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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

Discuss on our forums

Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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Child protection plans

This page answers some questions families often have about child protection plans

A conference can decide:

  • Whether or not a child protection plan needs to be developed to keep the child safe and well
  • The date for any future child protection review conference.

If the conference decides a child protection plan is needed, everyone at the conference will make recommendations. These will be about what is needed to keep the child safe in the future.

The diagram below shows what an outline child protection plan should do and cover:

The outline plan should then be developed into a full child protection plan. But this will be done after the conference by the core group – see Core group for more information.

If parents or carers are unclear or concerned about the outline plan

If parents or carers are not clear about what is expected of them, asking the social worker to put this in writing after the conference is a good idea.

Where parents or carers are concerned that what is being asked of them isn’t reasonable, they should seek independent advice. Posting a question for one of our specialist advisers on our Advice Forums may be a good starting point. If urgent or further advice is needed for a more complex situation, then parents or carers may want to:

  • Contact us – call Family Rights Group’s specialist legal and practice advice line on 0808 801 0366 (the advice line is open Monday to Friday, from 9.30 am to 3 pm)
  • Seek legal advice from a solicitor who is a specialist in children law or who has Children Law Accreditation. To find a solicitor, search using the ‘how to find a solicitor’ function on the Law Society website.  See our Working with a solicitor guide  on our Top tips and templates page for more information about finding and working with a solicitor.

What is the purpose of a child protection plan?

A full child protection plan should set out clear actions which aim to ensure the child will be kept safe and well. For example, that their parent or carer will engage with a specific course. Or that the child must be taken to appointments, for example with the GP.

The child protection plan should also set out:

  • When and in what situations the child will be seen by the social worker
  • How the social worker and other practitioners will support the child and family
  • A clear explanation about what will happen if the plan is not kept to. This may mean that children’s services will consider starting care proceedings if the child is considered to be suffering significant harm (Working Together 2018, page 51).

Can families get help for a child under the child protection plan?

Yes. The full plan will say what services should be offered to the child and family.

The child’s social worker should provide ongoing support. This includes visiting the family home to:

  • Make sure the parents or carers are taking the steps agreed in the child protection plan and are getting the help agreed
  • Doing visits to see how the child is.

Community support may also be considered. If families know of services within their community they think would help them or the child, they should tell the lead social worker. Whether and how this can form part of plan can then be looked at and agreed.

Do parents and carers receive a copy of the full child protection plan?

Yes. Government guidance requires social workers to record outcomes from the child protection conference (Working Together 2018, page 50). This should be in the form of a written child protection plan. The parents should receive a copy of the plan. And they can ask for it to be translated into another language if needed.

Should wider family be involved when a child protection plan is being drawn up?

Members of the wider family network may be able to help parents to keep their child safe. This might be by offering support and help to the parents. Or it may be to provide care to the child for a time.

It is a good idea for the family to involve any relatives and friends as soon as possible.

Government guidance called ‘Court orders and pre-proceedings’ says at paragraph 22 that:

It is important that wider family are identified and involved as early as possible as they can play a key role in supporting the child and help parents address identified problems. Where problems escalate and children cannot remain safely with parents, local authorities should seek to place children with suitable wider family members where it is safe to do so.

In practice this doesn’t always happen. Or happen early enough.

What steps can parents or children’s services take to involve the wider family and friends?

Telling the social worker about any family or friends who may be able to help is a good first step. Doing this as soon as possible is best.

A family group conference (FGC) can be a good way to find out how family and friends can help.  A family group conference is a family-led decision-making meeting. It brings together the whole family, and others who are important to the child. Together, at the family group conference, they make a plan for the child.

Children’s services may suggest a family group conference takes place. But parents and carers can request this. See our Family group conference: advice for families page for information.

Where a child protection plan is in place, members of the wider family and friends network could be invited to come to the core group. The core group is a group of key practitioners and family members. Their role is to develop the outline plan made at the end of a child protection conference. More detailed information about Core groups is available here.

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