We are launching a new research project with Kings College London to examine how practice around child protection conferences throughout England and Wales has been affected by COVID-19.
As families make their way through the family justice system, child protection conferences – which are called by local authorities when they have concerns that a child is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm – are a key point at which to identify children at risk.
The research team is calling for parents and professionals with experience of child protection conferences during the pandemic to take part, including social workers, GPs, midwives, health visitors, police and teachers.
Building on the work of Dr Mary Baginsky, which looked at the experience of 15 local authorities in England, the study will ask how changes made under COVID-19 have affected the ability of parents and family members to take part in conferences; the attendance of the range of professionals invited, and how the voices of children have been included in decision-making, to establish what could be learned moving forwards.
Lisa Harker, director of the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory, said: “The paths that lead children and families into the family justice system, and the interventions available along the way, are as vital to understand as what happens in the courtroom.
“COVID-19 has disrupted every part of the system and only by listening to those who are grappling with the challenges in real-time can we make informed decisions to improve outcomes for children as we continue to operate in a socially-distanced world.”
The research is part of a series of work by Nuffield FJO on how family justice practice has been shaped by COVID-19: how approaches have changed, where this has resulted in positive practice innovation and what challenges and difficulties have emerged.
The survey has now closed. Thank you to all who took part.