What is a Child Protection Conference?

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Patricia Cannon

Head of Family and Childcare

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A Child Protection Conference is a meeting that takes place between parents and professionals about a child’s wellbeing and to discuss what can be done to ensure their safety and development in the future.

Child Protection Conferences are typically held in response to concerns that a child has either been a victim of harm or abuse or is deemed to be at significant risk. These concerns can arise from various sources, including reports from educators, healthcare professionals, law enforcement, or the child's own family members. It is during these conferences that the collective wisdom and expertise of the participants are used to make informed decisions about the child's future.

The role of the Child Protection Case Conference Chair is important for ensuring the effectiveness and honesty of these conferences. These Chairs are highly qualified social workers who play a vital role in facilitating the meeting, guiding discussions, and maintaining a focus on the child's best interests. They are typically employed within the Safeguarding and Care Planning Service of a local authority's Children Services department. These professionals bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table, which is essential for navigating the complex terrain of child protection and welfare.

Under the section 47 of the Children Act 1989, a Child Protection Conference may be arranged in these circumstances:

  • Where there has been an investigation into concerns surrounding harm to a child
  • When there is reason to believe that your child is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm

If you’ve been invited to attend a Child Protection Conference, you’ll probably have many questions about what the meeting will involve. In this article, we’ve broken down what happens, who will attend, as well as how a Care Proceedings Solicitor could help you.

Read on to find out more or get in touch with our expert Care Proceedings team for advice on your individual circumstances.

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Why is a Child Protection Conference being held?

Child Protection Conference arises from the concerns held by children's social care or other relevant agencies regarding the potential harm or risk of harm faced by a child or children. This pivotal decision to initiate a Child Protection Conference is typically informed by a comprehensive evaluation process, known as a Child and Family Assessment. It's important to note that this assessment includes active involvement and collaboration with parents and their children.

This assessment is an integral part of the child protection framework, aiming to understand the child's circumstances, their family dynamics, and the potential risks they may be exposed to. It offers a collaborative platform where parents or caregivers can actively contribute by sharing their perspectives and insights into their child's welfare. The collective findings of this assessment inform the decision to proceed with a Child Protection Conference.

The core objective of a Child Protection Conference is to look into these concerns. It provides a structured forum where professionals, parents, and caregivers can engage in an open discussion to gain a more in-depth understanding of the child's situation. Through this process, the goal is to make informed decisions and create strategies to ensure the child's safety and future well-being.

What Happens at a Child Protection Conference?

A Child Protection Conference will be led by the Conference Chair – a qualified social worker – who will go through the reports that will be shared in the meeting and answer any questions you may have.

At the beginning of the conference, everyone present will be introduced so that you’ll know who is in attendance and what their involvement will be. Each of the professionals at the conference will then take it in turns to share their thoughts and any concerns they may have regarding the child.

There will be opportunities for anyone to ask questions, including parents. If your child is present, they will also have a chance to express their opinions about the situation.

After discussing any worries or changes that will need to be made, the professionals present will make a final decision as to whether a Child Protection Plan is needed. Alternatively, if there is already a Child Protection Plan in place, they will decide if this should continue.



What if it’s Decided my Child Needs a Protection Plan?

If it’s decided that a Child Protection Plan is required, this will be put into writing and will set out:

  • Who the key worker will be (typically the social worker)
  • A list of concerns and why any change needs to happen
  • What will need to be done to address the concerns
  • The needs your child has and how they can be met
  • Your needs as a parent and the support that can be put in place
  • An initial timeframe for changes to be implemented
  • The individual responsibilities of all people involved

After this, you’ll meet with a smaller core group of professionals regularly to further develop the plan and discuss the progress that’s been made.


Do I Have to Attend the Conference as a Parent?

In most cases, parents and carers will be encouraged to attend a Child Protection Conference. You’ll have the option to bring an advocate with you who could be a friend, family member or legal professional.   A legal representative can attend the Initial Child Protection Conference with you and the Conference Chair will need to be notified of their attendance before the meeting.

Other people attending the conference might include:

  • Social workers
  • Healthcare professionals who have worked with your child – this could be a doctor or health visitor
  • The police
  • A teacher from your child’s school
  • Any other professionals with relevant information about your child

Where appropriate, your child might also be invited to the meeting to give their views. They can also bring with them an advocate to help them express their opinions and wishes.

If it’s decided that it will be harmful for the child to attend in person, they will have the option to write their thoughts in a letter to be read at the conference.



How is the Initial Child Protection Conference different from a Review Conference?

The Initial Child Protection Conference is the starting point. It's where the decision is made about whether a child should have a safety plan. It's the first step in ensuring the child's well-being.

On the other hand, a Review Conference is like a follow-up meeting. These meetings are held to check how the safety plan is progressing and to ensure the child's safety. The first Review Conference takes place approximately three months after the Initial Child Protection Conference, and subsequent ones occur about every six months. Review Conferences continue until it's clear that the child no longer requires the safety plan.

The key distinction is that the Initial Child Protection Conference initiates the safety plan, while Review Conferences monitor its effectiveness and the child's safety.


How Could a Solicitor Help with a Child Protection Conference?

If you’ve been invited to a Child Protection Conference, you might understandably be feeling worried and overwhelmed by what the outcome could be. Our Care Proceedings Solicitors are specialists in this area of law and can provide legal advice that will help you to feel prepared at each stage of the process.

We can also offer representation at Child Protection Conferences, so you’ll have comfort in the knowledge that a legal expert is by your side to advise you.

Depending on your financial circumstances, you could be entitled to Legal Aid from the government. We’ll advise you on whether you’re eligible for this support and complete all the relevant paperwork for you.

Get in touch with our experienced Care Proceedings team today for initial advice.

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Patricia Cannon

Head of Family and Childcare

Areas of Expertise:
Care Proceedings

As a Partner, Children Panel Solicitor and Department Head of our teams of Care Proceedings Solicitors in London, Bristol, Manchester and Leeds; Patricia represents parents, other carers and children in care proceedings and other matters related to disputes regarding children.

Patricia also offers advice and representation to those seeking protection from or responding to allegations of domestic abuse.

Patricia joined Simpson Millar in October 2018, and has over 20 years’ experience in Family Law, having qualified as a Solicitor in 2001.


Legislation.gov.uk. (1989). Children Act 1989. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1989/41/contents 

Redbridge Safeguarding Children Partnership. (n.d.). Children and Family Assessment. http://www.redbridgescp.org.uk/parents-carers-and-the-public/children-and-family-assessment/

Citizens Advice Redbridge. (n.d.). https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/local/redbridge/

Family Rights Group. (n.d.). https://www.frg.org.uk/

Child Law Advice. (n.d.). Child Protection Case Conference and Child Protection Plans. https://childlawadvice.org.uk/information-pages/child-protection-case-conference-and-child-protection-plans/

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