Our experienced Trainee Legal Executive, Ilke Hatter, in our Exeter office reviews the child protection procedure:
No parent wants to hear the words “child protection planning.” No parent wants their child to be made subject to a child protection plan. But the simple truth is that social services are not only allowed to become involved with your family if they think a child might be at risk, but they have a duty to do so. Understanding the child protection procedure itself, and the role that parents, family and professionals play in the process, is essential if you want to make sure that your voice gets heard.
What happens if an initial child protection case conference has been called?
Invitations to the meeting are sent out to all professionals involved with the children. This means their school or nursery, doctor, health visitor or school nurse, and any specialist agencies involved with your family. If there has been a referral to domestic violence services like Splitz for example, they may also be invited to attend. The social worker will be there, and of course the parents will be asked to attend. It’s important to know that each parent is allowed to bring someone to support them at the meeting – this could be a friend or family member, or it could be your solicitor.
What happens at the meeting?
The meeting itself is run by someone called the Independent Reviewing Officer, or IRO for short. The IRO should introduce themselves to you before the meeting and explain their job and the way that the meeting will be run. It’s their job to make sure everyone gets heard, and to keep the focus on the children and their welfare. Sitting next to the chair will be a note taker, whose job it is to take a note of what everyone says and produce the written minutes of the meeting. These minutes will be provided to everyone a couple of weeks after the meeting.
Everyone will get a chance to talk and to explain what concerns they have, if any, for the child. The professionals will also be asked to name the positive factors they think might help to reduce any risk. When each professional has spoken, the chair should ask you what you think. If you disagree with anything that has been said, or if you want to give some information that has not been shared, this is your chance to do so.
Remember though, this is an important meeting and the chair will expect you to speak politely and clearly, without getting angry. Our blog next week will have tips and hints for how to get through that first meeting.