The case of every child who is still subject to a child protection plan after the first review conference should be further reviewed at intervals of no more than six months.
Consideration should be given to bringing forward the date of a review conference where
- the core group believes that the plan should be ended
- there has been a further incident of significant harm to the child
- it has not been possible to carry out the child protection plan
- a person who is a danger to children begins to have contact with the child
- a significant change for the worse happens, or
the child moves from where they were at risk to a safer place, either with foster carers, a children’s home, or other family members or friends of the family.
Each review conference will
- review the safety, health and development of the child and compare this with what was hoped for
- ensure that the child continues to be protected
- consider whether the child protection plan should continue as it is, or should be changed
- decide either that the child continues to be at risk of significant harm and should still have a child protection plan, or that the plan should be ended.
Interpreters should be used where the family’s first language is not English or where anyone has needs because of a disability.
How to do it
Parents (including divorced or separated parents) and children and young people who are being discussed should be invited to attend, and to bring an advocate, friend or supporter if they wish. [WTSC 5.84] Children and young people should be involved throughout the child protection process. This does not necessarily mean that they must attend the actual conference, though this is often helpful. The child’s voice must be heard at the conference. This can be done by them
- being there, either alone or with an advocate
- writing a statement which is read out
- making a video to show to the conference, or
- being represented by an advocate.
Whichever method is used the social worker, and where appropriate other people at the conference, should be able to explain
- what the child says happened
- what the child wants to happen now
- the child’s experience of living in the family.
It is the responsibility of the conference chair to show that the child’s voice was heard in the conference and that the child was able to influence decision making. If it was not, the chair should ensure that it will be included in any work that happens after the conference.
All written information should be provided in the first or most appropriate language for the family or in another medium accessible to them (for example, Braille, audio tape).
The chair should meet with the parents and child prior to the conference to discuss how the meeting will work. This may be done with the parents and children together, or separately, as the chair sees fit.
Lessons from research
The enquiry into the death of Caleb Ness, who died aged 11 weeks, focused on the child protection conference about him. It was noted that the ward nurse, who was attending her first conference, did not feel able to say what she really thought, because she felt herself to be of lower status than the other professionals there. Unfortunately, she was the person who had spent most time with the parents and the child.
It is therefore important to ensure that all members of the conference, including children, young persons and parents, are taking part fully, and this should not be the sole responsibility of the chair.