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Education Welfare Service, Child Protection - Everybodys Responsibility

All adults working with children and young people have a responsibility with regard to their welfare.  Every School has a responsibility to promote and safeguard the welfare of all pupils. This duty is set out in the legislation of the Education and Libraries (NI) Order 2003 – Part IV Welfare and Protection of Pupils Articles 17, 18 and 19 – Duties on Boards of Governors.

 

Teachers spend many hours each day with the young people in their classes / school and are in a good position to recognise and respond to any cause for concern that may present itself. Every School has specially trained staff - a designated and deputy designated teacher for child protection- who oversee the child protection policy in their school. The child protection policy will set out clearly how the school will respond to issues of child protection. All parents should be given a copy of this policy.

 

Schools play an important part in the child protection process and must uphold their duty of care by working alongside the other professionals in promoting an safeguarding the welfare of all children.

What is Child Protection?

 

What does a Child Protection Investigation involve?

 

What happens if the investigation concludes there is no cause for concern?

 

What happens if abuse is found?

 

What is the purpose of a Medical Examination?

 

Do Parents have to agree to a Medical Examination?

 

Will children be taken away from their parents?

 

What is the Child Protection Register?

 

What is a Child Protection Plan?

 

What is a Key Worker?

 

What is a “risk assessment”?

 

Who else will be involved?

 

What is a Child Protection Case Conference?

 

Why might such a meeting be called?

 

What can a parent do?

 

What happens at these conferences?

 

What happens next?

 

Help with transport/child minding

 

Interpreters

 

What happens after the conference?

 

Appeals Procedure

What is Child Protection?
‘Child Protection’ are the words that we use when allegations of child abuse have to be investigated. However, child protection is not just about the investigation of a specific incident in which a child/children may have been harmed. It involves a thorough assessment of the needs of children and their families so that effective help and support are provided. Help and support should enhance children’s welfare as well as protecting them from significant harm.

 

Anyone who is worried that a child might be at risk of harm or abuse must advise the Social Services, the NSPCC or the Police. This is called a ‘referral’. Referrals can come from neighbours, friends, relatives, a professional such as a teacher, nurse or doctor or the child or parents themselves. Sometimes the person making the referral may be anonymous or insist on remaining unidentified. In such instances it is not possible to disclose the source of the referral to a parent.

 

What does a Child Protection Investigation involve?
The investigation of child abuse is a shared responsibility. It includes many agencies for example, Social Services, NSPCC, Police, Doctors, Nurses, Schools and the Probation Board. Each agency has agreed procedures which must be followed. These procedures are clearly set out in the Regional Area Child Protection Committees’ Child Protection Policy and Procedures. The aim of the investigation is to decide what risk, if any, there is to the child/children. When an investigation takes place one or more of the professionals will arrange to see the parents in order to talk about the concerns and hear their views on the matter. This is usually a Social Worker. Sometimes the investigation will be a joint one involving a Social Worker and Police Officer meeting with the family. They will also contact anyone else with parental responsibility and they will, of course, where appropriate, talk to the child/children. Checks will be made with professionals who know the family well for example the teachers . Medical examinations may be needed. These require the consent of parents.

 

The investigation has to be detailed in order to get as full a picture as possible about the family and to check all the information very thoroughly in the interests of the child/children. As far as possible parents are informed and consulted at every stage of the investigation. It is important that families are aware of the reasons for concern and understand the role of each of the agencies involved.

 

What happens if the investigation concludes there is no cause for concern?
Sometimes the investigation concludes that there is no cause for concern in which case the matter need go no further. The Social Worker or Senior Social Worker will write to the family and tell them the outcome.

 

What happens if abuse is found?
If it is considered that the child has been abused, arrangements have to be made to ensure that he/she is protected in the future. The Social Services and other professionals have to decide how best this can be achieved. They will consult with the family about this. It may be necessary to arrange an Initial Child Protection Case Conference.

 

What is the purpose of a Medical Examination?
A child may need a medical examination. This may be needed to help in the investigation. More importantly it may be necessary to find out if any treatment is required. This examination could help to ease anxiety on the part of the child and/or parents. The examination will be carried out by a Doctor who has had special training.Parents, or someone whom the child trusts, may accompany the child to the medical examination.

 

Do Parents have to agree to a Medical Examination?
The professionals involved are committed to working in partnership with families. They will, wherever possible, seek the views of parents and other family members at each stage of the child protection process. Parental consent to a medical examination will be sought. If the child is considered old enough to be able to understand and to act independently, his/her views will also be ascertained. During the investigation a child’s interests must always come first. If a child is unwilling to undergo a medical examination or if it is considered to be too traumatic, it will not proceed. On the other hand if parents refuse to give permission and the Health & Social Services Trust thinks this is unreasonable, it may apply to the Court for direction to interview or medically examine the child. When this happens, parents should seek legal advice.

 

Will children be taken away from their parents?
Many parents become worried and frightened that their children will be taken away from home. In most cases this does not happen. Every effort is made to keep families together. The vast majority of children stay at home and are provided with appropriate services to help them and their families. Obviously parental agreement, co-operation and participation are very important. However, the safety and well-being of children must come first. If those at the Case Conference think a child is at serious risk at home, they may recommend that he/she be cared for by someone else. This can sometimes be with parents’ agreement. At other times it may involve going to Court, which may still be with the agreement of parents. If this happens, parents and children depending on their age, will be able to put their views to the Court. Families should seek legal representation to help them with the Court Hearing. The Case Conference doesn’t make the final decision about going to Court. This is the Social Services’ responsibility. This decision is never taken lightly. Cases are only taken to Court in exceptional circumstances and always in the best interests of the child.

 

What is the Child Protection Register?
The Register is a list of children who are known or believed to have been abused or injured in some way, or who are thought to be at risk of injury, abuse or neglect. The Register is kept by the Social Services Department. It is strictly confidential and information from it is available only to professional people such as Health Visitors, Teachers, Doctors, Police Officers and Social Workers.

 

If your child's name is placed on the Register it does not mean that it will stay on forever. A second conference will be held in about three months to consider whether your child's name should stay on the register. If the decision is yes, then the matter will be considered again in six months. Once it is felt your child is no longer at risk their name will be taken off the Register.

 

What is a Child Protection Plan?

 

All children whose names are on the Child Protection Register, must have a Child Protection Plan. The plan should make clear what is expected of each agency in contributing to help protect the child. It should also make clear what is expected of a parent in order to reduce the risk to their child. Parents will be involved in the preparation of this plan.

 

Professionals and parents/carers should develop the details of the plan in the core group meeting, which is held after the Child Protection Conference. The aim of the plan is to:-

 

 

  • Safeguard the child from further harm;

  • Promote the child’s health and development; and

  • Provided it is in the best interests of the child, to support the family and wider family members to promote the welfare of their child.

 

 

The child protection plan should set out what work needs to be done, why, when and by whom. The plan should:-

 

 

  • Describe the identified needs of the child and what therapeutic services are required;

  • Include specific, achievable, child-focused objectives intended to safeguard the child and promote his or her welfare;

  • Include realistic strategies and specific actions to achieve the objectives;

  • Clearly identify roles and responsibilities of professionals and family members, including the nature and frequency of contact by professionals with children and family members;

  • Lay down points at which progress will be reviewed, and the means by which progress will be judged; and

  • Set out clearly the roles and responsibilities of those professionals with routine contact with the child, e.g. health visitors, G.P.’s and teachers, as well as any specialist or targeted support to the child and family.

 

The child protection plan should take into consideration the wishes and feelings of the child, and the views of the parents, insofar as this is consistent with the child’s welfare. The key worker should make every effort to ensure that the children and parents have a clear understanding of the objectives of the plan, that they accept it and are willing to work to it. The plan should be constructed with the family in their first language. If family members’ preferences are not accepted about how best to safeguard the child, the reasons for this should be explained. Families should be told about their right to complain and make representations, and how to do so.

 

What is a Key Worker?
The Key Worker is a Social Worker, appointed at the Case Conference, who will be responsible for planning with parents and other agencies how best to reduce any risks to a child.

 

The Key Worker will also be the person to whom other workers link if they have further worries and to whom any incidents are reported. This means that they can have an overview of the situation and can spot any increasing concerns so that, if necessary, help can be arranged.

 

What is a “risk assessment”?
This is the name given to the detailed report, which a Social Worker and other professionals have to complete once a child’s name has been placed on the Child Protection Register. On the basis of this information, plans are discussed about what steps need to be taken to provide a parent and children with the best possible help.

 

Who else will be involved?
A Core Group of professionals (e.g. health visitor, teacher) will work with parents and the Key Worker so that the family situation can be understood more fully. This information then provides a firm basis for making decisions about further help and protection for children.

 

What is a Child Protection Case Conference?
It is a meeting of people from different agencies, for example Social Workers, Health Visitors, G.P.’s, Police and Teachers.

 

Why might such a meeting be called?
To consider concerns and worries about the care of a child/children.

 

What can a parent do?
The Social Worker will talk with them about the reasons for the conference and what happens at these meetings.

 

They may also wish to obtain advice from your solicitor, local Citizens Advice Bureau or the Family Rights Group

 

What happens at these conferences?
All agencies involved with families will share information that is relevant to the concerns and worries about the care of a chid/children.

 

It is important that parents are present to hear what is said but it is also important that other people at the meeting hear what the parents want to say.

 

We understand that parents may feel anxious, and if they feel they may need some support, they are encouraged to bring along a relative or friend.

 

What happens next?
Decisions and recommendations are then made upon what action is necessary to protect a child/children and help families.

 

Help with transport/child minding
If parents require help with transport or help with childminding so that they can attend the meeting, the Social Worker will try to arrange assistance.

 

Interpreters
English may not be a parent’s first language, so if parents think they will need an interpreter, they should let the Social Worker know as soon as possible so that arrangements can be made.

 

What happens after the conference?
The decisions and recommendations will be discussed with the parents at the meeting and they will also be informed in writing.

 

Appeals Procedure
If parents are unhappy with any decisions made, they should contact their Social Worker for more information.

 Child Protection
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