1. The key decisions that all conferences must make is:
2. The Conference Chair must decide what category of abuse or neglect applies to that child.
3. The Conference will draw up the outline Plan and make the specified decisions in relation to that Plan.
Decisions are made on the basis of all the information provided to the conference.
Decisions should be arrived at by a consensus of the agencies present. Any dissenting views will be noted by the Chair and included in the Conference Record. If agreement cannot be reached, the chair must decide the issue.
Each child should be considered individually and a decision made in respect of the individual child should take into account all the evidence that pertains to that individual child.
Parents’ and children’s views must be taken into account by the Chair, but parents and children are not included in the formal decision making process.
The key decision that all conferences must make is:
- Has the child suffered significant harm?
- Is the child likely to suffer significant harm in the future?
The child is judged to be at continuing risk of significant harm if either of the following two conditions are met:
- the child can be shown to have suffered ill-treatment or impairment of health or development as a result of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect, and professional judgement is that further ill-treatment or impairment are likely
- professional judgement, substantiated by the findings of enquiries in this individual case or by research evidence, is that the child is likely to suffer ill-treatment or impairment of health or development as a result of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect
If a decision is taken that a child is likely to suffer significant harm in the future and is in need of a Child Protection Plan, the Conference Chair must determine what category of abuse or neglect applies to that child. The category used should indicate the primary presenting concerns at the time the child became subject of a Child Protection Plan. The categories are:
- physical abuse
- emotional abuse
- sexual abuse
If the decision taken is that a child is likely to suffer significant harm in the future and is in need of a Child Protection Plan, safeguarding the child will require inter-agency intervention delivered through a formal Child Protection Plan. The initial conference draws up the outline Child Protection Plan and the core group established at the initial conference develops this plan further at its first meeting. The full Child Protection Plan put in place at the first core group will then be reviewed at subsequent review conferences and the Plan amended as needed.
If the conference decides that a child is in need of a Child Protection Plan, it must decide on the following:
- the appointment of a lead social worker, who will be a qualified, experienced social worker from Children’s Social Care
- the membership of a core group of professionals and family members who will develop and implement the Child Protection Plan as a working tool
- the timescales for meetings of the core group and production of a Child Protection Plan
- what further action, in outline, is needed to complete any formal assessments, including a core assessment
- an outline Child Protection Plan that especially identifies what needs to change in order to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child
- how the family are to be included in ongoing assessment, planning and implementation of the Child Protection Plan and what support they will need to do this
- what contingency plan will be required if agreed actions are not completed and /or circumstances change
- a date for a subsequent review conference, and under what circumstances it might be necessary to convene it before that date (e.g. if certain significant elements of the Child Protection Plan cannot be implemented satisfactorily)
- If the decision is that the child is NOT likely to suffer significant harm in the future, then the child does not need a Child Protection Plan.
- However, ‘child in need’ services may still be required to promote their health and development, and, in these circumstances, the conference together with the family should consider the child’s needs and what further help might be needed, including inter-agency support.
- Any agency that wishes to appeal a conference decision should confirm this in writing, with their reasons, to the Chair within 5 working days of the conference.
GOOD PRACTICE GUIDANCE:-
Where a child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm in the future, it is the local authority’s duty to consider the evidence and decide what, if any, legal action is required. The information presented at the child protection case conference will inform the decision making but it is for the local authority alone to decide whether to initiate any legal action such as care proceedings.
The outline Child Protection Plan should:
- Identify the factors associated with the likelihood of the child suffering significant harm and ways in which the child can be protected from harm
- Establish short and longer term objectives linked to preventing the child suffering harm and promoting their development and welfare, which may include arrangements for contact with family members
- Specify who has responsibility for what actions and within what timescales
- Specify how progress against the planned outcomes will be monitored
- Be clear about which professional is responsible for checking that required changes have taken place and what action will be taken, by whom, and when, if they have not.