View LCP Procedures View LCP Procedures

1.2.8 Child Protection Conferences including Standards for Conferences

See London Child Protection Procedures, Child Protection Conferences Procedure

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in September 2018 to ensure it reflects the current organisational structure and decision-making processes.


Contents

  1. How Child Protection Conferences are Organised in Southwark
  2. Parental Participation
  3. Child's Participation
  4. Social Worker's Report to Conference
  5. The Conference Process
  6. Monitoring
  7. Child Protection Conference Standards
  8. Child Protection Chair Escalation of Concerns

    Appendix 1: Agenda for Child Protection Conferences

    Appendix 2: Criteria for a Child to be Subject to a Child Protection Plan

    Appendix 3: Child Protection Conference Feedback Form


1. How Child Protection Conferences are Organised in Southwark

1.1

The London Borough of Southwark uses a model of practice in Child Protection Conferences based on the ‘Signs of Safety’ (SoS) approach. This approach aims to work with the strengths and resources that exist within families to build safety for children who have suffered, or are at risk of suffering, Significant Harm of Physical, Sexual and emotional abuse and Neglect.

The SoS approach considers information about the child and their family across a number of areas, for example:

  • What is working well for the child/ren in terms of existing strengths, protective factors;
  • What we are worried about the child/ren, including past harm;
  • What are the complicating factors (e.g. problems with housing) or grey areas (e.g. unclear or conflicting information);
  • What the dangers / risks are- a danger statement is agreed in the conference;
  • What would make the child/ren safe- safety goals are agreed in the conference;
  • A scale is used to indicate how worried members of the conference are where 0 is very worried where care proceedings might be considered to 10 where conference members are not very worried and a Child In Need Plan might be appropriate;
  • What needs to happen to make the necessary changes to achieve the outcome of the safety goals – this should form the Child Protection Plan.
1.2 A very important part of the model is involving parents/significant family members and where appropriate children and young people or their Advocate in the conference, including the development of the danger statement, safety goals and Child Protection Plan.
1.3 Southwark have a set of Principles and Quality Standards for Child Protection Conference Chair’s, allocated Social workers, Professionals from partner agencies and QAU administrators – see Section 7, Child Protection Conference Standards.
1.4

The Quality Standards Principles for all agencies are as follows:

  • Early preparation + sharing reports; results in concise, focussed conferences, more likely to start on time and families know what is being discussed;
  • Conferences are Child Focussed; what will change in the child’s world as a result of the CP plan? What is the journey for this child?
  • Child’s Voice: children/young people attend where appropriate, advocates provided and direct work presented;
  • Active participation of the parents and family in the conference process;
  • Danger statement reflects the concerns and needs for this/these child/ren;
  • Safety Goals reflect the desired Outcomes for the children;
  • Multi-Agency Signs of Safety / SMART plans: parents and family need to be clear what needs to change for the child/ren to be safeguarded;
  • Contingency Plan; understood and explicit.
1.5 One of the functions of the Child Protection Chair is to provide encouragement and challenge to professionals and family members to reduce the risk to child/ren and bring about the best possible safeguarding outcomes. Where the Chair has concerns about the service provided to a child/family they can escalate their concerns to relevant managers (see Section 8, Child Protection Chair Escalation of Concerns).


2. Parental Participation

2.1 The allocated social worker and chair should meet prior to the conference date to discuss arrangements for the conference, update on the progress of the plan, and how the parents can be encouraged to participate safely. Consideration need to be given if the conference is split for example if the parents cannot attend together, and if any security measures are necessary. Also, consideration needs to be given to whether a parent/person should be excluded from attending – see Section 4.5, London Child Protection Procedures.
2.2

The conference Chair should meet the parents/family/children before the start of the conference and if possible the social worker should introduce the Conference Chair to the parent(s)/family. Parent(s) and if appropriate, children/young people, should be asked to come to the office 30 minutes before the conference is due to start in order to meet the Chair and read any reports which have arrived on the day of the conference.

The purpose of the Chair meeting the parents/family is to:

  • Explain how the conference is going to be organised;
  • Explain possible outcomes;
  • Clarify any queries they may have;
  • Advise them of the complaints procedure;
  • Ask if they have seen and read the SW and other reports;
  • Clarify if the parents/family have any specific needs e.g. interpreters, access/health considerations;
  • Assess if there are any health and safety issues;
  • Clarify any confidentiality issues.
2.3

At the beginning of each Conference, the Chair will include in his or her opening statement specific comments about whether or they have met with the parent(s) and whether or not the parent(s) have seen the social worker's report before the Conference, and if so, when this happened. 

This information will be recorded in the standard Conference record as part of the Chair's introduction, i.e. "I have met with the parents in advance of the Conference and they have confirmed that they had sight of the Conference report in advance of the Conference and understand the contents". (Of course, this does not necessarily mean that they agree with the contents).
2.4 During the conferences parents/family members/children/young people should be encouraged to participate fully in the discussion, and contribute to the formulation of a danger statement, safety goals and Child Protection Plan. The Child Protection Plan should be written in such a way that it is clear what the child’s needs are, what outcomes are intended, who is doing what and within a specified timescale to achieve the outcomes. It also needs to be clear how the progress is going to be reviewed between conferences. This would normally be through Core Group meetings. In the event that Child Protection Plan is not successful in reducing the risks to the child/ren, there needs to be a contingency plan which the parents/family understand.


3. Child's Participation

3.1

The meaningful involvement of children/young people in the conference either through attending, or having an advocate and /or through direct work is crucial to safeguarding them and developing an effective plan.

Where possible and/or appropriate, the social worker should share the general principles of the report for the Conference with the child/ren. This should be undertaken sensitively and information should be shared according to the child's level of understanding in an age appropriate manner and with due regard for confidentiality in relation to information about the parents or other adults/children. The Social worker should refer the child/young person to the Barnardo’s advocacy service with the parents and child’s agreement. (Children over the age of 5 can be referred where appropriate). (See Advocacy and Independent Visitors Procedure).
3.2 To improve the participation by children in Conferences and in discussion with the Child Protection Chair all children over the age of 12 should be invited to the conference, unless there is evidence that this is not appropriate or not the wishes of the child. The same consideration should be given to younger children, but social workers, in discussion with the Chair, must be assured that the child's attendance would be helpful for the child and in accordance with his or her wishes and not a distressing process for them. Children can present their views in other ways e.g. via a letter or other written format/direct work or email to the Chair.
3.3 Where it is considered appropriate to invite the child, their name and contact details should be included on the Invitation List completed by the social worker (see Paragraph 5.1 below). However the social worker should take responsibility for inviting them directly and making arrangements with the Chair for their participation. The Children’s advocacy service should be used where possible to assist with this.
3.4 Where a child is to attend a Conference, the Conference Chair must be notified in advance in order that they can meet the child before the Conference.
3.5 Also the social worker and Conference Chair should discuss and agree before the Conference which part of the meeting the child will attend. Arrangements should then be in place for the child to remain safely elsewhere in the building or to be collected when he or she leaves the Conference room, if the Conference has not ended.


4. Social Worker's Report to Conference

4.1 The social worker's report must, wherever possible, be seen by the parent (person/s with Parental Responsibility) in good time before the conference (see Section 7, Child Protection Conference standards). This would be usually 2 days before an Initial Child protection Conference (ICPC) and 5 days before a review conference. Parents may wish to show the report to a solicitor or ask for a solicitor to attend the conference (as an observer), particularly if legal action is being proposed, so time should be available for them to achieve this.
4.2 Reports to Child Protection Conferences should include the date(s) when the child was seen alone by the Lead Social Worker and, if not seen alone, who was present and the reasons for their presence.
4.3 The social worker's Manager should authorise the report.
4.4 The social worker should complete report for the Conference and advise the Conference Chair in advance of the Conference through an alert on the system or by email. The timescale is 2 days before an ICPC and 5 days before a review conference.


5. The Conference Process

5.1

The social worker should complete the Invitation List for the Conference 10 days before an ICPC and 4 weeks before a review conference and send it to QAU who will send out invitations. Failure to provide the list in good time may result in the conference being inquorate. This could lead to a conference being re- convened earlier than the due date. (See London Child Protection Procedures).

 

5.2 The child's social worker and the Conference Chair should meet before the Conference and should arrive at the Conference venue at least 30 minutes before the start time of the Conference to enable this to happen. Conference Chairs are advised to be available 45 minutes prior to the start time. The social worker should also introduce the Conference Chair to the parent(s) and child (if attending).
5.3 Conferences will commence at the agreed time and all agencies will be notified of this expectation and asked to arrive in advance of the Conference to read the relevant reports. Conference members will be provided with an agenda for the meeting and also a document about the criteria for a child becoming subject to a Child Protection Plan, see Appendix 1: Agenda for Child Protection Conferences and Appendix 2: Criteria for a Child to be Subject to a Child Protection Plan.
5.4 The Conference Chair will ensure that all attendees are alerted to the location of fire exits at the venue. The conference chair will ensure that information is shared about the importance of confidentiality and remind conference members of Southwark’s Equality and Diversity policy.
5.5 The Conference Chair will seek clarification at the beginning of the Conference that the information pertaining to the family, i.e. spelling of names, dates of birth addresses, etc. contained in the social worker's report and Southwark files are correct.
5.6 The Conference Chair will ascertain at the beginning of the Conference if there are any person(s) who should not receive copies of the decisions and minutes (i.e. this information would place the child at risk of Significant Harm) or should receive only parts of the decisions and minutes (e.g. information pertaining to that person's child or children only).
5.7 Where a Conference Chair recommends that either legal action or legal advice is required, there must be clarity as to what is being recommended and what outcome is intended. Consideration maybe given to what orders might be necessary to safeguard a child i.e. Supervision Order, Emergency Protection Order, Interim Care Order, Child Assessment Order. However, it is an Operational manager’s decision what, if any, legal action is taken, but they must give consideration to the professional views of the Child Protection Chair. If the Chair is of the view that immediate action must be taken to safeguard the child away from the family, he or she must convey this directly to the social worker's Manager or Service Manager. Good practice means that this should be via verbal communication. E-mails should only be used in cases where there is a perceived need for immediate action, to confirm what has been discussed or to communicate this type of information where the Manager, Service Manager or Head of Service is not available for a discussion. Also, if any other legal action or advice is required, the Conference Chair should communicate this directly to the manager and confirm the conversation in e mail and place it on the child’s file.
5.8 If the relevant Manager disagrees with the recommendation of the Conference Chair in respect of the above, they should put their reasons in writing to the Conference Chair. CC QAU Manager a copy of any such correspondence/record of communication should be placed on the child's file. If the Chair remains concerned about the safety of a child or the practice in respect of the service being offered they may wish to escalate their concerns – see Section 8, Child Protection Chair Escalation of Concerns.
5.9

The Child Protection Plan identifies the:

  • Needs of the child/ren based on the danger statement;
  • The desired outcomes, based on the safety goals;
  • What needs to happened to achieve the outcomes;
  • Who will do it;
  • By what date;
  • How it will be identified that progress is being made;
  • When the actions will be reviewed.


6. Monitoring

6.1 The Quality Assurance Unit administrative staff and Conference Chairs are required to complete a Monitoring Form at each Conference, in discussion with the allocated SW/manager see Appendix 3: Child Protection Conference Feedback Form. The information collated from this will assist in reporting back to Managers, the Southwark Safeguarding Children Board.
6.2 The Quality Assurance Unit invites parents/children to complete feedback forms after each conference, and invites professionals to provide feedback after conferences periodically (2 separate months a in a 12 month period). The outcome from the feedback forms is collated and information contributes to report to Senior managers and QAU staff.
6.3 Senior managers will receive a periodic report collating information gathered through the monitoring forms.


7. Child Protection Conference Standards

See Quality Standards for CP conferences

7.1 After the Conference

1. The priority for the Chair and conference administrator following the conference is to produce the Child Protection Conference Plan and distribute it with 24 hours.
2. The Chair will complete a Child Protection Standards Monitoring Form following the conference and include the social worker in very brief discussion about this. If more detailed discussion is needed about any aspect of this another appointment will need to be scheduled. The monitoring form is passed the QAU administration to up load.

7.2 Conference Cancellations

It is imperative that in order to safeguard children, conferences are convened within statutory timescale therefore the following procedure needs to be strictly adhered to in order for all conferences happen within statutory timescales. No agreement will be given for a conference to happen outside statutory timescales for any reason.
1. All managers and workers must minimise the need for cancelling and re-arranging child protection conferences. Cancellations generally cause more work and inconvenience.
2. If a request is made to cancel a conference managers are expected to look at alternatives to this. For example if a social worker cannot attend the manager should manage the process so the report is prepared in advance and available for the conference with the manager or another member of the practice group attends to speak to it.
3. If following this above a cancellation still seems appropriate, a discussion should be held with the Chair prior to agree the cancellation and schedule other possible dates for the re-arranged conference within statutory timescales. 
4. If following this it is agreed it is appropriate to cancel a conference, the Quality Assurance Manager must be consulted for agreement. Proposed re-arranged dates must be within statutory timescales.
5. Only a QAU Manager has the authority to cancel a pre-arranged conference in order for it to be re-arranged. Until this agreement is gained the conference must proceed at the scheduled time.
6. Late cancellations will result in the social work team being asked to contact all professionals and the family informing them of the cancellation and the new date.
7. Pay special attention to:
  1. First reviews;
  2. Conferences for sibling groups were one has recently become subject of a Child Protection Plan;
  3. Initial conferences were a child has been made subject of a Child Protection Plan at birth.


8. Child Protection Chair Escalation of Concerns

8.1 Child Protection Chairs have a responsibility to raise concerns about practice and the outcomes for children subject to a Child Protection Plan. The guiding principle is that all times attempts should be made to resolve issues through face to face dialogue between CP Chairs and SW/Team Managers. Such resolution should be confirmed by an email from the CP Chair to the AP, cc the SFS Service Manager.
8.2

Where concerns are not resolved satisfactorily at that first level within 3 days, representations should be made to Service Manager (or HoS depending on the seriousness), to escalate matters.

Concern that could give rise to escalation are that the LA has not:

  • Completed actions agreed in CP Plans;
  • Prepared adequately for Child Protection Conferences;
  • Given due regard to human rights issues such as the right to be consulted or obtain representation;
  • Provided adequate allocation of social work service;
  • Met LA practice expectations for example visits to the child;
  • Given due regard to permanency planning and if there is, for example, delay and drift.

Representations should also be made where this are specific concerns about the:

  • Safeguarding of a child;
  • Lack of consultation when Child Protection Plans are changed between reviews.
Representations should be made regardless of obstacles which may be in the way of resolutions such as resources or staffing issues, if these are impacting on the safeguarding outcomes for children.
8.3

Process

Where possible, CP Chairs should discuss their concerns with the QAU Manager to decide if a representation should be made.

Representation should be made by e mail outlining the specific concern and what actions have been taken to resolve any issues. The email should indicate what, in the professional view of the CP Chair, is necessary to resolve/improve the situation. This email should be cc to the QAU Manager. A record of a CPC escalation should be noted on the child’s file with an alert to the relevant operational manager and QAU manager.

The manager receiving the e mail should respond as soon as possible but in no longer than 3 days.

The QAU Manager will report to the Director on cases which have been subject to a Representation/Escalation process as part of the periodic report on Children subject to a Child Protection Plan.

See Child Protection Chair’s Representation Process to Escalate Concerns Relating to Practice or Outcomes for Children.


Appendices

Appendix 1: Agenda for Child Protection Conferences

Appendix 2: Criteria for a Child to be Subject to a Child Protection Plan

Appendix 3: Child Protection Conference Feedback Form

End