What is a Child Protection Plan?

As a parent, you may find your child made subject to a Child Protection Plan by the local authority. But what is a Child Protection Plan, and what does it mean?
Local authority’s duty to investigate
To start at the beginning, the local authority has a duty to investigate where they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives or is found in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.
In such a situation the local authority must make such enquiries as they consider necessary to enable them to decide whether they should take any action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare.
If those enquiries lead to concerns that the child has been or may be harmed, the local authority may convene a Child Protection Conference.
Child Protection Conference
A Child Protection Conference is a meeting between family members, the child (where appropriate), and professionals involved with the family to discuss concerns about the care of the child.
The main purpose of the Conference is to see whether the child is at risk of harm and, if so, to agree on what needs to be done to reduce that risk.
If it is considered that the child is at risk then, at the end of the Conference, a decision will be made about whether the child needs to be placed on a Child Protection Plan.
A social worker for the child will be appointed at the Conference, and a group of people (known as the ‘core group’) will be asked to work together to make sure the plan is followed. The core group will comprise the parents, the social worker, and professionals that are close to the child, such as a teacher or a health professional.
The group will agree on who will do what and by when. They will meet regularly to check how the plan is working, and whether things are improving.
Note that the Conference cannot decide to take the child away from the parents. In most cases, parents and professionals are able to work together and agree on plans which will allow the child to remain at home. Only if there are serious concerns that a child would be at serious risk at home will the local authority apply to a court for an order to remove the child.
Child Protection Plan
The aim of the Child Protection Plan is to:
• ensure the child is safe from harm and prevent them from suffering further harm;
• promote the child’s health and development; and
• support the family and wider family members to safeguard and promote the welfare of their child, provided it is in the best interests of the child.
Specifically, the plan will include details of why it is needed, what work the parents are expected to do, what help social services will give the parents, and what will happen if the parents don’t keep to the plan.
The plan will also include any important dates, such as child protection review conferences, to see how things are going. These will take place every three to six months until the child no longer needs to be the subject of a Child Protection Plan.
The parents will be provided with a copy of the plan.
If the parents do not keep to the plan, or if the local authority should decide that the plan isn’t enough to keep the child safe, they may apply to the court for a care order.
When will a child come off of a Child Protection Plan?
A child will no longer be under a plan:
• when the local authority decides that the child is no longer suffering or at risk of significant harm;
• when the child has reached 18 years old; or
• if the child has permanently left the U