How do we keep children safe and families intact when the social care system is no longer fit for purpose?

The Transparency Project is pleased to support the second conference to discuss how best to keep children safe and families intact on Friday 3 June at the Priory Rooms, Birmingham, in direct response to concerns raised at its inaugural event last June, “Is the child protection fit for purpose?”

In reaction to overwhelming feedback concluding that there are entrenched failings within the child protection system, this year’s conference will hear from social work practitioners, parents with experience of care proceedings, family lawyers, academics and journalists who will address and explore:

  • burgeoning criticism of how and why children are removed from their families by the state
  • concerns about the quality of decision making by social workers and the courts and delay in proceedings
  • lack of support for vulnerable families
  • the pressures on social workers who feel they are treated as personally responsible for a child protection system that is not working as well as it could

The conference will be opened by an address from diversity and community relations Judge DJ Steven Gailey, followed by keynote speaker Dr Lauren Devine of UWE, to update her current research into the efficacy of the child protection system. Other speakers include social worker Maggie Siviter; “Annie” from Surviving Safeguarding; Dr Claire Fenton-Glynn of the University of Cambridge, who will discuss the European perspective, and family barrister and chair of the Transparency Project Lucy Reed, together with social affairs journalist Louise Tickle who specialises in writing about family cases;

The afternoon will see separate workshops looking at various issues around adoption and support for parents with workshops lead by The Open Nest Charity and parents of adopted teens and by McKenzie Friend Jerry Lonsdale. The conference will conclude with a question and answer session between delegates and a panel of experts, including professor Brigid Featherstone of the University of Huddersfield, and the Family Rights Group.

Conference organiser Sarah Phillimore said: “There is considerable disquiet being raised by many experts and practitioners here and in other European states about the manner in which this country attempts to ensure children’s safety, particularly regarding the issue of their permanent removal from their birth family. With the help of the Transparency Project, we seek to create an open forum for vigorous and respectful debate about the many painful and controversial ethical issues which arise from safeguarding practice as carried out in the UK.

“We urge as many people as possible to attend this event and contribute their experience, knowledge and energy to the debate: radical new thinking around these issues already promises to influence systems change.”

Last year’s conference – which was attended by participants including parents, McKenzie friends and campaign groups, social workers, Cafcass guardians, judges, barristers, solicitors, in-house local authority lawyers, and journalists – generated suggestions for reform and innovation including training for a nationwide scheme of parent advocates, and providing a reliable database of good quality “McKenzie Friends”. It also sparked a discussion that ultimately led to the publication by The Transparency Project of well-received guidance about the recording of social worker by parents.

Tickets for the conference on 3 June cost £60 for professionals and £30 for non-professionals. Book here.

Please follow Twitter hashtag #CPConf2016 for updates and discussion

Notes to editors

1 – The Transparency Project is a registered charity which seeks to promote understanding of the family justice system; it does not seek to promote a particular view about what the law should be but part of its remit is to promote discussion and debate about existing laws. See
2 – Conference and booking information (
3 – For further information contact Sarah Phillimore at / 07961 317 471
5- The organisers and the Transparency Project are very grateful for the continued support and sponsorship from St John’s Chambers Bristol, and Bath Publishing.