Child protection case conference
Child protection case conference
A Child and Family Assessment commences after a Strategy discussion decides to initiate S.47 enquiries, or when new information on an open case indicates a further assessment should be undertaken. Social Care must initiate a Child and Family Assessment under S.47 (Children Act 1989) in every case where the child is at risk of significant harm.
A Child and Family Assessment is an in-depth assessment which addresses the central or important aspects of the needs of a child and the capacity of his or her parents or caregivers to respond appropriately to these needs within the wider family and community context.
Its principle aims are to provide a comprehensive understanding of the child’s circumstances, inform planning, especially evidence-based planning and case objectives. Social Care has lead responsibility for completing the Child and Family Assessment. Other professionals contribute information they hold about the child, specialist knowledge and advise or undertake specialist assessments.
At the conclusion of the Child and Family Assessment, there should be an analysis of the findings. The social worker may elect to take the concerns raised to conference to enable a multi-agency discussion to take place involving the family to draw together concerns, explore risks, together with any “grey areas” of which little may be known, along with factors which may reduce concern. This usually takes place within 15 working days of a sec 47 assessment being initiated. The social workers analysis of their assessment should be integrated into their report for conference
Time lines for calling together a conference are tight and may result in no more than 8 days’ notice being given to the school of plans to meet. The pressure is therefore on to collate a report, share this with the family no less than 48 working hours before the conference and attend the meeting
Whilst social care is the agency most commonly initiating a conference, other agencies may also request a conference where it is believed that such a meeting will allow information to be shared by professionals, together with the parents/child, to determine potential/actual risk and inform a plan to protect
The Initial Child Protection Conference
Professional will be invited to a pre-conference meeting which takes place 30 mins before the Conference. You must attend this meeting and be prepared to share your report with colleagues; the time should be spent exchanging and reading reports by other professionals detailing their involvement with the family. Information in the reports however should not be discussed as this may lead to a pre judgment being made without the parents being able to ask, clarify or challenge the information shared. After 30 mins the professionals will be brought to the room where the family will already be seated
The meetings will be managed by an independent chair person. He/she will meet with the family having already read through all the reports submitted. The room used for the meeting will have a series of wipe boards in place. These boards are used to collate the issues and concerns being discussed; the chair will begin this process during his/her conversation with the parents/carers. On entering the room, professional will therefore see these boards pre populated with information.
NB :You must share your report with the parents at least 2 working days prior to the Conference if this is an initial and 5 working days if it is a review
The Chair will go through the following:
- Introductions and Apologies
- Status and Purpose of Conference
- Equal Opportunities and Confidentiality Statement
- Appendices and Confirmation of Family details
- Reason for Child Protection Conference- The initial child protection conference brings together family members, the child where appropriate, and those professionals most involved with the child and family, following Section 47 enquiries.
Its purpose is:
- To bring together and analyse in an inter-agency setting, the information which has been obtained about the child’s health, development and functioning, and the parents’ or carers’ capacity to ensure the child’s safety and promote the child’s health and development.
- To reach a consensus about the likelihood of a child suffering significant harm in future; and
- To decide what future action is needed to safeguard the child and promote his or her welfare, how that action will be taken forward, and with what intended outcomes.
- In Bucks the “Strengthening Families” model of conferencing is used. This is a format which facilitates a child focused approach and supports families to engage with the concerns being raised
Pre-Birth Child Protection Conferences
Where Section 47 enquiries give rise to concern that an unborn child may be at future risk of significant harm, the Social Care may need to convene an Initial Child Protection Conference prior to the child’s birth. Such a conference should have the same status, and proceed in the same way, as other Initial Child Protection Conferences, including decisions about whether a plan is needed. The involvement of midwifery services is vital in such cases.
As a school/college you will be asked your professional opinion on the possible risk to the unborn baby if you are attending the conference to share information on other children in the family who are attending your provision.
You will be asked to make a similar judgement on other children in the family who do not attend your school and whom you may have no contact with. This is part of your professional responsibility in attending the meeting, which is why it is important that the DSL is a senior leader and a member of the leadership group. You may be asked to commit resources including time, to progressing plans and should therefore have the required level of authority to do so.
Strengthening families framework
On entering the room where the conference will be held, you will see the following headings on the wall behind the chair person. Some sections may already have things written in them from the conversation the Chair will have had with the family while you and the other professionals were reading the reports.
Information shared at the conference will follow the same format as used in the report template
What were we concerned about and what harm did this cause?
What are the dangers and what are we concerned about now?
What are the complicating factors and what do we need to know more about?
What is working well and what are the protective factors?
What needs to happen next to build safety and reduce concerns?
Name cards will be on the tables on the back of which you will find a Post-it note. You will need this to record where on the scale of concerns (judgement scale) you are based on the information shared.
A safety judgement scale will be used to ensure all participants are able to make a judgement of the safety of the child at the point of conference and this can then be used to assist in measuring parental and professional view of progress by re visiting it in Core groups
(If different judgements, place different people’s number on the continuum so the range is understood)
Scaling in Child Protection Conferences
The scaling tool used in Child Protection Conferences will be amended from 30th April 2018. This will bring Buckinghamshire County Council’s use of the tool in line with the majority of the UK and reinforce the Strengthening Families model of social work practice.
The scale will be:
0 – Zero safety. Concerns are so serious the child needs to be removed from the parent/carer immediately.
10 - Parenting is ‘good enough’ and there is sufficient safety to indicate that social work intervention is no longer required.
Conference participants are asked to use all the available information to scale how safe they think the child’s situation is and explain why they reached their decision. The risks and scaling must be considered for each individual child. We do this to understand how everyone is seeing the risk to individual children and to know when the risk is reducing over time. All conference participants views are valid and can vary. However, significant variations in scaling perceptions should be analysed and explored.
Scaling between 0-4 would usually indicate that the threshold for significant harm is met and the child needs a Child Protection Plan. The Conference Chairs will advise, guide and support participants at the conference in the application of the scale and discussing what lies behind any variations, prior to the multi-agency decision to determine whether the child needs a Child Protection Plan.
Ideally the scaling should take into account the perspectives of the parents/carers, other professionals and the allocated social worker and line manager. Significant variations in scaling perceptions should be analysed and explored.
Important things to know about the Strengthening Families model:
1 Parents should have seen, or know the contents, of any report prior to conference and the conference Chair Person should have received any reports 48 hours before the conference so they can be prepared for the meeting. No new information should be shared in conference that parents are unaware of.
- When information is shared in conference, you will need to differentiate between fact and opinion and you may be asked by the Chair Person to provide the evidence on which the opinion was based.
- The most pertinent points that are raised during discussion will be written on a white board in the conference room under 5 headings (outlined on previous page).
- The conference Chair Person in this model takes a more facilitative role rather than directive. The aim is that the risks to the child identified are “owned” as a whole by the core group rather than individual agency concerns.
Participation and Engagement of Parents and Children
All children aged 10 and over will usually be invited to some or all of their conference dependent on level of understanding and core information being shared. They also can meet with and talk to the Conference Chair Person instead of or as well as attending.
Parents and the child/ren will be invited to attend 30 minutes before conference to meet with the conference Chairperson. The meeting will be held in the conference rooms. This enables the parents and child/ren to be seated and comfortable before the arrival of the professionals and to be able to choose where to sit to feel most comfortable.
During this meeting the Chair will
- clarify if parents and child/ren have received information beforehand,
- that they have had the process explained,
- what their perspective is and how comfortable they are contributing to the meeting.
A key difference with the Strengthening Families model is that after the information is shared and risk to the child or children identified, the plan is developed to address those risks before a decision is made as to the type pf plan that is required. This ensures that “The Plan” is robust and addresses the identified need.
All professionals will be asked their opinion about whether based on the information shared they believe the child/ren has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm, A decision is then required from professionals about the status of the plan.
Even if you have not met the family, you are asked to contribute your opinion as a professional attending the conference on the basis of the information shared and the risks discussed.
The Chairperson is responsible for the conference decision and if there is disagreement, the Chair may encourage discussion between the professionals to reconcile the views shared. In normal circumstances the conference will follow the majority view but in exceptional circumstances, the Chair Person can overrule this.
When the child is not made subject to a Child Protection Plan
A child may not be the subject of a child protection plan, but he/she may nonetheless require services to promote his or her health or development.
In these circumstances, the conference together with the family should consider the child’s needs and what further help would assist the family in responding to them.
Subject to the family’s views and consent, it may be appropriate to continue with a Child and Family Assessment of the child’s needs to help determine what support might best help promote the child’s welfare.
Where the child’s needs are complex, inter-agency working will continue to be important.
Where appropriate, a Children in Need Plan should be drawn up and reviewed at regular intervals – usually no less frequent than every 12 weeks. Child protection Plans are reviewed initially after 3 months at the Review Conference and then again after 6 months.
Please note that information discussed at Conference is strictly confidential and must only be discussed with other individuals who have a ‘need to know’ in order to carry out their professional duties. In considering this, the welfare and protection of the child is foremost and must always take priority. If in any doubt the Conference Chair should be consulted. However, this information, including any confidential section, will always be disclosed if requested by a Court who will decide on any further disclosure.
- There are no absolute criteria on which to rely when judging what constitutes significant harm. Consideration of the severity of ill-treatment may include the degree and the extent of physical harm, the duration and frequency of abuse and neglect, and the extent of premeditation, degree of threat and coercion, sadism and bizarre or unusual elements in child sexual abuse.
Categories of abuse
(Taken from Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018)
Physical Abuse A form of abuse which may include hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer fabricates the symptoms of or deliberately induces illness in a child.
Emotional Abuse is a form of significant harm, which involves the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development. It may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person. It may include not given the child opportunities to express their views, deliberately silencing them or “making fun” of what they say or how they communicate. It may feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children.
These may include interactions that are beyond the child’s developmental capability, as well as overprotection and limitation of exploration and learning, or preventing the child participating in normal social interaction. It may involve seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another. It may involve serious bullying (including cyber-bullying) causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children.
Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of maltreatment of a child, though it may occur alone.
SEXUAL ABUSE is a form of significant harm which involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening.
The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbating, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing. They may also include non-contact activities such as involving children in looking at or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the Internet). Sexual abuse can take place online and technologies can be used to facilitate offline abuse. Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.
NEGLECT is a form of significant harm, which involves the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serous impairment of the child’s health or development. Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse. Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to;
- provide adequate food, clothing and shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment);
- protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger;
- ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate care-givers); or
- ensure access to appropriate medical care of treatment.
It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs.
The Core Group will implement the plan agreed by the Initial Child Protection conference.
Core Group members are jointly responsible for implementing the Child Protection Plan with the social worker whose role it is to ensure development of the plan, alongside completing ongoing Children and Family Assessments and securing contribution from other members as necessary.
The detailed plan should, always taking the child’s wishes and feelings into account:
- Set out what work needs to be done, why and by whom
- Describe identified developmental needs and specify the therapeutic services required
- Include specific achievable child focused outcomes
- Include realistic strategies and specific actions
- Further develop the contingency plan
- Clearly identify roles and responsibilities of professionals and family members
- Set points for reviewing progress usually through regular meetings at intervals of no more than six weeks.
- Set out roles and responsibilities for professionals with routine contact, and a visiting matrix if appropriate
The Child Protection Review Conference
The date of subsequent meetings will be agreed at the end of the conference it is essential to ensure a note is made of this date. Whether a child is subject of a CP or CIN plan, you may find it helpful to use a tracker to enable you to record where and when meetings will be taking place and establishes a time line for reports to be submitted etc. There are x2 versions of a tracker which can be found in the Audit Tool folder in Toolkit for schools on Schools Web it is also in this pack of information. It is crucial for schools/colleges to be fully participatory within this process. Schools/colleges will be the only agency who potentially have daily contact with the child and able to contribute direct evidence of sustained change
The purpose of the Child Protection Review is to;
- review the safety, health and development of the child against intended outcomes set out in the child protection plan;
- to ensure that the child continues adequately to be safeguarded; and
- to consider whether the child protection plan should continue in place or should be changed
The review requires as much preparation, commitment and management as the initial child protection conference. Every review should consider explicitly whether the child continues to be at risk of significant harm, and hence continues to need safeguarding through adherence to a formal child protection plan. If not, then the child should no longer have a plan of protection. A child who is no longer subject to a Child Protection plan may still require additional support and services and this should never lead to the automatic withdrawal of help.
Coming off plan:
A child may come off a plan 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, e.g.:
- The risk of harm has been reduced by action taken through the child protection plan;
- The child and family’s circumstances have changed; emotional development. It may involve conveying to children that they 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 the child’s 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 removal take place in respect of the original Local Authority’s child protection list;
- The child has reached 18 years of age, has died or has permanently left the UK.