4.6 Conference Chair
Last updated 14/07/2021
All child protection conferences will be chaired by an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO), accountable to the Director of Children’s Services. S/he must not have or have had, operational or line management responsibility for the case. Wherever possible, the same person should also chair subsequent child protection reviews in respect of a specific child.
The chair must meet with the family, child and key social worker prior to the conference to ensure they understand the purpose of the conference and how it will be conducted.
Introducing the conference, the chair should:
- Set out the purpose;
- Confirm the agenda;
- Emphasise the need for confidentiality;
- Address equal opportunities issues, e.g. specifying that racist, homophobic and threatening behaviour will not be tolerated;
- Clarify the contributions of those present, including supporters/advocates of the family.
During the conference the chair should ensure that:
- They use the Signs of Safety methodology;
- The conference maintains a focus on the welfare of the child;
- Consideration is given to the needs and circumstances of all the children in the household;
- All those present, including the parents and child/ren if present, are enabled to make a full contribution and that full consideration is given to the information they present;
- Information from the reports of those not present is made known to the conference (the reports should have been circulated before the conference);
- The wishes and feelings and lived experience of the child/ren are clearly outlined;
- Issues of race, religion, language, class, gender, sexuality and disability are fully taken into account in the work of the conference;
- Appropriate arrangements are made to receive third party confidential information;
- Appropriate arrangements are made for those attending only part of the conference;
- The conference reaches decisions in an informed, systematic and explicit way;
- All concerned are advised/reminded of the Appeals Procedure;
- Ensure that arrangements are made with the children’s social worker for absent child/ren and/or parents to be informed of the decisions of conferences.
DISCONTINUING A CHILD PROTECTION PLAN
The conference should use the same decision-making process to reach a judgement for when a child protection plan is no longer needed. This includes situations where other inter-agency planning might need to replace a child protection plan.
A child may no longer need a child protection plan if:
- A review conference judges that the child is no longer at risk of significant harm and no longer requires safeguarding by means of a child protection plan;
- The child has moved permanently to another local authority; provided the receiving authority has convened a transfer child protection conference and confirmed in writing responsibility for case management;
- The child has reached eighteen years of age, has died or has permanently left the UK.
When a child is no longer subject to a child protection plan, notification should be sent, as a minimum, to the agencies’ representatives who were invited to attend the initial conference that led to the plan.
When a child protection plan is discontinued the keyworker must discuss with the parents and child/ren what services might be wanted and required, based on the re-assessment of the needs of the child and family. A child in need plan should be developed for any continuing support. The plan should be reviewed at regular intervals of no more than every six months.
CHILD DOES NOT REQUIRE A CHILD PROTECTION PLAN
If the conference decides that a child is not at continuing risk of significant harm then the conference should not make the child the subject of a child protection plan.
The child may nevertheless require services to promote his or her health or development. In these circumstances, the conference should consider the child’s needs and make recommendations for further help to assist the family in responding to them.
Subject to the family’s views and consent, it may be appropriate to:
- Make recommendations about support and help;
- Establish commitment to inter-agency working, particularly where the child’s needs are complex (this should involve a child in need plan or an early help plan which are regularly reviewed).
DISSENT FROM THE CONFERNCE DECISION
If an agency does not agree with a decision or recommendation made at a child protection conference their dissent will be recorded in the minutes of the conference.
If a practitioner concludes that a conference decision places a child at risk, he/she must seek advice from her/his named or designated or lead professional or manager in implementing the escalation procedure.
The practitioner and their manager are responsible for ensuring that the issue is resolved before the child exposed to further risk of significant harm. They should do this by making verbal and written representation to the conference chair. If this fails to resolve the issue, they should follow the procedure provided in Section 13, Information Sharing, Escalation procedure.
If parents/carers disagree with the conference decisions, the chair must further discuss their concerns and explain the appeals process.