This page explains Child Protection Conferences, including information on who is able to attend and what will likely be discussed, as well as information regarding child protection plans and their function.
What is a Child Protection Conference?
A Child Protection Conference is a meeting between family members, the child (where appropriate), and professionals involved with the family about a child’s future safety, health and development.
The Child Protection Conference is designed to look at all the relevant information and circumstances to determine how best to safeguard the child and promote their welfare. A Child Protection Conference may be held following an investigation under section 47 Children Act 1989 (a child protection investigation).
The conference will hear information about the family and concerns which have been expressed. There will be a discussion about whether or not the child is at risk of significant harm and whether the child should be placed on a ‘child protection plan’. If it is decided that a child protection plan is necessary, the child’s name will be placed on the child protection register – also known as the ‘at risk’ register.
Guidance on Child Protection Conferences is contained in Working Together to Safeguard Children. This is guidance published by the Department of Education and is designed to ensure that there is a coordinated and child-centered approach to safeguarding.
Who goes to a Child Protection Conference?
The meeting is attended by professionals who know the family and can provide relevant information. This could include the child’s health visitor, teacher, doctor, other health and education workers and specialist police officers. There are other people who may be invited to attend because they have specialist information or knowledge relevant to the child.
Professionals will be required to submit a written report to the Chairperson beforehand.
Parents and carers are encouraged to attend and participate as it is recognised that they have an important part to play in the conference. The social worker and Chairperson both have obligations to help parents and the child understand the conference process and what to expect.
The Chairperson can exclude certain persons from the conference in some situations, for example, where there has been domestic violence. The excluded person should still be allowed to submit their views in writing.
Can a parent bring a friend or relative with them for support?
A parent can request that another person attend the conference if it will help them to express their views. However, this person must be trustworthy as information regarding the family must remain confidential.
It is important that a parent is able to express his or her views at the conference.
A parent is entitled to take their solicitor with them, but the solicitor cannot speak on the parent’s behalf.
The parent should inform the social worker if they have learning difficulties or an issue which affects their ability to communicate effectively. An interpreter can be arranged to attend the conference if English is not the parent’s first language.
Can the child attend the Child Protection Conference?
The child who is the subject of the conference is not required to attend but they can do so if they wish. The Chairperson can refuse to allow the child to attend if it has been determined that their attendance could cause harm or if they are not old enough to understand what is happening.
A child may wish to have the assistance of an advocate or friend to help them express their views and wishes at the meeting. A child can have their legal representative attend the meeting if they are mature enough to instruct a solicitor.
If it is determined that the child should not attend the conference, the child can write to the conference and express their views about the situation. The social worker involved with the case should be able to assist the child with this.
See our page on Advocacy for more information on obtaining an advocate.
Will I be able to be present during the whole Child Protection Conference?
This will depend on the protocol of the relevant local authority. Parents can generally stay throughout the discussion, however they may be asked to leave the conference to allow the professionals involved in the case to seek legal advice.
Local authorities should make available their policy and protocol on child protection conferences.
What happens if I cannot attend the Child Protection Conference?
If the parent cannot attend the conference or chooses not to, he or she can write to the child protection co-ordinator explaining their views or ask the social worker to relay their views to the conference.
Can I see the minutes of the Child Protection Conference?
A parent is able to request the minutes of the Child Protection Conference, but these are confidential and should not be shared with anyone other than the parent’s legal representative. If you have difficulty in obtaining this information you are able to contact the Information Commissioner’s Office on 0303 123 1113.
I am not happy about what happened at the Child Protection Conference, what can I do?
If a parent is not happy about the outcome of a child protection conference or about how the conference has been conducted, they may have a right to appeal dependent upon the policy of the relevant local authority. We would advise the parent to check whether this is available in such circumstances.
If a parent is not happy about how children’s services have acted, they are entitled to make a complaint. A parent should put their concerns in writing to the chair of the Child Protection Committee. See our How to Guide on Complaints against Children’s Services for more information.
What is a Child Protection Plan?
A Child Protection Plan should:
- assess the likelihood of the child suffering harm and look at ways that the child can be protected;
- decide upon short and long term aims to reduce the likelihood of harm to the child and to protect the child’s welfare;
- clarify people’s responsibilities and actions to be taken; and
- outline ways of monitoring and evaluating progress.
When will a child come off of a Child Protection Plan?
A child will no longer be under a Plan:
- when it is judged that the child is no longer continuing to or believed to be suffering significant harm;
- where the child and family have moved permanently to another Local Authority area – the new Local Authority should arrange a Child Protection Conference within 15 days of being notified of the move;
- when the child has reached 18 years old – the LA should conduct a review around the time of the child’s 18th birthday when the plan can be ended;
- if the child has died; or
- if the child has permanently left the UK.
If you wish to initiate a complaint against Children’s Services, detailed information can be found in our How-to Guide. Please note that a fee is charged for this service.