Child Protection Registration and Conferences
If a child is deemed to be at risk of continuing significant harm a Child Protection Conference may be convened and a child’s name may be placed on the Child Protection Register.
The legal framework – The Government is under a duty to promote the welfare of children and thus to ensure their protection from harm. The Children Act 1989 is the central piece of child protection legislation. The Government guidance ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ provides further valuable, practical support. It details the investigative and assessment process and provides advice for a multi agency approach in dealing with child protection issues.
Child abuse falls into one of the following four categories:
- Physical Abuse – Violence causing physical injury
- Emotional Abuse – prolonged emotional maltreatment drastically affecting emotional development and growth
- Sexual Abuse – enticing or forcing sexual activity or encouragement to behave in sexually inappropriate behaviour
- Neglect – the persistent failure to meet basic physical and psychological needs, likely to cause damage to health and development
Protection from abuse is provided first and foremost by Children’s Services’ investigative powers. The police have a duty to protect those at risk of harm and thus criminal investigations and prosecutions provide a further arm of protection. Finally, a less direct, yet clearly essential method of protection is offered by various administrative systems put in place to ensure previous abusers do not work with children.
Although private individuals are not obliged to report child abuse, an allegation may be brought directly to the attention of the relevant Children’s Services department or reported to the NSPCC. By virtue of Section 175 of the Education Act 2002, teachers have a legal obligation to promote and safeguard the welfare of pupils. Arguably therefore teachers are under an obligation to report suspicions of abuse.
Child Protection Procedure:
Once Children’s Services believe a child is at risk of harm, the following procedure is undertaken:
Stage 1 – Following initial referral
- No further action
- Provision of services to help the family
- Fuller assessment
Stage 2 – Initial assessment (within 7 days of referral)
Have regard to:
Framework for assessment of children in need and their families:
- Child’s needs?
- Parents’ ability to safeguard child’s needs?
- Action required to safeguard a child?
- No further action
- Provision of services for family
- Fuller investigation – s. 47 Children Act 1989
An investigation under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 must be undertaken where a child:
- Is the subject of an emergency protection order
- Is in police protection
- Has contravened a ban imposed by a curfew notice
- May be reasonably suspected to be suffering from, or is likely to suffer, significant harm
Once there is a suspicion of significant harm being suffered or likely to be suffered, a Strategy Discussion must be convened. This involves all relevant agencies and has the aim of ascertaining whether further investigation needs to be carried out under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989. A further consideration is whether any immediate action is necessary to safeguard and protect the child.
Stage 3 – Following a s.47 Investigation
- No further action
- Services offered to family
- The child is deemed to be at risk of continuing significant harm – Child Protection Conference
Child Protection Conference:
A Child Protection Conference must be convened where a child is deemed to be at risk of continuing significant harm. The conference must be held within fifteen working days of the strategy discussion.
The aim of the Conference is to pool and discuss information on the child and the family and to consider the parents’ ability to care for the child. It also evaluates whether the child is likely to suffer future significant harm and decides upon further necessary action required to safeguard the child.
The key issue for the Conference is whether the child is at continuing risk of significant harm and the government guidance ‘Working Together’ sets out a test for this:
- The child has either suffered ill treatment or impairment of health or development as a result of abuse or neglect and professional judgement is that further harm is likely
- That professional judgement substantiated by findings in the case, is that the child is likely to suffer harm as a result of abuse and neglect
Courses of action:
- No further action necessary
- Child’s name placed on Child Protection Register in a specific category of abuse
- Prepare Child Protection Plan identifying needs of child and services to meet these
- Joint working between family and agencies to safeguard the child from harm
- Identify any further assessments required
If a child’s name is placed on the Child Protection Register, a Review Conference should be held within three months of the initial Case Conference. Follow up conferences should then be held every six months to ensure the plans for the child are up to date and to check that action is being carried out effectively.
The Child Protection Register:
Such a register exists for each Children’s Services area. It lists all the children in the area who have been identified by a case conference as at risk of significant harm. It also states the category of abuse identified. A child protection review conference may de-register a child if it deems that the child is no longer at risk of significant harm.