2.1 Appeals about Child Protection Conferences
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
The purpose of this procedure is to ensure a prompt, sensitive and professional response to the management of complaints arising from the implementation of Sheffield Children Safeguarding Partnership Procedures for Child Protection Conference processes.
AMENDMENTIn October 2019, minor amendments were made in relation to local practice/terminology.
1. Who can Appeal?
Parents/carers and children (with sufficient understanding) may have concerns in respect of the functioning of Child Protection Conferences and these may include:
- The process of the conference;
- The outcome, in terms of the fact of and/or the category of primary concern at the time the child became the subject of a Child Protection Plan;
- A decision for the child to become, or not to become, the subject of a Child Protection Plan or a decision to continue a Child Protection Plan.
All parties must be made aware that this appeals process cannot itself change a Child Protection Conference decision and that during the course of an appeal's consideration, the decision made by the Conference stands.
At all stages of this appeals process, the appellant may bring an advocate or friend to support them. Particular consideration must be given to children who may not be as articulate or able to fully understand the process, and may need an advocate or an interpreter.
N.B. Complaints about professionals from individual agencies, their performance and provision (or non-provision) of services will not be dealt with under this procedure and should be responded to in accordance with the relevant agency's complaints handling process.
2. Comments or Appeals about Joint Action or Decision Making in Child Protection Conferences
Any appeal about joint decision-making or joint action within the child protection process covered by these procedures (other than complaints about individual practitioner or single agency conduct) should be referred in writing to the Assistant Director for Safeguarding and Quality Assurance, as soon as possible, but ideally within 3 months of the Child Protection Conference. In exceptional circumstances the Assistant Director for Safeguarding and Quality Assurance will consider cases outside of that time period.
The grounds for appealing against a conference decision may be:
- The process of a conference not complying with SCSP procedures;
- The decision of the conference not complying with SCSP procedures;
- Significant and unreasonable failure to complete multi-agency recommendations within child protection plans;
- Issues of equality and diversity not adequately addressed;
- Advocates' attendance and role at conferences;
- The outcome, in terms of the fact of / and or the category of primary concern at the time the child became the subject of a Child Protection Plan;
- A decision for the child to become, or not to become, the subject of a Child Protection Plan or the decision or not to cease the child being the subject of a Child Protection Plan.
The Assistant Director for Safeguarding and Quality Assurance will consider in the first instance whether the appeal fits the criterion. If it does not, s/he will advise the person seeking to appeal of that decision in writing. If the case does fit the criterion, s/he will refer the case for review led by Service manager for Child Protection Conferencing and will inform the referrer in writing that s/he has done so. This written acknowledgement will be within 15 working days.
The Local Authority Complaints Officer should be informed of the appeal and where there are issues which fall outside of this procedure these should be discussed and directed through the appropriate channel (e.g. Children Act complaints procedure, NHS complaints procedure).
3. Stage One - Informal Resolution
Personnel involved in this stage are Service Manager for Child Protection Conferences (CPC) and the Child Protection Conference Chair.
This is a problem-solving stage in which the Service Manager and Child Protection Conference Chair will aim to seek an early resolution.
Following the review the Service Manager will confirm in writing the points of appeal and any actions agreed to resolve. The letter should also advise the person appealing of their right to move to Stage Two of the process within 28 days, if they are still dissatisfied.
The Local Authority Complaints Officer and the Assistant Director: Safeguarding and Quality Assurance should be informed of the outcome of Stage One and also receive a copy of this letter.
4. Stage Two - Formal Consideration by the Assistant Director: Safeguarding and Quality Assurance
Personnel involved at this stage will be the Service Manager for Child Protection Conferences and the Assistant Director Safeguarding and Quality Assurance.
The review members should have access to and will consider:
- Minutes of the Child Protection Conference;
- Reports to Child Protection Conference;
- Correspondence re appeal at Stage One;
- Whether SCSP policy, procedure, protocols have been observed correctly.
The review should still aim to address areas of dissatisfaction and to resolve matters. Following this stage the person appealing will receive a letter to confirm what was agreed and to advise them of their right to move to Stage Three within 28 days, if they are still dissatisfied.The Local Authority Complaints Officer should be informed of the outcome of Stage Two and receive a copy of this letter where there are complaints which relate to issues outside the procedure or, the appellant has separate complaints which are being addressed through the Children Act Complaint procedures or NHS Complaints procedures. The Independent Chair will also be informed if the appellant wishes to progress to an Appeal Panel.
5. Stage 3 - The Appeals Panel
Chair of the Panel: The SCSP Independent Chair or his/her nominee will chair the Panel.
Membership of the Panel: The Panel will be an interagency panel made up of at least two senior representatives from safeguarding partner agencies, none of whom have previous or present direct line management responsibility for the case in question.
The SCSP will provide a note-taker.
Advisor to Panel: The panel chair has the authority to co-opt other professionals where specialist advice is needed.
Scope of Decision–Making: The Panel may make one or more of the following decisions based on a majority view:
- That Child Protection Conference procedures were followed correctly;
- That Child Protection Conference procedures were not followed correctly and recommend action to remedy this;
- To support the original Child Protection Conference decision;
- Recommend the Child Protection Conference is reconvened with the same or different Child Protection Conference chair, to reconsider a recommendation regarding the decision that the child should be or continue to be, subject to a Child Protection Plan and the category of Significant Harm on which such decision is based;
- To decide they have insufficient information to make a decision and set out a timescale for completing the task and set a date for a further panel;
- To decide whether there are any learning points for a specific agency;
- The Panel chair should ensure minutes are sent to the appellant and to all those who were sent minutes of Child Protection Conference and also to ensure any reconvened Child Protection Conference has full details of any recommendations made by the panel;
- To communicate any specific concerns and recommendations relating to practice or procedure on the part of any safeguarding partners agency relevant Board member.
N.B. The Panel does not have the authority to reverse a Conference decision.
6. Reconvened Conference
The chair of a reconvened Child Protection Conference must ensure that all those present have seen or are briefed at the start of the Conference about the decision and any recommendation(s) made by the Panel. Minutes of the Panel meeting will also be circulated.
As soon as the outcome of the case has been decided, the SCSP Independent Chair will inform the referrer of their recommendation. This will be one or more of the following:
- An immediate reconvening of a Child Protection Conference to consider a specific issue;
- No action or recommendation is necessary.
7. Further Challenge
An appellant who continues to be dissatisfied with the outcome of the above process could pursue their grievance via the Local Government Ombudsman or choose to seek legal advice about remedies such as judicial review.