The third Child Protection conference supported by The Transparency Project will take place on Saturday 15th September 2018 at the Conway Hall in London.

In 2015 the question asked was whether the Child Protection system was fit for purpose?

Having concluded that sadly the answer was ‘no’ CPConf2018 hopes to continue the success of discussions from some very different perspectives on the system, including social workers, lawyers and parents who don’t often – or at all – get the opportunity for open discussion on a level playing field. Anyone with an interest in child protection (which hopefully is most people) is welcome to attend.

The issue up for deliberation is ‘future risk of emotional harm’ – how is this a reason to justify removing children from their parents? What are the historical explanations for this, how is it working in practice and how is it defined and perceived by those working in the system, and those subject to it?

The conference will start at 11am and will hear short presentations from

  • Professor Lauren Devine of the University of the West of England,
  • journalist Louise Tickle,
  • parent ‘Annie’ who blogs at ‘Surviving Safeguarding’,
  • social worker Simon Haworth, and
  • lawyers Lucy Reed (me) and Sarah Phillimore of The Transparency Project.

After lunch the plan is to have wider discussions between the audience and panel, which will include Emeritus Professor Andy Bilson who will present the findings of some of his recent research. The group ‘Special Guardians and Adopters Together’ will also produce the findings of their recent survey about how ‘emotional abuse’ is understood by their members.

The aim of the conference is not only to promote discussion about the notion of ‘emotional  harm’ and how it is relied upon in care proceedings, but also to feed into a possible future Transparency Project Guidance Note about the production and content of risk assessments in care proceedings.

Tickets are £30 plus the Eventbrite fee. For more details and how to buy tickets please visit the EventBrite site.

If you can’t join on the day, please follow the discussions via social media hashtag : #CPConf2018


18 thoughts on “CPConf2018

  1. I cannot fly over to the UK for this but my comment is simple enough.
    To take a baby or young child from its parents and above all its mother for “future risk of emotional harm” and no other reason can NEVER,NEVER,NEVER, be justified in any circumstances whatever.Such an action must surely be a “crime against humanity”,a crime against the baby or young child and a crime against the parent(s) .
    I shall not be here to see it but I predict that in 50 years time or less, some future PM will be apologising for what we are doing now just as fervently as apologies are being made today for sending those 150,000 children out to Australia to be abused all those years ago.
    Am I being presumptuous in saying this?Well I can only say that Sir James Munby (recently retired President of the family courts) said exactly the same thing publicly and who is more respected than he?

  2. Good luck with the conference – an interesting topic.

    Are you bringing in someone to talk about existing risk assessments which are used in Proceedings?

    There are some well-established links between certain mental health issues and risk of emotional harm to the child as well as exposure to certain parental behaviours (domestic violence, substance misuse, parents committing offences which may result in the child being exposed to various types of harm). Are you planning to concentrate on these type of issues or the (arguably) more entangled issues related to when parents may have had traumatic or emotionally harmful experiences themselves as children which may (or may not) then impact on their parenting skills and ability to manage their own emotional issues?

    It would be really helpful if you are able to produce a conference pack which people who can’t attend could buy as this is such a relevant area, and perhaps one that could be most likely to benefit from parents having a different kind of assessment and intervention at PLO stage ie. something more therapeutic and individually designed to deal with parents emotional needs rather than lots of ‘parenting’ courses or family worker input which can, in certain circumstances, just leave the parent feeling like a failure because they can’t make sustained progress or lead to parents getting frustrated with professionals which then is interpreted as failure to work ‘openly and honestly’.

    Hope the day goes well.

    • Thanks Lisa. Will pass this on to Sarah…

    • Sarah Phillimore

      Thanks for that comment Lisa – the conference is aiming to kickstart discussion about the contents of a guidance note about risk assessments; this discussion began out of concerns that we all seem to be pretty poor at understanding and assessing risk. I would certainly like to know more about what training social workers have in assessing risk, what tools they use etc. I think it would assist lawyers and parents to have a better understanding of this field.

      With regard to conference packs, I am afraid we just don’t have the finances to organise this but we will be blogging and talking after the event. I will publish what I can.

      Hopefully we can proceed with another event to launch a specific risk assessment GN – do you want to contribute to it? or would you be able to comment on a draft version?


  3. No comments so far except from me and I seem to get deleted every time !
    I suppose I should take the ban (if there is one) as a compliment !

    • No Ian, I just have other things to do apart from moderate comment after comment from you that says the same thing. I have just seen all five of your comments on this post. The first I allowed, but I deleted a number of them because they were repeating the same thing.
      It isn’t a ban, but I am afraid the repetitive nature of it is very tiresome after almost a decade of us having the same conversation, and I also have a responsibility to protect vulnerable readers from advice I know you offer but which I think is actively harmful for their prospects.

  4. Well Sara the subject of the conference seems to be “future risk of emotional harm” and there really are only 3 options: As justification for child removal one can only be for it,,against it, or for it but only in special circumstances.
    I merely challenge anybody to devise a scenario where a sane law abidig mother should be deprived of her baby or young child because of risk of future emotional abuse;
    A bit difficult to avoid repetition since the subject for debate is so very specific. !
    I suppose those who struggled to abolish slavery,to give women the vote,or to decriminalise gay folk ,all repeated the same wish until it was fulfilled……….Meanwhile I urge readers to listen to what Louise Tickle has to say at the conference.She is an excellent speaker with all the right ideas !

    • “I merely challenge anybody to devise a scenario where a sane law abidig mother should be deprived of her baby or young child because of risk of future emotional abuse”.
      A parent can be “sane” and law abiding yet very damaged psychologically and utterly chaotic in the way they conduct their life and relationships so that a child is raised in a state of perpetual fear and uncertainty to the extent that it colours every aspect of how that child learns itself to form relationships – both as a child and later as an adult. Can you really not conceive of ANY circumstances in which that is significantly damaging? Not all parents and not all cases of alleged emotional harm. But some (the special circumstances you refer to)…

  5. I applaud the meaning purpose if the conference, having been denied to care for my Grandson based on -likelihood of significant harm’, based on nothing . The LA placed him with his paternal grandmother and after recent court proceedings the judge concluded that she had exposed him to emotional abuse. Yet, he remains in her care, with the proviso that if further harm occurs he ‘ may’ be placed with me.
    Its sad and frustrating that it took a new sw, guardian and judge to accept that my concerns expressed for two years to be justified, meanwhile my grandson remains with his abuser.
    I would love to know the outcome of the conference.

  6. Familoo ,for once we are in agreement ! Yes we really are !
    You say “A parent can be “sane” and law abiding yet very damaged psychologically and utterly chaotic in the way they conduct their life and relationships so that a child is raised in a state of perpetual fear and uncertainty to the extent that it colours every aspect of how that child learns itself to form relationships – both as a child and later as an adult. ”
    I agree that in such circumstance there is no doubt that the child concerned has ALREADY suffered drastic emotional harm and very probably should be removed !
    What the conference is debating however is not children who have suffered
    emotional harm but children AT RISK OF FUTURE EMOTIONAL HARM !
    I repeat my challenge for you or any other “expert” to devise a scenario where a child should be taken from its parents NOT because it HAS ALREADY suffered harm but merely because someone believes there is a FUTURE RISK of harm !

    • Ian. Many risk of future emotional harm cases concern the new babies of parents who have harmed their older children. There are many many such examples. The baby will be completely unharmed, happy and healthy, but unless something fundamentally has changed there will be a future risk of harm.

  7. In short :- A child who has suffered significant emotional harm will often need to be removed from its family .
    A child predicted by some amateur soothsayer /social worker to be “at risk of future emotional harm” should never never be removed from sane lawabiding parents ;
    Alas such children are right now being taken away by social services in ever growing numbers !

  8. How on earth can anyone predict with any certainty that a baby will suffer future EMOTIONAL harm ? If a parent has been previously convicted of physical or sexual abuse of a child that may often be reason to remove a baby. Frankly however I strongly believe that emotional harm is something impossible to predict with that degree of certainty necessary to justify the removal of any baby at birth.
    Thank you anyway Familoo for taking the time to debate this issue with me !

    • There is no such thing as predicting with certainty. you can only assess risk. the question is how much risk is acceptable when a child’s life or welfare is at stake? in the example you give i’d think that the risk is pretty high and unacceptable isn’t it? unless somehow you can distinguish between the risk to this child compared to earlier children. there are many many cases where the issue is not whether there is a risk but whether the risk is too great or too unmanageable to be left alone.

  9. So where is any scenario justifying the removal of a baby NOT for risk of sexual or physical harm but RISK of future EMOTIONAL harm? How can any responsible person even begin to predict such an outcome??? We all suffer emotional harm at some point in our lives don’t we??

  10. Well there we differ ! I believe that if the parents have not broken the law in their treatment of children then no viable risk exists .We are all at risk (especially emotional risk!) at some time in our lives but innocent until proved guilty should prevail in all cases though alas in family courts it does not !

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