Child abuse - who attends a child protection conference?
The local authority must hold a meeting called a child protection conference if they have ongoing concerns about a child after their first investigations. This page tells you who can attend a child protection conference.
Professionals who attend a child protection conference
The following professionals should take part in a child protection conference:
- social workers
- the police
- the child’s school
- the child’s healthcare professionals, for example, doctor and health visitor
- probation services
- any other professionals who are involved.
As a parent, you should be consulted and kept informed 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 to the conference.
Parents should usually be allowed to attend a child protection conference. If there are issues of domestic abuse, parents may be invited to attend separately. In exceptional cases, the chair may say you can’t attend the child protection conference, for example, if:
- you’re the alleged abuser
- there is strong evidence that you’ll be violent to someone either during the conference or afterwards
- you have very severe mental health problems
- you arrive at the conference under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
If you as a parent feel you have been excluded for no good reason, you can write a letter explaining that you want to cooperate with everyone in order do what is best for the child. The letter could also explain your understanding of the child's state of health and well-being, including:
- any problems the child has
- what, if anything, you think has happened to the child
- what you think the professionals should decide to do about the child.
You could record your views to be played back or shown at the conference if you can’t be there in person. Depending on the situation, you may be able to make a formal complaint or seek judicial review of the decision to exclude you from a child protection conference. You’ll need legal advice about this.
Parents can bring along an advocate, friend or supporter to a child protection conference although they can’t usually speak on your behalf. However if you're a parent with a disability, the local authority has to take steps to make sure you can take part fully. For example, if you have a learning disability, the local authority has to arrange for an advocate for you, to support you to understand what is being said at the conference and speak up about what you think.
When the child protection conference is organised, the people at the meeting must take into account the race, origin, religion and cultural and language background of the family. For example, if either of the parents’ or the child's first language isn’t English, the social worker should organise an appropriate interpreter. In Welsh-speaking areas , it’s usual policy for the conference to take place in Welsh if that is what the family wants.
Other family members
Other family members could be invited to the conference if they are involved in the child's life, for example, if they supervise contact. If you,as a parent, want another family member to attend, talk this over with the social worker.
Solicitors can attend with you, but just as a supporter - you have no right to be legally represented at a child protection conference. If a solicitor does attend, it’s just to take notes and they can’t speak on behalf of the parents.
If a solicitor attends as a supporter, legal aid may be available to cover the costs but only in exceptional circumstances, for example, if you have mental health problems.
In some cases, depending on their level of understanding, the social worker will invite the child to attend the child protection conference. However, this will only happen if overall it seems this would be of benefit to the child, and it will also depend on things like whether the child has expressed a wish to attend and what the parents think. As a rule of thumb, a child younger than 12 wouldn’t probably attend and a child of 12 or over should be offered the opportunity to attend, but it will depend on the individual child. The social worker must help prepare the child if they attend the child protection conference.
If they can attend, the child may bring an advocate, friend or supporter with them. If the child chooses not to attend or is not allowed to attend, their views should still be put to the child protection conference by their social worker and they should be kept informed of the progress of the case by their social worker.