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1.4.2 Child Protection Conferences

AMENDMENT

In August 2017, Section 5, Appeals Procedure, was updated with regards to the challenge must be received within 10 working days following receipt of conference minutes.


Contents

  1. Initial Child Protection Conference
  2. The Child Protection Review Conference
  3. Young People’s Participation in the Child Protection Process
  4. Decision to Cease a Child Protection Plan
  5. Appeals Procedure
  6. Appendix 1: Participation at Child Protection Conferences Flowchart


1. Initial Child Protection Conference

See also Pan Lancashire Policy and Procedures for Safeguarding Children Manual, Initial Child Protection Conferences Procedure.

An Initial Child Protection Conference will be convened whenever a Section 47 Enquiry concludes that an inter-agency Child Protection Plan is likely to be necessary to safeguard the welfare of a child or young person.

An Initial Child Protection Conference (or transfer Child Protection Conference, where the child's / young person Is already subject to a Child Protection Plan in another Local Authority) must take place within 15 working days of the Strategy Discussion at which the decision was made to initiate Section 47 Enquiries, or within 15 days of the request for a transfer or referral being accepted.

The purposes of an Initial Child Protection Conference are:

  • To bring together and analyse in an inter-agency setting the information which has been obtained about risks to the child's developmental and unmet needs, and the parents' or carers' capacity to respond to these risks and unmet needs to ensure the child's safety and promote the child's health and development within the context of their wider family and environment;
  • To consider the evidence presented to the conference, make judgements about if the child has suffered Significant Harm, the likelihood of a child suffering Significant Harm in future and decide whether the child is at continuing risk of Significant Harm; and to make a multi-disciplinary decision as to what future action is required to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child, reduce the level of risk of harm, how that action will be taken forward, and with what intended outcomes.

Where a child is to be the subject of a Child Protection Plan, it is the responsibility of the conference to outline the high risk factors and decide who needs to be on the Core Group. The Core Group needs to meet with 10 working days and the outline plan will have been developed into a Child Protection Plan. Consideration needs to be given and make recommendations, on how agencies, professionals and the family should work together to ensure that the child will be safeguarded from harm in the future. This should enable both professionals and the family to understand exactly what is expected of them and what they can expect of others.

Specific tasks include the following:

  • Appointing the Lead Social Worker, who should be an experienced Children's Service Social Care social worker;
  • Identifying the membership of a Core Group of professionals and family members who will develop and implement the Child Protection Plan as a detailed working tool;
  • Establishing how children, parents (including all those with Parental Responsibility) and wider family members should be involved in ongoing assessment, planning and implementation process, and the support, advice and advocacy available to them;
  • Establishing timescales for meetings of the Core Group, production of a Child Protection Plan, and for child protection review meetings;
  • Identifying in outline what further action is required to complete the Children and Family Assessment and what other specialist assessments of the child and family are required to make sound judgements on how best to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
  • Outlining the Child Protection Plan, especially, identifying what needs to change in order to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
  • Ensuring a contingency plan is in place if agreed actions are not completed and / or circumstances change, for example if a caregiver fails to achieve what has been agreed, a court application is not successful or a parent removes the child from a place of safety;
  • Clarifying the different purpose and remit of the initial conference, the Core Group, and the Child Protection Review Conference; and agreeing a date for the first Child Protection Review Conference, and under what circumstances it might be necessary to convene the conference before that date.

In addition, it is the responsibility of the chair of the conference to record the category of the Child Protection Plan. The categories are Physical Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Sexual Abuse or Neglect.

Where the conference concludes that a Child Protection Plan is not needed but support could be provided under Section 17, this needs to be agreed with the family's consent.

Where the conference concludes that Child Protection Plan is not needed and the family does not wish for any further support from Children’s Services the case should be closed.


2. The Child Protection Review Conference

See also Pan Lancashire Policy and Procedures for Safeguarding Children Manual, Child Protection Review Conferences Procedure.

The first Child Protection Review Conference should be held within three months of the Initial Child Protection Conference. Further reviews should be held at intervals of not more than six months.

A review conference may also be convened in response to new or escalating concerns or where the Core Group concludes that a review conference is necessary. In such cases, the Lead Social Worker should convene a review conference by telephoning the conference administrator and confirming the need for an early review in writing.

The review conference requires as much preparation, commitment and management as the Initial Child Protection Conference. The Lead Social Worker must follow all the steps, outlined previously, in preparing for conference. The decisions from the conference should be completed in PROTOCOL authorised by the Reviewing Officer and circulated.

In particular, the Lead Social Worker, with contribution from the Core Group, must ensure that measures to support the participation of the family are implemented and that information and reports are shared with them in advance of any meeting.

The purpose of the review conference is to consider the safety, health and development of the child / young person against intended outcomes set out in the Child Protection Plan, to ensure that the child / young person continues to be adequately safeguarded and to consider whether the Child Protection Plan should continue in place or whether changes are required.

Where the Child Protection Plan is to continue, the Core Group should meet within 10 working days to up-date the Child and Young Person's Plan. The updated plan should be distributed within 5 working days of the Core Group meeting, the signed copy should be placed on the child / young person's file. The PROTOCOL record should be up-dated and the plan attached.


3. Young People’s Participation in the Child Protection Process

The Local Authority has a duty to ascertain the wishes and feelings of children and young people, are able to participate and contribute to any Child Protection process they are involved in.

The Local Authority must act in the best interest of the child and engage in a process that causes least damage to the child / young person.

The child/young person should be advised of the advocacy services available and how to access this.

Policy Statement on Participation

Participation means that the child is aware of, informed about and encouraged to communicate something about each Child Protection process that relates to them and could result in significant life changes being decided on their behalf.

Participation can mean personal contributions at any stage of the process and could take the form of letters, drawings, telephone contact, having their views represented by others or personal attendance at meetings concerning themselves.

Participation should be actively encouraged in order to:

  • Achieve more effective protection for young people;
  • Assist in achieving improved and more open working relationships with families and young people;
  • Fulfil the rights of young people to be involved and comment upon major decision-making in their lives;
  • Fulfil the requirements of the Children’s Act and article 12 of the UN Convention on the rights of the child.

It is recognised that attendance at Child Protection Conferences can be very daunting and the child / young person must be supported if they express an interest / desire to attend the conference. The support needs to be tailored to the needs of the child / young person and should ensure they are appropriately prepared and able to fully participate in accordance with their age, ability and aptitude. Consideration should be given as to the appropriate person to offer the tailored support.

Procedures to Enable Participation

On the commencement of a Section 47 Enquiry the social worker will instigate communication with the child / young person on the processes involved in Child Protection Procedures. This will include ensuring that the child / young person understands the opportunities for them to participate in the processes and the importance of expressing their views and wishes. This will be achieved by:

  • At the first point of contact the social worker will provide the child / young person with a child friendly leaflet explaining Child Protection processes;
  • An appropriate person will be identified to complete direct work with the child / young person to elicit their wishes and feelings;
  • The social worker will discuss with the child / young person how the information will be communicated;
  • The child / young person can identify an appropriate person to ensure their wishes and feelings are communicated; or referral for an advocate can be made if appropriate
  • The child / young person can communicate through other means such as drawings, letters, or utilising IT;
  • The child / young person must have a clear understanding of the conference processes prior to making a decision to attend for the whole or part of the conference;
  • The child / young person must have a clear understanding of the purpose, who will be there and confidentiality issues prior to attending conference.

At the point of convening a Child Protection Conference, a discussion will take place between the Chairperson (IRO) and the child’s social worker in order to establish:

  • How the child / young person’s views have been elicited in the Child Protection process;
  • What form their participation will take in the conference;
  • By providing written information;
  • Someone speaks on behalf of the child;
  • Child speaks directly at the Child Protection Conference;
  • Child is supported through other forms of communication (technology);
  • A clear plan for managing the conference will be agreed with the social worker and Chairperson should the child / young person choose to attend the conference;
  • Consideration needs to be given to parental participation and any conflicts of interest which may impact on the child / young person’s participation or well being;
  • Consideration needs to be given as to the potential impact on the child / young person in respect of the formality of the conference, environment and information shared by other professionals;
  • Consideration needs to be given as to whether a closed section is required and how this will be organised and explained to participants;
  • Permission to attend conference should be sought from the parents;
  • Consideration should be given to any potential objections from the parents to ensure the child / young person is able to participate in the process;
  • This may influence the type of participation for the child / young person;
  • The social worker will negotiate with parents how this will impact on the child / young person’s involvement;
  • The chairperson will be available prior to conference to meet with the child / young person;
  • The Chairperson will consult with parents in order to positively facilitate the child / young person’s participation;
  • The Chairperson will ensure all other attendees are aware of the child / young person’s attendance at conference;
  • The Chairperson is responsible for facilitating introductions for child / young people ensuring the language is appropriate, and managing the process in a way that is not oppressive to the young person;
  • The Chairperson will ensure that there is due consideration given to children and young people participating in Core Groups;
  • This will be discussed between the social worker and chairperson prior to conference. The details around participation in core groups will be agreed in conference;
  • The Chairperson will be available following conference to further advise the young person in respect of the outcomes of the conference should the child / young person wishes to do so.

Decision to Attend Conference

The key considerations are:

  • Does the child / young person 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 / young persons’ proposed presence;
  • Is inclusion assessed to be of benefit to the child?
  • Would it be more beneficial to the child / young person to participate in Core Groups.

See Appendix 1: Participation at Child Protection Conferences Flowchart.


4. Decision to Cease a Child Protection Plan

The decision to cease a Child Protection Plan will usually be made at a Child Protection Review Child Protection Conference. A child's / young person's Child Protection Plan should be discontinued if:

  • It is judged that the child is no longer at continuing risk of Significant Harm requiring safeguarding by means of a Child Protection Plan (for example, the likelihood of harm has been reduced by action taken through the Child Protection Plan; the child and family's circumstances have changed; or re-assessment of the child and family indicates that a Child Protection Plan is not necessary). Under these circumstances, only a Child Protection Review Conference can decide that a Child Protection Plan is no longer necessary;
  • The child and family have moved permanently to another local authority area. In such cases, the receiving local authority should convene a Child Protection Conference within 15 working days of being notified of the move, only after which event may discontinuing the Child Protection Plan take place in respect of the original local authority's Child Protection Plan;
  • The child has reached 18 years of age, has died or has permanently left the UK.

When a Child Protection Plan is discontinued, notification should be sent usually following the Child Protection Review Conference, as a minimum, to all those agencies representatives who were invited to attend the Initial Child Protection Conference that led to the plan.

If there are significant changes during the period between Review Child Protection Conferences and the Core Group's assessment is that the need for a Child Protection Plan no longer exists, the Lead Social Worker should discuss the case with their Team Manager. The Team Manager should contact the Independent Reviewing Officer to discuss bringing forward the Review Child Protection Conference.

A child who is no longer the subject of a Child Protection Plan may still require additional support and services and discontinuing the Child Protection Plan should never lead to the automatic withdrawal of help. The Lead Social Worker should discuss with the parents and the child what services might be wanted and required, based upon the re-assessment of the needs of the child and family.

Where support is to continue, a planning meeting should be held within 10 working days of the conference decision to discontinue the Child Protection Plan. A Children in Need Plan needs to be established and reviewed in line with the Children in Need Planning and Review Process Procedure.


5. Appeals Procedure

This procedure outlines actions that will take place in relation to appeals against:

  • DECISIONS MADE AT CHILD PROTECTION CONFERENCES;
  • OPERATION OF CHILD PROTECTION CONFERENCES.

This procedure outlines:

  • The circumstances in which appeals about the management of Child Protection Conferences and the decisions that can be made;
  • How such appeals are to be resolved;
  • Who can appeal;
  • How other complaints about the management of Child Protection Cases should be dealt with.

When an Appeal can be Made

There are three circumstances in which an appeal can be made under this procedure:

  1. That the conference has not been run properly and in accordance with Blackburn with Darwen Safeguarding Children Procedures;
  2. That the decision to make a child subject to a Child Protection Plan does not meet the threshold criteria;
  3. That the decision not to make a child subject to a Child Protection Plan breaches the threshold criteria.

This procedure can only be used for adjudicating on one or more of the above issues. Any disagreement or complaint about aspects of the case management or the ongoing delivery of services following conference will be directed to the particular agency concerned and will be investigated under their Complaints Procedure.

Who can Use this Procedure

  • Children/young people, parents, carers and/or advocates (if they are representing and attending conference with, or on behalf of a person in the above category);
  • Any professional working with the family.

How to Access this Procedure

Anyone wishing to challenge the decision of a Child Protection Conference under one or more of the above criteria should put the request in writing to:

Service Leader Review and Quality
Safeguarding Unit
Childrens Services
10 Duke Street
Blackburn
BB2 1DH

Or email: cpunit@blackburn.gov.uk

All professionals should discuss or raise the awareness of their direct line manager prior to submitting the appeal.

The challenge must be received within 10 working days following receipt of conference minutes and must explicitly demonstrate how:

  • The threshold for child protection has been met but the conference decision was not to place on a plan;
  • The threshold for Child Protection has not been met but the child has been made subject to a plan;
  • The conference has not been run properly and in accordance with Blackburn with Darwen Safeguarding Children Procedures.

How an Appeal will be Dealt with

On receipt of a request to appeal the decision the Service Leader, Review and Quality will organise and chair a panel to hear the appeal:

  1. The panel will include senior representatives from health, police, Children’s Social Care and voluntary sector. There will be a minimum of three representatives at each panel meeting;
  2. Prior to the panel meeting, all representatives will consider all reports and information presented at conference which will include the conference minutes;
  3. The appellant will have the opportunity to present their objections and evidence how they believe the threshold has/has not been met;
  4. The appellant may bring a representative for support but not to participate;
  5. The purpose of the panel is to consider all information available and either uphold or overturn the decision of the conference.

Outcome of the Appeal

The appellant will be notified of the panel’s decision within ten working days by the Service Leader, Review and Quality.

If the appeal is upheld:

  • Child does not meet the threshold and should not be subject to a Child Protection Plan;
  • Child meets the threshold and should be subject to a Child Protection Plan;
  • The conference was not run properly and in accordance with Blackburn with Darwen Safeguarding Children Procedures.

The Service Leader, Review and Quality will notify the conference chair, Children’s Social Care manager and associated partners of the outcome and ensure records reflect the change of decisions.

Minutes of the panel meeting will be circulated to all involved in the original conference and all partners will be asked to amend their records to reflect the decision of the panel

If the appeal is not upheld:

  • The child meets the threshold and remains subject to a Child Protection Plan;
  • The child does not meet the threshold and does not need to be subject to a Child Protection Plan;
  • The conference was run properly and in accordance with Blackburn with Darwen Safeguarding Children Procedures.

The Service Leader, Review and Quality will contact the Conference chair, Children’s Social Care manager and associated partners and inform them of the outcome of the appeal.

The decision of the appeals panel is final and not subject to further appeal.


Appendix 1: Participation at Child Protection Conferences Flowchart

Click here to view Appendix 1: Participation at Child Protection Conferences Flowchart.

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