We have an exciting range of keynote speakers from within and outside the child protection field. Each of these will offer a unique perspective on safeguarding children and how we can learn from different disciplines.



Credit: Carsten Murawski

Anne Fine, Author

Anne Fine is a distinguished writer for both adults and children who has twice won both of Britain’s most coveted awards for children’s literature, the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread (now Costa) Award, along with a Guardian Award, two Smarties/Nestle Awards, and many other national, regional and international prizes. Anne is known for writing, with sensitivity and often with humour, on many serious subjects that affect the lives of young readers. Anne is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has been awarded an OBE. Her work has been translated into forty five languages.

Read more about Anne’s background and interests


Pebbles in the fairy tale: what can child protection learn from children’s literature?

Literature has always been the most accessible instrument we have for ethical enquiry and the clearest way to answer Socrates’ great question, “How ought we to live?” But all too often the child’s need for a means to interpret their own experience of childhood is ignored. A young person who cannot bear even to begin to think about his or her own unhappy and stressed situation can often begin, safely, to explore the problems they face through fiction – somebody else’s problem. Anne Fine will show how books can offer shafts of light and comfort to the troubled child, and also foster self-scrutiny – not just in the young reader him or herself, but also in the (often overly self-protective) adults who deal with them.  Anne will show what these fictional avenues of vicarious experience can mean to young readers, what insights they can bring, and what a comfort they can be. She will try to show how the tolerance and understanding offered by particular novels can offer the twenty first century equivalent of the pebbles in the fairy tale, gleaming in the moonlight and showing the way out of the dark forest.



Irene Stevens, Independent child care consultant

Dr Irene Stevens was a residential child care worker and manager, and a social care educator from 1984-2000. She then worked at the Scottish Centre of Excellence for Residential Child Care based at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, from 2000-2011, where she carried out training, research and evaluations in residential child care. Since 2011, she has been an independent child care consultant carrying out research and training both nationally and internationally. She has published on the topic of Complexity Theory since 2007 and has presented on the topic of risk and complexity at national and international conferences.

Child protection at the edge of chaos

The protection of children takes place in a dynamic and, at times, fast moving environments. Yet many of the models which are used in risk management and decision making are based on linear assumptions. While this has been challenged, particularly in the Munro Review, there may be resistance to thinking outside the usual linear box. I will present some key ideas from complexity theory and explore how the development of a ‘Complexity Imagination’ among those who work with children can contribute to better outcomes for children and staff. The key concepts among others to be explored and related to child protection are bifurcation, emergence, self-organising criticality, dissipative structures and non-linear conceptualisation of issues.

Complexity theory, by its very nature addresses life at ‘the edge of chaos’ in dynamic systems. This is at the very crux of decision making in practice. In order to protect children, we need to think outside the box. Concepts from Complexity theory can add to the toolkit used by practitioners by raising questions about the nature of risk and how we, as human beings, deal with this. By developing some of the concepts from Complexity theory and exploring how they can be put into practice, staff and organisations may be much better prepared to contribute to the protection of children.