SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter provides information for practitioners on securing the participation of children and young people, and their parents / carers, in Child Protection Conferences. It describes a range of methods which can be used to enable this. Section 3, Involving Children and Young People in the Child Protection Conference Process contains a flowchart showing the processes to be followed when involving young people in Child Protection Conferences.
Please Note - There is a Presumption that all Parents, Children and Young People will in some way participate in all Child Protection Conferences.
This chapter was reviewed locally and updated in March 2015; additional information has been added reinforcing the importance of using the views of children, young people and their parents/carers to inform decisions, meeting and plans. There is an expectation that all children and young people will contribute, in some way, to Child Protection Conferences and that children over 12 will attend for part of the meeting. Further the full engagement of the young person is crucial to child sexual exploitation meetings. Reference is also made to the importance of removing barriers to participation, for example in relation to accessible venues or language barriers.
- Involving Children and Young People in Child Protection Conferences
- Involving Children and Young People in the Child Protection Conference Process Flow Chart
All meetings, decisions and plans should be informed by the views, wishes and feelings of children, young people, their parents (mothers and fathers) and carers. Wherever possible, and appropriate, they will be supported and enabled to participate in those meetings and decisions.
Children, young people, their fathers, mothers and carers may participate in different ways, and we will promote participation in the way best suited to those individuals and their circumstances.
Participation may be through:
- Attendance in person;
- Representation by an Advocate;
- Consultation forms and booklets;
- Sending in views in other ways; and
- Consultation & representation of views by others.
We recognise that, for a range of reasons, some individuals are at risk of not having the same opportunities to participate. We will promote participation by all and will take steps to remove any barriers. Where children, young people, their mothers, fathers or carers have additional needs they may be supported by an advocate and an interpreter will be provided where they are not confident in English. Venues will be chosen to take account of any disability needs. Participation by fathers will be actively promoted, and arrangements made for consultation with any absent or excluded parent before the meeting as appropriate.
2. Involving Children and Young People in Child Protection Conferences
All children should be supported to participate in some way in any Child Protection Conference relating to them. Given the nature of many safeguarding concerns, practitioners may feel it is not appropriate for children to attend, however attendance can be managed in a way which allows the child's voice to be heard without exposing them to a potentially distressing or even abusive situation.
There is an expectation that children over 12 years will be offered the opportunity to attend part of the meeting. This must be confirmed with the Child Protection Manager prior to the meeting. Usual arrangements would be for an individual to be identified as a supporter for the child at the meeting. The Child Protection Manager will meet with the child before conference and the child attends a confidential section (without parent) at the beginning of the meeting before being taken off site by their supporter. This arrangement must be clear and in place prior to the meeting. It will be rare for children under twelve to attend.
Regardless of attendance, children must be supported to participate. The SOVA Children's Rights Service can arrange an Advocate to meet the children before the conference and attend with them or on their behalf, or an individual known to the child can be assisted to act as an advocate. We have a "wishes and feelings" form which all children should be supported to complete by their social worker or another trusted adult, or children may do drawings or letters; all input from the child will be considered at the conference.
Additionally, we expect social workers to always consult children and reflect their views, wishes and feelings in their report. We have a leaflet for children to explain the conference process which should be shared with them in advance of the meeting.
Fathers and mothers should be supported to attend Child Protection Conferences; this includes anyone with Parental Responsibility, and current carers. There may often be sensitivities and sometimes restrictions on attendance or information sharing amongst these individuals; these should be discussed with the Chair in advance and arrangements for managing this agreed. Any mother or father not able to attend should be consulted by the social worker in advance of the meeting, and their views represented verbally or in writing. It may also be appropriate to hold separate confidential sections in the meeting, or for the Chair to meet separately with an excluded parent. It would not however be appropriate to repeat a meeting to allow both parents to attend.
Where parents attend, they will be met separately by the Chair before the meeting starts to explain the process and answer any concerns or questions. They may be supported by an advocate (including a solicitor) or a family member or friend, although consideration needs to be given to confidentiality for the children or other individuals. The conference chair may sometimes ask a family member or friend to wait outside for some or all of a meeting. We have a leaflet for parents to explain the conference process which should be shared with them in advance of the meeting.
Other safeguarding meetings
With sexual exploitation (CSE) meetings, the full engagement of the young person is critical, and the meeting will be managed in a way which allows them to participate throughout. If it is necessary to share information about others, this should be done in a confidential section after the main meeting, or briefly towards the end of the meeting if significant to the outcome. Young people will not be expected to wait outside a meeting alone or for more than a few minutes. Information leaflets are available for parents and young people attending CSE meetings, and feedback obtained from them following the meetings.
Strategy Meetings held under safeguarding procedures will rarely include either parents or children, although those attending should have established their views and report them to the meeting.