening Families Framework for Child Protection Conferences - Environment.

10.2 The Process of the Child Protection Conference

The model consists of the following broad stages:

  • Preparation meeting(s) with key family participants either in their homes or before the conference begins for approx. 30 minutes. Family members will be invited to ‘revisit’ their genogram which would have been created with the Social Worker as part of the assessment;
  • Preparation meeting for professionals: the practitioners attending the conference will meet separate from the family for 30 minutes prior to the conference to have the opportunity to read the reports and discuss any information that is not to be shared with the family – e.g. police and practitioners to share critical or confidential information which cannot be shared with the family but is essential for the child to be safeguarded;
  • Introductions and an ‘ice-breaker’ session in which the family are invited to talk about their family using the genogram;
  • An information sharing session in which families, as well as professionals, are encouraged to share information and views and using the above framework. The conference chair acts as facilitator and ensures succinct presentation of information by all agencies (simply presenting information is not good enough- expectation of agencies analysis and impact on child);
  • A clear and transparent focus on risk, harm, complicating factors and safety that enables a risk statement and safety statement to be developed;
  • Development of a S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) plan outlining the actions needed in order to ensure sufficient safety and achieving outcomes. Responsibility of individuals and agencies, and timescales for each of these actions is documented at this stage. The model facilitates parents’ full involvement in the planning stage. The model also lends itself to clear contingency planning;
  • The decision as to whether the child is in need of a plan of protection is taken once the child’s plan has been developed.

In adopting the ‘Strengthening Families’ approach to Child Protection, and moving from a more traditional conference model, Rotherham are aiming to create more effective partnership between families and professionals. At the core of the model is the belief that effective partnership is fundamentally about working towards a set of collaborative goals, and that this is most likely to be achieved in an environment where families feel listened to, respected and understood.

This model is very much about ‘driving planning forward’, and Review conferences would have a starting point of what has happened since the last conference and any new information. The ‘Risk’ and ‘Safety Statements’ from the previous conference is then reviewed and amended, in doing so conference members are measuring if risks have been reduced and safety has been achieved. For more information see Child Protection Review Conferences.


11. The Role of the Social Worker

The role of the social worker at the Initial Child Protection Conference is to:

  • Convene, attend and present information about the reason for the conference, their understanding of the child’s needs, parental capacity and family and environmental context and evidence of how the child has been abused or neglected and its impact on their health and development;
  • Analyse the information to enable informed decisions about what action is necessary to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child who is the subject of the conference;
  • Share the conference information with the child and family beforehand (where appropriate);
  • Prepare a report for the conference (single assessment - see Section 12.2, The Report from the Social Worker) on the child and family which sets out and analyses what is known about the child and family and the local authority’s analysis; and
  • Record conference decisions and outline plan and ensure action follows.


12. Providing Professional Information to a Child Protection Conference

12.1 Reports from Partner Agencies

All involved practitioners should contribute to the information their agency provides ahead of the conference, setting out the nature of the agency’s involvement with the child and family and their assessment of the child’s developmental needs and parenting capacity.

Each practitioner has a responsibility to attend and give all relevant information to the child protection conference by submitting a written report, to the Safeguarding Unit at least two days in advance and by giving a verbal report at conference.

The report should be completed on the Multi-Agency Report to Initial Child Protection Conference. It should be submitted to the Safeguarding Unit by secure email or other secure method agreed with the Safeguarding Unit – see Rotherham Safeguarding Unit (inc LADO). Each practitioner will need to bring sufficient copies of their reports to conference.

The report should include:

  • Chronology of key significant events and agency and professional contact with the child and family which includes factors relevant to your service, e.g.:
    • Details about the child or unborn baby;
    • Overview of your agency’s involvement with the child/ family which includes;
    • Length of time you have been involved;
    • Type of services provided to this child /family;
    • Chronology of key significant events;
    • Regularity of their attendance, including missed appointments;
    • Observations and interactions that are significant;
    • Referrals to other agencies;
    • Progress to date;
    • Current plan.
  • An assessment of the child’s development needs in relation to the dimensions of the Assessment Framework – see Children's Assessment Protocol and Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families;
  • Information about the capacity, including strengths and weaknesses, of the parents/carers and other family members to safeguard the child and promote his/her health and development, within their wider family and environmental context; and
  • An analysis of the implications of the information obtained for the child’s future safety and meeting of his or her developmental needs considering the following:
    • Risks: What are we worried about? And why? Include what factors you consider to pose risk of significant harm or increase the risk of harm to the child/children?
    • Historical/Complicating Concerns: Information about previous concerns or factors from the parent’s own childhoods which could increase the risk. Include issues around wider family and environmental issues;
    • Strengths: What’s working well? Features of family life and parenting that have a positive effect on the child/ren’s lives;
    • Grey Areas: This should incorporate any areas that are unclear or require further clarity;
    • Safety/Protective Factors: This is anything that fully addresses or mitigates the risks/harm;
    • What do you believe to be the likely outcome for the child(ren) if their current situation continues?
    • What would reduce your concerns? What do you believe will make this child or children safe?
    • What areas of risk or concern can your agency help the parents/carers to resolve? Briefly describe what contribution your service can make to the child(ren) and parent/carers.

The written report format should be completed using the agreed template which can be accessed here: Multi-Agency Report to Initial Child Protection Conference.

Practitioners should always consider whether it is appropriate and safe to disclose full family details in their reports, including details of address. This is particularly important in cases of domestic abuse, and where a child is placed away from home.

In most circumstances, the report should be shared with the family (and child if of sufficient age and understanding) prior to submitting it to the Safeguarding Unit.

In exceptional circumstances and where agreed in advance with the chair, it may not be appropriate to share confidential information with the family prior to the conference. This may include police reports which contain sensitive or confidential information which is intelligence-based and cannot be shared with the families. The information may be discussed at the professionals’ preparation part of the meeting at the beginning.

Where it is not possible for an invited practitioner or their delegate to attend or for them to submit a written report they should contact the Chair of the conference in advance to give their information.

A practitioner may hold relevant third party information where authority to pass that information on is restricted, for example by code of practice or by request. In this case they should discuss with the Chair prior to the conference if or how this information can be shared with the meeting. See Information Sharing and Confidentiality Procedure.

If the Chair is unclear about sharing the information legal advice should be sought.

All those providing information should take care to distinguish between fact, observation, hearsay, allegation and opinion.

All who attend the conference should be able to easily understand the reports. They should be available in the preferred language of the parents/carers or adapted to meet individual communication needs (e.g. Braille).

Copies of all written reports should be provided to the family at least two days in advance of the conference. It is acknowledged that the urgency of some conferences may prevent this. In these cases, the practitioner concerned should make every effort to discuss with family members the likely content of the report.

12.2 The Report from the Social Worker

The Lead Social Worker should provide the conference with a written report using the single assessment. There needs to be a clear focus on the key information required under the Strengthening Families Framework (see Section 10.1, Strengthening Families Framework Methodology) that should inform the decision-making for conference. The report must be approved by the social worker’s Line Manager with additional comments where appropriate to demonstrate robust management oversight.

Where decisions are being made about more than one child in a family, there should be a separate report prepared on each child, including an unborn baby.

The report should be shared with the child (of sufficient age and understanding) and parent/s carers prior to conference and submitted to the Safeguarding Unit at least two days prior to the conference.

The social work report should include:

  • Chronology of key significant events and agency and professional contact with the child and family;
  • Information about the child’s development; past, current and future needs;
  • Information about the parenting capacity of the carers to keep a child safe and meet his/her needs in a consistent manner;
  • Information about the family history and how this impacts on the child’s development and family functioning;
  • An assessment of the child’s development needs in relation to the dimensions of the Assessment Framework – see Children's Assessment Protocol and Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families;
  • Analysis of the information obtained as part of the assessment and the implications of this information on the child. The report should discuss whether the child is likely to suffer significant harm and how their needs should be met. This analysis should consider how the child’s health and development is affected by the parenting they receive and how the wider family and environment is affecting the child. Risk and strengths should be considered;
  • A professional opinion as to whether the threshold of significant harm has been met for each child;
  • 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 expressed views, wishes and feelings of the child, parents, and other family members;
  • A proposed plan that takes account of the needs of each child.


13. The Role of the Conference Chair

The Conference Chair is accountable to the Director of Children’s Services. They should be a professional who is independent of operational/line management responsibilities of the case. They should be at a level senior enough to ensure that all agencies are committed to the Child Protection Plan. The person that chairs the initial conference, should, where possible, be the person that chairs the review conference in order to ensure continuity.

If the Conference Chair has concerns about the practice of any practitioner involved in the Child Protection Conference, they can initiate the Challenge Protocol – for more information see: Practice Resolution Protocol: Resolving Professional Differences of Opinion in Multi-Agency Working with Children and their Families, Challenging Practice Issues that Arise in Child Protection Conferences.

13.1 General Duties

The Chair should:

  • Ensure that the conference remains focused on the child and that the child’s interests transcend those of the parents/carers where there is conflict;
  • Manage the business of the conference, provide procedural guidance, facilitate information sharing and discussion between all conference members be able to chair a meeting in a way that allows the child, family and professionals to contribute in a meaningful way, at the same time as focusing on the welfare of the child;
  • Ensure the agenda is adhered to and clear decisions are reached and an outline plan agreed consistent with the child protection procedures;
  • Help to identify gaps in knowledge about the child and family and assist in clarifying the roles and tasks of core group members;
  • Make sure that the decisions/recommendations of the conference are clear to everyone;
  • Ensure that the conference is assisted in addressing equalities issues.

13.2 Meeting with Family Members

The Chair should meet the parents/carer, the child, and their supporters/advocates, before the conference is due to begin. It is worth spending time with the family to explain the process. Many families think ‘Child Protection Plans’ mean the social worker is going to take their child away. It is important to reassure the family that, in actual fact, it is the opposite.

The Conference Chair should tell families that if the practitioners involved with the family were that worried, the social worker would be recommending court proceedings. This process means we hope that with the right level of support they can make the necessary changes to ensure their child is safe and thrives.

The conference should begin at the arranged time, so sufficient time should be allowed beforehand for this meeting. The social worker should ensure that arrangements are made for family members to arrive in good time.

The Chair should:

  • Explain the agenda and purpose of the meeting to the parents and child if of sufficient age and understanding and intending to participate in the conference;
  • Explain the agenda and purpose of the meeting to the parents/carers;
  • Remind the parents/carer and child of the exclusion criteria;
  • Clarify with them why they are invited:
    • The conference will be discussing them;
    • It is important that they hear the information about the risk to the child;
    • It is important the conference hears their views on what is reported;
    • It is important they know how and why decisions are made;
    • They need to be involved in planning.
  • Be clear about whether parents/carer/child have read relevant reports and whether or not they understand their content;
  • Discuss with them the purpose of the professionals meeting at the beginning of the conference;
  • Answer any questions they may have about the meeting;
  • Reaffirm that they should be able to give their views about whether or not their child requires a Child Protection Plan, but may not take part in making the decision;
  • Explain there may be a confidential section of the meeting and whether or not they will be excluded for that discussion;
  • Explain the role of the minute-taker, that minutes will be provided to them of the parts of the meeting they attend, and make available pen and paper where required; and
  • Explain the confidential nature of the meeting.

Parents/carers should be advised of their right to appeal a decision made by the Child Protection Conference – for more information see Appeals in Relation to Child Protection Conferences Procedure.

13.3 Agenda

The Chair is responsible for ensuring a conference agenda is followed which includes the following:

  • A statement of the type of and reason for the conference, drawing attention to the confidential nature of the information shared and the need to ensure that no off-the-record comments are made;
  • Introductions, names, positions and connections with the case. The Chair should ensure that all those present have a role to play and that they understand what that role is;
  • The Chair should go through the agenda of the meeting and give an indication of how individuals should participate;
  • Ensuring reports submitted are read and understood by participants, including parents/carers, child and their advocates or supporters;
  • Giving a chronological factual account of the reasons for referral, subsequent Section 47 Enquiries/police investigation, the Child's Assessment to date and the outcomes;
  • The agenda should follow the processes in line with the Strengthening Families Framework – for more information see Section 10, Child Protection Conferences using the Strengthening Families Framework;
  • Each practitioner should be given the opportunity to share their knowledge of the family, and the Chair should ensure that they are not interrupted. Opportunities should be provided for questions and clarification of facts;
  • The views of parents/carers and children should be sought, directly or via their advocates;
  • The Chair should briefly summarise the main points of the discussion, both positive and negative, and then move the meeting on to consider an assessment of risk and a plan to meet the child’s needs;
  • The Chair should assist the conference to develop an Outline Plan;
  • Once the outline plan has been drawn up, the Chair should outline the criteria for the need for a Child Protection Plan and offer guidance to the conference (see Implementation of a Child Protection Plan - Lead Social Worker and the Core Group Responsibilities Procedure, The Child Protection Plan);
  • The conference should make a decision about the need for a Child Protection Plan or child in need plan;
  • If the child is made subject to a Child Protection Plan, the Conference Chair should make a decision about which category of abuse or neglect the Child Protection Plan is addressing (physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect);
  • If the child is not made subject to a Child Protection Plan, the conference should consider whether the Child's Assessment is completed, or what further assessment is needed, and ensure arrangements are in place to consider with the family what further help and support can be offered to them, e.g. Early Help or Child in Need.


14. Decision Making at a Child Protection Conference

The child protection conference needs to consider whether a child has suffered Significant Harm or is at risk of significant harm in the future. The test for Significant Harm should be that either:

  • The child can be shown to have suffered ill-treatment or impairment of health or development as a result of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or Neglect, and professional judgement is that further ill-treatment or impairment are likely; or
  • Professional judgement, substantiated by the findings of enquiries in this individual case or by research evidence, is that the child is likely to suffer ill-treatment or the impairment of health or development as a result of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect.

For more information see Practice Guidance: Significant Harm - The Impact of Abuse and Neglect.

When coming to a decision about whether a child should be the subject of a Child Protection Plan, the practitioners at the child protection conference should consider all the information available to them, through reports and what has been shared at the conference.

The decision making process should be in line with the Strengthening Families Framework - for more information see Section 10, Child Protection Conferences using the Strengthening Families Framework.

The conference has the responsibility to make the following decisions:

  • Decide who the lead social worker is - a qualified social worker and an employee of Children’s Social Care. For information about the role of the lead social worker, see Section 11, The Role of the Social Worker;
  • Identify members of the core group of practitioners and family members who will continue to develop the Child Protection Plan and ensure that it is implemented;
  • Decide how the child and family (extended if appropriate) should be involved in the assessment and intervention process;
  • Decide on timescales for the meetings of the core group and production of the Child Protection Plan, as well as for reviewing the decisions of the initial child protection conference;
  • Determine what is needed to complete the assessment of a child and his/her family and whether any specialist assessments or inputs are required;
  • Core group membership should be recorded and communicated in writing to all those invited to the conference;
  • Ensure that there is a clear contingency plan if the actions on the Child Protection Plan are not followed or it is determined that the child cannot be kept safe at home.

The following template should be used to record the decisions made for the outline Child Protection Plan: Decision and Review Plan Template.

Responsibility for professional judgements on the need for a Child Protection Plan rest with all practitioners involved. The Chair’s role is to raise issues, ask questions and give procedural guidance that will facilitate a consensus being reached between agencies in the best interests of the child and in accordance with these procedures.

Any practitioner can disagree with the decision made for the child to be made subject (or not) to a Child Protection Plan by following the procedures in Practice Resolution Protocol: Resolving Professional Differences of Opinion in Multi-Agency Working with Children and their Families.

In exceptional circumstances where a consensus cannot be reached, the Chair is responsible for ensuring that decisions are made which, in the opinion of the Chair, most clearly reflect the interests of the child and these procedures. On this basis the Chair has the power to veto or override the decision. Contrary to the majority decision, the Chair may decide to make the child subject to a Child Protection Plan where, in his/her opinion, the criteria for significant harm are met, or decide not to do so.

The Chair should minute the basis for this decision and there should be immediate management oversight of the decision within 24 hours, and a notification will be sent to the LSCB and consideration given as to whether a Multi-Agency Review Group (MARG) review process should be undertaken. 

If the Chair decides that the criteria are not met, the child would not be subject to a Child Protection Plan but would be “stepped down” to a Child in Need Plan or Early Help plan. If the Chair is of the opinion that the criteria are met, the child would become or remain subject to a Child Protection Plan.

Opportunities should be given for members of the conference to dissent from the decision made by the Chair, and this will be recorded in the minutes. The practitioner can also challenge the decision by following procedures in Practice Resolution Protocol: Resolving Professional Differences of Opinion in Multi-Agency Working with Children and their Families.

In exceptional circumstances, for example, if insufficient information is available, an initial child protection conference decision may need to be deferred/the meeting adjourned. In such cases a safe plan for the child should be put in place in the interim period, until the re-convened child protection conference is held.

If the Conference Chair is concerned that a practitioner (including a social worker) or agency fails to meet the expected requirements of a Child Protection Conference, the Conference Chair can initiate the formal Challenge Protocol – for more information see Practice Resolution Protocol: Resolving Professional Differences of Opinion in Multi-Agency Working with Children and their Families, Challenging Practice Issues that Arise in Child Protection Conferences.

The Challenge Protocol is intended to ensure that all practitioners carry out their roles and responsibilities appropriately to safeguard and promote the welfare of children/young people who are subject of a Child Protection Conference. The Challenge Protocol does not replace existing reporting and accountability mechanisms or processes that already exist and are in operation within and between organisations, such as the Practice Resolution Protocol: Resolving Professional Differences of Opinion in Multi-Agency Working with Children and their Families.

Parents/carers should be advised of their right to appeal a decision made by the Child Protection Conference – for more information seeAppeals in Relation to Child Protection Conferences Procedure.


15. Child Not at Continuing Risk of Significant Harm

If a decision is taken that the child is not at continuing risk of Significant Harm, and therefore making the child subject to a Child Protection Plan is not appropriate, a Child in Need Plan or referral to Early Help should be considered, informed by the Child's Assessment. This will require the consent of the parent / carer. For more information see Early Help Guidance: Integrated Working With Children, Young People and Families With Vulnerable or Complex Needs.


16. Action Following the Initial Child Protection Conference

16.1 Talking to Parents/Carers/Children about Decisions and Outline Plan

It should be the responsibility of the Lead Social Worker to discuss the outcomes of the conference with the parents/carer /family as appropriate, as soon as possible. The Lead Social Worker should explain the plan to the child in a manner which is in accordance with their age and understanding and agree the plan with the child.

The purpose is to ensure that they:

  • Understand the decisions that have been made and the implications of these;
  • Are aware of the purpose of the Child Protection Plan;
  • Understand their role and rights in any future work; and
  • Are aware of their rights regarding the complaints procedure.

Where parents have had no significant contact with their children, and are unlikely to have future involvement, a decision must be made about whether or not to notify them of the outcome of the conference. Consideration should be given according to what is in the child’s best interests.

16.2 Minutes of the Child Protection Conference

A written record of the child protection conference should be made by a dedicated administration person. The minutes of the conference should include the essential facts, a summary of the discussion at the conference, which clearly records the contributions made by professionals and family members, and the notes from the flipchart or whiteboard recorded as part of the conference discussion.

Additionally, the minutes should record all of the decisions reached with the reasons for those decisions and a copy of the outline Child Protection Plan or child in need plan.

The outline child in need plan or Child Protection Plan should be sent out to all professionals who were invited to the conference (including those who were not able to attend) within one working day.

The minutes should include:

  • The essential facts of the case;
  • A summary of the discussion which accurately reflects the contributions made;
  • All decisions and the outline Child Protection Plan, enabling everyone to be clear about their tasks.

The conference record, signed by the Conference Chair, should be sent to all those who attended or were invited to the conference including the family as soon as possible, but within 20 working days of the conference. Any amendments should be received within one week of receipt of record.

The Conference Chair should decide whether a child should be given a copy of the record. The record may be supplied to a child's legal representative on request.

The Lead Social Worker should provide the parents/carer/ family, and the child where appropriate, with written information about the decisions and the agreed outline plan from the conference, in the language and form that meets their communication needs, as soon as possible. This may well be in addition to the minutes of the meeting.

The confidential section of any minutes should not be available to family members.

The Chair should always consider whether it is appropriate and safe to disclose full family details in the minutes, including details of address; this is particularly important in cases of Domestic Abuse, and where a child is placed away from home.

In addition, a copy should be sent to the child’s GP, the School Designated Safeguarding Lead, and the Designated Nurse in Child Protection.

The minutes are confidential and should not be passed by professionals to third parties, without either the consent of either the Conference Chair or the Lead Social Worker. However, in criminal proceedings the police may be obliged to reveal their existence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in accordance with the Criminal Procedure and Investigation Act 1999, and in other proceedings concerning children the court may order their disclosure.

Each agency should retain the conference minutes within the child’s file and ensure that they are destroyed in due course in line with the agency’s file retention and destruction policies.


17. Transfer of Cases to Rotherham where the Child/Young Person is the Subject of a Child Protection Plan from Another Local Authority

When it is planned or known that a child subject to a Child Protection Plan is moving to another authority, the responsible authority should notify Rotherham Children's Social Care Team via the MASH – see Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) or the Rotherham Safeguarding Unit (inc LADO).

Any Rotherham practitioner or agency that becomes aware that a child or young person who has a Child Protection Plan is moving or has moved into the Rotherham area should immediately notify the Children's Social Care Team via the MASH – see Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) or the Rotherham Safeguarding Unit (inc LADO). If the child or young person has not already been notified to the MASH or Safeguarding Unit by the responsible authority, the MASH or Safeguarding Unit Manager will contact the responsible authority to clarify whether this is a planned or unplanned and temporary or permanent move.

At the point of notification, the Rotherham CSC Safeguarding Unit will:

  • Record the child as a Child subject to a Child Protection Plan;
  • Request information from the originating Local Authority, including copies of the Initial Child Protection Conference and the last Review Conference minutes from the originating area;
  • Inform the relevant Children’s Social Care Services team of the details of the incoming child;
  • Inform the Designated Nurse;
  • Make arrangements to hold an Initial Child Protection Conference within 15 working days of the notification of the child moving in;
  • Request representation from the originating local authority’s Children’s Social Care Services to attend the conference to ensure that up to date and accurate information is shared and discussed;
  • Confirm the outcome of the Initial Child Protection Conference with the originating local authority Safeguarding Unit Manager and forward a copy of the Conference Minutes for their records.

The relevant Children’s Social Care Services team will:

  • Undertake enquiries to ensure that protective action is taken in order to safeguard the child in Rotherham until the Initial Child Protection Conference has taken place;
  • Undertake an assessment to determine whether the child is likely to be at continuing risk of Significant Harm and work with the child and family to prepare for the Initial Child Protection Conference.

The responsible (transferring) Local Authority should retain both case and lead social worker accountability until the Transfer In Conference.

The Rotherham Children's Social Care Team should commence the Child's Assessment. This should involve liaising with the appropriate Children's Social Care personnel in the responsible (transferring) Local Authority, ensuring that all relevant documentation has been obtained and determining a plan that will adequately safeguard the child/young person, identifying the responsibilities of each agency and practitioner (e.g. Designated Nurse) within this. The Rotherham Children's Social Care Team must ensure that they have access to the child/young person's file records within the timescales required for their assessment.

A child should not be left without a Lead Social Worker.

Any departure from 15 working days should be in consultation with a Senior Manager and should not jeopardise the welfare of the child.

The Lead Social Worker and other relevant Core Group members from the transferring Local Authority should be invited to the Transfer In Conference. The Conference should be conducted according to the procedures outlined in Section 10, Child Protection Conferences using the Strengthening Families Framework.


18. Transfer of Cases to Another Local Authority where the Child/Young Person is the Subject of a Child Protection Plan and Rotherham is the Responsible Authority

Where a child or unborn baby (or their parent/s or carers) subject to a Child Protection Plan moves out of Rotherham or plans to move out of Rotherham, any professional who becomes aware of the move or plan to move, must inform the child’s Lead Social Worker.

If it is a planned move, the Core Group members should be informed of the move and help to facilitate contact with equivalent agencies in the new area.

The Lead Social Worker will:

  • Check with the family to confirm if possible, if the move is not planned;
  • If the move has happened or is imminent or not part of the Child Protection Plan, will immediately inform the Children’s Social Care Services in the new area of the change in the child’s circumstances;
  • Send the child’s relevant personal details to the new area including a copy of the most recent Child Protection Plan and Child Protection Conference minutes;
  • Inform the Service Manager, Safeguarding Unit of the changes;
  • Inform the Core Group of the change in circumstances;
  • If the move is expected to be permanent, request a Transfer Child Protection Conference in the new area, provide a report for the conference and attend;
  • Make sure the correct new address is displayed on the electronic case management system.

Only when the new area has made a decision whether the child is to become subject to a Child Protection Plan or not at a Child Protection Conference should the Child Protection Plan be discontinued in Rotherham. The date this is recorded is the date the Child Protection Conference was held in the new area when the decision is made. 


Appendix 1: Flowchart for Action Following an Initial Child Protection Conference

Click here to view Appendix 1: Flowchart for Action Following an Initial Child Protection Conference.

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