As a parent or carer the events leading to this child protection conference may have been stressful and possibly left you feeling confused, angry and upset. The aim of this leaflet is to explain why a conference is being held and how you can have your say.
Child protection enquiries are undertaken when a member of the public or an agency reports concerns that a child may be being harmed or neglected. When the enquiries show that a child may have been harmed or may be harmed in the future, a meeting called a child protection conference is held.
The purpose of the meeting is to share information about:
At the meeting, a decision will be made as to whether your child/ren have been harmed or are at risk of being harmed in the future.
Your invitation letter will include a list of people who have been invited to the conference. However, these people are always invited:
Depending on your child’s age and the circumstances, the following people may be asked to attend:
Parents or carers are almost always invited because it is important that your views are listened to and that you are involved in any plan to protect your child. However, there are occasions when parents or carers are not invited, for example, when threats have been made against someone who has been invited to the conference, or if their attendance would make police enquiries difficult.
If it is decided that you will not be allowed to attend, you will receive a letter explaining why. If you don’t agree with the decision you do have a right to complain by writing to the conference chair (you will find the address at the end of this leaflet).
It is important that you attend, as the conference will be talking about your child and family. If you don’t attend, the conference may go ahead without you. Your social worker will then explain what happened at the conference and you will receive a letter telling you what decisions have been made along with a copy of the minutes.
Your child may be invited, but this will be a decision of the person chairing the meeting. When making a decision the chairperson has to decide if it is in your child’s best interests to attend the conference and this will depend on your child’s age and understanding of what is happening.
Yes, the person chairing the conference will ask for your views and comments throughout the meeting. However, we know that conferences can be difficult for many parents or carers to say everything that they want to say. Later in this leaflet there is some advice to help you prepare for the conference.
Parents or carers may bring a friend or advisor (e.g. a solicitor) for support. This will need to be someone you can trust to give you good advice and to keep the personal details about your family confidential. However, if you do bring someone with you they are there only for your support and must not give their views or opinions.
If you intend to bring a supporter with you to the conference please inform your social worker. Normally only one supporter may attend the conference. If you wish to bring more than one supporter you must discuss this with the social worker beforehand.
You will be asked to come 15 minutes early to meet the person who will be chairing the meeting before the meeting starts. Everyone attending the meeting will be asked to introduce him or herself and explain how they are involved. The chairperson will explain the reason for the conference and everyone will be asked if they have anything to say which is relevant to your child and family. This will include concerns about your child as well as looking at the strengths within your family. At each stage you will be asked if you wish to comment on anything that has been said, or to add anything.
The chairperson will summarise what has been said, this will be followed by a discussion about the potential future risk to the child. Finally, a decision will be made as to whether the child’s name should be placed on the child protection register. If it is decided to place your child’s name on the Child Protection Register, your child will be given a Key Worker and the conference will be asked to recommend what should happen next.
The only decisions a conference can make is whether your child needs a Child Protection Plan and if so the name of the key worker. If your child is felt to need a Child Protection Plan the conference will recommend what sort of help your family may need to make sure that your child is safe.
Although the only decision a conference can make is whether to place a child needs a Child Protection Plan, there are rare occasions that it will recommend that Children's Social Care should apply for a court order to protect a child when it is felt that the risk is very high.
Parent, carers, and children have a right to complain about the conference, including the decision to make a child subject to a Child Protection Plan. If you think that the conference didn’t do something that it was supposed to or didn’t have all the relevant information or you were treated disrespectfully, please see or ask for a copy of the leaflet ‘How to complain’.
After the conference you will receive a letter telling you about the decisions that were made. Later you will receive a written record of what was said at the conference.
At the conference, if it was decided your child needed a Child Protection Plan, you will be invited to a ‘Core Group’ meeting. The purpose of the Core Group is to sort out the details of the child protection plan.
A date will also have been set for a review conference to be held within three months. The review conference will look at what has happened and decide whether your child continues to need a Child Protection Plan.