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2.8 SoS Guidance on the Management of Child Protection Conferences


  1. Preamble
  2. Outline of Approach (Preparation)
  3. Outline of Approach (The Conference)
  4. Immediately Post Conference
  5. Summary
  6. Further Development

1. Preamble

The Signs of Safety (SOS) model utilises solution focussed and focussed problem resolution approaches. The family and professionals alike are expected to be fully engaged in the process.

The model is based on appreciative enquiry; asking the right questions, using the Dynamic Risk Assessment tool which focusses on risks, protective factors and the impact of these on children and young people.

The key to the approach though is to be inclusive not directive and as such it requires significant preparation in order that families and professionals alike experience this co-operative way of working.

2. Outline of Approach (Preparation)

Social work teams (IRT or Care Management):

  1. During Narrates assessments, S46 enquiries and certainly once a decision is made to take the case to CP Conference then the practitioner social worker and manager will need to be preparing the ground for this;
  2. They need to engage with the family in a way that is consistent with the model summarised above and make sure that the family are aware of key aspects of the approach;
  3. Using the NARRATES tools, their reports should be prepared in a way that draws out the Risks, Protective Factors and Impact (R/PF/I) on the child or children;
  4. The social worker will need to alert fellow professionals to the need for preparation for a conference;
  5. The social work team will need to ensure that the system documentation is completed in a timely way initially in order to trigger the conference procedure. They need to ensure that all the relevant professionals are listed in the current involvements on Protocol. Simultaneously they will need to be in touch with the Safeguarding and Quality Assurance unit admin team to set up the arrangements for the conference;
  6. The social work team will also need to ensure that they have a good awareness of timescales in order to prepare the pre-conference report well in advance of the actual meeting. They must allow at least 3 working days for distribution of their report and also a full discussion and sharing with the parents. The social worker must be in touch with the conference Chair in order to allow them to prepare themselves and then jointly prepare the family members;
  7. The social worker must share and if necessary explain the relevant leaflet on conferences with the parent when sharing their report;
  8. Where there are communication or other issues then the social worker must allow extra time for this as well as alerting the IRO to this. They will need to plan for translation or interpreting as appropriate. If there is any capacity issue the social work team must immediately make arrangements for appropriate support.

Admin: Safeguarding and Quality Assurance Team

  1. First actions following 5 above will be to alert the SIRO to the request – along with other details including timescales in order that a chair can be allocated;
  2. They will then use the protocol record to identify likely attendees, confirm arrangements with the chair and the social work team and set up the arrangements for the conference;
  3. In sending out invitations the conference administrator will ensure that the appropriate report and feedback forms are included.

Independent Chair: Safeguarding and Quality Assurance Team

  1. Arrange to review all pre-conference documents and discuss the general situation with the relevant social work team members in order to:
  2. Plan and hold a prior discussion, meeting or meetings with family members which would be held with them to undertake an SOS discussion to agree Risk, Protective Factors and Impact (R/PF/I) and to prepare them for the conference;
  3. Plan any prior meetings of, or discussions with, professionals which would be held to ensure that all reports have been produced, distributed and read.

3. Outline of Approach (The Conference)

  1. Using an approach of appreciative enquiry the Chair will capture the relevant points made throughout on the white board/screen and structured in a way that visually outlines the relevance of the issues for all participants to see and contribute to. Feedback has already indicated the need for clear and concise comments here. The wording has to be agreed and legible;
  2. The intention is that participants do not read out their reports verbatim. The process is specifically designed such that all the reports should have been circulated and read by all before the meeting. This is most important and relies on timely preparation. The Chair will guide participants to contribute to the R/PF/I approach;
  3. Conferences would still follow the attached agenda/formats which after relevant introductions and confidentiality statements are designed specifically to begin with the family’s evaluation of R/PF/I and to share this with attendees.

    Note 1: The Conference Chair will need to be sensitive to the abilities and anxieties of parents and in certain circumstances adjust the order of the agenda. For example they may allow a change if family members specifically assert that they wish to hear the concerns of professionals first. This caveat is not included to allow for a lack of preparation and the norm should be that the family evaluation is shared first whether by them or by the Chair on their behalf.

    Note 2: Suggested amendments to the agenda format are attached at appendix iii and iv;
  4. Professionals would then provide their evaluation of R/PF/I;
  5. The childs view should be put forward whether in person or through representatives (again the Chair will need to be sensitive to the timing of this part of the agenda and in some cases it may appropriately follow on from the parent’s evaluation at 1 above;
  6. This thorough exploration of the risks, protective factors and the impact section should be followed by an opportunity, if needed, for parents and child(ren) to make further comment;
  7. The last part of the conference is signalled by the Chairs summary followed by a discussion and consensus about, what should happen next. This includes the formulation of the plan, with a Risk Statement, the Decision of conference and any actions or other recommendations.

    Note: The Risk Statement should identify what needs to change for a child protection plan to no longer be necessary, and it will be important to stress the importance of adhering to plans.

4. Immediately Post Conference

  1. Following closure of the meeting the Chair and social worker should meet briefly with the parents and child, (separately or together) in order to debrief, clarify any issues or understandings;
  2. At the same time feedback/comment forms should be collected by the conference administrator (from all participants);
  3. Within 24 hours a brief summary of the outcome should be sent to parents. This should include the decision of the conference and reasons based on the agreed Risks, Protective Factors and Impact. The agreed Risk Statement and the outline actions or recommendations regarding the plan must be included.

5. Summary

  1. Parents should always be seen before the conference to get a real understanding of their views about Risk, Protective Factors and Impact. Their views should be written up in such a way that clarity is provided about each of these three domains;
  2. Conference reports must be provided in advance of the conferences. The agreed standards around this area of work need to be re-enforced by managers. With the regular use of weekly trackers this should be relatively straightforward. The timings of the receipt of reports should be monitored and reported on by the SIRO in Performance Management Framework meetings and actions agreed to correct any issues arising;
  3. The parent’s views should always be shared first-up in the conference. This will give confidence both to the parents that they have made their first contribution and also to the professionals, who have yet to contribute to the discussion, about how close to, or far from, their own views, the parents views are;
  4. Professionals should provide their input using the approach of the three domains; Risk, Protective Factors and Impact. These should be stated clearly, e.g. I regard the risks to your child as being x, y and z; the protective factors are 1, 2 and 3. In the light of these, I believe the impact on your child is a follows…;
  5. Great attention needs to be placed on the use of visual aids which help rather than hinder. There is no greater frustration than being in a conference using such aids which cannot be seen or read properly. Standards of recording should be developed and an exemplar provided for scribes. Up-front investment should be made in appropriate recording tools. This will pay dividends in the longer term.

6. Further Development

  1. Further detailed attention should be paid to the size and layout of rooms where conferences are held. It might be that the removal of tables, altogether, may help this process. A number of options should be tried and tested and feedback sought, so that further recommendations can be made as to the standards which should be met each and every time a conference is held;
  2. Training and development programmes need to be developed, so that everyone attending conference is aware of the approach and can contribute effectively. These do not have to be lengthy and costly training events, and should be incorporated into other relevant Safeguarding Multi-professional training;
  3. Specific additional training should be provided to IROs about facilitation of the approach in conference, Risk, Protective Factors, Impact and scribing of the same;
  4. Consideration should be given to the redrafting of report templates to conference to assist the discussion about Risk, Protective Factors and Impact. This will help attendees to move from description to focussed analysis;
  5. Consideration should be given to the drafting of a report template for parents to provide a report to conference;
  6. The use of leaflets for parents should be continued and some developed for professionals which seek views on specific aspects of the approach being used or more widely the expectations on all those attending conference.