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1.1.3 Children's Services Policy, Values and Principles

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter provides the context for all procedures.

It contains the overarching policy for the provision of services to children and families. It also set out underlying values and principles for recording, confidentiality and consultation.

This chapter should be read in conjunction with the Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children Boards Procedures, Underlying Policy, Principles and Values and reference to Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in April 2016 to include a link to the Lincolnshire County Council's Information Sharing Policy. (See Section 3.2.2 Disclosure of Confidential Information is Permitted in Exceptional Circumstances).


Contents

  1. Children's Services Policy and Principles
  2. Recording Values and Principles
  3. Confidentiality Policy Values and Principles
  4. Consultation Values and Principles


1. Children's Services Policy and Principles

1.1 Introduction

This policy sets out the framework within which Children’s Services work with children, young people and their families. It is underpinned by a range of legislation including, but not limited to:

  • Children Act 1989 & (2004);
  • Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000;
  • Care Standards Act 2000;
  • United Nations Convention on the Rights of The Child;
  • Human Rights Act 1998;
  • Adoption and Children Act 2002;
  • Children and Families Act 2014.

1.2 Vision Statement

Our vision for Lincolnshire County Council Children's Services is for:

“Every child, in every part of the County to achieve their potential”

1.3 Key Principles

Principles

Our principles, which underpin how we will commission and deliver services to achieve our vision are:

  • Early Help: Strong protective universal services accessible to all with a range of early help available so children have the best start in life and families have extra help when they need it;
  • Safeguarding: A shared responsibility to ensure children are safe at home, school and in their community;
  • Aspiration: Children are able to thrive and cope with life challenges;
  • Learning and Achievement: All children being the best they can be with targeted interventions to close the gap so vulnerable children achieve as well as their peers;
  • Best Use of Resources: Integrated commissioning with a focus on best value, improved outcomes and community engagement.

The following commissioning strategies are within the Children's Services area:

  • Readiness for School;
  • Learn & Achieve;
  • Readiness for Adult Life;
  • Children are Safe & Healthy.

More specifically, policies and processes and services will adhere to the following values and principles:

  • Consideration of children's welfare and best interest will always be paramount and at the centre of our work;
  • Embrace the notion that every child should reach their potential;
  • Support an agenda which is preventative, building in protective measures to minimise the chances of harm and promote health, personal development and wellbeing, particularly in relation to those most vulnerable;
  • Encourage use of the Early Help and TAC (Team Around the Child) which will support early intervention by providing a tool and a process to enable practitioners, to assess needs in children, young people and their families at an early stage;
  • Take into account the voice of children and young people in assessing local needs and developing services;
  • Lincolnshire's County Council’s Children's Services will work to; maintain children within their own families wherever this is possible and consistent with their safety and well-being;
  • Where a child cannot be looked after within their immediate family we will make strenuous efforts to identify potential carers within the wider kinship network of the child who are able and willing to care for the child;
  • If continuing care within his/her family is not possible we will make every effort to identify suitable alternative carers, reflecting the child's ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background, and the child’s disability needs wherever possible and appropriate. We will seek to identify suitable local placements to provide educational and social continuity;
  • We will ensure that children who are looked after are placed in approved placements, suitable to meet their needs and that, wherever possible, siblings are placed together. For younger children, they will be placed in a family placement, unless there are sound assessed reasons why residential care is the preferred option;
  • We will ensure that permanence plans are made for all looked after children and enacted as quickly as possible. If a young person remains in care we will ensure that they are supported when they leave care at least until they are 21, to give them a positive start to independent living;
  • We will consult with children, their parents and other significant adults about plans for their care and these plans will be subject to Independent Review. We will also consult about the services we provide and ensure that children have access to advocacy services that will assist them in being heard.

1.4 Signs of Safety

Signs of Safety is an innovative, strengths-based, safety organised approach, created in Western Australia.

The model was created by practitioners, based on what they know works with difficult cases, has attracted international attention and is being used in areas of North America, Europe and Australasia.

It is an assessment and planning framework supporting practitioners in determining:

  • Whether there is sufficient safety for the child to remain within the family and what support is needed for the family for that to happen;
  • Whether the situation is so dangerous that the child must be removed;
  • If the child is looked after, whether there is enough safety for the child to return home.

Signs of Safety was developed from a spirit of appreciative inquiry, and the heart of the process revolves around a risk assessment and case planning format that is meaningful for all the professionals, and the parents and children.

1.4.1 Lincolnshire's Signs of Safety Framework

Lincolnshire have chosen to implement Signs of Safety to go some way to meeting the recommendations detailed in Professor Eileen Munro’s report into Child Protection.

A key recommendation of Professor Eileen Munro’s report identified the need for, ‘Local authorities and their partners to start an on-going process to review and redesign the ways in which child and family social work is delivered, drawing on evidence of effectiveness of helping methods where appropriate and supporting practice that can implement evidence based ways of working with children and families’.

Lincolnshire Children’s Services aim is to create a supportive working environment where staff are confident and committed to the professional judgements they make. The benefits of this are:

  • Increased confidence and capability of staff;
  • A supportive working environment for staff working through difficult and protracted cases;
  • Professional judgements based on a balance of information and evidence;
  • Improved engagement with families to meet the best needs, and outcomes, of the child;
  • Improved partnership working with partner agencies to meet the best needs, and outcomes, of the child;
  • Improved quality of assessment, analysis and intervention delivered to families;
  • Improved risk management of vulnerable children as a result of rigorous assessment and safety planning;
'Working with Children Templates' and further guidance is available on the Signs of Safety website.


2. Recording Values and Principles

Lincolnshire County Council’s Information Governance policies and guidance and Records Management provide the context within which records are maintained and stored by Children's Services.

All records held by Children’s Services will be accurate, complete and stored safely. Each record will contain a significant amount of information about the child, and provide the basis for good decision making and to assist colleagues also involved in the case.

Where appropriate, children and their families/carers will be encouraged to contribute to the creation of their records, and files/records will be easily accessible in all formats.

Lincolnshire County Council’s Children’s Services will ensure that:

  • Information on customers, held in files, will be stored safely and securely in line with the Data Protection Act;
  • Closed files are retained and stored for the appropriate period of time and destroyed in a timely manner in accordance with the provisions of the Records Management Document Retention and Disposal Policy;
  • Children, young people and their parents where appropriate, are encouraged to contribute their views to be recorded on file;
  • Children, young people and their parents where appropriate, are encouraged to access their file;
  • All policies on case files/records are publicised;
  • Files / records contain relevant information fulfilling statutory requirements. Relevant standards and actions taken by the Department will be included;
  • Supervision procedures clarify the management responsibilities for each customer, using the recording process within the file.

Please refer to the following documents and websites for further information:


3. Confidentiality Policy Values and Principles

3.1 Lincolnshire's Confidentiality Policy

See Lincolnshire County Council Confidentiality Reporting Code.

3.1.1 Staff Obligations

The Council's terms and conditions of employment, issued as part of every employee's contract, and Code of Conduct detail the obligations placed upon the Council staff.

3.2 Confidentiality Values and Principles

3.2.1 Personal Information is Subject to a Legal Duty of Confidence

Personal information held about children is subject to a legal duty of confidence and should not normally be disclosed without the consent of the subject. The exceptions to this are set out in paragraph 3.2.2, Disclosure of Confidential Information is Permitted in Exceptional Circumstances.

The legal framework for confidentiality is contained in the common law duty of confidence, the Children Act 1989, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Data Protection Act 1998.

3.2.2 Disclosure of Confidential Information is Permitted in Exceptional Circumstances

Lincolnshire County Council has an Information Sharing Policy which provides the context for disclosing information.

Please refer to the Information Sharing Policy.

In addition Children's Services is informed by the Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedures Manual, Protocol on Sharing Information in Order to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of Children.

Whilst the general principle is that information obtained about children must be shared with them and not with others, there are exceptions. The public interest in child protection overrides the public interest in maintaining confidentiality and the law permits the disclosure of confidential information necessary to safeguard a child or children.

Disclosure should be justifiable in each case, for example to provide information to professionals from other agencies working with the child, and where possible and appropriate, the agreement of the person concerned should be obtained.

Those working with children must make it clear that confidentiality may not be maintained if the disclosure of information is necessary in the interests of the child. Even in these circumstances, disclosure will be appropriate for the purpose and only to the extent necessary to achieve that purpose.

There may also be situations where third parties have a statutory right of access to the information or where a Court Order requires that access be given.

The circumstances in which information held in records on children and families can and should be disclosed and shared with others with or without consent are set out in the following sections.

In all other cases, where third parties such as Advocates, solicitors or external researchers request access to information, this should only be given if written consent is given by the person concerned.

3.2.3 Situations where Disclosure is Permitted Should be Shared with Children Involved

Children should be informed of the circumstances in which information about them will be shared with others. It should be made clear that in each case the information passed on will only be what is relevant and on a 'need to know' basis.

3.2.4 Information should be Disclosed to Colleagues and other Professionals/Agencies on a Need to Know Basis 

Sharing information promptly with others working with the same child, or who may need to know, is invariably the key to safeguarding the child's interests.

Therefore, relevant information about children must be shared with colleagues, other professionals or agencies that may have a role to play in their care.

However, the general principle is that information may only be shared on a 'need to know' basis.

For example:

  • Where professionals are undertaking a Child Protection Enquiry in relation to a child;
  • Where the Police are investigating a criminal offence or require information to help them find an absent, missing or absconded child;
  • Where information is requested in the furtherance of an inquiry or tribunal, or for the purposes of a Serious Case Review.

In such circumstances the person to whom the information relates should be informed that records have been requested unless to do so would prejudice the purpose of the request. 

Any objections they have should be considered before responding to the person making the request.

Where information or records are passed to others it should be noted and confirmed in writing.

Information may also be disclosed to persons who have a statutory right of access to the information, for example:

  • Where the Court directs that records be produced or a Children's Guardian is appointed;
  • Where information is requested by Inspectors of the Regulatory Authority (who have specific statutory powers that permit access to records).

Where information is requested by telephone or electronically, great care must be taken to ensure that the recipient is entitled to receive the information requested. Where there is any doubt the information may not be provided without the approval of a Manager. 

3.3 Freedom of Information Act 2000

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 came into force on 1 January 2005 and provides the public with a general right of access to official information held by the Council.

The Council has published a Publication Scheme which shows what information can already be accessed. Any information which is not part of the Publication Scheme can be requested under the Act.

For information on making a Freedom of Information Request please refer to the following guidance, Making a Freedom of Information Request (Lincolnshire County Council website).

Please see also Freedom of Information Act 2000.


4. Consultation Values and Principles

4.1 General Principles of Consultation and Participation

Children, young people and parents/ carers should be treated as partners equitably and with fairness.

Everyone involved in the receipt and delivery of services should be consulted about decisions, which may affect them. Children, young people and families should be given the opportunity to explain from their perspective and participate in the assessment, planning and reviews of the child's plan.

This includes children, their advocates, their parents, other significant family members and those charged with providing the service; including managers, staff, carers and professionals or colleagues from other agencies. 

This means that people's views should be sought and taken into account in relation to all decisions, which are likely to affect their daily life and their future. Feedback from children, families and significant others should be taken into account.

Different methods of communication should be made available for consultation with children and families, with the use of Advocacy Services if needed.

The older and more mature the child is, the more weight can and should be given to their wishes and feelings. Children/young people should be made aware of why they are involved and what the aim is. They should be told what to expect and their feedback acted on appropriately. Children/young people should be given the opportunity to attend meetings where appropriate to their age and the type of meeting. Access to information must be allowed when age and/or ability allows.

Unless there are exceptional circumstances, reasonable steps must be taken in all cases to consult the parents. Exceptions will include where older children with an appropriate level of maturity specifically request that their parents are not consulted and a decision is made to respect their wishes. Detailed guidance on this is set in Consents Procedure, Children who Seek Advice/Treatment Without Consulting Parents or Consent.

Consultation should take place on a regular and frequent basis with those who need to be consulted and assumptions should not be made about the inability or lack of interest of those who should be consulted. 

Where people have communication difficulties of any sort, suitable means must be provided to enable them to be consulted, including arranging access to advocates, interpreters or representatives who may enable the child’s views to be expressed.

Consultation should be undertaken in a creative manner. Effective facilitation and chairing of meetings is important and language and other communication requirements should be met.

If consultation is not possible or is restricted for whatever reason, steps should be taken to ensure that those affected are informed of decisions as soon as practicable after they are made, and an explanation for the decision given, together with the opportunity to make a comment and express their views. If it is then felt that a different decision may have been appropriate, steps should be taken to reconsider the decision.

If decisions are made against people's wishes, they should be informed of the decision and the reasons for the decision should be explained. In these circumstances, the person should be informed of any rights they have to formally challenge the decision, and of the availability of the Complaints or Grievance Procedure.

Children should also be informed of their right to appoint an advocate, and if an advocate is appointed, he or she must be consulted in accordance with the principles set out in this section.

All requirements of children/ young people and families must be taken into account including cultural, linguistic, religious, identity and disability needs.

See Lincolnshire County Council Confidentiality Reporting Code.

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