Tag Archives: Child Protection Conference

Child In Need and Child Protection Conferences

Child in Need

Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 sets out that it shall be the general duty of every local authority to

  • to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need; and
  • so far as is consistent with that duty, to promote the upbringing of such children by their families

A Child in Need plan (CIN) can be produced for a child who has need of extra support for his safety, health and/or development, such as a child who has disabilities. Sometimes, if you are finding it difficult to meet all your child’s needs, for whatever reason  you may be able to get some support to help you.

You don’t have to accept a CIN, it is not compulsory. But if you decide you don’t want or won’t benefit from any support offered, it is a good idea to talk it through with the social worker as they might be worried why you don’t want the help, or that if you don’t take the help it could  increase the risk of harm to your child.

A CIN plan should be written down and reviewed at meetings. The plan should name the responsible professional who will make referrals, visit the child etc. The plan should be kept under review at regular meetings.

Concerns have been expressed that some social workers don’t appreciate the difference between ‘child in need’ – where intervention is voluntary – and child protection – where intervention will be force upon parents if it is felt necessary to keep children safe. For example, see this discussion at The Transparency Project by a social worker in August 2018 ‘Oh I’m sorry, did I forget to mention you don’t have to agree to this?’ When social workers forget that interventions under ‘Child in Need’ are voluntary’

The author comments:

My experience is that, in practice, social workers treat the two parts [of the Children Act] as if they are interchangeable. I have no doubt that social workers generally intend to do the best by the children with whom they work, often in very challenging circumstances, but observations of a typical local authority children’s service department suggest that social workers routinely intervene in a child’s life under the guise of section 17, where this may be inappropriate and without providing families with adequate information about the voluntary nature of their involvement. They are not working in partnership with families, but operate as if they are working through the powers available in part five of the Act. In this way, they are intervening in families’ lives potentially without justification, without scrutiny and without the agreement and consent from families.


Child Protection Plan

If there are worries that  your child may be at risk of significant harm due to things that you are doing or failing to do as parents, the local authority may have to consider a child protection plan.  This will be drawn up at a child protection conference and should deal with such matters as:

  • Who the key worker is – usually the social worker
  • What needs your child has and how the local authority can help to meet them
  • What needs you have as a parent
  • Who needs to do what and when to reduce concerns for your child

At the first meeting an outline child protection plan will be agreed and a core group identified. The core group will then meet about every six weeks to keep everything under review.

What is the core group?

The core group includes the professionals who need to work with you, such as teachers or health visitors. It is very important that parents attend these meetings so you can give your input and understand what is going on.

How long will the child protection plan last?

This will depend a lot on the circumstances of the case but probably after a year if the local authority are still worried about your child, they will have to think seriously about starting care proceedings.


Further reading

CPR post on the pre-proceedings stage.

CPR  post on investigations and referrals, including consideration of the local authority’s duties under section 47 of the Children Act 1989.

See this useful post from the Tees Local Safeguarding Children Board’s Procedure from September 2017

Surviving Safeguarding writes about the child in need meeting.

How do child protection issues get reported?

From 2011 – 2012 over 600,000 children were referred to local authority children’s social care services because of concerns about their welfare.  This number decreased by 1.9% for the year end 31st March 2013. See the most recent statistics from the Department of Education. 

In this post we look at the routes of referral and what happens when a referral is made.


Structure of child protection in England

The Department of Education is the government department which is responsible for children’s welfare. It will consider what changes to the law and policy are needed and issue guidance for those agencies who deal with children such as schools and local authorities.

The Children Act 2004 set up Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCB) to ensure all the relevant agencies work together, such as local authorities, health authorities and the police. Each LSCB has to produce an annual report.

The key statutory agency involved in child protection is the local authority (LA). Each LA has a Director of Children’s Services (DCS) who has ultimate responsibility for the provision of local education and social services for children.   An elected local councillor with be the ‘lead member’ and the DCS, the lead member and the LSCB work together to produce and implement child protection procedures.

The main policy guidance is Working Together to Safeguard Children which first came out in 1999. The main statutes are Part IV of the Children Act 1989 and the Children and Families Act 2014


Who reports concerns about child protection?

The public

  • By calling the child protection team of their Local Authority; the emergency team can be called out of hours. The telephone numbers should be easily available; or
  • If it is an emergency, call the police; or
  • telephone the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk.T

There is a useful article from the Guardian, discussing what members of the public can do if they witness something that makes them worried about a child. 

The police

The police have special powers to take a child into police protection for up to 72 hours without getting the court’s permission first. They should only exercise these powers in truly urgent and exceptional circumstances. They have the power to take a child to a place of safety – such as a hospital – or stop someone else trying to take the child away from a place of safety. You can find the police powers set out in section 46 of the Children Act 1989.

Schools and hospitals

All professionals who have regular contact with children ought to have clear procedures in place for how they will respond to any worries about a child they see. There should be someone who is clearly identified as the designated child protection teacher or nurse/doctor who will deal with the concern when it is first reported.

There is at the current time no legal requirement to report suspected child abuse. There are many who believe that this should change  – see for example the campaign following the death of Daniel Pelka.

Here is a useful article from the Patient.co.uk  website for doctors which discusses how to recognise abuse or a child at risk.

Risk assessments by Cafcass

Under section 16A of the Children Act 1989, if you are involved in ‘private law’ proceedings – i.e. you are asking the court to help resolve a dispute between parents about their children – an officer of Cafcass may have to carry out a risk assessment if he or she has cause to believe a child is at risk of harm and may have to then refer the matter on to Children’s Services.


What happens when the referral is made to the SW Team?

The team must decide quickly what action to take; they have one working day. If the team decides it needs more information to make a decision it will start a process of further assessment.

The initial assessment should be done within 10 working days of the referral. If this assessment indicates serious concerns then a strategy discussion takes place to decide whether or not to start an inquiry under section 47 of the Children Act 1989. Usually a ‘core assessment’ should take place to gather the relevant information from the parents, the child (if old enough) and other professionals. Core Assessments should be finished within 35 working days of the referral.

If the section 47 enquiry shows there are serious worries about the child, the LA then has decide what to do to protect the child. The more serious and urgent concerns should mean that  the LA make an application to the court for a care or supervision order. Other concerns may mean that the LA write out a ‘child protection plan’ so that everyone knows what they need to do to keep an eye on the situation or to take active steps to stop it getting any worse.

If the situation is VERY urgent, the LA can apply to the court for an Emergency Protection Order under section 44 of the Children Act which gives the LA permission to remove a child from home for up to 8 days. Another emergency option is to apply to the court under section 38A of the Children Act for an exclusion order to ban someone from remaining in or coming to the family home. Or the LA could ask the police for help, as the police could use their special powers to remove a child for 72 hours.

Have a look at this ‘map’ of the child protection system from the Children’s Legal Centre.



Child protection conferences and plans

If the outcome of the section 47 investigation confirms that the situation is worrying enough to need continued LA involvement,  then a child protection conference must be held within 15 working days of the last strategy discussion. The family, and all the relevant professionals will be invited to this meeting, as well as the child if he is old enough to understand what is going on.

Those at the conference will need to decide whether a child protection plan is needed.  These plans replaced the child protection register in April 2008, but the criteria for inclusion remains the same.

Plans should be agreed by everyone where possible and set out

  • the intended short and long term outcomes are for the child
  • how children’s services will monitor the child’s welfare
  • what needs to change to reduce the risk of harm to the child; and
  • what support will be offered to the family.

The child protection plan should be regularly reviewed; the first review should happen within 3 months and then at six monthly intervals after that. 


What happens if the situation doesn’t get better?

Then the LA will need to seriously think about asking the court to make a care or supervision order, which could mean that the child is taken away from the family. If the LA decide that things are so serious that they need to go to court, they should start the ‘Pre-Proceedings Procedure’ and they will explain to the parents in a letter why they are so concerned.

This information from the Government explains the pre-proceedings procedure and what parents need to do.

If the situation suddenly gets very bad then the LA may decide it needs to act very quickly and may apply for an Emergency Protection Order, as explained above.

See further our post about Care and Supervision orders and Interim Care orders.