By Juliet Phillips-James, Director, Gomer Williams (as featured in the Llanelli Star)
Q: My daughter has recently received a letter from the council informing her that they will be holding an initial child protection case conference due to concerns they have in relation to her parenting.I am distraught at the prospect of her losing her children. She had previously been in a violent relationship but this has now ended. She's doing her best to improve her circumstances and this letter has now upset her and I am worried it will set her back. Can you explain what the conference involves and whether it would be possible for me to attend?
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While it is distressing for your daughter to receive this type of letter from social services, it is an opportunity for her to address their concerns prior to them considering any court action.
At an initial child protection case conference there will be representatives from different agencies — school, police, health visitor etc — at the meeting to share information they have about the children's needs and the parents' capacity to respond to these to ensure the children's welfare is protected.
They will consider whether the child has suffered harm or whether they are likely to suffer harm. A plan will be drawn up which your daughter will need to adhere to, to ensure the children's welfare is safeguarded and to prevent the local authority taking further action.
Your daughter will be able to take a solicitor to the meeting and she will get legal aid for this. You may well be able to attend the meeting if all parties are in agreement, and if you are able to assist your daughter to adhere to what social services expectations are, then it may be very useful for you to attend.
The social worker will have prepared a report for the meeting, which is usually discussed with the parents beforehand. The other agencies may also have reports to disclose. The meeting will be chaired by somebody who is independent to the case.
At the end of the meeting, the representatives of the agencies will decide whether or not the children should go on the child protection register and if so under what category — emotional harm, physical abuse etc.
Your daughter will probably be expected to agree a plan of action moving forward, and the support of any agencies will also be recorded.
It is essential that your daughter cooperates with the social worker and relevant agencies and works openly and honestly with them.
Finally, she should seek legal advice as soon as possible in order that she can be represented at the meeting.
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