4.5 Child Protection Review Conference
Last updated 23/09/2021
PURPOSE OF REVIEW CONFERNCE
The purpose of the child protection review conference is to review the safety, health and development of the child against the intended outcomes set out in the child protection plan.
The review conference requires as much preparation, commitment and management as the initial child protection conference. The same procedures and expectations should be followed for review conferences as for initial conferences.
Thorough regular review is critical to achieving the best possible outcomes for the child and includes:
- Sharing and analysing up-to-date information about the child’s health, development and functioning and the parent/carer’s capacity to ensure the child’s welfare and promote their welfare.
- Ensuring that the measures already in place to safeguard the child from harm are effective.
- Making changes to the child protection plan e.g. where a family is not co-operating or there is evidence of disguised compliance.
- Deciding what action is required to safeguard the child if there are changes to the child’s circumstances.
- Setting or re-setting desired outcomes and time scales.
- Seeking and taking into account the child’s (possibly changed) wishes and feelings.
- Making judgements about the likelihood of the child suffering significant harm in the future. Such a judgement should be based on a current risk analysis.
- Deciding whether there is a need for an updated Social Care led assessment.
Each individual agency representative has a responsibility to produce a report for the Core Group. The social worker then has the responsibility to provide a report representing the collective view and recommendations to the child protection review. This should be provided to the parents (and where appropriate the child) 3 days before the Review Conference. (See Sefton LSCB CP Conference Report Template)
Every review should consider explicitly whether the child continues to be at risk of significant harm, and hence continues to require safeguarding from harm through adherence to a formal child protection plan.
If not, then the child should no longer be the subject of a child protection plan, the conference should consider what continuing support may benefit the child and family.
TIMING OF REVIEW CONFERENCE
The first child protection review conference should be held within 3 months of the date of the initial child protection conference.
Further reviews should be held at intervals of not more than 6 months for as long as the child remains the subject of a child protection plan (unless the initial conference was a pre-birth conference).
It is the Safeguarding Children’s Unit responsibility to convene Child Protection Review conferences, and the social workers responsibility to confirm the details of the professionals and family members required to be invited.
Where necessary, reviews should be brought forward when:
- Child protection concerns relating to a new incident or allegation of abuse have been made or emerged;
- There are significant difficulties in carrying out the child protection plan;
- A child is to be born into the household of a child or children already subject to child protection plans;
- An adult or child who is a risk to children is to join or commences regular contact with the household;
- There is a significant change in the circumstances of the child or family not anticipated at the previous conference and with implications for the safety of the child;
- A child subject to a Protection Plan is also looked after by the local authority and consideration is being given to returning the child to the circumstances that previously aroused concerns (unless this step is anticipated in the existing Protection Plan);
- A child becomes looked after and the child protection plan needs to be ceased. In these cases it is the responsibility of the social worker to provide a report for an initial LAC review which evidences consideration of the previous CP plan and the Looked After Child’s care plan.
- The Core Group believe that an early discontinuation of the child protection plan should be considered.
ATTENDANCE AT A CHILD PROTECTION CONFERENCE
A conference should consist of those people who have a significant contribution to make because of their knowledge of the child and family or their expertise relevant to the case. This is likely to include:
- The child, or his or her representative;
- Family members (including the wider family);
- Children’s Services staff who have led and been involved in an assessment of the child and family;
- Foster carers (current or former);
- Residential care staff;
- Practitioners involved with the child (e.g. health visitors, midwife, school nurse, children’s guardian, paediatrician, school staff, early-years staff, the GP);
- Practitioners involved with the parents or other family members (e.g. family support services, adult mental health services, probation, the GP);
- Practitioners with expertise in the particular type of harm suffered by the child or in the child’s particular condition – e.g. a disability or long-term illness;
- The Police at an appropriate rank;
- Involved voluntary organisations; and
- A representative of the Armed Services, in cases where there is an Armed Service connection.
A supporter/advocate for the child and/or parents e.g. a friend or solicitor may also be invited.
A practitioner can only attend as an observer with the prior consent of the chair and the family and must not take part in discussions or decision-making.
Practitioners who are invited but unable to attend for unavoidable reasons should:
- Arrange wherever possible for another agency representative to attend;
- Inform the conference administrator, Safeguarding Children Unit (Tel. 0151 934 3114).
- Submit a written report.
- If the responsible social worker cannot attend, their team manager must attend on their behalf.
The time of day at which a conference is convened and its venue should be determined so as to facilitate attendance from the maximum critical attendees. Conferences should not be scheduled for times when parents or carers will be busy looking after children at home after the end of the school day. If this is unavoidable, Children’s Services should provide appropriate day care for the children to enable the parent/carer’s attendance at the conference.
Babies and young children should not normally be permitted to enter the conference room as they will cause distraction from the business-like nature of the meeting. Parents should be assisted to make arrangements for their care where necessary.
Agencies are expected to share information about the child and family in written form, prior to the conference, whether or not they are able to attend the conference.
QUORUM FOR CONFERENCES
The minimum representation is Children’s Services and at least two practitioner groups or other agencies who have had direct contact with the child who is the subject of the conference. In this context a school is a separate agency from the rest of the local authority’s Children’s Services. Attendees whose contribution relates to their professional expertise or responsibility for relevant services are not counted in determining quoracy.
Where a conference is inquorate it should not ordinarily proceed and in such circumstances the chair must ensure that either:
- An interim Protection Plan is produced; or
- The existing plan is reviewed with the practitioners and the family members who do attend, so as to safeguard the welfare of the child/ren.
Another early conference date must be set immediately.
In exceptional circumstances the chair may decide to proceed with the conference despite lack of agency representation. This would be relevant where:
- A child has not had relevant contact with 3 agencies – e.g. pre-birth conference. Maternity Service must always attend.
- Where sufficient information is available; and
- A delay will be detrimental to the child.
Where an inquorate conference is held, an early review conference should be arranged.
INVOLVING CHILDREN AND FAMILY MEMBERS
The Signs of Safety methodology is firmly rooted in identifying strengths within the family network. Therefore it is important that the principles of partnership with children and parents, carers and wider family members are maintained in the child protection process. The following are minimum requirements for all attendees of the conference and the responsibility of the conference chair to uphold:
- Treat all family members with dignity and respect and offer a caring and courteous service;
- Ensure family members know the child’s safety and welfare have priority;
- Minimise infringement of privacy consistent with protecting the child;
- Be clear about powers and purpose of any intervention;
- Be aware of the impact on the family of professional actions;
- Respect confidentiality and pass on information/observations about the family only with permission or to protect the child;
- Listen to and try to understand the concerns, wishes and feelings of child and family before formulating explanations and plans;
- Learn about the child’s religious, cultural, community and familial context;
- Consider strengths, potential and limitations of family members;
- Ensure all family members know their responsibilities and rights with respect to receipt or refusal of services and its consequences;
- Use simple jargon-free language appropriate to age and culture of each individual;
- Be open and honest about concerns and practitioners’ responsibilities, plans and limitations;
- Allow individuals time to absorb professional concerns and processes;
- Distinguish between personal feelings, values, prejudices and beliefs, and professional roles and responsibilities and seek and use supervision to check achievement of this;
- Always acknowledge errors, failures or oversights and the distress caused to families.
- Most significantly the child’s lived experience must be recognised and understood. Children and young people have a right to have their wishes and feelings heard.
Explicit consideration should be given to the potential of conflict between family members and possible need for children or adults to speak without other family members present.
All parents and carers must be invited to conferences (unless exclusion is justified as described below).
Children should be supported to contribute, either directly by their attendance, if appropriate or indirectly, e.g. by making their views known through a third party, by written statement, etc.
EXCLUSION OF FAMILY MEMBERS FROM A CONFERENCE
Exceptionally it may be necessary to exclude one or more family member from part or all of a conference.
These situations will be rare, and the key social worker must notify the conference chair or Safeguarding Children Unit Service Manager as soon as possible if it is considered necessary to exclude one or both parents for all or part of a conference. The chair should make a decision according to the following criteria:
- Indications that the presence of the parent may seriously prejudice the welfare of the child;
- Sufficient evidence that a parent/carer may behave in such a way as to interfere seriously with the work of the conference such as violence, threats of violence, racist or other forms of discriminatory or oppressive behaviour, or being in an unfit state, e.g. through drug, alcohol consumption or acute mental health difficulty. In their absence a friend or advocate may represent them at the conference;
- A child requests that the parent/person with parental responsibility or carer are not present while s/he is present;
- The presence of one or both parents would prevent a practitioner from making her/his proper contribution through concerns about violence or intimidation (which should be communicated in advance to the conference chair);
- The need (agreed in advance with the conference chair) for members to receive confidential information that would otherwise be unavailable, such as legal advice or information about a criminal investigation;
- Conflicts between different family members who may not be able to attend at the same time, e.g. in situations of domestic violence.
Where a worker from any agency believes a parent should, on the basis of the above criteria, be excluded, representation must be made, if possible at least 3 working days in advance, to the conference chair.
The agency concerned must indicate which of the grounds it believes is met and the information or evidence on which the request is based. The chair must consider the representation carefully and may need legal advice.
If, in planning a conference, it becomes clear to the chair that there may be a conflict of interests between the children and the parents, the conference should be planned so that the welfare of the child can remain paramount.
This may mean arranging for the child and parents to participate in separate parts of the conference and make separate waiting arrangements.
Any exclusion period should be for the minimum duration necessary and must be clearly recorded in the conference minutes.
It may also become clear in the course of a conference that its effectiveness will be seriously impaired by the presence of the parent/s. In these circumstances the chair may ask them to leave.
Where a parent is on bail, or subject to an active police investigation, it is the responsibility of the chair to ensure that the police can fully present their information and views and also that the parents participate as fully as circumstances allow. This might mean that the police officer has to leave a conference after providing information. It is not appropriate for the police to administer a caution to parents/carers prior to the conference; the purpose of the conference is to enable analysis and not to progress a criminal investigation.
The decision of the chair over matters of exclusion is final regarding both parents and the child/ren.
If, prior to the conference, the chair has decided to exclude a parent, this must be communicated in writing with information on how s/he may make their views known, how s/he will be told the outcome of the conference and about the complaints procedure
Those excluded should be provided with a copy of the key social worker’s report to the conference and be provided with the opportunity to have their views recorded and presented to the conference. The chair will determine whether or not the excluded parent should receive minutes of the conference.
If a decision to exclude a parent is made, this must be fully recorded in the minutes. Exclusion at one conference is not reason enough in itself for exclusion at further conferences.
PARENTS AND/OR CHILDREN WHO DO NOT WISH TO ATTEND CONFERENCE
If parents and/or children do not wish to attend the conference they must be provided with full opportunities to contribute their views. The key social worker must facilitate this by:
- The use of an advocate or supporter to attend on behalf of the parent or child;
- Enabling the child or parent to write or tape or use drawings to represent their views;
- Agreeing that the social worker, or any other practitioner, expresses their views.