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.
In December 2018, a new Section 5, Corporate Parenting was added in response to the DfE Applying Corporate Parenting Principles to Looked-after Children and Care Leavers – Statutory Guidance (Feb 2018). It includes the seven corporate parenting principles set out in the guidance.Amendments were also made following the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018.
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:
Our vision for Lincolnshire County Council Children's Services is for:
"Every child, in every part of the County to achieve their potential"
Our principles, which underpin how we will commission and deliver services to achieve our vision are:
The following commissioning strategies are within the Children's Services area:
More specifically, policies and processes and services will adhere to the following values and principles:
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:
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.
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:
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:
Please refer to the following documents and websites for further information:
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.
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, the EU General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018.
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 and their families must be shared with them and not with others, there are exceptions. The public interest in safeguarding the welfare of children the public interest in maintaining confidentiality and the law permits the disclosure of confidential information where this is necessary to safeguard a child or children.
Disclosure of confidential information 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 and families must make it clear to them 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.
Children and families should be informed of the circumstances in which information about them will be shared with others, and their consent to this sharing obtained. They should also be helped to understand that, in some situations, sharing information without consent could be justified – for example to safeguard a child or adult at risk. 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.
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.
There are also situations where council employees have a legal duty to share information.
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 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.
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.
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.
The role that councils play in looking after children is one of the most important things they do. Local authorities have a unique responsibility to the children they look after and their care leavers.
The term 'corporate parent' is broadly understood by Directors of Children's Services and Lead Members for Children, as well as those working directly in Children's Services, in relation to how local authorities should approach their responsibilities for looked after children and care leavers. A strong ethos of corporate parenting means that sense of vision and responsibility towards the children they look after and their care leavers is a priority for everyone. Corporate Parenting is an important part of the Ofsted inspection framework and the Corporate Parenting Principles are referenced in Ofsted's Inspecting Local Authority Children's Services.
The Corporate Parenting Principles are intended to facilitate as far as possible secure, nurturing, and positive experiences for looked after children and young people and enable positive outcomes for them.
The experiences of looked-after children and care leavers, particularly in regards to whether they feel cared for and listened to, will therefore be an important measure of how successfully local authorities embed these principles.
The Corporate Parenting Principles set out seven principles that local authorities will have regard to when exercising their functions in relation to looked after children and young people, as follows:
The Corporate Parenting Principles do not replace or change existing legal duties; the principles are intended to encourage local authorities to be ambitious and aspirational for their looked-after children and care leavers.
In addition, section 10 of the Children Act 2004 sets out the responsibility to make arrangements to promote co-operation between 'relevant partners' with a view to improving the well-being of children in their area. This should include arrangements in relation to looked-after children and care leavers. Section 10(5) of the 2004 Act places a duty on relevant partners to co-operate with the local authority in the making of these arrangements, therefore promoting and ensuring a joined-up approach to improving the well-being of children in their area.
Only valid for 48hrs