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6.4 Participation of Children and Young People, Parents and Carers in the Child Protection Process

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter details guidance to promote good practice and ensure participation at all stages of the Child Protection process by children, young people and parents/carers.

RELEVANT LEGISLATION AND GUIDANCE

Children Act 1989

Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child - Article 12

Nottinghamshire and Nottingham City Safeguarding Children Boards’ Safeguarding Children Procedures

AMENDMENT

In January 2016, this chapter was updated. Section 4, Enabling Children and Young People to Participate was updated to reflect that the child or young person should have access to the social workers report 24 hours in advance of an Initial Child Protection Conference and 5 working days in advance of a Review Conference.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Principles for Participation
  3. Context
  4. Enabling Children and Young People to Participate
  5. Enabling Parents and Carers to Participate
  6. The Role of the Advocate / Supporter
  7. Objections to Attendance at Meetings

    Appendix A: Parents, Carers and Young People’s Agenda for ICPC

    Appendix B: Parents, Carers and Young People’s Agenda for RCPC

    Appendix C: My Protection Plan" Guidance for social workers


1. Introduction

Parents, carers, children and young people should be encouraged to participate in the child protection process. This practice guidance is aimed at staff in Children's Social Care including Chairs of Child Protection Meetings in order to promote good practice and enable participation in all forms within the child protection process.


2. Principles for Participation

  • That participation is driven by the needs of children and young people;
  • That all children and young people have an equal opportunity to participate;
  • That we will work to support the involvement of groups of children and young people who face the greatest barriers;
  • That children and young people's participation is based around a properly resourced framework which includes an effective mechanism for feedback;
  • That participation brings mutual benefits for children and young people and service providers;
  • That participation leads to positive outcomes, which are communicated to and agreed with children and young people;
  • That all agencies working with children and young people should work together to support and promote participation.


3. Context

Current management information highlights that parents and carers often attend conferences and core groups however the attendance of children and young people is a much rarer occurrence. Attendance at conferences and core groups in itself does not always enable participation and a variety of means should be considered in each case. Some suggestions about how to do this will be explored later in this guidance.

Significant numbers of children subject to a Protection Plan are in the younger age range which presents specific challenges in enabling their participation in the child protection process. In addition, children with disabilities and those for whom English is not their first language will also require support to communicate their wishes and feelings.


4. Enabling Children and Young People to Participate

a) General

Each child and young person is an individual and their participation can occur in different ways depending on their views and opinions, circumstances, age, development, disability, cultural, religious and communication needs.

An assessment should be carried out to make sure that the child or young person is not exposed to a risk of harm or harassment through their participation. Parents/carers or extended family may present a serious risk of significant harm in some circumstances. Young people at risk from forced marriage or "honour" based violence may be at significant risk of harm in these circumstances.

There is no minimum age for the participation of a child or young person. The deciding factor is how their participation can be achieved in their best interest.

Young children may have a limited understanding of what is happening to them, but this should not exclude professionals seeking their views about their lives. Difficulties with a lack of child care should be identified at the earliest opportunity and addressed so that a child or young person is not placed in a situation where they have to attend a conference or core group inappropriately.

The participation of children and young people may or may not include their attendance at conference or core groups. The views of the child or young person about the different ways they could participate should be considered.  The decision about participation must promote their best interests. Any form of participation should not harm a child or young person in any way.

Children and young people should be provided with copies of the information leaflets produced by the Nottinghamshire Safeguarding Children board that cover child protection and Child Protection Conferences.

b) How Children and Young People may participate

Children and young people of all ages are able to participate in the child protection process. Children as young as 4yrs will be able to give their wishes and feelings within the process. For those under 4yrs staff will need to observe the interaction between children and their parents and carers and note the positives and any concerns. The Agenda for the meeting should be shared with the child or young person prior to the initial or review conference along with the eligibility criteria and categories of harm. The parents, carers and young people’s agenda for ICPC/RCPC provide a child friendly version.

A specific process has been established in Mosaic to support staff in ensuring children and young people are enabled to contribute their views to child protection conferences. This is the My Protection Plan. Guidance regarding the use of this process is attached as Appendix C: My Protection Plan" Guidance for social workers.

In Writing

A child or young person may wish to put something in writing about their wishes and feelings this may be shared at conference or core group with their permission. This could be written by themselves or by a worker who should share what they have written with the child or young person and ask them to sign their agreement to what is included.

A child or young person with a disability, communication needs or for whom English is not their first language will need additional support in order to communicate their wishes and feelings such as an interpreter or access to communication aids. Interpreters should be accredited and familiar with the purpose and function of the child protection processes. Extended family members should not be used due to potential conflicts of interest.

Through pictures

Younger children may find it easier to use pictorial aids to describe how they feel in certain situations. They may wish to draw their own pictures or use pictures with speech bubbles to communicate their wishes and feelings.

Through audio

A child or young person may wish to record their wishes and feelings on audio. This could be presented at conference or core group with their permission.

Through Communication Aids

A number of specific aids are available to support the communication needs of disabled children. These should be used to support disabled children who are subject to any safeguarding process. A communication assessment should be undertaken before considering which communication aid is most appropriate to use with a disabled child or young person in order to ascertain their wishes and feelings.

In Person

A child or young person may attend part or the entire conference or core group depending on their individual circumstances. They may choose to be supported by an advocate or another person such as a relative, teacher, friend or other appropriate person who should attend only those parts of the meeting attended by the child or young person.

The venue must be suitable for a child or young person's attendance.

c) Vulnerabilities in participation

Concerns expressed regarding a child or young person's participation (in any form) should be given careful consideration. Some children or young people may be at risk of further harm if their wishes and feelings become known to those who pose a risk to them. Any decision regarding a child or young person's participation in any form should be based on what is in the best interests if the child or young person and should be recorded. Of particular concern are children and young people pressured to attend conferences and core groups by parents and carers in order to support them, or those who may be further harmed by being questioned or verbally abused within meetings.

d) If a child or young person attends conference or core group

The main purpose of the child or young person's attendance is to establish their wishes and feelings and not to collect facts required for any investigation.

The child or young person should not be questioned about the truthfulness or details of the allegations/incident of significant harm. This should be explicitly explained to the child or young person and all those present.

Staff working with families should be mindful of the fact that some children may wish to attend meetings to support their parents in refuting the child protection concerns. Where such circumstances occur the chair will manage the meeting in such a way as to ensure that it delivers its primary purpose which is to ensure that plans are agreed which will keep children safe. A child or young person's willingness to engage with the agreed plan is a critical factor in its ultimate success. If a child informs the meeting that they are unwilling to engage in a proposed plan, and it is not possible to negotiate with them, contingency plans should be agreed. This should not preclude further negotiation outside of the meeting.

Simple language needs to be used throughout, with explanations when necessary to make sure the child or young person (if present) understands what is being said.

If a child or young person does attend, they should be encouraged to ask questions and make comments. They should be given the opportunity to speak without the presence of their parent or carer.

The wishes and feelings of the child or young person will be recorded in the minutes of the meeting.

e) Preparation for attendance

If the child or young person wishes to attend the meeting then the social worker must discuss this in advance with the chair so appropriate arrangements and planning can be made. The following issues should be considered:

  • Have they received a copy of the agenda (child friendly version)? (See Appendix A: Parents, Carers and Young People’s Agenda for ICPC/ Appendix B: Parents, Carers and Young People’s Agenda for RCPC);
  • Have they received a copy of the categories of harm (child friendly version)? (See Appendix A: Parents, Carers and Young People’s Agenda for ICPC/ Appendix B: Parents, Carers and Young People’s Agenda for RCPC);
  • What outcomes are they hoping for?
  • Do they have a view about the proposed venue?
  • Do they understand that their parents/carers will be invited and may be present? What are their views about speaking in front of them during the meeting? Would they like to talk without parents/carers there?
  • Do they want to prepare something in writing so they don't forget what they want to say?
  • Where would they like to sit?
  • What are the arrangements for meeting with the Chair prior to the meeting?
  • Are they aware they may leave the meeting at any point if they are upset?
  • Are they aware that this is not an opportunity to question them about any allegation or incident or whether they have told the truth?
  • Do they understand that any criticism of them or what they have said, inappropriate language or swearing will not be permitted?
  • Do they understand that they may not be present for the whole of the meeting?
  • Are they clear that straightforward language will be used during the meeting and that they may ask for clarification if there is something which they don't understand?
  • Do they want to be supported in the meeting by an advocate or someone else?
  • Do they understand the confidentiality of the meeting and what should or should not be discussed outside of the meeting?

The child or young person should have access to the social workers report 24 hours in advance of an Initial Child Protection Conference and 5 working days in advance of a Review Conference to have the opportunity for the social worker to go through it with them.

How and when the child or young person will receive feedback about the meeting and the decisions made should be agreed before the meeting.

f) Following the Conference

If the child or young person attends the meeting suitable arrangements should be in place to support the child or young person when they have left. The possible emotional consequences of the meeting should be adequately addressed.

A planned contact should be arranged with the social worker to ensure that the decisions of the meeting are fully explained and understood by the child or young person. This should take place whether a protection plan is in place or not.

Key workers should ensure that the plan is tailored to each child or young person, has been written in a child friendly manner and agreed with the child or young person.

g) The Core Group

It may be that a child or young person may wish to attend core group meetings rather than conferences as they are often smaller meetings more able to accommodate the child or young person.

Key workers should ensure that children and young people are fully prepared for core group meetings with an understanding of the purpose and function.


5. Enabling Parents and Carers to Participate

a) General

Parents and Carers should be encouraged to participate in the safeguarding process along with children and young people. Parents and carers should be helped to understand that the participation of children and young people, in whatever way they feel able to, should be meaningful and constructive for them.

b) How Parents and Carers may participate

Parents and carers should have the safeguarding process explained fully to them and the purpose of meetings, i.e. ICPC, RCPC's and core groups fully explained. Parents and carers should be provided with the leaflets and a copy of the agenda and criteria and categories of harm for each meeting to enable them to be fully prepared. The parents, carers and young people’s agenda for ICPC/RCPC can be used as an alternative version. Reports should be seen and read by parents and carers at least 24 hours in advance of an Initial Child Protection Conference and 5 working days in advance of a Review Conference to. Parents and carers may be offered the opportunity to contribute in writing and have a supporter present at conferences and core groups.

social workers should complete an assessment of the Parents/Carers capacity to fully understand the Child Protection Process. Efforts to share written and verbal information should be geared towards their individual needs.


6. The Role of the Advocate / Supporter

The child or young person can decide whether they would like an advocate. An advocate will speak for a child or young person at the meeting or help them to speak for themselves in the meeting. This means that the advocate may represent the wishes and feelings of the child or young person to professionals who are making decisions about their welfare. Social Care staff may identify themselves as advocates for a child or young person, or an appropriate independent advocate may be sought.

Before the conference, the advocate would discuss the relevant aspects of the conference report with the child or young person and clarify their wishes and feelings for the meeting. The focus would be to establish their feelings rather than to seek to investigate factual details.

The advocate is not at the conference to offer their personal or professional opinion but to ensure that the child is able to contribute their wishes and feelings.

Parents and carers may wish to have someone there to help them to participate as explained in the leaflet for Parents and Carers giving them information about Child Protection Conferences.


7. Objections to Attendance at Meetings

Concerns about the conflict of interest between the attendance of the child or young person at a conference or core group and the attendance of the parent or carer may arise. It is important that both are given the opportunity to participate which if both are attending may require attendance at different times. In some circumstances, the Chair may decide that the parents/carers involvement is important so that they can carry out their parental responsibilities. In these circumstances the Chair may decide that the parents/carers should have precedence over the child or young person's attendance. Every effort should be made to ensure that the views of all parties are represented. The decision about who should be present during part or all of the conference should be based on what is in the best interests of the child or young person.


Appendix A: Parents, Carers and Young People’s Agenda for ICPC

Click here to view Appendix A: Parents, Carers and Young People’s Agenda for ICPC.


Appendix B: Parents, Carers and Young People’s Agenda for RCPC

Click here to view Appendix B: Parents, Carers and Young People’s Agenda for RCPC.


Appendix C: My Protection Plan" Guidance for social workers

Click here to view Appendix C: My Protection Plan" Guidance for social workers.

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