8.2 Underlying Principles and Values
AMENDMENTIn October 2018, legislative references were updated as necessary
1. Underpinning Principles
The following principles, which are evidence based, should be followed when implementing these procedures. Work to safeguard and promote the welfare of children should be:
Some of the worst failures of the system have occurred when practitioners have lost sight of the needs of the child, and concentrated instead on their relationship with the adults. The child should be seen (alone when appropriate) by the lead social worker in addition to all other practitioners who have a responsibility for the child's welfare. His or her welfare should be kept in sharp focus throughout work with the child and family. The significance of seeing and observing the child cannot be overstated. The child should be spoken and listened to, and account taken of their wishes and their feelings (having regard for their age and understanding).
Rooted in Child Development
Those working with children should have a detailed understanding of child development, and how the quality of the care they receive can impact on their health and development. Each stage, from infancy to adolescence, lays the foundation for more complex development. Plans and interventions should be based on a clear assessment of risk, the child's developmental progress and any difficulties being experienced. Interventions should be timely and appropriate.
Focused on Outcomes for Children
When working directly with the child and their family, the plan developed should be based on an assessment of:
- Whether the child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm;
- The child's developmental needs;
- The parents/caregivers' capacity to respond to these needs;
- The family and environmental context.
Holistic in Approach
Having a holistic approach means having an understanding of a child within the context of their family (parents / caregivers, and the wider family) and of the educational setting, community and culture in which he or she is growing up The analysis of the child's situation will inform planning and intervention in order to secure the best outcomes for the child and will inform a review of the effectiveness of that intervention. The child's situation will be even more complex if he or she is living away from home, and looked after by adults who do not have parental responsibility.
Ensuring Equality of Opportunity
All children should have the opportunity to achieve their optimal development, regardless of their gender, ability, race, ethnicity, circumstances or age. Some vulnerable children may be disadvantaged in their access to appropriate services that will promote their wellbeing, both in the short and long term. Such vulnerability should be taken into account when planning interventions, and ensuring that services delivered are of an equal standard for all. Further information can be found in the SCSP Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: Sources of Information.
Involving Children and Families
It is important to work in partnership with children and families, as far as possible, so that they feel respected and informed. In order to be able to find out what is happening to a child, it is essential to listen to the child, develop a positive relationship with the child, so as to be able to gain an understanding or his or her wishes and feelings. Families need to feel that workers are being open and honest with them, to enable them to provide vital information about their child, themselves and their circumstances.
Building on Strengths as Well as Identifying Difficulties
Identifying and working with a child and family's strengths (including resilience and protective factors) and difficulties (including vulnerabilities and risks) becomes an important part of any intervention. It is vital to identify both strengths and difficulties within the child, his or her family, and the context in which they are living to be able to consider how these factors may impact on the child's health and development.
Integrated in Approach
From birth onwards, there will be a range of different agencies and services in the community involved with children, particularly in relation to their health and development. Multi and inter-agency work to safeguard and promote children's welfare should start as soon as it has been identified that the child has additional needs, not just when there are questions about possible harm.
A Continuing Process
Services should be provided according to the identified needs of the child and family, in parallel with the ongoing assessment where necessary. It is not necessary to await completion of the assessment process. Immediate and practical needs should be addressed alongside more complex and longer term ones. The impact of service provision on a child's developmental progress should be continually re-assessed. Safeguarding children should be considered a continuing process, not a single event.
Informed by Evidence
Effective practice with children and families requires sound practitioner judgements that are underpinned by a rigorous, current evidence base. Decisions based on these judgements should be kept under review, and take into account any new information obtained during the course of the work with the child and family.
Safer Working Practices
All agencies and staff involved in safeguarding children have a duty to help keep children safe. This includes safer recruitment practices as well as procedures for those in continuing employment. By following agreed procedures for recruitment, training, and supervision, and systematically addressing any allegations of abuse by staff, agencies will be fulfilling their duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
Every child and young person should be able to grow up free from the fear of abuse or neglect. The Sheffield Children Safeguarding Partnership will work in active partnership to achieve this goal by:
- Working for all Sheffield children and young people, whatever their circumstances, particularly those who are most vulnerable and at risk of harm, to try to ensure that they are safe, well cared for, and fulfil their potential. Where children have been abused we will aim to ensure they receive the help they need to recover from their abuse;
- Providing the framework for agencies to work together and provide high quality safeguarding services, within legal and procedural requirements;
- Taking action to ensure the public is aware of their responsibility to safeguard children in the community.
Our values are rooted in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere - without discrimination - have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life:
- Children are citizens whose rights, needs and welfare are the paramount consideration whatever their circumstances;
- Children have a right to be safeguarded from avoidable harm including abuse, neglect and exploitation;
- Services to families are child-centred;
- The voices of children and young people are listened to - children are consulted on all matters of concern to them and their views are given due weight in accordance with their maturity and welfare needs;
- Children's welfare is promoted wherever possible through their parents care;
- Children have diverse backgrounds and needs and equal services are provided to all;
- Both prevention and identification/intervention are essential elements in safeguarding children;
- Communities have an important role to play in safeguarding children and promoting family involvement;
- The public receives high quality information about their role in safeguarding children;
- All staff are trained and supported to do their job;
- Frontline workers are authoritative in their knowledge and understanding of their roles and well-grounded and trained in child development;
- Communication is kept simple and free from jargon and agencies have a common understanding about the meaning of key words and terms;
- The work of the Partnership and its constituent partners is informed by evidence and research;
- Agencies work together in a culture of mutual respect and understanding.
3. Information Sharing and Confidentiality
4. Case Recording
5. Use of Interpreters, Signers or Others with Communication Difficulties
Communication is an essential part of working in partnership. Many families perceive practitioner involvement in their lives as painful and intrusive, particularly if they feel that their care of their children is being called into question.
Practitioners can make the child protection process less stressful for families by the way in which they approach working in partnership. Children and families may be supported through their involvement in the child protection process by advice and advocacy services and they should always be informed of them.
Children's Social Care has a responsibility to make sure children and adults have all the information they need to help them understand child protection processes. Information, support and advice should be available to the family in the language of their choice.
If there are specific communication needs because of language or disability, the services of a professionally trained interpreter or a specialist worker should be used.
All agencies need to ensure they are able to communicate fully with parents and children when they have concerns about child abuse and neglect and ensure that family members and practitioners fully understand the exchanges that take place.
The use of accredited interpreters, signers or others with special communication skills must be considered whenever undertaking enquiries involving children and/or family:
For whom English is not the first language (even if reasonably fluent in English, the option of an interpreter must be available when dealing with sensitive issues)
- With a hearing or visual impairment;
- Whose disability impairs speech;
- With learning difficulties;
- With a specific language or communication disorder;
- With severe emotional and behavioural difficulties;
- Whose primary form of communication is not speech.
At their first involvement staff must establish the communication needs of the child, parents and other significant family members. Relevant specialists may need to be consulted e.g. a language therapist, teacher of hearing impaired children, paediatrician etc.
Family members should not be used as interpreters within the interviews although can be used to arrange appointments and establish communication needs.
Staff should feel confident that any interpreters will respect the family's confidentiality. Families should be given a choice of interpreting service where this is possible.
The particular needs of a child who is thought to have communication problems should be considered at an early point in the planning of the Section 47 Enquiry (i.e. at the Strategy Discussion/Meeting stage).
If a decision is made not to use an interpreter when the child's first language is not English, the reason for this should be clearly recorded.
Practitioners should be aware that interviewing is possible when a child communicates by means other than speech and should not assume that an interview, which meets the standards for the purposes of criminal proceedings, is not possible.
All interviews should be tailored to the individual needs of the child and written explanation included in the plan about any departure from usual standards. Every effort should be made to enable such a child to tell her/his story directly to those undertaking enquiries.
It may be necessary to seek further advice from practitioners who know the child well or are familiar with the type of impairment the child has e.g. paediatrician at the child development centre or for child's school.
When the child is interviewed it may be helpful for an appropriate practitioner to assist the interviewer and the child. Careful planning is required of the role of this adviser and the potential use of specialised communication equipment.
Suitable practitioners are likely to be drawn from the following groups:
- Speech and language therapists;
- Teachers of the hearing impaired;
- Specialist teachers for children with learning difficulties;
- Practitioner translators (including people conversant with British Sign Language (BSL) for hearing impaired individuals);
- Staff from CAMHS;
- Specific advocacy/voluntary groups;
- Social workers specialising in working with children with disabilities.
Interviews with witnesses with special communication needs, may require the use of an interpreter or an intermediary (see Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings: Guidance on Interviewing Victims and Witnesses and Using Special Measures (Ministry of Justice, March 2011) and are generally much slower. The interview may be long and tiring for the witness and might need to be broken into two or three parts, preferably, but not necessarily held on the same day.
A witness should be interviewed in the language of their choice and vulnerable or intimidated witnesses, including children, may have a supporter present when being interviewed.
If the family's first language is not English and even if they appear reasonably fluent, the offer of an interpreter should be made, as it is essential that all issues are understood and fully explained. If an interpreter is not used the reasons should be clearly recorded.
Interpreters used for child protection work should have been subject to references and DBS checks and a written agreement regarding confidentiality. Whenever possible they should be used to interpret their own first language and have received training in child protection issues.
Social workers need to first meet with the interpreter to explain the nature of the investigation and clarify:
- The interpreter's role in translating direct communications between practitioners and family members;
- The need to avoid acting as a representative of the family;
- When the interpreter is required to translate everything that is said and when to summarise;
- That the interpreter is prepared to translate the exact works that are likely to be used - especially critical for sexual abuse;
- When the interpreter will explain any cultural issues that might be overlooked (usually at the end of the interview, unless any issue is impeding the interview);
- The interpreter's ability to interpret at other interviews and meetings and provide written translations of reports (taped versions if literacy is an issue);
- Family members may choose to bring along their own interpreter as a supporter.