Protecting children processes from referral to conference


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Protecting children processes from referral to conference

  1. 1. Protecting Children Processes: From referral to conference Nathan Loynes
  2. 2. On receipt of a ‘referral’. If Children’s Services receive information from a member of the public or another professional such as family support worker, who thinks that the child may not be safe, Children’s Services must (Ch. Act 1989 s.47) make enquiries to find out if the child is safe i.e. not at risk of significant harm.
  3. 3. Child Protection Enquiries These enquiries are called ‘child protection enquiries’ or ‘a child protection investigation.’ The aim of the enquiries is to gather information about the child’s circumstances and to decide whether Children’s Services should take any action to keep the child safe or promote his/her welfare.
  4. 4. Decision (within 1 working Day) If Children’s Services hear that a child may be at risk of harm, they must decide within one working day what kind of assessment they should do (if any) and whether or not they need to start making child protection enquiries. The parents and children should be informed about what they plan to do. (Working Together 2013 pg 26)
  5. 5. This may be followed by any of the following stages of the child protection process: A. Assessment of your child’s needs and circumstances B. Strategy discussion C. Child protection conference D. Child protection plan & lead social worker E. Core groups F. Child protection review conference G. Legal planning meeting & letter/meeting before proceedings These events may or may not happen in this order. It will depend on the child’s circumstances.
  6. 6. The Initial Assessment If it is decided to start child protection enquiries, the social worker will assess the family’s situation and decide whether or not they think your child is suffering or likely to suffer ‘significant harm’. The social worker should carry out any child protection enquiry in such a way as to limit the distress for the family and the children
  7. 7. The need to see the child Social Workers need to see the child and they will generally ask for parental agreement before speaking to them. Government guidance says that ‘wherever possible’ the social worker should see the child alone to find out what your child thinks about their situation. (Working Together 2013 para 38 page 21)
  8. 8. Decision to seek permission to speak to child Social Workers may speak to a child without parental permission if they think that asking permission would put the child at further risk. This might arise in joint police and Children’s Services enquiries/investigations where there is • a concern that a possible victim may be threatened into silence; • a strong likelihood that important evidence may be destroyed; or • The child does not want the parent involved and is able to make that decision. (Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings 2011 para 2.40 page 19)
  9. 9. Removing Children (Decision) • Children cannot be removed from the family by the child protection process itself. • They can be removed if: i) The parent or another person with parental responsibility, agrees or ii) the court has made a care order or emergency protection order giving Children’s Services the right to remove your child; or iii) the situation is so serious that Children’s Services ask the police to remove the child without a court order – they can do this for up to 72 hours
  10. 10. The ‘Core Assessment’ (Decision) • The assessment should be completed within a maximum of 45 working days of it being started. • The start date will be the point when the referral was made.
  11. 11. The Strategy Discussion (Decision) • A strategy discussion is arranged by Children’s Services when they believe there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm. • It is led by Children’s services but also involves the police and other agencies like health or education. • It may be a meeting or phone call. • The family will not be invited to participate in this discussion.
  12. 12. The Initial Conference • The conference must be held within 15 working days of the strategy discussion • (or the strategy discussion where the need for child protection enquiries was agreed, if more than one has been held).
  13. 13. Decision at Conference • Apart from deciding the date of any future review conference, the conference can only decide one thing: whether or not there should be a child protection plan for the child. • The child protection plan is similar to the old (ACPC) Child Protection Register.
  14. 14. Decision which parents attend the conference There is a clear expectation that parents will be invited to the conference, and the purpose of the meeting should be explained to parents, children and involved family members as appropriate. However, in some circumstances, such as when there is a high level of conflict or domestic violence between family members or parents, the chair of the conference may decide to exclude someone from attending.
  15. 15. What is a child protection plan? • If the conference has decided that the child needs a child protection plan, everyone at the conference will make recommendations about what is needed for the child to be kept safe in future. This might include, for example, that s/he must not come into contact with someone who is thought to have harmed him/her. • The recommendations/decisions of the conference will be set out in as much detail as possible in an outline child protection plan
  16. 16. The Lead Social Worker Every child who is the subject of a child protection plan should have a lead social worker allocated to them. The lead social worker is responsible for: • developing the outline plan into a full interagency plan, and that this is then circulated to relevant professionals and family members • leading core group activity including convening meetings
  17. 17. The Core Group The purpose of the core group is to bring together family members and professionals to develop the outline plan into a full child protection plan and then make sure it is followed and regularly reviewed at core group meetings. The first core group meeting must be held within 10 working days of the conference. This will monitor the progress and outcomes agreed in the plan and refine the plan as needed.
  18. 18. Conclusion: 1. Being involved in a child protection process is potentially very stressful for the family, practitioners should be mindful of this. 2. 3 sets of procedures may be running simultaneously each with its own process and timescales. These procedures can intertwine at different points depending on the facts of the case. (Sometimes the ‘court’ procedure may not be present = only 2 procedures): They are: 1. Assessment and timescales. 2. Conference preparation and core groups. 3. Court and care/supervision order applications.