5: What happens if my child is put on a Child Protection Plan?

Your child can be put under Child Protection if Child Servies (CS thinks a child is “at risk of significant harm because they have suffered, or are likely to suffer physical abuse, emotional abuse or sexual abuse or neglect”. The definition of “significant harm” now includes witnessing violence or conflict at home. Harm can be alleged to have been caused by the parent/carer’s actions and/or by their failure to stop a child from being harmed. This is being widely used to take children from mothers who are victims of domesticviolence – instead of getting help, they are accused of “failing to protect” their children (see 17). 

Also, poverty is now being used as “neglect” in child protection. If you are struggling to manage, for example while waiting for Universal Credit to come through, put the emphasis on asking what help the LA can provide and show how you’re prioritising the children’s needs however difficult the situation. If possible, show you have a supportive network of family and friends who are helping you through a particular crisis. 

 Each Children’s Services department has their own local child protection procedures which are drawn up and monitored by the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB) [22] which spell out exactly how child protection enquiries are carried out in your area. They are supposed to follow government guidance which is set out in the publication called Working Together 2015.  Local procedures must include threshold documents published by the LSCB. Local authorities with other agencies like health and education must also have guidelines for assessment which will say how cases will be managed once a child is referred to Children’s Services. Wherever you live, it is a good idea to ask your social worker for a copy of your local child protection and assessment procedures, so that hopefully you can monitor whether or not they are following the correct procedures and the correct time scales.

Child Protection Conference 

Before deciding on a child protection plan, CS are supposed to convene a Child Protection Conference (CPC) which you (and your child if they are old enough) can attend. You can take an advocate with you or a lawyer, though lawyers at this point are not covered by legal aid. Others invited will include all the professionals already involved with your child and sometimes others as well, for example, doctor, health visitor, teacher or police. The Conference is chaired by an Independent Chairperson, although they are social workers who work for the same Local Authority. 

The social worker should present a written report which they should go through with you before the CPC – this is supposed to happen at least two days before the CPC (although not all social workers do this). Other professionals who want to have input can make a written report and you are entitled to a copy of each report. If it does not happen then you are within your rights to call the Chairperson and ask for the meeting to be adjourned. 

Two days before the CPC you should be given the Chairperson’s name, phone number and email address and at this point it’s important that you phone the Chairperson and ask to have a meeting with them before the CPC. The meeting will just be with the Chair, yourself and your advocate and it’s important to present your evidence, a statement about the social worker’s report and any positive steps that you have/are taking to rectify any situation that the social workers might be concerned about. Discuss with the Chair any witnesses you want to attend the CPC and if any of them are professionals you can ask for an adjournment so that they can attend. Keep in mind that the Chair has the final say and can override the opinions of all other participants. So if you can establish a good relationship with them, it could very well influence the outcome for you and your children. 

It is vital that you take someone supportive and reliable with you to a CPC (a friend, family member or advocate). If you have a lawyer, they will be allowed to take notes but not to speak. If you don’t speak English very well, insist that an interpreter is present – CS must arrange this. 

If your child is old enough (usually about 10 onwards, and is considered Gillick competent [15] they can attend. They can bring an advocate (who can be any responsible adult, a lawyer or an official child advocate); if your child is too young to attend or doesn’t want to, it is important that an advocate attends on their behalf. The Chair has the power to refuse to let someone attend but must give you reasonable grounds for doing so in writing. 

If you are a victim of domestic violence you are entitled to request that you and the perpetrator are in separate rooms for the conference and the Chair goes between the two. 

Child Protection Plan 

A CPC decides (on the basis of a vote done in front of you) whether or not your child should go on a Child Protection Plan (CPP). This will lay out what you are expected to do, what the father (if involved) is expected to do, and what children’s services will do. The plan should be in writing and you should be given a copy. If you disagree with the plan the first place to raise this is with the Chair. The plan will also lay out the meetings that will take place following the CPC. A Core Group meeting must meet within 10 working days of the CPC and this will continue monthly until the next CPC review which will be 3 months after your initial conference. All dates will be agreed by everyone before the end of the CPC. 

The Core Group meeting will be made up of a smaller group of people, social workers, teachers and your GP and it is their job to make sure anything agreed at the CPC is working. 

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