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6.2 Guidance for Minute Takers of Child Protection Conferences and Complex Multi-Agency Strategy Meetings

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter details the roles and responsibilities of the minute taker in Child Protection Conferences and Complex Multi-Agency Strategy Meetings.

RELEVANT LEGISLATION AND GUIDANCE

Children Act 1989

Working Together To Safeguard Children 2015

AMENDMENT

In January 2016, this chapter was extensively updated and should be re-read throughout.


Contents

  1. Types of Child Protection Meetings
  2. Minuters Responsibilities
  3. The Minutes
  4. Minuting Styles
  5. Format of Conference Record and Complex Multi-Agency Strategy Meeting Minutes
  6. Distribution
  7. Timescales for Distribution
  8. Amendment and Storage of Minutes
  9. Minuter and Chair: Working Together


1. Types of Child Protection Meetings

There are two types of child protection meeting which are currently minuted by trained C P minute-taking staff:

  • Child Protection Conferences (Initial or Review);
  • Complex Multi-Agency Strategy Meetings.

Both types of meeting are chaired by a Child Protection Coordinator

For the Social Care Service the record of C P conferences and Strategy Meetings forms part of the Framework (electronic) case-record in respect of a particular child/adult.

Multi-agency meetings and strategy discussions are often held in the normal course of child care work, but the Complex Multi-Agency Strategy Meetings referred to here are specifically chaired by a Child Protection Coordinator. The following types of meetings are held:

Those involving a named adult:

  • Allegations against professionals Strategy Meeting;
  • Historical abuse Strategy Meeting;
  • A Risk Management Meeting (non-MAPPA).

Those involving named children:

  • Child Sexual Exploitation Strategy Meeting;
  • Children Who Sexually Harm Multi Agency Planning Meeting;
  • Fabricated or Induced Illness Strategy Meeting;
  • Sudden or unexplained death of a child Strategy Meeting.

There may be other types of meetings. Many of these meetings have printed agendas which are available on Nottinghamshire's Intranet and in all Locality offices.

With the exception of some Strategy Meetings (Child Sexual Exploitation), the subjects of the meetings, parents and young people are not normally invited to these meetings and do not receive minutes. Nevertheless, they may have future access to them, something which Chairs and Minuters need to bear in mind.


2. Minuters Responsibilities

Chairs and Minuters will need to work together to ensure the smooth running of all these types of meeting. Minuters are expected to:

  • Check the room is ready for the meeting (including cups and drinking water being available);
  • Bring (laminated) copies of the relevant agenda;
  • Be present throughout the meeting and take notes, from which to type minutes;
  • Send a draft of the minutes to the Chair for checking and signing;
  • Copy and distribute the completed outline CP Plan and minutes of the meeting to the right people;
  • Keep their notes and minutes safely.


3. The Minutes

Minutes are a record of what actually happens in the conference or Strategy Meeting; not an attempt to summarise the case as a whole. If it is not said or it is not relevant it will not be minuted. All matters to do with a child's safety and well-being should be considered relevant.

The Chair is responsible for making the agenda clear at the outset; for covering all the issues relevant to the safety and welfare of children; and for making it clear which part of the agenda (s) he is dealing with as the meeting progresses.

The headings used in minutes should follow the headings on the agenda used in the meeting.

The standard printed agendas are revised from time to time and the most recent versions can be found on CFCS forms.

At the beginning of the conference/Strategy Meeting, the minuter should pass round an attendance list and then complete it with apologies. Minuters need to ensure they have an appropriate distribution email address for everyone who will be sent copies of the minutes (see Section 6, Distribution below).

The minutes should record not only what is said, but any significant events during the meeting which will help the reader understand what is going on. This may include, for example, people joining or leaving the conference, health charts/photographs/children's drawings being passed round, etc.

Where the Chair has a standard introduction (see Chair's conference agendas) it is not necessary to minute this. What should be included are additional pieces of information about the specific case: (e.g.) the particular reason for a conference, whether it is being held promptly, whether the right people are attending (quoracy) and the Chair's reasons for going ahead or not, reasons why some people have not come or have been excluded from attending, or issues from the Chair's introductory contact with parents and young people

The introductions to the various Strategy Meetings are important to note down: what the Chair says at the start establishes the title and purpose for each meeting.

Throughout these meetings, all additions or corrections to the facts provided in reports will need to be minuted. For example, under conference agenda item 3, the Chair will check the accuracy of facts about the family structure given in the agency reports (see Section 4, Minuting Styles).

Because the minutes may be read without the agency reports, they need to be able to 'stand alone' and be understood as they are. When the Chair or other participant reads out a report or summarises it verbally, this passage or summary should be minuted. Ensuing discussion should be minuted with each report in the order in which it occurs.

Sometimes parents, young people, their supporters or solicitors will be asked to leave a conference for a short exclusion period. This should be agreed by the Chair beforehand, in situations where:

  • The Chair or Social Care need legal advice;
  • The Police have information about on-going investigations, which cannot be given in the presence of family members or their supporters/solicitors;
  • Where any other information needs to be shared without some or all the family present, e.g. to preserve third-party confidentiality or in the interests of safeguarding the child.

Minutes of these sections must be marked as CONFIDENTIAL ADDENDUM. The reason why the confidential slot was needed and whom requested this should be recorded.

Addendum (to be included on a separate page at the end of the conference minutes) and not distributed to the particular people who were outside the room at the time.

Frequently the most difficult parts of a meeting to minute are periods of discussion. It is important to record as concisely as possible any extra facts which emerge, the different views being shared (e.g. about whether a child's is to be made subject to a child protection plan or not), and any agreement or conclusion reached.

Towards the end of Child Protection Conferences the Chair is expected to give a summary of the nature of the risks, the source of the risks and how significant and likely the harm is thought to be.

Finally, at C P conferences, the Decisions and Recommendations which form the outline Child Protection Plan must be listed. Any significant debate about these to be recorded.

Decisions are:

  • Whether or not a child is to be made subject to a Child Protection Plan;
  • Plan category;
  • The reconvening of a conference;
  • Date of C P Review Conference.

Recommendations form the outline Child Protection Plan and these are to be included in the outline Child Protection Plan document in Framework. The date for core group will also be recorded.

With regards to a Strategy Meeting, an action plan is formulated at the end of the meeting and this needs to be distributed in timescale.


4. Minuting Styles

4.1 The Chair, however, is responsible for the accuracy and completeness of the minutes and therefore may make amendments before signing them.
4.2 Minutes are formal documents. Therefore although first names are often used in the meeting itself, adults (family members, conference participants, others) should be referred to in the minutes by their full names initially, e.g. 'John Smith said...'; and thereafter by their title and surname e.g. ' Mr Smith added...'. Children should be referred to by their first names.
4.3 People sometimes say offensive or confusing things during meetings: the Chair may or may not ask for them to be re-phrased or clarified at the time. They will not all need to be minuted using the same words, but statements which are judged to be relevant to the safety and welfare of the child, however they are expressed, should be included.
4.4 Parents, young people and other family members have equal status with professionals at conferences. The way they are referred to and how their contributions are minuted should not be different. They are also likely to be reading copies of the minutes and therefore jargon or colloquialisms must be avoided. Using plain English is particularly important in this work.


5. Format of Conference Record and Complex Multi-Agency Strategy Meeting Minutes

All minutes for conferences and Strategy Meetings should have the NSCB logo on the front sheet.

The headings used in minutes should follow the headings on the agenda used in the meeting.

Attendees and apologies will be listed in the outline child protection plan document. All minutes end with the Chair's name, title and signature. Also the Minuter's initials and date of typing the first draft.


6. Distribution

In child protection work the sending out of the right parts of the conference record / meeting minutes to the right people is one of the Minuter's crucial responsibilities. The Chair will decide if any special arrangements need to be made about distribution which are different from normal. Minuters should always refer to the Chair if in any doubt.

Unless stated otherwise it will be assumed that all written reports will be taken away from conference and only distributed with full minutes to those not in attendance.

The full record from an Initial and Review C P Conference is normally distributed to:

  • All those invited, whether or not they attended. One set of papers per household or per agency, unless specified. See below for distribution to family members;
  • The conference record is not sent to:
  • Individuals who were not invited in their own right and attend conference solely to support parents or the child. This includes other family members, friends, solicitors and supporters from local/voluntary groups;
  • Observers.

The minutes from a Strategy Meeting, together with any reports submitted to the meeting, will normally be distributed to:

  • Those individual professionals invited, whether they attended or not;
  • Any parents/young people who attended a Multi-agency Planning Meeting (Children who sexually harm) who the Chair agrees should have them;
    • Minutes will not go to:
  • Individuals who are the subject of the meeting;
  • Parents or young people mentioned in the meeting.

However a request can be made for a copy of the minutes which will need to be agreed by the Chair of the meeting and the minutes redacted if necessary.

Social Care staff will have access to the record/minutes of a meeting on Framework: the Minuter should therefore send them each an email to inform them when they are on the system, rather than sending them paper copies. A case note should be added to confirm distribution of the outline Child Protection Plan or action plan and later the full minutes. The social worker is responsible for distributing these to the parents, carers and young people.

The Minuter will send the outline Child Protection Plan/Action Plan and full minutes of the meeting to agencies where possible by secure email or alternatively by Crptshare.

Paper copies of any conference records / meeting minutes for parents, carers and young people should be marked as such on the front sheet (i.e. "Parent copy", "Copy for X") and sent to the SW to deliver personally; one copy per household unless specified.

Where English is not the family's first language, the Chair will need to consider if it is necessary to have the record of a C P conference translated before distribution. Braille translation may similarly be considered. It is the social worker’s responsibility to arrange for the translation.

Care should be taken to ensure that any addendum to the minutes is distributed to the right people.

The Chair will decide if part or all of the record is to be given to people absent from the conference in other circumstances; e.g. where a parent has been totally excluded, or where someone has not been invited in error.

Sometimes it is important that parents (whether present or not) are not given information which would enable them to trace the child's whereabouts. In these circumstances the Chair will agree which part of the conference record they will be given.

If someone simply wants a copy of one of the agencies' reports, they do not need to come through the Chair, but can ask the agency direct.

Where an agency specifically does not give permission for its report to be sent out as part of the conference record, the Chair will confirm whether or not this is justified. Additionally the Chair can decide that any other information or reports should not be included in the conference record. In any event, the decision not to circulate reports to all parties should be justified and recorded in the minutes.

Reports not distributed and read at a meeting, but received after it is over, should not normally be included with the conference record or special circumstances meeting minutes.

Minutes of all meetings must be signed personally by the Chair before distribution. They may only be signed by another person if authorised to do so in that particular case by the Chair. When this happens the signature must include the statement: "Signed with the approval of (Chair's name)".

With the exception of standard sheets/forms, photocopying should be double-sided as much as possible. The completed record of the conference or special circumstances meeting should be stapled together for security during distribution.


7. Timescales for Distribution

All conferences:

Outline Child Protection Plan
To all recipients within 1 working day

All conferences:

Minutes
To all recipients within 20 working days
All Special Circs. Meetings To recipients within 20 working days

Where Chairs or Minuters are part-time, arrangements need to be made about how these timescales will be met in particular cases.


8. Amendment and Storage of Minutes

Parents and agencies are asked to notify any important inaccuracies within 7 working days of receipt. This should be in writing to the Chair: Minuters should not accept requests for amendments over the telephone but will advise the caller who they need to write to and their contact details.

The Chair may want to consult the Minuter's notes before deciding whether or not to accept any suggested amendment. Minuters should keep their (shorthand or longhand) notes for at least six months.

If amendments are approved by the Chair, the Minuter will be asked to send letters out with an amendment letter which should then be filed with the original minutes to everyone who was sent the original minutes. If they are not approved, the Chair may reply, explaining why the proposed amendments are not agreed. The Minuter needs to ensure that the amendment letter is uploaded into the relevant Framework episode.

The minutes of all conferences and special circumstances meetings are confidential and "must not be represented, copied or divulged in any way without the permission of the Chairperson" (Conference front sheet). There is an important obligation on Minuters (as on all other participants) not to discuss any conference details outside their agency, nor to risk minutes falling into the hands of anyone not authorised to have them.


9. Minuter and Chair: Working Together

The Chair and the Minuter are the two key people who service the conference. Although their roles are very different, it is important that they work together and keep day-to-day contact as a means of checking things out with each other.

It is essential for the Minuter to be able to obtain a copy of the SW report to a conference beforehand to find out names, past events, etc. which people will be talking about. Chairs and Minuters will need to work out locally how this is to be achieved.

If the Minuter recognises the name (or face) of any family member as known to them personally, the Chair or Business Support Officer should be told immediately.

In the conference itself, Minuters should be able to seek clarification if anything is said which is not heard, not understood or not clear; however this must be done by asking the Chair, not other participants. Spellings, addresses, etc. may need to be clarified at the time if they cannot be checked at the end of the meeting. Chairs are likely to appreciate obvious errors or omissions being pointed out straight away if the Minuter becomes aware of them.

There is a risk assessment in place which identifies H&S break times within set timescales of conference. The responsibility for deciding about breaks during a conference lies with the Chair. Administration and management arrangements will need to ensure that the same member of staff is not asked to minute a sequence of conferences without a break.

End