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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). For Textphone dial 18001 followed by the advice line number. 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 review conference

A child protection review conference looks at how the child protection plan is working. Is the plan working to keep the child safe and well?

When should a review conference take place?

Children’s services must hold the first review conference within three months of the initial conference. Further reviews should be at least every six months (Working Together 2018, page 53).

The review conference must look at the original child protection plan and decide:

  • Whether the child is continuing to suffer or is likely to suffer significant harm
  • Whether the plan needs to be changed or is no longer needed.

Who is invited to the review conference?

The same practitioners invited to attend the initial child protection conference will be invited. Any new other practitioners who have begun to work with the child and family should be invited.

The Chair of the initial conference will also usually chair the review conference.

The following family members should be invited:

  • The child’s parents
  • Any relatives who are involved
  • The child if old enough and if the parents (or others with parental responsibility) agree.

Is advocacy support available at a review conference?

Parents or carers should be reminded that they may bring an advocate (who may be a solicitor) or supporter to the conference (see Working Together 2018 at page 48).

Parents or carers who want to bring an advocate to the child protection conference might want to visit our Top tips and templates page to:

What should families should be able to expect ahead of the review conference?

  • The social worker should again help the parents and the child understand what will happen at the conference and who will be there
  • The Chair should again be in contact with the parents to explain what will happen at the conference and what decisions can be made
  • As with an initial child protection conference, a Chair may decide to exclude someone from attending part or all of a conference. The reasons for doing this should be made clear to the person concerned. The way in which they will be able to contribute should be agreed (in writing, through a recording for example).

What information should be available for a review conference?

Practitioners attending the review conference should produce a report. Their reports should evaluate the impact of the work done under the plan so far. The reports should set out any changes in the family since the last conference. The lead social worker should share that information with the parents and the child (if appropriate) before the meeting.

What should happen during a review child protection conference

During the review conference, practitioners will consider with the family how they have progressed the planned outcomes. The planned outcomes should have been part of the full child protection plan.  They will include what different people were expected to do as part of the plan. And what changes and improvements the plan aimed to achieve for the child and family.

At the conference, parents and carers should be given an opportunity to say what has changed in the family’s situation. They should have the chance to explain why the child is no longer at risk of significant harm (if that is their view).

What happens if the review conference decides that a child is no longer suffering significant harm and no longer needs a child protection plan?

Most parents understandably feel very relieved if a review conference decides their child is no longer suffering or likely to suffer significant harm. But parents may still think it’s important to receive support or help to meet their child’s needs. Getting support is not dependent on a child being at risk of harm.

If the review conference decides the child is no longer at risk but does still need a social worker, a child in need plan will be made.

A child in need plan should set out what help will be offered to the family. It should set out what is expected of the parents or carers. But child in need support is voluntary. This means parents and carers can decide whether they think it will be helpful to take up that support. The social worker should give the parents or carers and child (where appropriate) an opportunity to contribute to the plan and to have a say in what extra help and support the family needs.

If a child doesn’t need a social worker but the parents or carers would like further support, there may be services available through Early help.  Early help aims to provide extra support to prevent the child and family’s needs escalating. See our Early help page for more information about to access early help services.

What happens if the review conference decides a child is still at risk of significant harm and a child protection plan continue?

If the review conference decides this then the child protection plan will be updated. This is to make sure the child will be kept safe in the future.

It is important that parents or carers:

  • Share their views about any changes to the plan
  • Work with the practitioners involved to follow the plan.

Sometimes, even with some support a parent may have struggled to keep to the plan. They may have been difficult for them to make changes to keep their child safe and well cared for. Children’s services may continue to be worried about the child and decide they need to hold a legal planning meeting.

A legal planning meeting is a meeting where social workers can get legal advice from the lawyers for children’s services. They will also the lawyer about what steps they can take to protect a child. Parents and children are not invited to this meeting.

See legal planning meetings for more details.

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