If there's a child protection conference for your child
Your local council will organise a child protection conference when both of the following apply:
- they’ve investigated concerns about someone abusing your child
- they believe your child is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm
The local council can also organise a child protection conference if they’re concerned about a child who hasn’t been born yet.
The purpose of a child protection conference is to:
- share information between all the professionals who are working with your family
- decide how to keep your child safe
- decide if a child protection plan should be drawn up for your child
The conference must talk about all the children in your household, even if the people there are only concerned about one child.
The people who organise the conference must take into account the race, origin, religion and cultural and language background of you and your family. For example, if your first language isn’t English, the social worker should organise an interpreter.
There might be more meetings after the conference - these are called ‘review conferences’. The first review conference should take place within 3 months, with further review conferences at least every 6 months after that.
Check who can go to a child protection conference
You should usually be allowed to go to the child protection conference.
The senior social work manager in charge of the child protection conference is called ‘the Chair’.
Other people at the conference can include:
- your child’s other parent
- your partner, if you have one
- social workers
- the police
- someone from your child’s school
- your child’s healthcare professionals, for example, their doctor and health visitor
- someone from the probation services
- any other professionals who are involved
Other members of your family might be invited if they’ help to care for your child.
You can bring a solicitor with you or ask them to speak on your behalf. If you have to pay for a solicitor and you can’t afford it, you might be able to get legal aid. Find out more about using a solicitor and legal aid.
Children at child protection conferences
The social worker might invite your child to go to the conference if:
- they think your child is old enough to take part
- it’s appropriate for your child to take part - in cases of sexual abuse it probably won’t be appropriate
- you agree your child can take part
If they go, your child can bring an ‘advocate’ with them - an advocate is someone who can speak on your child’s behalf. Your child can also bring a friend or someone else who will support them.
Your child’s social worker will help them prepare for the conference.
If your child doesn't want to go, there are other ways they can share their views, wishes and feelings - for example by writing them down or recording them in a video. A social worker can also share your child’s views on their behalf.
If you’re told you can’t go to the child protection conference
If you’re not allowed to go to the conference, the Chair should tell you why. They should also offer you other ways to share your views at the conference – for example, by making a recording or writing a letter.
Depending on the situation, you might be able to make a formal complaint or seek judicial review of the decision to exclude you. You should get legal advice about this.
If you’re going to a child protection conference
You should be told about the decision to hold a child protection conference and about every stage of the process. This is so that you can get legal advice and prepare what you want to say at the conference.
You can bring someone to speak on your behalf as an advocate - for example a solicitor. You can bring a friend or someone else to support you if you prefer.
If you want to bring another family member, speak to the social worker.
If you're disabled
The local council have to make sure you can take part fully. For example, if you have a learning disability, the local council have to arrange for someone to support you and speak up about what you think.
Preparing for a child protection conference
The social workers and other professionals involved will write ‘reports’ before the conference. These reports explain things from the social worker’s or professional’s point of view and their thoughts about your child’s situation.
You should be given copies of the social workers’ reports before the conference. It’s a good idea to go through the reports with your social worker before the conference, so you can let them know what you think.
Your child might be given copies of the social workers’ reports if they're able to read and understand them.
You can ask to see the other professionals’ reports, but they might not be able to show them to you.
If you’d like to write your own report
You can write down what you think about your child’s situation. Your report doesn’t have to be a formal document - just writing things down on a piece of paper is fine.
When you’re ready you can either:
- give it to your social worker before the conference
- take it with you if you’re going to the conference
If you give your report to your social worker before the conference, it’s best to check the Chair has seen it. Your social worker can tell you how to contact the Chair or you can ask them at the conference.
If you don’t want to write a report, it’s a good idea to think about what you’d like to say at the conference and make a few notes to take with you.
It might be useful to think about:
- the good things about your family situation
- what support and help you and your family need
- what you think needs to happen after the conference
- what you think you, or others, could do to make things better
Check what happens at a child protection conference
All the people at the conference will discuss the views of everyone involved. This includes all the reports and any other evidence.
Someone will take notes during the conference so there's a record of what happens. You'll get a copy of the notes after the conference. You might want to take notes too, so you have your own record.
The people at the conference decide what should happen next.
- make a child protection plan for your child - find out more about child protection plans
- apply to a court for a special order to protect your child - find out more about court orders to protect children
- decide your child goes to stay with another family member or is cared for by the local council instead - find out more about what happens if your child is taken into care by your local council on GOV.UK
If the conference decide to take further action to protect your child, you should get legal advice from a specialist. They’ll help you understand your options and work out the best way forward for you and your child.
The conference can’t say whether someone is guilty of abusing a child - only a court can do that. But they might recommend that the police investigate the case.
If you don’t go to the conference, you should get a letter telling you about what they decided.
You can find out more about what happens at a child protection conference on the Family Rights Groups website.
Complaining about a child protection conference
If you have concerns about what happened at a child protection conference, you can make a complaint.
You can ask your social worker how to make a complaint, if they haven't already told you.
Making a complaint won’t change the decision made at the conference. Even if you make a complaint, you should still work with the social workers and professionals to find a way forward.
If you don't continue to work with them, the local council are more likely to apply for a court order to protect your child. This could mean your child is taken into care - find out more about what happens if your child is taken into care by your local council.