For many parents the thought of their child(ren) being placed on a child protection plan is extremely worrying. This article will answer some of the common questions surrounding the process.
What is a Child Protection Conference?
A Child Protection Conference will be held when Social Services have concerns for a child’s welfare.
Social services can be made aware of these concerns in a number of ways including referrals from nursery/school, health visitors, family members, neighbours or even anonymous referrals.
As soon as social services receive a referral with concerns about a child’s welfare, they have a duty to investigate, this is known as a ‘s47 investigation’.
If after having investigated, social services form the view that there is a risk that a child is suffering from significant harm, they must hold a Child Protection Conference.
Who attends a Child Protection Conference?
The conference will be chaired by an Independent Reviewing Officer. Although they work for the Local Authority, they should be impartial.
Parents will be invited to attend the conference. If appropriate, parents may be allowed someone to attend with them to provide support. This will usually be someone who is closely involved in the child’s life. The child may also be invited to attend the Conference, subject to their age and understanding.
The child’s social worker will attend the conference as well as any other key people involved in the child’s life. Usual attendees are a representative from the school or nursery that the child attends and someone from health such as the school nurse or health visitor.
If parents have any other professionals involved with them such as a drugs worker or housing officer, they will also be invited to attend. If there is any concerning police information to share, a representative from the police may also attend.
Solicitors can attend conferences with parents however, they are not allowed to speak for the parent or have any active participation.
What will happen at a Child Protection Conference?
The social worker will prepare a written report that should be shared with the parents in advance of the Conference.
At the conference, the social worker will outline the worries that they have for the child(ren) as well as the things that are working well.
The other professionals who have attended the conference will then be asked if they have any worries for the child and what is working well. The other professionals will normally always provide a written report for the Conference.
After all this information has been shared, the social worker and other professionals will be asked by the Independent Reviewing Officer if they consider that a child protection plan is necessary for the child. A child should only be placed on a child protection plan if there are concerns that the child is at risk of significant harm. It will be the final decision of the Independent Reviewing Officer.
If the final decision is that the child(ren) should be made subject to a Child Protection Plan the professionals must decide the category of harm for the child. This will be subject to the concerns and can be sexual, physical, emotional or neglect.
What is a Child Protection Plan?
If a decision is made for a child(ren) to be put on a child protection plan at the end of the conference, the plan will be drawn up.
The plan will include all the things needed to ensure that the child(ren) is safe and to improve things for the child(ren).
A common feature in the plan is for the parents to ensure that the child(ren) attends school and all of their health appointments. If there are any specific concerns about the parents such as drug or alcohol use, then there will usually be a point that the parents must get support for this.
Can I stop my child(ren) being on a Child Protection Plan?
Unfortunately, as a parent, there is nothing that you can do to prevent your child being placed on a child protection plan. Although you can make your views known at the conference, you cannot stop it from happening if all of the professionals are of the view that it is necessary.
If a parent fails to engage with the child protection plan and address the concerns, then it is likely that Social Services take further action. This could be by entering the pre-proceedings process (PLO) or if the concerns are significant, initiating Care Proceedings.
How long will my child(ren) be on a plan for?
After the initial conference (ICPC), there will be a review conference (RCPC) at 3 months. Thereafter they are held at 6-monthly intervals.
When social services are satisfied that the concerns have been addressed and the child(ren) is no longer at risk of harm, the child protection plan will end.
If you require any advice regarding child protection, contact our specialist Child Law Solicitors below.