11.12 Exclusion of Family Members from a Conference
Exceptionally it may be necessary to exclude one or more family members from part or all of a conference. These situations will be rare, and the conference chair must be notified by the social worker, or a worker from any agency, if they believe based on the criteria below, that a parent should be excluded. This representation must be made, as soon as possible and at least three working days in advance of the conference.
The worker concerned must indicate which of the grounds it believes are met and the information, or evidence, the request is based on. The chair must consider the representation carefully and may need legal advice.
The chair should make a decision in response to:
If, in planning a conference, it becomes clear to the chair that there may be conflict of interests between the children and parents, the conference should be planned so that the welfare of the child can remain paramount. This may mean arranging for the child and parents to participate in separate parts of the conference and for separate waiting arrangements to be made. Any exclusion period should be for the minimum duration necessary and must be clearly recorded in the conference record.
It may also become clear at the beginning or in the course of a conference, that its effectiveness will be seriously impaired by the presence of the parent(s). In these circumstances, the chair may ask them to leave.
Where a parent is on bail, or subject to an active police investigation, it is the responsibility of the chair to ensure that the police can fully present their information and views and also that the parents participate as fully as circumstances allow. This may involve the chair and police having a confidential meeting prior to the conference to agree a way of managing the process and the information.
The decision of the chair over matters of exclusion is final regarding both parents and the child(ren).
If the chair has decided, prior to the conference, to exclude a parent, this must be communicated to the parent prior to conference, ideally in writing. If this is not possible then the Chair must still confirm in writing the reasons for their decision. The social worker should have prepared the parent for the possibility that this may occur.
The parent must be informed about how to make their views known, how (s)he will be told the outcome of the conference and about the Complaints by Service Users Procedure. The parent should be advised on the possibility of preparing a contribution for the conference e.g. a letter, others attending on her/his behalf e.g. solicitors, advocate.
Those excluded should be provided with a copy of the social worker's report to the conference (three working days before an Initial Conference and five working days before a Review Conference) and be provided with the opportunity to have their views recorded and presented to the conference.
If a decision to exclude a parent is made, this must be fully recorded in the minutes. Exclusion from one conference is not reason enough in itself for exclusion from a further conference.