TRAIN has been working to support Traveller and Romani families who are experiencing child protection involvement since 2015. It was set up to respond to urgent need and because no other specific support for Traveller and Romani children and families in child protection existed in the UK.
Since 2015, TRAIN has been providing free telephone advice and support to parents whose children are in need, at risk, or are in the care system, and with members of the wider family or community who are raising children unable to remain at home. TRAINs main aim has been working on capacity building to help Traveller and Romani communities to help themselves. TRAIN has always been managed by two volunteer social workers and each year the work that TRAIN has been involved in has grown. In 2017, for example, TRAIN provided help and support to 61 families. TRAIN enabled people's voices to be heard, and it has enabled the situation of child protection to reconsidered and to be taken seriously. Whilst advocating for one family a Judge made it clear that without TRAINs involvement the outcome of Care Proceedings would have been quite different.
Today a growing number of organisations are beginning to see and exploit the need to provide help and support to families in matters related to child protection. There is now money available to organisations so that they can fund advocates, online media tools, training videos and information services and all of the other things that TRAIN has been providing. What TRAIN has done for the last 3 years on a free and voluntary basis, other well meaning organisations are now receiving payment to do as well. For this reason, the work that TRAIN has been championing has come to a natural end.
The fact that more organisations are working to support Traveller and Romani families who are experiencing child protection services is fantastic. As many of these organisations are also grassroots Traveller and Romani Community groups, TRAIN's aim to work on capacity building to help Traveller and Romani communities to help themselves has seemingly been achieved, not through consultation though, but by example, innovation and leadership.
TRAIN hopes that those people who found the strength to ask for help in the past will enable others in the future to speak out about the situation that they are in and to seek support early and without delay. It hopes that other well meaning funded services are able to understand and cope with the complexity of child protection policy, and it hopes that the new organisations taking over TRAIN's role are sufficiently knowledgeable and skilled to spot and challenge procedural irregularity and to fight for natural justice, without compromise, in a way that Traveller and Romani families urgently require and deserve.
Most importantly TRAIN hopes that the unique challenges faced by Traveller and Romani families in Child Protection will not be dismissed, minimised or denied. If the significant discrimination that Traveller and Romani face in child protection is not taken seriously, all of the work that TRAIN has tried to achieve and all of the lobbying work it has done will be undone.
Traveller and Romani Advice and Information Network
Meanings of different Social Services meetings
What is a Strategy Meeting?
A Strategy Meeting is for Social Workers and other professionals to plan what they are going to do next about a case. Parents and advocates are not invited.
What is a Child Protection Case Conference (CPCC)
This is an important meeting. A Child Protection Case Conference is held when Social Services think a baby or a child might be in some sort of danger at home. The person in charge of the meeting is the Independent Reviewing Officer (the IRO). The child’s social worker goes to the Conference. Parents usually go. Your advocate can go. People from other agencies go. There might be a doctor or a nurse there, the police, a teacher or a health visitor. There might be a grandparent. It depends on the particular family.
The IRO explains why they are having the meeting. Everyone says who they are. Everybody takes their turn to say what they think. Parents can have their say. But people should not talk over other people. When everybody has had their say the IRO will ask each professional if they think the child is considered to be suffering significant harm. Only the professional people can vote. Advocates can’t vote, because the Advocate is there to say what the parent thinks. If most people think NO the child will not be supported by a child protection plan. If most people think YES, the child will be supported by a Child Protection Plan
When applied, the child’s family has to agree to stick to the Child Protection Plan. Social Services might offer the parents some support. They will expect the parents to accept, it and work with them. Sometimes a child might have to go into foster care, or live with someone else, so Social Services feel sure it is safe. This might be for a short time or for a long time.
After the first conference, a Review Conference is held 3 months later, then every 6 months after that. At the end people vote again, and the child’s either remains supported by a Child Protection Plan or not. Even if everything is going really well, people might still vote for the the Plan to remain. This can be very disappointing. It is often because Social Services want to be sure that changes are going to last. If your child is supported by a Child Protection Plan, it is really important to do everything Social Services say. Take any help they offer.
What is a Core Group Meeting?
If your child is being supported by a child protection plan, Core Group Meetings will be held every month. The social worker is in charge of the meeting. Family and professional people in the child’s life will be invited to the meeting. Everybody can have a say, but you can’t talk over other people. Core Group Meetings are to check how the Child Protection Plan is working and to make changes to it, if changes will help the child. If the Core Group thinks the Child Protection Plan is not working, they might hold the Child Protection Case Conference Review early. At the end of the Core Group Meeting, they will fix a date for the next one.
What is a CIN Review?
CIN stands for Child In Need. Sometimes Social services think a child doesn’t need a Child Protection Plan. But they think the child needs extra support, to grow and develop properly, or if the child is disabled. That child is referred to as a 'Child In Need'. If your child is a Child In Need, there will be regular meetings to check the plan to support it is working. Parents and the child should attend these meetings. Advocates can go too. The meetings are held where it’s best for the child. This might be at home, in school, or somewhere else.