9.9 Involving Children and Family Members

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This chapter is currently under review - May 2020


Involving Parents and Carers


Parents and carers must be invited to conferences (unless exclusion is justified as described in Exclusion of Family Members from a Conference Procedure). Parents/ others with Parental Responsibility who no longer live with the children should also be invited.


The social worker must facilitate their constructive involvement by ensuring in advance of the conference that they are given sufficient information and practical support to make a meaningful contribution. This includes:

  • Explaining to parents/carers the purpose of the meeting, who will attend, the way in which it will operate, the purpose and meaning of being made subject to a Child Protection Plan and the complaints process;
  • Consideration of childcare arrangements to enable the attendance of parent(s);
  • Those for whom English is not a first language must be offered, if required, an interpreter. A family member should not be expected to act as an interpreter of spoken or signed language (see Use of Interpreters, Signers or Others with Communication Skills Procedure);
  • Provision should be made to ensure that visually or hearing impaired or otherwise disabled parents / carers are enabled to participate.

If parents / carers feel unable to attend the conference, alternative means should be provided for them to communicate with the chair of the conference.


Written information about conferences should be left with the family and include references to:

  • The right to bring a friend, supporter or an advocate;
  • The fact that if the family is accompanied by a solicitor her /his role is limited to that  of a supporter;
  • Details of local advice and advocacy services; and
  • The conference complaints procedur

The role of the supporter is to enable the parent/carer to put her/his point of view, not to take an adversarial position or cross-examine participants.

Involving Children


The child, subject to her/his level of understanding, needs to be given the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the conference.


In practice, the appropriateness of including an individual child must be assessed in advance and relevant arrangements made to facilitate attendance at all or part of the conference.


Where it is assessed, in accordance with the criteria below, that it would be inappropriate for the child to attend, alternative arrangements should be made to ensure her/his wishes and feelings are made clear to all relevant parties - e.g. use of an advocate, written or taped comments.

Criteria for Presence of Child at Conference


The primary issues to be addressed are:

  • The child's level of understanding of the process;
  • Any expressed or implicit wish to be involved;
  • The parent / carer's views about the child's proposed presence;
  • Whether inclusion is assessed to be of benefit to the child.

The test of 'sufficient understanding', is partly a function of age and partly the child's capacity to understand. Generally, a child of less than 12 years of age is unlikely to be able to be a direct and/or full participant in a conference. An older child is potentially able to contribute, but each should be considered individually in the light of maturity, and cognitive development.


In order to establish her/his wish with respect to attendance, the child must be first provided with a full and clear explanation of purpose, conduct, membership of the conference and potential provision of an advocate or support person.


Written information translated into the appropriate language should be provided to those able to read and an alternative medium e.g. tape, offered those who cannot read.


A declared wish not to attend a conference (having been given such an explanation) must be respected.


A declared wish not to attend a conference (having been given such an explanation) must be respected.


Consideration should be given to the views of and impact on parent(s) of their child's proposed attendance.


Consideration must be given to the impact of the conference on the child e.g. if they have a significant learning difficulty or where it will be impossible to ensure they are kept apart from a parent who may be hostile and/or attribute responsibility onto them.


In such cases, energy and resources should be directed toward ensuring by means of an advocate and/or preparatory work by a social worker, that the child's wishes and feelings are effectively represented.

Indirect Contributions When a Child is not Attending


Indirect contributions from a child might include a pre-meeting with the conference chair.


Other indirect methods include written statements, emails, text messages and taped comments prepared alone or with independent support, and representation via an advocate.

Direct Involvement of a Child in a Conference


In advance of the conference, the chair and social worker should agree whether:

  • The child attends for all or part of the conference, taking into account confidentiality of parents and/or siblings;
  • (S)he should be present with one or more of her/his parents;
  • The chair meets the child alone or with a parent / carer prior to the meeting.

If the child attends all or part of the conference, it is essential that (s)he is prepared by the social worker or independent advocate, who can help her/him prepare a report or rehearse any particular points that the child wishes to make.


Those for whom English is not a first language should be offered and provided with an interpreter.


Provision should be made to ensure that a child who has any form of disability is enabled to participate.


Consideration should be given to enabling the child to be accompanied by a supporter or an advocate.

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