The initial child protection conference follows s47 enquiries where there are [concerns] of continuing risk of [harm] to a child/ren.
The conference brings together family members (and the child where appropriate), with the supporters, advocates and practitioners most involved with the child and family, to make decisions about the child’s future safety, well-being and development.
The tasks for ALL agency participants are:
to objectively analyse:
all the concerns and the information which has been obtained from the s47 enquiries;
family strengths and protective factors;
s47 enquiry assessment findings to date;
any additional relevant assessments;
previous knowledge of the family history and involvement with services.
consider the evidence presented to the conference, make judgements about the likelihood of a child suffering abuse or harm in the future and decide whether the child is at continuing risk of significant harm;
decide what future action is required:
to safeguard and promote the well-being of the child so they can achieve their personal outcomes,
specify how that action will be taken forward, and with what intended child-centred outcomes;
plan how best to safeguard and promote the well-being of the child.
The initial child protection conference should take place within 15 working days of the last strategy discussion/meeting.
The chair of the conference should be satisfied, however, that sufficient information is likely to be available, in order for the conference to make an informed judgement about continuing risk of harm to the child. In exceptional circumstances the chair may wish to postpone the conference, but in doing so must be satisfied that the child is protected, and the conference is rearranged as soon as is possible.
Those invited to conferences should have a significant contribution to make, arising from their practitioner expertise, their knowledge of the child or family, or both. Attendance should be limited to those who need to be there.
Consideration should be given to inviting the following people:
the child, caregivers, family members, including all those with parental responsibility and their support/advocates;
social services practitioners who have undertaken the s47 enquiries and/or, if the conference is called because a child on a care and support plan is believed to be at risk of harm, the social worker/practitioners who are involved in the plan;
a representative of the child’s school, pre-school, FE college (where the child is of appropriate age);
any other education staff involved with the child e.g. education welfare officer/ educational social worker, educational psychologist or youth worker;
the locality or community paediatrician and/or examining doctor;
the child’s GP;
the health visiting service/school nurse/midwife/senior nurse child protection and other relevant health practitioners;
child and adolescent mental health services;
the national probation service and community rehabilitation companies;
youth offending service;
the NSPCC (when operational in the area);
local authority legal services (children and families);
adult mental health services/substance misuse services;
family support services/day care services;
Women’s Aid or any other voluntary or independent organisation involved;
a representative of the armed services, in cases where there is a service connection.
The appropriate social services manager, in conjunction with the social worker allocated to the case, will decide whom to invite.
All those who have been invited must give priority to attending and they should be informed of others invited to the conference.
If care proceedings have started and a children’s guardian has been appointed, they should be invited to the conference. However, they attend child protection conferences in an observer capacity and must avoid becoming part of the conference decision-making process. It is the chair’s responsibility to ensure this distinction in role is maintained.
Members attending must have enough information and evidence to make informed decisions. However, there should be a balance between this requirement and making the conference larger than necessary, thus inhibiting discussion and intimidating child and family members. This can be problematic if there is a large sibling group.
A minimum of three agencies or practitioner groupings that have had direct contact with a child will normally need to be present before a conference can proceed. In addition, other attendees who do not have direct knowledge of the child may be invited by virtue of their practitioner expertise or responsibility for services.
If the conference is about an unborn child, it is essential that midwifery and health visitor services are involved.
Situations may arise whereby only two agencies or practitioner groupings are present, where for example, in exceptional circumstances, the child has not had contact with three agencies. In these circumstances, the chair of the conference has the discretion for the conference to proceed, if they are satisfied that essential information is available, particularly from the key agencies involved. The decision and rationale to proceed must be recorded within the record of the conference.
For example: The concerns centre on the parents’ care of their 9-month-old, but a criminal offence has not been committed and police are unable to attend. In this case only social services and health are involved with the family and the chair decides to proceed.
All practitioners and agencies invited to attend a child protection conference must submit a written report, whether or not they are able to attend.
Any necessary protective action to secure the safety of a child at risk of harm must not be delayed because a child protection conference is pending.
Conferences should not normally last for more than 2 hours. Family members and indeed practitioners may struggle to concentrate if conferences are longer for the following reasons:
they are actively listening and trying to absorb significant information in an environment in which they are unfamiliar;
family members are likely to be anxious and stressed, which in turn affects the ability to concentrate.
Practitioner concerns about risk of significant harm may apply to a sibling group, for example in cases of neglect and emotional harm. In these situations, consideration should be given to the feasibility of analysing and making decisions about all the children’s future safety, well-being and development during one conference. In certain circumstances it may be necessary to hold more than one conference to ensure that the care and support protection needs of the various siblings are given the necessary attention.
This is a conference that focuses on the unborn child and should take place:
following a pre-birth assessment that concludes that an unborn child may be at risk of significant harm;
when a previous child has died or been removed from parent/s as a result of significant harm;
if other children in the family or household are on the register and subject to a care and support protection plan;
when an individual known to pose a risk to children resides in the household or is known to be a regular visitor;
there is evidence that adult-oriented issues such as mental ill-health, learning disabilities, alcohol and substance misuse and domestic violence are impacting on parenting;
if the mother is under sixteen about whom there are concerns regarding her ability to care for herself and/or to care for the child.
The conference should take place to allow as much time as possible for planning support for the baby and family.
The conference should:
identify issues related to the care of the unborn child and following birth;
consider how these issues can be addressed prior to and after birth.
The child’s name cannot be placed on the child protection register until they are born.