The decision making process
The main decision which has to be made at the conference is whether or not the child’s name should be placed on the child protection register. In so doing the areas of concern (risk factors) that lead to the view the child is at significant risk of harm should be clearly identified and recorded. The primary area of concern (risk factor) and secondary one should be highlighted.
Discussion at the conference can contribute to making this decision, as well as providing a basis for future planning for the child. The conference needs to establish as far as is possible the cause of the significant harm or of the likelihood of future significant harm to the child, and to record all of the pertinent concerns. If the child name is placed on the child protection register the conference will also agree an outline child protection plan.
The decision as to whether or not a child’s name should be placed on the child protection register depends on the answer to the question, ‘Has the child suffered or are they likely to suffer significant harm. Consideration also needs to be given to the relationship between the child and the suspected or alleged abuser.’
The child is at continuing risk of significant harm if either:
- 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; or
- 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 the impairment of health or development as a result of, physical injury, physical chastisement, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect.
- The conference will take account of the following process of decision making:
- The decision whether or not to include a child’s name on the child protection register will be arrived at via a process of information sharing and discussion which includes all persons present at the conference and any written reports provided, including reports from those unable to attend.
- The chair will establish the opinion of each agency and professional grouping about placing the child’s name on the child protection register.
- The views of all individuals present including the views of parents and children will be taken into account at the conference..
- The ultimate decision to place the child’s name on the child protection register is an executive decision by the child protection conference chair. If anyone including the child or parent, attending the conference does not agree with the decisions made, they can have their dissent recorded within the minute of the conference. The chair must bring the dissent to the attention of the head of service children and families or the appropriate manager immediately and agree a course of action. The head of service should respond in writing to the dissenting person within 28 days.
- If a parent (or child) disagrees with the registration decision they can appeal this. They can also have their dissent noted in the minutes. Advice must be given on the appeal process. They should be advised that they must contact the head of service children and families, social work within five working days. This should be in writing and a standard letter is available from the social worker for convenience. The social worker can assist with this if necessary. The head of service will respond fully in writing to the person who made the appeal within 28 days.
- In very exceptional circumstances it may be appropriate to defer a decision about registration. The chair must ensure that clear reasons are given for any decision to defer and are carefully recorded. The initial child protection conference will need to be re-convened within ten working days in order to make the decision, and, in the meantime, an inter-agency initial child protection plan to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child must be set out.
- The members of the initial child protection conference must ensure that the welfare and protection of the children is the primary focus.
- Where the child is considered to be at continuing risk of significant harm and their name is to be put on the child protection register, the child will require multi-agency support and intervention delivered through a formal child protection plan, to be outlined in the conference.
- Even where the child is not considered to be at continuing risk of significant harm, the child may be in need of support to promote his or her development. Consideration must be given to the assessed need for compulsory measures of care and if required a referral should be made to the children’s reporter. Compulsory measures of care are required when parents or carers or the child are unable or unwilling to engage with services sufficiently to address the risks and needs for that child, or where concerns about a child’s welfare or behaviour cannot be addressed on a voluntary basis.
- In such cases, a copy of the child protection conference minutes should be sent to the reporter containing the decisions and reason for the referral. A copy of the CP1 report should also be sent. Where the concerns for the child do not reach threshold for registration or referral to SCRA consideration should be given as soon as possible to need for multi agency assessment and support plan.
When the decision is made that a child’s name should be placed on the child protection register, the chair must contact the keeper of the local child protection register and out of hours services and ensure that the registration category is clearly identified and recorded, based on the assessment and discussions, describing the risk addressed by the agreed actions. The chair must contact the keeper of the child protection register and the central child protection register immediately following the initial child protection conference to pass on the relevant details.
Throughout the child protection conference consideration must be given to any risks or needs which might affect other children within the household.