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3.5 Initial 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.

In exceptional circumstances where there is a delay, the reasons for the delay must be agreed by the Children's Social Care manager and the Conference Chair and clearly recorded by all.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in March 2022 to note the first child protection conference will be scheduled within three months of the initial conference or within 20 working days after the birth of the baby, whichever is the sooner. (See Section 8, Prebirth Conferences).


Contents

  1. When an Initial Child Protection Conference Should be Convened
  2. Purpose of Initial Child Protection Conference
  3. Timing of Initial Child Protection Conference
  4. Convening the Conference
  5. Who Should Attend?
  6. Quorum / Involved Practitioners
  7. Information for the Conference
  8. Prebirth Conferences
  9. Involving the Child in the Conference
  10. Involving Family Members in the Conference
  11. Chairing the Conference
  12. Actions and Decisions for the Conference
  13. The Outline Child Protection Plan
  14. Recording of Conferences

    Appendix 1: EHAT Assessment Checklist

    Appendix 2: Impact Measurement Guide to Scaling

    Appendix 3: Template for Submitting Information to a TAF Meeting


1. When an Initial Child Protection Conference Should be Convened

An Initial Child Protection Conference should be convened wherever there is an increased likelihood of suffering Significant Harm. The aim of an Initial Child Protection Conference is to enable those most involved with the family and family members, to assess the relevant information and plan how best to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child.

An Initial Child Protection Conference is a meeting of professionals and representatives of agencies involved with the family and family members, including children, where appropriate.


2. Purpose of Initial Child Protection Conference

The purpose of the conference is to:

  • Share and analyse, in a multi-agency setting, the information obtained during assessment and Section 47 Enquiries, information about the child's health, development and functioning, about the parent's ability to respond to the needs of the child, to ensure the child's safety and promote the child's health and development;
  • Make judgements about the likelihood of a child suffering Significant Harm in the future and decide whether the child is at an increased likelihood of suffering Significant Harm;
  • Decide what future action is required to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child, how that action will be taken forward and with what intended outcomes;
  • Where the child is considered to be at risk of continuing Significant Harm, a Child Protection Plan must be agreed, specifying what action is required to reduce the risk to the child;
  • Where the child is not considered to be suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm, a Child In Need Plan should be agreed, specifying the action to be taken to support the family in meeting the needs of the child;


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 Strategy Discussion took place, of the Strategy Discussion at which the Section 47 Enquiry was initiated.


4. Convening the Conference

Initial Child Protection Conferences are arranged by the Safeguarding Unit (Children's Social Care), and are normally arranged after the child's social worker (or team manager) has completed a Record of Outcome of Section 47 Enquiries requesting an Initial Child Protection Conference to the Safeguarding Unit. Given the 15 working day timescale it is therefore important that, once a decision has been made to request a Child Protection Conference, there is no unavoidable delay in submitting the Record of Outcome of Section 47 Enquiries Form. The Form should include the details of those who will be invited to the conference.


5. Who Should Attend?

The Safeguarding Unit will make arrangements for the conference and will invite to the conference, representatives of all agencies who have a significant contribution to make, based on their knowledge of, or involvement with the family, or on their professional expertise. Particular agency representatives will always be invited to conferences, including a representative of the appropriate police through the MASH, the health visitor where a child below the age of five is concerned, the school nurse where a school age child is concerned, the Safeguarding Children Specialist Nurse/Manager and the Designated Child Protection Co-ordinator, Head Teacher or other member of the teaching staff, where school age children are concerned.

Consideration should be given to inviting the Children's Guardian where one has been appointed, and staff in the youth justice system where relevant.

Anyone invited to the conference will be expected to attend and if unable to do so should send apologies to the Safeguarding Unit, and ensure that either the conference is attended by another appropriate representative of the agency and/or a written report is available to the conference and sent to the Chair of the conference and/or the social worker in advance of the conference. The social worker should make such reports available to the Chair of the Conference two working days before the Conference.

On the occasion a Solicitor attends, they must comply with the Law Society guidance 'Attendance of solicitors at local authority Children Act Meetings' and related Code of Conduct (2011).

Requests for observers to attend conferences must be made to the Safeguarding Unit with sufficient notice to allow the social worker to seek the views of family members prior to the conference The potential for learning and induction through observing Child Protection Conferences is recognised. However, parents and children must be able to give informed consent without any pressure.

Other than family members and the social worker, who should arrive at the conference venue 30 minutes before the start of the conference, conference attendees should arrive at the conference venue at least 15 minutes before the start of the conference to allow time to read through any tabled reports before the start of the meeting.

It should be exceptional that a professional leaves the meeting before its conclusion, even if the duration of the meeting is longer than anticipated. This should only happen if it is completely unavoidable. It should never be the case that the allocated social worker leaves before the end of the meeting.

The child's social worker who has met the child should attend the ICPC unless unavailable and delay would be detrimental. In such circumstances the team manager for the case should discuss the reasons with the conference chair.


6. Quorum / Involved Practitioners

The Initial Child Protection Conference will normally only be quorate if, in addition to Children's Social Care, the views of two other agencies with direct knowledge of, or involvement with the child or family, are represented. In circumstances where the child and family do not have involvement with Children's Social Care and two other agencies, the conference may be considered quorate with fewer agencies represented, on the judgement of the Chair of the conference. For example, a family with one child under school age, who does not attend any form of day-care provision and has no identified special needs, may only be involved with Children's Social Care and the health service.

When a conference is inquorate it should not ordinarily proceed and in such circumstances, the Conference Chair must ensure that :

  • An interim protection plan is produced; or
  • The existing plan is reviewed with the professionals and family members that do attend, so as to safeguard the welfare of the child/ren;
  • Another Conference date must be set immediately.


7. Information for the Conference

Children's Social Care should provide a written report for the conference, The Single Assessment and Section 47 Enquiries  and information contained in existing records relating to the family. The report should analyse the implications of this information for the child's future safety, health and development.

The Social Worker's Report to Conference 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 Single Assessment in Liquid Logic is used as the report for the Initial Conference and the Social Worker Report for Review CP Conference Form for review conferences.

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 Chronology of significant events and agency and professional contacts with the family;
  • 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;
  • Nationality and Immigration: Conferences should routinely seek to establish / confirm the nationality and immigration status of children and families. This will ensure that, where required, families can be signposted for immigration advice and support. Furthermore, if as EU / EEA nationals they have been granted pre- settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme - it will ensure practitioners can also support them to apply for settled status at the point at which they accrue 5 years’ continuous residence in the UK (see GOV.UK, Switch from pre settled status to settled status);
  • 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 Assessment Framework dimensions to reach a judgment 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; and
      • The local authority's recommendation to the conference.

The social worker should provide a copy of the report to the parents, and child where appropriate, at least two working days prior to the conference and should provide the opportunity for discussion of the contents of the report. It should not be assumed that all parents and children are able to read the report and a verbal account of the report should be offered.

The author of the report should ensure that the Safeguarding Unit are provided with a copy of the report at least 2 working days before the conference.

If the child's social worker or team manager need to seek legal advice, they should forward a copy of the conference report to the Local Authority's legal advisors at least 24 hours before the conference, and be in a position to provide details of the advice given at the conference. In certain situations it may be appropriate for legal advice to be provided to the conference by a legal representative.

Other professionals contributing to the conference should provide a written report using the appropriate LSCP Child Protection Conference Report Form. Note:

Appendix 1: EHAT Assessment Checklist is the form Local Authority, Health and other staff focussing on the child/family should complete.

Appendix 2: Impact Measurement Guide to Scaling is the form for use by Merseyside Police and others focussing on the adult members of the family and should be treated as Confidential within the conference process unless otherwise agreed by its author.

Please also refer to Appendix 3: Template for Submitting Information to a TAF Meeting.

The content of the report should be shared fully with the parents/carers by the author of the report, unless the author believes this will place any person at serious risk of harm. If the author believes that any information included in the report should not be shared between all parties or openly in the conference, the author must indicate so in the report. The author has a responsibility for ensuring that the sensitivity of the information is brought to the attention of the Chair in advance of the conference.

All written reports to conference should be:

  • Written in line with Sign’s of Safety guidance;
  • Distinguish between fact, observation, allegation and opinion;
  • Clear when information is provided from another source.


8. Prebirth Child Protection Conferences

In circumstances where concern about future likelihood of suffering Significant Harm to an unborn child emerges, an Initial Child Protection Conference can be convened prior to the birth of the child.

A Prebirth Child Protection Conference should have the same status and process as any other initial conference. 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.

Midwifery and Health Visiting services should both be included in all conferences where an unborn child is considered and in any prebirth planning. The health visitor should ensure that the appropriate GP is made aware of any identified risks and of any plans made.

Future likelihood of suffering Significant Harm in relation to the unborn child of an adult living within the same household as a child subject of a Child Protection Plan should be considered at a Child Protection Review Conference prior to the birth. It would therefore not normally be necessary to convene a conference specifically for the unborn child.

Prebirth Child Protection Conferences or Review Conferences where an unborn child is to be considered, should be held no later than the 34th week of the pregnancy and ideally sometime between the 28th and 34th week of the pregnancy.

The first child protection conference will be scheduled within three months of the initial conference or within 20 working days after the birth of the baby, whichever is the sooner.

See Careline Children's Services - Referral Process for Pre-Birth Assessment (Local Flowchart).


9. Involving the Child in the Conference

The social worker should inform any child within the family of sufficient age and understanding of the arrangements for and the purpose of the conference. Subject to consideration of age and understanding, the child should have the opportunity and be encouraged to attend if he or she wishes and to bring an Advocate, friend or supporter.

Criteria for Attendance of Child at Conference

The key considerations are:

  • Does the child have sufficient understanding of the process?
  • Have they  expressed an explicit or implicit wish to be involved?
  • What are the parent/s’ views about the child’s proposed presence?
  • Is inclusion assessed to be of benefit to the child?

The test of ‘sufficient understanding’, is partly a function of age and partly the child’s capacity to understand. A guiding principle is that usually a child of 10 or over should be invited to attend and a child under 10 should not.

Where the child does not wish to attend, or it is inappropriate for her/him to attend, the reasons for the child's non-attendance should always be stated and the social worker should ensure that the wishes and views of the child are communicated to the conference by the social worker or another appropriate professional, or by alternative means such as the use of a written statement, completed consultation document, voice on a tape or a video recording.


10. Involving Family Members in the Conference

Following the decision to convene a Child Protection Conference, the social worker should:

  • Inform the parents of the arrangements for the conference;
  • Invite them to attend;
  • Inform them that they may bring an advocate, friend or supporter to the conference;
  • Inform them of the purpose, process and decision making powers of the conference.

The social worker should share the report for the Conference with the family at least two working days prior to the conference and prepare them for the conference. Any family members who plan to attend the Conference should be encouraged to attend in good time for the start of the Conference.

In cases where there is a high level of conflict between parents it may not be possible for both parents to attend the conference together. Such considerations, which relate to the management of the conference, should be discussed with the Chair in advance of the conference who will facilitate the separate attendance of both parents where appropriate.

In exceptional cases it may be necessary to exclude a parent from part or all of the conference if:

  • There is a strong risk of violence or intimidation by the parent at or subsequent to the conference, towards a child or other family member or towards anyone else involved in the conference or working with the family;
  • The parents are in dispute with each other and attendance together would engender conflict and be disruptive;
  • Professional staff hold relevant confidential information on one parent/carer which the other parent/carer might not be aware of (and that information is essential to the conference and could not be disclosed in the presence of both parties).

If a parent is subject of a criminal investigation, or has been charged with an offence, linked to the reason for the conference, the advice of the police or Crown Prosecution Service should be sought by the Chair of the conference in deciding on whether the parent should attend all or part of the conference. 

The decision to exclude a parent or carer rests with the Chair of the conference and the reasons for excluding parents should always be stated and recorded at the conference. The starting point must be a commitment to participation of parents in all conferences, with exclusion the exception.

When a parent is not able to attend, due to exclusion or any other reason, or chooses not to attend, the social worker should ensure that his or her views are communicated to the conference.


11. Chairing the Conference

A professional who is independent of operational or line-management responsibilities for the case should chair the conference. In Liverpool, conferences are chaired by Independent Reviewing Officer and Child Protection Conference Chairs employed by Liverpool City Council, but independent in terms of the line of management, of any professional or agency involved with the family or attending the conference. Wherever possible the Chair will have had no previous involvement with the family other than chairing previous conferences or Looked After Children Reviews.

The conference Chair will:

  • Discuss the case beforehand with the social worker or team manager to clarify issues around the attendance or participation of family members, and any other issues, such as whether legal advice has been sought and the nature of that advice;
  • Meet the child and family members before their attendance at the conference to ensure that they understand the purpose and process of the conference;
  • Explain to those present at the conference the purpose and agenda of the conference, and draw attention to the issues of being committed to promoting equality, valuing diversity and confidentiality;
  • Enable all those contributing to the conference to make a full contribution to the discussion and decision making;
  • Ensure that the conference takes the decisions required in an informed, systematic and explicit way.


12. Actions and Decisions for the Conference

The conference must decide whether the child should be subject of a Child Protection Plan

The questions to ask as part of the decision-making process are: 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:

  • The child can be shown to have suffered ill-treatment, or impairment of health or development as a result of Physical Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Sexual Abuse, or Neglect, and professional judgement is that further ill-treatment or impairment are likely; or
  • Professional judgment 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.

If the child is at an increased likelihood of suffering Significant Harm, it will therefore be the case that safeguarding the child requires inter-agency help and intervention delivered through a formal Child Protection Plan. It is also the role of the Initial Child Protection Conference to formulate the outline Child Protection Plan in as much detail as possible.

The decision that a child should be the subject of a Child Protection Plan is a decision for the conference. Children's Social Care will make a proposal to the conference and other participants will be invited by the Chair to express their views.

The decision should be based on the views of all agencies and professionals represented at the conference in person or in writing. The judgement of participants in the conference should be based on all the available evidence and information.

Where the conference cannot reach a consensus, the chair of the conference will decide on whether the child should be subject of a Child Protection Plan, based on the various views of members of the conference and the Chair's view of whether the child is at an increased likelihood of suffering Significant Harm. Any difference of opinion should be recorded in full.

The Chair of the conference should determine which category of abuse or Neglect the child has suffered or is likely to suffer from the following list:

The decision should reflect the primary presenting concern, and be agreed by a consensus of conference members where possible.

The conference must name a Lead Social Worker for any child subject of a Child Protection Plan. In Liverpool, a Lead Social Worker will be named from Children's Social Care and should always be a social worker rather than team manager or support worker (see Lead Social Worker and Core Group Responsibilities Procedure, Role of Lead Social Worker of Implementation of the Child Protection Plan).

If the conference decides that a child should not be the subject of a Child Protection Plan, it may still be necessary to consider the child's needs and what further services the family may require to promote the child's health and development and meet these needs. With the agreement of the family it may be necessary to complete the Single Assessment and other assessments if not completed. In circumstances where multi- agency involvement will be required, a Child In Need Plan should be agreed and reviewed by multi- agency meetings no less than once every six months. See Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families, DHSC, 2000, paragraphs 4.33 - 4.36.

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. The Outline Child Protection Plan

The agreeing of a Child Protection Plan confers no protection on a child in itself, nor any legal powers on the agencies involved. The Outline Child Protection Plan agreed at the conference should bring together recommendations on how the agencies, professionals and family members should work together to safeguard the child. The Outline Child Protection Plan should also indicate what is expected of family members and of those professionals and agencies working with the family.

This plan should be further detailed and expanded on by the Core Group following the conference.

The Outline Child Protection Plan should:

  • Identify factors associated with the likelihood of the child suffering Significant Harm and ways in which the child can be protected from harm through an inter-agency plan based on the current findings from the assessment, including information held by agencies on any previous involvement with the child and family;
  • Identify what further or specialist assessments are required to make judgements on how to protect the child;
  • Establish how family members should be involved in the ongoing assessment, planning and implementation of the plan, and the support, advice and advocacy that should be made available to them;
  • Establish short and long term aims and objectives that are clearly linked to preventing the child suffering harm or a recurrence of the harm suffered, meeting the child's developmental needs and promoting the child's welfare, including contact with family members;
  • Be clear about who will have responsibility for what actions - including actions by family members - within what specified timescales;
  • Outline ways of monitoring and evaluating progress against the planned outcomes set out in the plan;
  • Consider contingency plans if agreed actions are not completed or circumstances change. It should be clear about which professional is responsible for checking that the required changes have taken place and what action will be taken, by whom, and when they have not.

The Chair of the conference will record the Child Protection Initial Conference Outcome Form agreed at the conference in Liquid Logic within one working day.

The Safeguarding Unit will circulate a copy of the Child Protection Initial Conference Form to all those invited to the conference, within one working day. It is the social worker's responsibility to visit parent(s) to give them a copy and discuss it.

The conference should also identify the membership of the Core Group, which must meet within 10 working days of the conference, and agree the date of the first Core Group meeting. If a date for the first Core Group cannot be agreed at the conference the Chair of the conference will record the latest date by which the Core Group should meet in the Outline Child Protection Plan.

The conference should agree a date for the Review Conference, within 3 months of the Initial Conference and agree under what circumstances it may be appropriate to reconvene at an earlier date.


14. Recording of Conferences

All Child Protection Conferences, both Initial and Review, will be attended by a member of the Safeguarding Unit, dedicated to taking notes and producing a written record of the conference.

The written record will:

  • Include the essential facts of the case, summarise discussion at the conference, accurately reflecting rather than reproducing the contributions made;
  • Record the decisions reached together with an explanation of how or why the decision was made;
  • Contain the Child Protection Plan agreed at the Conference.

A copy of the written record or notes will be circulated to all those invited to the conference, as soon as possible, within 15 working days of the conference.

In cases where the conference has recommended that the local authority take legal advice and consider legal action, by way of referral to the Legal Advice and Gate Keeping Panel, the Safeguarding Unit will undertake to produce the minutes of the relevant conference within 24 hours, to assist decision-making within each individual agency.

The written record of a Child Protection Plan is a confidential document and should not be passed by professionals to third parties without the consent of the Safeguarding Unit.


Appendices

Appendix 1: EHAT Assessment Checklist

Appendix 2: Impact Measurement Guide to Scaling

Appendix 3: Template for Submitting Information to a TAF Meeting

End