Initial Child Protection Conference

Posted on Sunday, 30th Aug, 2015 at 09:39:30 PM
1. Threshold for Convening an Initial Child Protection Conference
An Initial Child Protection Conference should be held where a child may be suffering, or likely to suffer, Significant Harm and may also be considered when:

A Child Assessment Order or Emergency Protection Order is made;

A child who is subject to a Child Protection Plan in a different area moves into the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) area permanently, unless the other authority agrees to retain responsibility for the case;

A person who poses a risk to children is found to be living in or regularly visiting a household with children.

2. Purpose of an Initial Child Protection Conference
The Initial Child Protection Conference brings together family members, the child (where appropriate), supporters/advocates and those professionals most involved with the child and family to:

Bring together and analyse, in an inter-agency setting, the information which has been obtained about the childs developmental needs, and the parents or carers capacity to respond to those needs to ensure the childs safety and promote the childs health and development within the context of their wider family and environment;

Consider the evidence presented to the conference and taking into account the childs present situation and information about his or her family history and present and past family functioning, make judgements about the likelihood of the child suffering significant harm in future and decide whether the child is continuing to, or is likely to, suffer significant harm; and

Decide what future action is required in order to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child, including the child becoming the subject of a Child Protection Plan and the category of this, what the planned developmental outcomes are for the child and how best to intervene to achieve these.

If the decision is for the need of a formal Child Protection Plan then:
Agree the outline child protection plan which stipulates what future action is required to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child, with specific responsibilities and timescales;

Allocate a lead social worker, who is an experienced social worker, for children who are made subject to a child protection plan to develop, coordinate and implement the child protection plan;
Identify a multi-agency Core Group to contribute to, develop and monitor the child protection plan.

3. Timing of Initial Child Protection Conference
This will depend on the urgency of the case and on the time required to obtain the relevant information about the child and family, but should ensure that the child is safe and that the case does not drift. All Initial Child Protection Conferences should take place as soon as practical but always within 15 working days of:

The Strategy Discussion, or the Strategy Discussion at which the Section 47 Enquiry was initiated, if more than one has been held; or
A notification by another local authority that a child subject to a Child Protection Plan has moved permanently into the area;

If legal action fails, and concerns of significant harm remain, a Child Protection Conference should be held immediately (following a Section 47 enquiry if one has not already been undertaken);

Where a Child Assessment Order has been made the Initial Child Protection Conference should be held immediately on conclusion of examinations and assessments.

In exceptional circumstances this timescale can be extended, for example if therein a need for further specialist assessments.

4. Convening an Initial Child Protection Conference, Childrens Social Care. The social worker will:

For Initial Child Protection Conference - contact the Childrens Safeguarding Standards Unit for allocation to an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO). The date and time allocated will be dependent on availability and the timescale in which the conference has to be arranged;

Childrens Safeguarding Standards Units administrators will arrange the venue and send out invitations for the meeting as soon as an appropriate date has been identified. A copy of the invite list should be sent to the Independent Reviewing Officer in advance of the meeting. Conference arrangements will be confirmed in writing to professionals showing all participants and agenda. Family members will receive a separate invitation letter;

Notify designated professionals in Health, Education, Police, Childrens Guardian if appointed, of all Initial Conferences in order that they can supply relevant information. The childs GP should always be invited to a conference and other medical professionals if they know the child.

5. The Decision Making Process
Child Protection Conference members must consider whether the criteria are met in respect of all children in the family or household, based on all the available information including evidence obtained through existing records, agency assessments and any other relevant specialist assessments. The decision making process should be based on the views of all agencies represented at the conference and also take into account any written contributions that have been made. Account must be taken of the views of the parents/child although the decision is made on the analysis of the information and professionals view as to the requirement of a Child

Protection Plan to safeguard the child.
If the threshold criteria are satisfied the Chair of the Child Protection Conference will determine which category of abuse or neglect the child has suffered, or is likely to suffer (see Section 6.1 Categories of Abuse). The category decided will indicate the primary presenting concerns at the time that the child became subject to a Child Protection Plan.

Decisions will normally take place with parents/carers present. The chair of the Child Protection Conference will make the decision as to whether the child should be present at the decision making stage. On meeting the child the chair will discuss the childs view of remaining for the decision making part of the Child Protection Conference. If the child wishes to remain for this part of the Conference, the chair should agree to this as long as this is in the childs best interests and the chair has assessed there is unlikely to be a negative impact on either the child or parent/carer. In the event that the Chair decides it is not in the best interests of the child, or the child does not wish to attend for this part of the Conference, then the child will be given the decisions from the Chair at the conclusion of the Conference. If the child has left the building the social worker will convey the decision.

The decision of the conference and, where appropriate, details of the category of abuse or neglect, the name of the lead social worker (i.e. the social worker who is the lead professional for the case) and the core group membership should be recorded and circulated to all those invited to the conference within one working day.

6. Threshold for Agreeing a Formal Child Protection Plan
The conference should consider the child has suffered Significant Harm and/or is the child likely to suffer significant harm in the future.
The following criteria when determining whether a child should be the subject of a Child Protection Plan:

The child can be shown to have suffered ill-treatment or impairment of health or development as a result of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect and professional judgment is that further ill-treatment or impairment are likely;

Professional judgment, substantiated by the findings of enquiries in this individual case or by research evidence, is that the child is likely to suffer ill treatment or the impairment of health or development as a result of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect.

If the child is suffering, or likely to suffer significant harm, then (s)he will require interagency help and intervention delivered through a formal Child Protection Plan to prevent the child suffering harm or a recurrence of harm in the future and to promote the childs welfare.

6.1
Categories of Abuse
Working Together to Safeguard Children 2013 defines abuse and neglect as forms of maltreatment of a child. Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm. Children may be abused in a family or in an institutional or community setting by those known to them or, more rarely, by a stranger for example, via the internet. They may be abused by an adult or adults, or another child or children.

Categories of abuse are as follows:
Physical Abuse
Physical abuse may involve 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, an illness in a child.
Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the childs 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 giving 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 childs 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
Sexual abuse 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 masturbation, 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 is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.
Neglect
Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a childs basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the childs 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 or treatment.
It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a childs basic emotional needs.
Whilst more than one category may be used, the primary concern should form the basis of the decision for a child to be made subject of a Child Protection Plan. In exceptional circumstances additional categories can be used. The category of abuse to be recorded should be considered separately in respect of each child in the family or household.
Abuse and neglect are forms of maltreatment of a child. Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm. Children may be abused in a family or in an institutional or community setting; by those known to them or, more rarely, by a stranger. They may be abused by an adult or adults or another child or children.
Where a pre-birth conference has decided that an unborn child is to be subject of a Child Protection Plan, her/his name and expected date of birth will be placed on the childs record immediately and her/his name and date of birth confirmed at birth.
Where a child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, Significant Harm in the future it is the local authorities duty to consider the evidence and decide what, if any, legal action to take. The information presented to the child protection conference should inform that decision making process but it is for the local authority to consider whether it should initiate, for example, care proceedings. In some situations the child may become Accommodated and acquire Looked After Child status.

7. Looked After Reviews on Children who are the Subject of Child Protection Plans
Where a Looked After child remains the subject of a Child Protection Plan there should be a single planning and reviewing process, led by the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO), leading to the development of a single plan.

Consideration should be given to the IRO chairing the Child Protection Conference where a looked after child remains subject to a Child Protection Plan. Where that is not possible it will be expected that the IRO will attend the Review Child Protection Conference.
The Looked After Review, when reviewing the child protection aspects of the plan, should consider whether the criteria continue to be met for the child to remain the subject of a Child Protection Plan.

Consideration must be given to ensuring that the multi-agency contribution to the review of the Child Protection Plan is addressed within the review of the Care Plan.

A child Looked After should not usually satisfy the threshold criteria for Significant Harm, as they are in the Looked After System. If a decision is taken to make a Looked After child subject to a Child Protection Plan this should be discussed with the manager of the Childrens Safeguarding Standard Unit and the reasons for such a decision recorded. If a child is not made subject of a Child Protection Plan and subsequently returns home then consideration should be given to the need to reconvene the Conference and consider whether a Child Protection Plan is necessary if a Care Order or Interim Care Order is not in place.

8. Where a Child is to be the Subject of a Child Protection Plan
Where a child is to be the Subject of a Child Protection Plan it is the responsibility of the conference to consider and make clear recommendations, with timescales, on how agencies, professionals and the family should work together to ensure that the child will be safeguarded from harm in the future.

Specific tasks include:
Appointing the lead social worker (who is the lead professional);
Identifying the membership of a Core Group of professionals and family members who will develop and implement the child protection plan as a detailed working tool;

Establishing how the child, their parents (including all those with parental responsibility) and wider family members should be involved in the ongoing assessment, planning and implementation process, and the support, advice and advocacy available to them;

Establishing timescales for meetings of the core group, production of a Child Protection Plan, and for Review Child Protection Conferences;

Identifying in outline what further action is required to complete the Statutory Assessmentand what other specialist assessments of the child and family are required to make sound judgements on how best to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of the Child;
Outlining the child protection plan, especially, identifying what needs to change in order to achieve the planned outcomes to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
Ensuring a contingency plan is in place if agreed actions are not completed and/ or circumstances change, for example, if a carer fails to achieve what has been agreed, a court application is not successful or a parent removes the child from a place of safety;

Agreeing a date for the first Review Child Protection Conference and under what circumstances it might be necessary to convene the conference before that date.

9. Outline Protection Plan
The outline Child Protection Plan should be based on the information presented to the Initial Child Protection Conference and must identify factors associated with the likelihood of the child suffering Significant Harm and the ways in which the child can be protected through a multi-agency plan and which will be developed in subsequent Core Group meetings.

The outline child protection plan should:
Identify factors associated with the likelihood of the child suffering significant harm and ways in which the child can be protected from harm through an inter-agency plan based on the current findings from the assessment, including information held by agencies on any previous involvement with the child and family;

Establish short-term and longer-term objectives that are clearly linked to preventing the child suffering harm or a recurrence of the harm suffered, meeting the childs developmental needs and promoting the childs welfare, including contact with family members;

Be clear about who will have responsibility for what actions including actions by family members within what specified timescales;

Outline ways of monitoring and evaluating progress against the planned outcomes set out in the plan;

Be clear about which professional is responsible for checking that the required changes have taken place and what action will be taken, by whom, and when they have not.

10. Where a Child is not to be the Subject of a Child Protection Plan
A decision may have been made that a child does not require a Child Protection Plan but he or 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 childs needs and what further help would assist the family in responding to them. Subject to the families views and consent it may be appropriate to complete the Statutory Assessment to help determine what support might best help promote the childs welfare. Where the childs needs are complex, inter-agency working will continue to be important. Where appropriate, a child in need plan should be drawn up and reviewed at regular intervals according to child in need procedures.

11. Complaints by Service Users
Parents/carers or a child (considered by the Conference Chair to have sufficient understanding) may make a complaint in respect of one or more of the following aspects of a Child Protection Conference:

The process of the Conference;
The outcome, in terms of the fact of and/or the category of primary concern at the time the child became the subject of a Child Protection Plan;

A decision for the child to become, or not to become, the subject of a Child Protection Plan or not to cease the child being the subject of a Child Protection Plan.

Complaints about individual agencies, their performance and provision (or non-provision) of services should be responded to in accordance with the relevant agencys ordinary complaints procedures.

Complaints about aspects of the functioning of Conferences should be addressed to the Conference Chair and, as they relate to Part V of the Children Act 1989, should be responded to according to Complaints Procedure

Professionals should refer to the section on professional disagreement in the Child Protection process according to the Safeguarding Children Board Complaints Procedure.

In addition, representations and complaints may be received by individual agencies in respect of services provided (or not provided) as a consequence of assessments and conferences, including those set out in child protection plans. Such concerns will be responded to by the relevant agency in accordance with its own processes.

12. Resolution of Professional Disagreement in the Child Protection Process
12.1 Dissent at Enquiry Stage
Professionals should attempt to resolve their differences through discussion and re-exploration of the facts and should discuss their concerns with their respective line managers who should attempt to resolve the differences.

Where Childrens Social Care have concluded that an Initial Child Protection Conference is not required and other professionals remain seriously concerned about the safety of a child they should:

Seek further discussion with the social worker and/or her/his Team Manager. If agreement cannot be reached, the professional should consult with the designated/named/lead person and/or senior manager in their agency and the manager of the Childrens Safeguarding Standards Unit;

Where agreement cannot be reached, the manager of the Childrens Safeguarding Standards Unit and the agencies Designated/Lead Professional should be consulted. A meeting of the professionals may be needed in order to establish the facts of the case and make an informed decision;

If concerns remain following this consultation process the agency may formally request that Childrens Social Care convene an Initial Child Protection Conference. This should normally be convened where one or more professionals, supported by a senior manager/named or designated professional requests one. The manager of the Childrens Safeguarding Standards Unit should be informed of all such formal requests.

12.2 Dissent at the Initial Child Protection Conference Stage
If the Chair of a Conference is unable to achieve a consensus as to whether the child should be made subject of a Child Protection Plan (s)he will make a decision and note any dissenting views. Where the agency or individual who dissents believes that the decision reached by the chair will result in a child being more likely to suffer Significant Harm (s)he should discuss her/his concerns with the manager of the Childrens Safeguarding Standards Unit.

The manager of the Childrens Safeguarding Standards Unit will independently consider information presented to the Conference to make a decision as to whether the Conference should be reconvened at an earlier stage.

13. Administrative Arrangements and Record Keeping for Child Protection Conferences
13.1 Childrens Safeguarding Standards Unit's Administrative Responsibilities
Issuing standard invitations to children (if advised by social worker they want to attend), parents/carers and professionals;

Providing report formats for initial conferences;

Providing the Independent Reviewing Officer to Chair the Conference;
Taking a record of the meeting.

Those attending will be notified of conferences as far in advance as possible and the conference should be held at a time and place likely to be convenient to as many people as possible.

13.2 Records of Conferences
The conference record is confidential and should not be passed by professionals to third parties without the consent of either the conference chair or the lead social worker.

However, in cases of criminal proceedings, the police may reveal the existence of the notes to the Crown Prosecution Service in accordance with the Criminal Procedure and Investigation Act 1996. The record of the decisions of the Child Protection Conference should be retained by the recipient agencies and professionals in accordance with their record retention policies.

All Child Protection Conferences, both initial and review, will have a dedicated administrative person to take notes and produce a record of the meeting. The record of the conference is a crucial working document for all relevant professionals and the family. It will include key details:

The essential facts of the case, including;
Name, date of birth and address of the subject(s) of the case;
Who attended the Conference and who submitted their apologies;
A list of written reports available to Conference and whether any confidential part of the reports should be withheld from parents/carers or child;
The purpose of the Conference;
Confidentiality statement;
Information that lead to the Conference being held or update of information since the last Conference;
The views and opinions of the child, family members and Conference members.
A summary of discussion at the conference which accurately reflects contributions made, including a risk analysis;
All decisions reached, with information outlining the reasons for decisions;
A translation of decisions into an outline or revised child protection plan enabling everyone to be clear about their tasks and contingency plan;
Name of lead social worker;
Members of the Core Group and the date of the first meeting;
The date of next Conference.

13.3 Recording and Notification of Conference Decisions
The main decisions and recommendations will be sent out within one working day of the conference to all those who attended or were invited to attend, including family members, except for any part of the conference from which they were excluded.

The decisions of a conference, i.e. that a child is the subject of a Child Protection Plan, the category of abuse and details of the plan, or the discontinuation of a Child Protection Plan will be placed on the childs record within one working day.

13.4 Distribution of Records of Conferences
A copy of the record of the conference will be sent 15 working days after the conference to all those who attended or were invited to attend, including family members, except for any part of the conference from which they were excluded. Childrens Social Care should receive any requests for amendments within 10 working days of receipt of the record.

A copy of the full record will be placed on the childs record within 15 working days of the Conference. The social worker should ensure (s)he has copies of all the reports submitted to the Conference.

A hard copy of the record should be given to the parents by the lead social worker. Confidential material may be excluded from the parents copy when this has been stated explicitly within the meeting.
Where a friend, supporter or solicitor has attended the meeting only the parents should provide them with a copy of the record if they decide that this is appropriate.

Where a child has attended a Child Protection Conference, the lead social worker and/or Chair of the Conference must arrange to see her/him and arrange to discuss relevant sections of the record and reports. A decision on whether the child should receive a copy of the record will be dependent upon her/his age and understanding and whether it is in his/her best interests. A copy of the record should be given to the childs legal representative or lead social worker.

Where parents and/or the child(ren) have a sensory disability or where English is not their first language, steps must be taken to ensure that the record is in a format that they are able to access and understand.

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