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Child Protection Conferences


Contents

  1. Child Protection Conferences
  2. Looked After Children and Child Protection Conferences
  3. Membership of Child Protection Conference
  4. Involving Children and Family Members
  5. Exclusion of Family Members from a Conference
  6. The Absence of Parents and/or Children
  7. Information for the Conference
  8. Chairing the Conference
  9. The Child Protection Plan
  10. Child Does Not Require a Protection Plan
  11. Professional Dissent from the Conference Decision
  12. Complaints/Appeals by Children and/or Parents
  13. Administrative Arrangements for Child Protection Conferences

    Amendments to this Chapter


1. Child Protection Conferences

Additional Information for Professionals Leaflet

All conferences

A Child Protection Conference brings together family members (and the child/ren where appropriate), supporters / advocates and those professionals most involved with the child and family to make decisions about the child's future safety, health and development. If concerns relate to an unborn child, consideration should be given as to whether to hold a Child Protection Conference prior to the child's birth. It may also be necessary to give consideration to any children who do not live in the household but have frequent contact with any person who has, or is suspected of, maltreating the child or young person.

Child Protection Conferences are central to the effective inter-agency management of child protection. They will be called for all children or young people who have been subject of a child protection investigation for whom there remains the possibility that the child or young people is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm and there may be a need for a formal Child Protection Plan.

The tasks for all conferences are to:

  • Bring together and analyse, in an inter-agency setting the information which has been obtained about the child's developmental needs, and the parents' capacity to respond to these needs to ensure the child's safety and promote the child's health and development within the context of their wider family and environment. The previous Assessment and current assessments should be used to inform the process;
  • Consider the evidence presented to the conference and taking into account the child's present situation and information about his or her family history and present and past family functioning, to decide whether the child is at risk of significant harm;
  • Recommend what future action is required in order to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child, including the child becoming the subject of an inter agency child protection plan, what the planned developmental outcomes are for the child and what actions are needed to achieve these;
  • Confirm the named social worker from Children’s Service for each child who requires a Child Protection Plan and registration on the Child Protection Register. The social worker is responsible for ensuring that the Child Protection Plan is developed, co-ordinated and fully implemented to timescale;
  • Identify a Core Group of professionals and family members to develop, implement and review the progress of the Child Protection Plan;
  • Put in place a contingency plan if the agreed actions are not completed and/or circumstances change impacting on the child’s safety and welfare:
    • Identify any actions to be taken if a formal Child Protection Plan and registration are not considered necessary.

The Children’s Services Team Manager is responsible for making the decision to request a Child Protection Conference be convened by ISS and the reasons for calling the conference (or not calling a conference following completion of an Article 42 Enquiry) must be recorded.

Any professional may request a Child Protection Conference for any child, young person or unborn child who, in their opinion, meets the criteria below. The request should be made to the Manager of the Independent Safeguarding Standards Service. Children’s Services are responsible for convening the conference and any request should be directed to them in writing. A decision not to convene a conference must be confirmed in writing to the requesting agency with reasons. The SPB Escalation and Resolution Pathway should be used where there is professional disagreement.

Types of conferences

Depending on the circumstances there are several different types of Child Protection Conferences:

  • Initial conferences;
  • Pre-birth conferences;
  • Review conferences.

Note: All types of Child Protection Conferences should include not only the child subject of the specific concerns but must also include consideration of the needs of all other children in the household.

When to Convene an Initial Child Protection Conference

The timing of an Initial Child Protection Conference will depend on the urgency of the case and on the time needed to obtain relevant information about the child or young person and family; it should be convened no longer than 15 working days following a strategy meeting. There needs to be adequate preparation and assessment but during this period children may be at risk of significant harm and should be provided with appropriate services, including necessary actions that need to be taken to ensure the safety and protection of the child/ren.

All Initial Child Protection Conferences should be held as promptly as practicable following the decision that the concerns raised require a formal child protection response, and should be held no more that 15 working days after the Strategy Discussion. The need to protect the child or young person and any other necessary action will be the responsibility of those conducting the child protection enquiries and must not be delayed by the timing of the conference.

The following circumstances necessitate the convening of an Initial Child Protection Conference:

  • Child protection enquiries leading to an assessment that a child, young person or unborn child may continue to suffer or be at risk of significant harm;
  • Where a child or young person has been made subject of an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) or a Police Protection Order (PPO) and following enquiries it is believed that the child will suffer or be at risk of suffering significant harm if formal inter-agency child protection measures are not taken;
  • Where a child or young person has abused another child and enquiries reveal that a child or young person has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm and there may be need for a child protection plan in respect of both or either child;
  • Where a child or young person currently the subject of a formal Child Protection Plan outside Jersey moves to Jersey. The Initial Conference should be held within 15 working days of notification from a UK Local Authority or other Authority;
  • Where an unborn child either in Jersey or a UK Local Authority and about to move to Jersey is judged in need of protection by registration and a formal inter-agency plan implemented following the birth;
  • Where a child or young person is found to be living in a household that includes or is frequented by a person who is known to have abused a child, been convicted of an offence against a child or poses significant risk to a child.

Unborn children considered to be at risk

A conference should have the same status, and proceed in the same way, as other Initial Child Protection Conferences, including decisions about registration. Those providing services to adults will need to balance their duties to protect children from harm and their general duty towards their patient/client. Where there are concerns that a child may be at risk of significant harm, the needs of the child must come first and the paramount consideration is the welfare of the child.

It is essential that health professionals are familiar with, and adhere to, relevant guidance provided by their own professional and governing bodies.

In most circumstances disclosure to another agency or service will be given only with consent of the expectant mother. There are circumstances in which information can be given without consent. In general these are:

  • Where the mother is incapable of giving consent because of immaturity, illness or mental incapacity and it is in the patients’ medical interest to disclose relevant information to an appropriate person or authority;
  • Where it is believed that the child will be a victim of neglect, physical or sexual harm and they cannot/are unwilling to consent to disclosure and it is necessary to give that information to another appropriate responsible person o protect the child;
  • Where the disclosure is required by Law or Court Order;
  • Where it is considered necessary in the public interest, for example: society’s interest in avoiding child abuse or preventing serious crime might outweigh the individual’s rights to confidentiality.

The criteria to call a conference will be based on current and previous experience of the family, either in terms of previous parenting or risks attached to one or both parents or other significant carers once the child is born. Conferencing such a situation will put enormous stress on the expectant mother and it is therefore absolutely essential that the timing of the conference accords with the pregnancy time scale in respect of the mother’s pregnancy. It should be no sooner than 23 weeks and at least 8 weeks before the earliest date of delivery (EDD). The purpose of maintaining such time limits is to avoid stress when a miscarriage is most likely to occur.

A decision to register the unborn child can be made by the conference if it is concluded that the child, when born, is likely to suffer significant harm; it must always be remembered that the situation may change and require appropriate adjustment to meet the child’s needs. The registration will be recorded on the Child Protection Register as an ‘Unborn’.

Following the birth, observations made within the hospital setting should contribute to the multi-agency assessment. Consideration must be made regarding appropriate plans and resources to be put in place prior to any discharge of the child. The conference will consider all elements that would normally be considered in any other child protection scenario. In addition the conference should record a recommendation on the most suitable living arrangements for the baby and consider a legal planning meeting if necessary.

Outcome of the Initial Child Protection Conference

The criteria for registration will be read to the conference, together with the categories of registration that would be relevant to the discussion. Each of the agencies should express their views and the parent, child or young person (if present) should also be asked for their views.

If it is concluded that there is continuing risk of significant harm to either the child or young person subject of the conference, or to any other child in the household, and an interagency Child Protection Plan is necessary, they will be registered. The Chair will provide guidance on the category or categories that will be registered and outline the areas the protection plan must cover. It is important to have all categories noted.

Registration may not be the appropriate action to take but it may be recognised that the child and family need additional support to promote the child’s health and development. It may be appropriate to continue with an Assessment dependant on the parent('s) permission being given. There may also, in complex cases, be a requirement to maintain inter-agency working. In this case a Child in Need Meeting should be arranged.

Deferment of registration based on insufficient evidence being available, should only take place in exceptional circumstances. An example may be where medical evidence is awaited. Any delay in coming to a decision on registration should take no longer than 28 days. The decision to defer will be made by the Chair, who will specify what further information is needed before a decision on the need for a Child Protection Plan and registration can be reached. A date for a reconvened conference should be agreed, or a time frame if a specific date is not possible.

In some cases the conference should be asked for its views as to whether any prosecution of an abuser is in the best interests of the child or young person. It is the responsibility of the Police to convey the view of the conference to their legal advisers.

The minutes should record any dissenting views both on whether abuse has occurred, or is likely, and whether a child’s name should be placed on the Child Protection Register. Any dissention by the parent/child as to registration or the manner in which the conference was conducted should be similarly recorded in the minutes. The act of registration does not automatically protect a child. A Child Protection Plan based on the registration will ensure that professionals work together in a planned and accountable way.

The conference will:

  • Ensure that a Child Protection Outline Plan is formulated that addresses immediate action which will ensure the safety of the child or young person;
  • Identify a Core Group consisting of family members and professionals to meet within 10 days of the initial conference. In some cases, where a child’s name is not placed on the Register, it will be appropriate to formulate a Child In Need Plan or Team Around the Child and Family Plan;
  • Set the criteria for de-registration;
  • Involve the wider family network in the plan where appropriate;
  • Agree a time, date and place for the first Core Group meeting;
  • Agree a time, date and venue for a review conference, the first taking place within 3 months of the Initial Conference.

Planning the removal at birth of a registered unborn child

Where an unborn child is considered, by one or more agencies or services, to be a child at risk of significant harm when born, agencies and services are required to work together and share information to ensure that the baby is not at risk of significant harm after the birth. Consideration should also be given to the welfare of older children in the family.

The following situations may provide some guidance on whether there is either future risk to a child or risk to an unborn child; they should not be taken as the only situations where risk should be considered:

  • The expectant mother is living with, or in contact with, a person who is known to have abused a child, been convicted of abusing a child;
  • The expectant mother has herself abused previous children, either her own or others;
  • The expectant mother is suffering from a severe mental/emotional disability that is likely to cause risk to the unborn baby when the birth occurs. Examples of this are severe mental illness, self harm and severe learning disability;
  • The expectant mother has habits and a mode of life, which are likely to pose a threat or risk to the child when born. This could involve severe drug or alcohol abuse, which prevents the mother showing her ability to care for the child at birth. It may involve her reluctance to seek medical attention or cooperation with the Health Agencies during pregnancy;
  • The expectant mother is or has been subject of violence by a current partner (as a result of domestic violence) and that situation is likely to continue during pregnancy and immediately after the birth. In these circumstances there would/may be substantial evidence from several agencies regarding previous and current incidents.

In these circumstances an assessment should be carried out and a decision made as to whether the threshold has been reached regarding child protection enquiries - child at risk of significant harm. The Pre-birth Pathway should be followed

Consideration must be given to holding an Initial Child Protection Conference where child protection enquiries give rise to concern that an unborn child may be at future risk of significant harm. MASH Enquiries should be confirmed in writing, including the referral discussion and clear details about who is taking action or reasons for no further action. These should be recorded by the Children’s Service and referring agencies. This meeting should consider provisional plans for actions at the time of the child’s birth and when discharge from hospital is imminent.

A Strategy Discussion or Meeting should take the same format as other Child Protection Strategy Discussions or Meetings. Information shared, or decisions reached and the basis for decisions, should be clearly recorded by all parties to the discussion.

Planning the removal at birth of a registered unborn child

Where it is recommended that the child be removed at birth, Children’s Service will need to take immediate legal advice to consider whether the legal criteria are met and to plan the legal intervention. Where grounds for removal following birth are upheld legally, the recommended legal intervention is an Interim Care Order (ICO) but an Emergency Protection Order or Police Protection Order may be considered if required.

Where removal is to take place, the child’s plan including any application for an Emergency Protection Order will be completed as far as possible in advance and copies lodged with the Children’s Service Out of Hours Service. A plan of proposed action for affecting any legal order will be formulated by a Core Group involving a Children’s Service Senior Practitioner or Manager, Police Public Protection Unit staff, Senior Midwife and Health Visitor. The agreed plan of action formulated from the meeting’s recommendations will be put in writing.

Where disruption or violence is expected from the parents, or those associated with them, a contingency plan must be agreed and appropriate groups informed. The group planning such a contingency will involve the Police, Hospital Security, Core Group, managers and other appropriate staff.

Where the father or anyone else is deemed to be a risk to the mother, baby or staff, a decision will be made about the attendance of the father at the birth and follow-up visits as part of the child’s plan. Responsibility for the protection of the unborn baby and mother should be made clear. Where home birth is likely, the Ambulance Service will be made aware of the situation and advised on appropriate action. Where the mother is under 16 years of age, responsibilities for medical decisions at the time of the birth and thereafter need to be clearly defined and delegated, especially if the mother is under a current care order. A social worker should be allocated to the young mother and also to the child. If the expectant mother or the child’s father are vulnerable adults, separate social workers should be allocated to them.

Where a decision has been made to remove a child at birth, whether at home or within Health Department premises, the Police will ensure that a running incident log is kept until the removal is finalised. This will alert other officers to the possibility of assistance being requested by another agency and the agreed action to be taken. The Police duty officer will be responsible for ensuring this action is taken.

Where removal is to take place in hospital there may be a need to ensure a transitional ward is made available to ensure there is little or no disruption to other patients. This should also apply where other sensitive and possible volatile situations may develop, such as the serving of the EPO.

A review conference is intended:

  • To review whether the child is continuing to suffer, or is likely to suffer, significant harm, and review developmental progress against the Child Protection Plan outcomes;
  • To consider whether the Child Protection Plan should continue or should be changed.

Every review should consider explicitly whether the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm and hence continues to require safeguarding from harm through adherence to a formal Child Protection Plan. If the child is considered to be suffering significant harm, the Island/authority should consider whether to initiate family court proceedings. For further guidance see the Public Law Outline.

If not, then the child should no longer be the subject of a Child Protection Plan and the conference should consider what continuing support services may benefit the child and family and make recommendations accordingly.

Thorough regular review is critical to achieving the best possible outcomes for the child and includes:

  • Sharing and analysing up-to-date information about the child's health, development and functioning and the parent's capacity to ensure and promote the child's welfare;
  • Maintaining contact with Health professionals such as GPs and Health Visitors about the child;
  • Considering the impact on the child of the capacity and functioning of the parent/carer;
  • Ensuring that the measures already in place to safeguard the child from harm are effective and in line with local arrangements;
  • Regularly reviewing the progress of all aspects of the Child Protection Plan;
  • Making changes to the Child Protection Plan (e.g. where a family is not co-operating);
  • Deciding what action is required to safeguard the child if there are changes to the child's circumstances;
  • Setting or defining desired outcomes and timescales;
  • Seeking and taking into account the child's (possibly changed) wishes and feelings;
  • Making judgements about the likelihood of the child suffering significant harm in the future;
  • Deciding whether there is a need for an updated assessment.

The first Review Child Protection Conference should be held within three months of the date of the Initial Child Protection Conference.

Further reviews should be held at intervals of not more than six months for as long as the child remains the subject of a Child Protection Plan. If the initial conference was a pre-birth conference the review conference should take place within one month of the child's birth or within three months of the date of the pre-birth conference, whichever is sooner. Subsequent review conferences should take place within six months thereafter.

All review conferences should consider the timescales to meet the needs and safety of the child. An infant or child under the age of 5 where there are serious concerns about the levels of risk might require the timescales to be shorter than those set above. The decisions should reflect the circumstances of the child and the impact on the child of the concerns rather than any agency constraints.

Reviews should be brought forward where / when:

  • Child protection concerns relating to a new incident or allegation of abuse have been substantiated;
  • There are significant difficulties in carrying out the Child Protection Plan;
  • A child is to be born into the household of a child or children already subject of Child Protection Plans (see Joint Protocol for Multi-Agency Pre-Birth Assessment and Referral Pathway);
  • An adult or child who poses a risk to children is to join, or commences regular contact with, the household;
  • There is a significant change in the circumstances of the child or family not anticipated at the previous conference and with implications for the safety of the child;
  • A child subject of a Child Protection Plan is also looked after by the Minister and consideration is being given to returning them to the circumstances where care of the child previously aroused concerns (unless this step is anticipated in the existing Child Protection Plan).


2. Looked After Children and Child Protection Conferences

Looked after Children with Child Protection Plans

Children who are already looked after will not usually be the subject of Child Protection Conferences, though they may be the subject of an Article 42 Enquiry. The circumstances in which a child who is Looked After may be subject to a Child Protection Plan or be considered for a Child Protection Conference would be:

  • A child, who is subject of proceedings without any Order, pending the outcome of the final family court proceedings hearing.

If a parent removes or proposes to remove a child Looked After on a voluntary basis from the care of the Minister and there are serious concerns about that parent's capacity to provide for the child's needs and protect them from significant harm, the social worker must discuss the case with the Social Care Manager and make a decision about whether a child protection enquiry should be initiated. If a child protection enquiry is initiated, the reasons for this must be clearly recorded on the child's record and may lead to an initial Child Protection Conference. In such circumstances, the social worker and manager should consider whether legal action is required to protect the child.

Children with Child Protection Plans who become Looked After

If a child subject of a Child Protection Plan becomes Looked After on a voluntary basis, their legal situation is not permanently secure and the next Review Child Protection Conference should consider the child's safety in the light of the possibility that the parent can request their removal from the care of the Minister. The Review Child Protection Conference must be sure that the Looked After Child Care Plan provides adequate security for the child and sufficiently reduces or eliminates the risk of significant harm identified by the previous Child Protection Conference.

If a child ceases to be subject of a Child Protection Plan as a result of a decision at a Review Child Protection Conference, and the parent then unexpectedly requests the return of the child from the Minister's care, the social worker and manager should consider the immediate safety of the child and arrange at Strategy Meeting seeking legal advice as necessary.


3. Membership of Child Protection Conference

Participants at a Child Protection Conference

Those attending a conference should have significant contributions to make arising from their professional knowledge and expertise of the child or young person and family. Social workers will always attend Conferences. The social worker in consultation with their supervisor will draw up an attendance list.

If a case has not been referred or is not open to an agency, it may not be appropriate for them to attend an Initial Child Protection Conference. These settings are often stressful for families and are often not the best place to meet for the first time. In addition, there are confidentiality issues to consider as it may be that they are being asked to participate in discussions about families that are not appropriate for their service.

Those who have a relevant contribution to make should include:

  • Children and young people
    Children and young people who are the subject of the Child Protection Conference should be invited to attend all or part of the meeting if they are of sufficient age and understanding. Where appropriate, an advocate or advisor may accompany the child. If the child does not wish to attend, or is too young to do so, the social worker or another appropriate conference attendee should discuss with the child or young person prior to the conference how best their views can be contributed to the conference;
  • Parents and other members of the extended family if they have a relevant contribution to make:
    Parents and any person with parental responsibility should be invited to attend each Child Protection Conference. Any other person who does not have parental responsibility but who is actively involved with the child or young person such as a partner of one of the parents, and other family members can be invited where their attendance would be in the best interest of the child or young person, with the prior agreement of the Chair. Attendance of people other than parents should normally be discussed with the parents and with children or young people who have sufficient understanding;
  • Children’s Service staff involved in the enquiry or assessment and in the case of an Initial Child Protection Conference the Supervisor and / or Line Manager may also attend;
  • Professionals (and occasionally volunteers working with professionals) involved with the child/family;
  • Those involved with the child protection enquiry (e.g. Police);
  • Others with relevant information or involvement with the family, with the prior agreement of the Chair.

Advocacy Worker

Parents and children can bring an Advocacy worker [1], supporter or friend to support them at the conference. Their main function is observational and to assist the child or young person or parent to contribute effectively and make their views known. Through the Chair they may seek to clarify points of fact or provide additional information on behalf of the parent. They will not be invited to give their opinions as to whether abuse has occurred and whether the child or young person’s name should be placed on the Register, but they may assist the child / young person or parent to give their views. An advocacy worker can have a positive role to play as a child’s or parent’s independent supporter and can help them prepare for a conference. Their attendance is at the discretion of the Chair who should meet with them prior to the Conference to clarify their role, which is not adversarial.

A Guardian ad Litem or Court Welfare Officer will be invited to attend to obtain information if they are actively involved with the child or family. Their role is observational and they should not express any opinion nor take part in the decision making process, although they may explain their role in the case.

[1] The term ‘advocacy worker’ is used to describe a person who supports an individual to express their views, or advocates on their behalf. It does not refer to a legal representative.

Location, Timing and Safety for Conferences

The location and timing of the conference should be planned to ensure maximum attendance from the most critical attendees. In exceptional circumstances consideration may be given for key professionals to contribute via conference calls. Conferences should not be scheduled for times when parents will be busy looking after children at home (e.g. after the end of the school day). Wherever possible, Children’s Services should provide parents with the opportunity to utilise appropriate day care for their children to enable their attendance at the conference.

ISS is responsible for taking into account health and safety issues and security arrangements when planning each conference. See also Section 5, Exclusion of Family Members from a Conference.

Conference Quorum

Quorum for Initial and Review Conferences

As a minimum for every conference there should be attendance by Children’s Service and at least two other professionals from agencies/organisations that have had or are having direct contact with the child or young person subject of the conference or a parent. It is possible to have a quorum even if the professionals come from the same professions or agency.

A decision to proceed without three agencies that have not all had direct contact with the child and/or the parents will be at the discretion of the Chair. Only in exceptional circumstances should a conference proceed on this basis and in any case this should only apply to Review Conferences.

Parents (and child/young person if appropriate) will be invited to attend the meeting 30 minutes prior to the scheduled start time of the meeting. They will be given the opportunity to meet with the Chair, ask any questions about process and to re-read the reports if they desire. Other professionals are requested to arrive at the meeting at least 15 minutes prior to the scheduled start of the meeting.


4. Involving Children and Family Members

The involvement of the parents, children and extended family is important, both at the child protection enquiry stage and also at the conference stages, as research has shown such involvement of the parent will lead to better protection of the child or young person.

This must include consideration of any special needs, including language or communication difficulties or physical access to buildings.

Information not to be shared by professionals with the parent / carer at the conference must be conveyed to the Chair before the conference. Please note: any party who discloses information to the Chair, which is not made available to the parents, must be aware that it may subsequently be the duty of the Chair to disclose the information to others for lawful purpose of prevention or detection of crime or the protection of children.

The Chair should meet with the parent and advocate/support attending to discuss the following:

  • The purpose and objective of the conference, including its intended outcome;
  • Whether the parent has received sufficient information about the process and to answer any additional questions posed by the parents;
  • The introduction of the family to the conference;
  • The role of an independent advocate/supporter;
  • Why any member of the family has been excluded (paying attention to the protocol on confidentiality, especially if parents are not living together);
  • The confidentiality of the conference.

Parents have a right to know and understand the information that will be presented at the Child Protection Conference. Social workers should have discussed the contents of their conference report with parents in advance, and should have given them a copy of the report countersigned by their supervisor. Information will be shared with the parent, but some information may be withheld if it will breach the child or young person’s confidentiality or that of a third party or would be detrimental to the child’s welfare or an ongoing criminal investigation.

Criteria for Presence of Child at Conference, including Direct Involvement

Children and young people should be given an opportunity to attend the conference, dependant on their age and understanding. The primary questions to be addressed are:

  • Does the child have sufficient understanding of the process?
  • Have they expressed an explicit or implicit wish to be involved?
  • What are the parents' views about the child's proposed presence?
  • Is inclusion assessed to be of benefit to the child?

The test of 'sufficient understanding' is partly a function of age and partly the child's capacity to understand. The following approach is recommended:

  • A (rebuttable) presumption that a child of less than twelve years of age is unlikely to be able to be a direct and/or full participant in a forum such as a Child Protection Conference;
  • A presumption (also rebuttable by evidence to the contrary) that from the age of twelve and over, a child should be offered such an opportunity.

A declared wish not to attend a conference (having been given such an explanation) must be respected.

If they desire not to attend or it is inappropriate, their wishes and feelings should be conveyed to the conference by their social worker and / or representative. In this situation the representatives should meet with the child or young person before the conference to ascertain how best his/her views can be made known (e.g. a recording, a letter).

Where a child or young person’s safety or welfare will be prejudiced by their attendance with their parent it is essential that other ways are found for their views to be made known e.g. via an advocate/support person, or their meeting the Chair prior to the meeting. Separate meetings should be arranged and the child’s meeting should take precedent over that with their parent / carer.

Consideration should be given to the views of and impact on parent/s of their child's proposed attendance.

Consideration must be given to the impact of the conference on the child (e.g. where it will be impossible to ensure they are kept apart from a parent who may be hostile and / or attribute responsibility to them). Consideration must be given in particular to the extent to which it is appropriate for a child to hear details of a parent's personal difficulties and a parent's view about this must be respected.

In such cases, energy and resources should be directed toward ensuring that, by means of an advocate and / or preparatory work by a social worker, the child's wishes and feelings are effectively represented.

Direct involvement of a Child in a Conference

If the child or young person intends to attend the conference, the Chair should meet with them and discuss the above issues, independently of the parents if appropriate. Each child or young person in the family should be discussed separately.

Children and family members should be helped in advance to think about what they want to convey to the conference and how best to get their points across. Some may find it helpful to provide their own written report, which they may be assisted to prepare by their social worker, supporter or advocate. This, and other ways of helping a child or young person and family to participate fully, should be explored with them.

Consideration should be given to enabling the child to be accompanied by a supporter or an advocate.

The child or young person and any advocate or advisor accompanying them to the case conference should meet prior to any conference. They should be given sufficient time to receive and discuss information considered relevant with the social worker/Chair of the conference; however, this should not include third party information unless the third party has given their consent. The representative may accompany the child or young person, represent their views and read out any statement from the child, but cannot take part in any decision making other than assisting the child or young person to get their views across effectively.

Indirect Contributions when a Child is not Attending

Indirect contributions from a child should, whenever possible, include a pre-meeting with the conference Chair.

Other indirect methods include written statements, e-mails, text messages and taped comments prepared alone or with independent support and representation via an advocate.

Childcare professionals should all be able to represent a child's views and a particular responsibility falls upon the social worker to do so. It is more important that the child feels involved in the whole process of child protection assessment rather than merely receiving an invitation to the conference.


5. Exclusion of Family Members from a Conference

Exclusions from the Conference

Exclusion of a parent or a child or young person should only occur in exceptional circumstances. Professionals should, however, be able to share information in a safe, non-threatening environment and not be prevented from carrying out their task. The decision to exclude a particular person or group lies with the Chair.

The conference Chair, or other participants, must be notified as soon as possible (preferably at least three working days in advance) by the social worker if it is considered necessary to exclude one or both parents for all or part of a conference.

The agency concerned must indicate which of the grounds it believes is met and the information or evidence on which the request is based. The Chair must consider the representation carefully and may need legal advice.

Any exclusion period should be for the minimum duration necessary and must be clearly recorded in the conference record.

If, in planning a conference, it becomes clear to the Chair that there may be a conflict of interest between the children and the parents, the conference should be planned so that the welfare and safety of the child remains paramount.

Parents or children will be excluded from all or part of the conference if:

  • Information is brought to the attention of the Chair that it is likely that their attendance will result in intimidation and / or a physical threat to any person attending;
  • The Chair receives sufficient evidence they are likely to disrupt the meeting;
  • They become verbally abusive or threatening during the conference;
  • Attendance of one will prevent the attendance of the other, although arrangements should be made, if possible, to stagger attendance;
  • There is a legal order preventing contact with others present (although the possibility of staggering attendance should be considered).

There are some circumstances when someone may need to be excluded from the meeting temporarily:

  • There is a need to share confidential evidence from professionals;
  • There is a need to share information about an investigation that may be prejudiced if shared with the parent;
  • There is a need to hear third party information;
  • The conference needs to be given legal advice, although this may also be achieved by a short adjournment so that the professionals who need the advice seek it and convey it to the conference as appropriate.

Where a decision is taken that a parent will not be invited to the meeting, they should be advised in writing. If this cannot be achieved they should be advised verbally. The reason for exclusion or partial exclusion must be noted in the minutes with confirmation that the parent received notice of the reason. A copy of the letter should be sent to the parents’ legal representative or advocacy worker if they have one.

The Chair should seek to ensure that any parent or their representative not invited to the meeting can make representation and this should be considered carefully. The representative may be allowed to present a statement from the parent or attend the conference on the excluded person’s behalf.


6. The Absence of Parents and/or Children

If parents and / or children do not wish to attend the conference they must be provided with full opportunities to contribute their views. The social worker must facilitate this by:

  • The use of an advocate or supporter to attend on behalf of the parent or child if the child or parent is in agreement;
  • Enabling the child or parent to write or tape or use drawings to represent their views;
  • Agreeing that the social worker, or any other professional, expresses their views.


7. Information for the Conference

In order for the conference to reach well-informed decisions based on evidence, it needs adequate preparation and sharing of information on the child/ren's needs and circumstances by all agencies that have had significant involvement with the child and family, including those who were involved in the assessment All reports must be clear and distinguish between facts, observations, allegations and opinions.

A record will be made of what reports have been received and whether they were made available to parents and professionals in advance.

Social workers will provide written reports to the conference and have a specific format to follow in relation to the report for conferences guided by the ‘Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families (2000)’.

Professionals who are invited to attend a conference or review should submit a report detailing their involvement with the child and family whether they are able to attend the meeting or not. The reports should be in the format agreed by the Safeguarding Children Partnership Board (SPB). There will be variations in the extent to which all sections are completed, dependent upon the agency’s knowledge of the family and the extent and nature of its involvement. It is good practice that a distinction is made between fact, observation, allegation and opinion.

Every effort should be made by all attendees to discuss with the parent and the child or young person, if appropriate, the likely content of these reports and provide them with a copy prior to the conference. Copies of all reports should be submitted to ISS at least one working day before an Initial Child Protection Conference, and three working days before a Review Child Protection Conference. It is acknowledged that the urgency of some conferences may prevent professionals from providing a copy prior to the meeting.

In summary, the report should include:

  • A chronology of significant events and agency and professional contact with the child and family;
  • Information on the child or young person’s current and past state of health and development;
  • Information on the capacity of the parents and other family members to ensure the child or young person’s safety from harm and to promote the child’s health and development;
  • The expressed views, wishes and feelings of the child or young person, parents and other family members;
  • An analysis of the implications of the information obtained for the child’s future safety, health and development, including perceived risks and protective factors.

Reports will then be made available to those attending. It is good practice for the contents of the report to be discussed with the parents and, if appropriate, the child, prior to the Conference. Their consent to the sharing of any confidential information should also be sought, provided this does not compromise the child’s safety for consent to the sharing of personal information. For more information, see Information Sharing.

Relevant convictions of persons being discussed at the conference will only be given verbally by the Police and will not be recorded in the minutes.


8. Chairing the Conference

The Chair’s main responsibility in chairing Child Protection Conferences is to maintain an independent role; they will have professional knowledge of child protection issues and practice and appropriate training. Independent Reviewing Officers who have had the necessary training and experience can also chair Child Protection Conferences.

The roles and duties of the Chair are to:

  • Ensure reports submitted to the conference have been read;
  • Ensure that reports have been shared with the parents (and child/young person if appropriate) prior to the conference – at least before the report is sent to ISS prior to the conference. If necessary, an interpreter or advocacy worker should be available to assist prior to the conference and for the conference itself if there are communication issues;
  • Meet with parents (and child/young person if appropriate), who will be invited to attend the meeting 30 minutes prior to the scheduled start time of the meeting. The purpose of this meeting is for the parties to introduce themselves to each other, and to briefly describe the conference process, who is attending and what their role is. The parents should be given the opportunity to ask any questions about process and to re-read the reports;
  • Ensure that other professionals are invited to arrive at the meeting at least 15 minutes prior to the scheduled start of the meeting in order to read the reports prepared by other professionals, if these have not been circulated in advance;
  • Decide if a conference should proceed when a quorum has not been reached;
  • Set the agenda, confirm issues about confidentiality and the purpose of the conference;
  • Decide upon any exclusion from the conference;
  • Facilitate the conference ensuring full participation by those present. Ensure that each person present has the opportunity to add their information and contribute to any discussion and decision-making process;
  • Ensure that the views of each child are clarified and carefully considered and recorded and whether or not he/she/they are present at the conference;
  • Ensure that the views of each parent or person with parental responsibility are clarified and carefully considered and recorded, whether or not they are present at the conference;
  • Ascertain the views of each conference member as to whether each child or young person has been harmed, or is likely to be significantly harmed and whether a formal Child Protection Plan is necessary;
  • Summarise the discussions and opinions expressed about whether the child or children have been significantly harmed or are likely to be;
  • In light of the views expressed, reach a conclusion on the decision of the conference to whether each child or young person has been significantly harmed and/or is likely to be significantly harmed and a formal Child Protection Plan is necessary;
  • Ensure that any disagreements amongst participants over registration/non registration/de-registration or over protection plans are fully discussed, carefully listening to those expressing a minority view;
  • Decide the category for registration ensuring that all categories of actual or likely harm are noted;
  • Take responsibility for accuracy of conference minutes and sign them, ensuring in particular that any dissenting views are recorded;
  • Approve the minutes of the meeting, checking for inaccuracy and ensure they are disseminated to the correct people.

The issues discussed during the conference should be treated by each party in a manner which is consistent with good practice and with its legal powers and obligations (including data protection and human rights). Subsequent processing/disclosure of information with the appropriate safeguards may be required for lawful purposes such as the prevention or detection of crime and/or the protection of children.

The minutes should be completed as soon as possible; at the very least the outline of the Child Protection Plan should be completed, signed by the chair, and sent out to all attendees within 2 working days of the conference. The substantive minutes should be completed, signed and sent out within 8 working days. It is essential that the minutes are available for the first Core Group meeting in order to ensure that all relevant information is available to formulate the full Child Protection Plan. The minutes of Child Protection Conferences are confidential and should not be disclosed to a third party organisation without the permission of ISS.


9. The Child Protection Plan

Threshold for a Child Protection Plan

The conference should consider the following question when determining whether a child requires a multi-agency Child Protection Plan:

  • Has the child suffered significant harm? and
  • Is the child likely to suffer significant harm in the future?

The test for likelihood of suffering harm in the future should be that either:

  • The child can be shown to have suffered maltreatment or impairment of health or development as a result of neglect or physical, emotional or sexual abuse, and professional judgement is that further ill-treatment or impairment is likely; or
  • A professional judgement, substantiated by the findings of enquiries in this individual case or by research evidence, predicts that the child is likely to suffer maltreatment or the impairment of health and development as a result of neglect or physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

If a child is likely to suffer significant harm, then they will require multi-agency help and intervention delivered through a formal Child Protection Plan.

The primary purposes of this plan are to:

  • Ensure the child is safe from harm and prevent him or her from suffering further harm;
  • Promote the child's health and development; and
  • Support the family and wider family members to safeguard and promote the welfare of their child, provided it is in the best interests of the child.

Decision that a Child needs a Child Protection Plan

If a decision is taken that the child has suffered, or is likely to suffer significant harm and hence in need of a Child Protection Plan, the Chair should determine which category of abuse or neglect the child has suffered or is likely to suffer. The category used (that is physical, emotional, sexual abuse or neglect, see Responding to Abuse and Neglect Procedure for definitions) will indicate to those consulting the Children’s Service record the primary presenting concerns at the time the child became the subject of a Child Protection Plan.

The need for a protection plan and registration should be considered separately in respect of each child in the family or household.

Where a child is to be the subject of a Child Protection Plan, the conference is responsible for recommendations on how agencies, professionals and the family should work together to ensure that the child will be safeguarded from harm in the future. This should enable both professionals and the family to understand exactly what is expected of them and what they can expect of others.

The outline plan should:

  • Describe specific, achievable, child-focused outcomes intended to safeguard each child;
  • Describe the types of services required by each child (including family support) to promote their welfare;
  • Set a timescale for the completion of the assessment, if appropriate;
  • Identify any specialist assessments of each child and the family that may be required to ensure that sound judgements are being / can be made on how best to safeguard each child and promote their welfare;
  • Clearly identify roles and responsibilities of professionals and family members, including the nature and frequency of contact by professionals with children and family members;
  • Identify the resource implications for each agency as far as possible and determine the agency representation, who can commit agency resources, to the first Core Group meeting;
  • Lay down points at which progress will be reviewed, the means by which progress will be judged and who will monitor this;
  • Develop a robust contingency plan to respond if the family is unable to make the required changes and the child continues to be at risk of significant harm (e.g. recommend the consideration of legal action and the circumstances which would trigger this).


10. Child Does Not Require a Protection Plan

If the conference decides that a child has not suffered, or is not likely to suffer significant harm then the conference may not make the child the subject of a Child Protection Plan. The child may nevertheless require services to promote his or her health or development. In these circumstances, the conference should consider the child's needs and make recommendations for further help and support to assist the family in responding to them. The conference should consider drawing up a Child in Need Plan.

The decision must be put in writing to the parent/s, and agencies as well as communicated to them verbally.

Discontinuing a Current Child Protection Plan

The conference should use the same decision-making process to reach a judgement for when a protection plan is no longer needed. This includes situations where other multi-agency planning might need to replace a protection plan.

A child may no longer need a protection plan if:

  • A review conference judges that the child is no longer likely to suffer significant harm and no longer requires safeguarding by means of a Child Protection Plan;
  • The child has moved permanently to another Island/authority when a protection plan can only cease after the receiving authority has convened a transfer Child Protection Conference and confirmed in writing responsibility for case management;
  • The child has reached eighteen years of age, has died or has been judged to have permanently left the UK, when their name can be removed.

It is permissible for the Head of ISS to agree the discontinuing of a Child Protection Plan without the need to convene a Review Child Protection Conference only when:

  • One or other of the latter two criteria in the paragraph above are satisfied; and
  • They have consulted with relevant agencies present at the conference that first concluded that a Child Protection Plan was required.

When the process carried out at in the paragraph above is followed, the consultation with other agencies and the decision to discontinue the Child Protection Plan must be clearly recorded in the Children’s Service child's record.

When a child is no longer subject of a Child Protection Plan, notification should be sent, as a minimum, to the agencies' representatives who were invited to attend the initial conference that led to the plan.

When a Child Protection Plan is discontinued, the social worker must discuss with the parents and child/ren what services might be needed and required, based on the re-assessment of the needs of the child and family. A Child in Need Plan or a Team around the Child and Family Plan should be developed for any continuing support. The plan should be reviewed as required by the relevant procedure.


11. Professional Dissent from the Conference Decision

If an agency does not agree with a decision or recommendation made at a Child Protection Conference, their professional dissent will be recorded in the record of the conference. The procedures to apply the SPB Escalation and Resolution Pathway should be implemented as soon as practicable after the conference has concluded. See Escalation Policy and Resolution Pathway.


12. Complaints/Appeals by Children and/or Parents

Parents and, on occasion, children, may have concerns about which they wish to make representations or complain, in respect of one or more of the following aspects of the functioning of Child Protection Conferences:

  • The process of the conference;
  • The outcome, in terms of the fact of and/or the category of primary concern at the time the child became the subject of a Child Protection Plan;
  • A decision for the child to become, to continue or not to become, the subject of a Child Protection Plan.

Complaints about aspects of the functioning of conferences described above should be addressed to the conference chair. Such complaints/appeals should be passed on to the Chair's manager in ISS. See Complaints in Relation to Child Protection Conference.

Whilst a complaint is being considered, the decision made by the conference stands.

Complaints about individual agencies, their performance and provision (or non-provision) of services should be responded to in accordance with the relevant agency's own complaints procedure.


13. Administrative Arrangements for Child Protection Conferences

The Independent Safeguarding Service (ISS) is responsible for administering the Child Protection Conference service and has clear arrangements for the organisation of Child Protection Conferences including:

  • Arrangements for sending out invitations to children, parents and professionals;
  • Information leaflets for children and for parents (available in appropriate languages).

All conferences are recorded by a dedicated person whose sole task within the conference is to provide a written record of proceedings in a consistent format. Alternatively, an audiotape or digital recording may be used in some circumstances.

The conference record, signed by the conference Chair, should be sent to all those who attended or were invited to the conference within 8 working days of the conference. Any amendments should be received within two weeks of receipt of record.

A copy of the conference record should be discussed with the parents by the social worker within 20 working days. The conference Chair may decide that confidential material should be excluded from the parent's copy. The Decision letter should be sent to parents within 2 working days of the Conference taking place and after consideration of safety concerns e.g. in cases of domestic violence and abuse.

Where a friend, supporter or solicitor has been involved, the Chair should clarify with the parent whether a record should be provided for those individuals.

Relevant sections of the record should be explained to and discussed with the child by the social worker.

The conference Chair should decide whether a child should be given a copy of the record. The record may be supplied to a child's legal representative on request.

Where parents and / or the child/ren have a sensory disability or where English is not their first language, the social worker should ensure that they receive appropriate assistance to understand and make full use of the record. A family member should not be expected to act as an interpreter of spoken or signed language. See Working with Interpreters and others with Special Communication Skills.

Conference records are confidential and should not be shared with third parties without the consent of either ISS or an order of the court.

In criminal proceedings the Police may reveal the existence of child protection records to the Law Offices Department, and in care proceedings the records of the conference may be shared in the court.

The record of the decisions of the Child Protection Conference should be retained by the recipient agencies in accordance with their record retention policies.

Decision Letter

The outline plan, signed by the conference Chair, should be sent together with the decision letter, to all those who attended or were invited to the conference, including the parents and where appropriate the child, within two working days of the conference. The letter should give details of conference decisions and recommendations, the name of the social worker and details about the right to complain. Safety concerns should be considered when sending any documents to parents particularly in cases involving domestic violence and abuse.

Managing and Providing Information about a Child

All services should designate safeguarding Leads/Managers who have responsibility for:

  • Ensuring that records on children who are subject of a Child Protection Plan are kept up to date;
  • Ensuring enquiries about children about whom there are concerns or who are subject of Child Protection Plans are recorded and reviewed in the context of the child’s known history;
  • Managing notifications of movements of children who are subject of a Child Protection Plan, looked after children and other relevant children moving into or out of the Island/authority area.

In addition Children's Services will:

  • Managing notifications of people who may pose a risk of significant harm to children who are either identified within the Island/authority area or have moved into the area;
  • Managing requests for Island/authority checks to be made to ensure unsuitable people are prevented from working with children. E.g. prospective child minders, foster carers etc.

Information on each child known to Children’s Service should be kept up-to-date on the electronic record system. This information should be confidential but accessible at all times to legitimate enquirers. The details of enquirers should always be checked and recorded on the system before information is provided.

Child Protection Register

The Child Protection Register (hereafter called “the Register”) is a database maintained by Independent Safeguarding and Standards which includes the names of all children in Jersey who are the subject of a formal multi-agency Child Protection Plan because a Child Protection Conference has decided that they are at risk of physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse or neglect. The Register is confidential and only professional people who are involved with the child and family in question, the parents and child, and any member of the family or supporter who attended the conference, will know that the child’s name is on the Register.

The Children's Service must maintain a central Register that lists the names of children resident in Jersey who are considered to be at continuing risk of significant harm and for whom there is a formal multi-agency Child Protection Plan. The Register should also list children or young person with respect to whom a Child Protection Conference in another area has concluded that a multi-agency Child Protection Plan is necessary who are residing in Jersey.

The principal purpose of the Register is to make agencies and professionals aware of those children who have been judged to be at continuing risk of significant harm and in need of active safeguarding. The registration of children or young people can never be a substitute for professional judgement and practice, but the Register and the Child Protection Conference processes in Jersey are central to facilitating communication between the many disciplines involved in providing Child Protection Services.

Information contained on the Child Protection Register is child’s full name, address, gender and date of birth, date and category of registration.

The aims of the Register are:

  • To provide a record of children in Jersey who are currently the subject of inter-agency Child Protection Plans and to ensure that the plans are formally reviewed initially after 3 months and then at least every 6 months;
  • To provide a central point of enquiry for professional staff who are concerned about a child’s welfare and want to confirm whether the child is subject of a formal multi-agency Child Protection Plan;
  • To give relevant details about the child and their Social worker;
  • Professionals can check if children are subject of a Multi-agency Child Protection Plan by contacting the custodian of the register at the address below.

The Register is held by:

Independent Safeguarding and Standards
16/16A Britannia Place
Bath Street
St Helier
Jersey
JE2 4SU
E-mail: ISS@health.gov.je
Tel: 01534 443536 / 445155

Registration

The Initial Child Protection Conference will decide whether registration is required on the basis that the child or young person has suffered, is suffering or is likely to suffer ‘significant harm’ and action needs to be taken to ensure the continuing safety of the child.

Meaning of ‘significant harm’: Under the Children (Jersey) Law 2002 ‘harm’ means ill-treatment or the impairment of health or development. Where the question of whether harm suffered by a child is ‘significant’ needs to be decided, the health and development of the child in question must be compared to that which would be expected of a similar child.

Following a decision that registration should take place, the Chair of the conference should determine under which category or categories of abuse the child should be registered. The category or categories chosen will include all forms of maltreatment which must be considered in the Child Protection Plan. All those who attend the conference will be asked to state whether in their view the child’s name should be placed on the Register. The Chair will take all views into consideration and will make the final decision on registration. Any difference of opinion on the matter of registration will be recorded.

Categories of registration: The child’s name will be registered under one or more of the following categories:

  • Physical Abuse: may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer fabricates the symptoms of, or deliberately induces, illness in a child;
  • Sexual Abuse: involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, including prostitution, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative (e.g. rape, buggery or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts. They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual online images, watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways;
  • Neglect: the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development. Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse. It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs. Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to:
    • Provide adequate food, clothing and shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment);
    • Protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger;
    • Ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate care-givers);
    • Ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment.

      (See Indicators Of Neglect: Missed Opportunities –DFE Research Report 2014)
  • Emotional Abuse: the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development. This may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person. It may feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children. These may include interactions that are beyond the child’s developmental capability, as well as overprotection and limitation of exploration and learning, or preventing the child participating in normal social interaction. It may involve seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another, including domestic violence or serious bullying, causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of maltreatment of a child, though it may occur alone.

Amendments to this Chapter

In March 2017, this chapter was updated including the addition of a link in Section 1, Child Protection Conferences to Additional Information for Professionals Leaflet.

End.