Child abuse - what is a child protection conference?
Local authority social workers might get involved with your family if they are concerned about child abuse. This means they have serious concerns that a child is at risk of harm, and, if so, they have a legal duty to investigate the situation. The local authority must hold a meeting called a child protection conference if they have ongoing concerns about a child after their first investigations.
What is a child protection conference?
The local authority will call a child protection conference when they have investigated concerns about child abuse and they believe the child is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm. For example:
- they may have already raised concerns with the parents about the basic care of the child, but these concerns haven’t been addressed
- the parents are in an abusive relationship . A child is in need of protection if they see or hear domestic abuse
- an emergency protection order for the child has been granted
- a known abuser of children joins a household or becomes a regular visitor to it. An example is if the child’s mother starts a relationship with someone who is known as a sex offender
- the child already has a child protection plan from somewhere else and moves permanently into the local area.
The conference will be chaired by someone who works for the local authority but who is separate from the team dealing with the case, so they are more independent.
The purpose of a child protection conference
The purpose of a child protection conference is to:
- share information between all the professionals who are working with the child and their family
- decide what future action should be taken to keep the child safe
- decide whether or not a child protection plan should be drawn up
- in Wales, decide whether or not the child's name should be placed on the child protection register.
The child protection conference must consider all the children in the household, even if concerns are only being expressed about one child.
When will a child protection conference take place?
A child protection conference should take place within 15 working days of the date when:
- the first investigation was started, or
- another local authority gives notice that a child who has a child protection plan has moved into the local area
In practice, it can take longer than this to organise a child protection conference. Also, if court action has already started, the timing of the child protection conference will have to take account of this.
Further conferences may be needed. These are called review conferences. If a review conference is needed, the first one should be held within three months of the first conference, and further reviews should be at least every six months.
Reports from the social workers and other professionals in contact with the family must be prepared in good time for the child protection conference. At least two working days before the conference, copies of these reports must be given to the parents (and to the child, depending on their level of understanding).
These reports set out the facts as they are known to the professional concerned and their views and ideas about the child’s situation. If you’re a parent, it might help to go through this information with your social worker before the child protection conference so that you are clear about what you do and don’t agree with.
If you’d like to prepare a report yourself, you can do that. If you need help, contact your social worker. Even if you don’t want to write things down, you could still think about what you would like to say at the meeting, and perhaps bring some short notes. It might be useful to think about the following things:
- the strengths of your family situation
- what support and help you need
- what you think needs to happen after the conference
- what you think you, or others, could do to improve the current situation.
What happens during the conference
At the conference, all the views of everyone involved will be considered. This includes all the written reports and any other evidence. They will decide whether a child protection plan should be made for the child. Notes will be taken during the conference so there's a record of what happens.
You as a parent should be informed of the complaints procedure that applies to child protection conferences in case you want to complain about the way the conference has been dealt with.
- Who attends a child protection conference
- Child abuse - what can happen after a child protection conference
- Using a legal adviser
- Help with legal costs - legal aid
- Help with legal costs - free or affordable help
- Child abuse - complaints about the local authority social services
- Child abuse - organisations that can help