View Working Together View Working Together

2. Key Principles

The following are key principles on which the work of all agencies and practitioners working to safeguard children should be based.

RELEVANT DOCUMENTS

DfE, Information Sharing - Advice for Practitioners Providing Safeguarding Services to Children, Young People, Parents and Carers (2015)

North West ADCS, Protocol for Standards in Supervision of Children and Families Social Workers

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in December 2016 to link to North West ADCS, Protocol for Standards in Supervision of Children and Families Social Workers (see Relevant Documents above). The ‘Standards’ contain a Reflective Supervision Journal Template and Supervision Contract templates.


Contents

  2.1 An Integrated Approach
  2.2 A Shared Responsibility
  2.3 Sharing Information
  2.4 Working in Partnership with Children and Families
  2.5 Race, Ethnicity and Culture
  2.6 Record Keeping
  2.7 Supervision and Staff Development


2.1 An Integrated Approach

2.1.1 Effective measures to safeguard children should not be seen in isolation from the wider range of support and services available to meet the needs of children and families.
2.1.2 Providing support and services to children and families under stress (see Chapter 3.7 Sources of Stress for Children and Families) may strengthen the capacity of parents to respond to the needs of their children before problems develop into Significant Harm.
2.1.3 A Section 47 Enquiry may reveal significant unmet needs for children and families which should be considered and discussed with families even where concerns about Significant Harm are not substantiated.
2.1.4 Plans for safeguarding children should be based on a broad assessment of the needs of the child, parental capacity and their family circumstances.
2.1.5 Anyone engaged in work with children and adults should be alert to and know how to respond appropriately to potential indicators of the abuse and neglect of children


2.2 A Shared Responsibility

2.2.1 Safeguarding children, particularly protecting them from Significant Harm, depends upon effective joint working between agencies and practitioners that have different roles and expertise.
2.2.2 Whilst Knowsley Children's Social Care has the lead role in working with families where the children are at risk of Significant Harm, working to protect children is not the sole responsibility of one agency. Safeguarding children depends crucially upon effective information sharing, collaboration and understanding between agencies and professionals at all levels.
2.2.3

For those children who are suffering, or at risk of suffering Significant Harm, joint working is essential, to safeguard the children and, where necessary, to help bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes against children. All agencies and professionals should:

  • Be alert to potential indicators of abuse or neglect;
  • Be alert to the risks which individual abusers, or potential abusers, may pose to children;
  • Share and help to analyse information so that an assessment can be made of the child's needs and circumstances;
  • Contribute to whatever actions are needed to safeguard the child and promote his or her welfare;
  • Take part in regularly reviewing the outcomes for the child against specific plans; and
  • Work co-operatively with parents unless this is inconsistent with ensuring the child's safety


2.3 Sharing Information

2.3.1

Sharing information is essential in working to safeguard children. Practitioners and agencies are required to share information:

  • About children and their health, development and exposure to possible Significant Harm
  • About parents who may not be able to care adequately and safely for children
  • About individuals who may present a risk to children
  • Often it is only when information from a number of sources is shared and put together, that it becomes clear that a child is at risk of, or is suffering, Significant Harm.
2.3.2 Personal information held by professionals and agencies is subject to a legal duty of confidence and should normally only be disclosed to third parties (including other agencies) with the consent of the subject of that information. Wherever possible, consent should be obtained before sharing personal information with third parties.
2.3.3 In some circumstances however, the safety and welfare of a child dictates that information should be shared without seeking consent, or in circumstances where consent is not given.
2.3.4 Where there are concerns that a child is, or may be at risk of Significant Harm, the needs of that child must always come first; the priority must always be to safeguard the child.
2.3.5

Guidance published by the government following Lord Laming's Report of the Victoria Climbié Inquiry stated that in general the law will not prevent you from sharing information with other practitioners if:

2.3.6 The law permits the disclosure of confidential information necessary to safeguard a child or children in the public interest: that is, the public interest in child protection may override the public interest in maintaining confidentiality. The disclosure should be justifiable in each case, according to the particular facts of the case, and legal advice should be sought in cases of doubt.
2.3.7

The Data Protection Act 1998 requires that personal information is obtained and processed fairly and lawfully; only disclosed in appropriate circumstances; is accurate, relevant and not held longer than necessary; and is kept securely.

The Act allows for disclosure without the consent of the subject in certain circumstances, including:

  • The prevention or detection of crime
  • The apprehension or prosecution of offenders
  • Where failure to disclose would be likely to prejudice those objectives in a particular case

Disclosure of personal information in circumstances of concern that a child may be at risk of or suffering Significant Harm can therefore be permitted by the Act on the above grounds.

2.3.8

Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights states that:

  1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
  2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interest of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country for the prevention of disorder of crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Disclosure of information without consent might give rise to an issue under Article 8. Disclosure of information to safeguard children will usually be for the protection of health or morals for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others and for the prevention of crime or disorder. Disclosure should be appropriate for the purpose and only to the extent necessary to achieve that purpose.

(For further guidance, see Information sharing: Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers.

Please also refer to Child Sexual Exploitation - A Framework for Professionals Working with Children who Experience, or are at Risk of, Sexual Exploitation and Domestic Violence and Abuse Procedure, Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPO) and the Domestic Violence and Abuse Procedure, Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDs).


2.4 Working in Partnership with Children and Families

2.4.1 Where there are concerns about Significant Harm to a child, and there may be compulsory intervention by Knowsley Children's Social Care in family life, parents should still be helped and encouraged to contribute as fully as possible in decisions about their child.
2.4.2 Family members usually have considerable information about members of, and the history of, the family. Well-founded decisions should draw upon this knowledge. Partnership does not always mean agreeing with parents or other adult family members, nor always seeking a way forward which is acceptable to them. Professionals should always maintain a clear focus on safeguarding the child.
2.4.3 Family members should normally have the right to know what is being said about them. There should be a presumption of openness, joint decision-making and willingness to listen to families and capitalise on their strengths, whilst maintaining the best interests of the child as the overarching principle.
2.4.4 Professionals should be honest and explicit about professional roles, responsibilities, powers and expectations and about what is not negotiable.
2.4.5 Children and young people should, subject to age and understanding, be helped to understand safeguarding processes and how they can be involved and contribute to decision-making. They should understand that decisions will be taken in the light of all available information and not necessarily in accordance with their wishes.


2.5 Race, Ethnicity and Culture

2.5.1 Children from all cultures are subject to Significant Harm. All children have a right to grow up safe from harm. In order to make sensitive and informed professional judgement's about a child's needs, and parents' capacity to respond to their child's needs, it is important that practitioners are sensitive to differing family patterns and lifestyles and to child rearing patterns that vary across different racial, ethnic and cultural groups.
2.5.2 Professionals should also be aware of the broader social factors that serve to discriminate against black and minority ethnic people. Working in a multi-racial and multi-cultural society requires professionals and organisations to be committed to equality in meeting the needs of all children and families, and to understand the effects of racial harassment, racial discrimination and institutional racism, as well as cultural misunderstanding or misinterpretation.
2.5.3 The assessment process should maintain a focus on the needs of the individual child. It should always include consideration of the way religious beliefs and cultural traditions in different racial, ethnic and cultural groups influence their values, attitudes and behaviour, and the way in which family and community life is structured and organised. Cultural factors neither explain nor condone acts of omission or commission which place a child at risk of Significant Harm. Practitioners should be aware of and work with the strengths and support systems available within families, ethnic groups and communities, which can be built upon to help safeguard children.
2.5.4 Practitioners should guard against myths and stereotypes, both positive and negative, of black and minority ethnic families. Anxiety about being accused of racist practice should not prevent the necessary action being taken to safeguard a child. Careful assessment, based on evidence of a child's needs, and a family's strengths and weaknesses, understood in the context of the wider social environment, will help to avoid any distorting effect of these influences on professional judgements.
2.5.5

Lord Laming's Report of the Victoria Climbié Inquiry addresses some important issues related to Race, Ethnicity and Culture. These include:

  • Guarding against the effect of assumptions based on race, ethnicity or cultural background
  • The dangers of feeling inhibited from acting in a child's best interests for fear of being accused of racism
  • The dangers of considering cultural issues before the primary objective of the safety of the child

(See Lord Laming's report on the Victoria Climbié Inquiry, Section 16, working with diversity)


2.6 Record Keeping

2.6.1 Well kept records provide an essential underpinning to good Safeguarding Children practice. An individual agency's or practitioner's records should be clear, accurate and contemporaneous, ensuring that there is a documented account of contact with a child or family, and a record of face to face discussions and telephone conversations with other practitioners, decisions made during such discussion, and responsibility for carrying out decisions made. This is an essential source of evidence for investigations and inquiries, and may also be disclosed in court proceedings.
2.6.2 Accurate recording is also essential to ensuring the accountability of agencies to those children and families with whom the agency is involved.
2.6.3 Safeguarding Children requires information to be brought together from a number of sources and careful professional judgements to be made on the basis of this information. A multi-agency chronology of significant incidents is an important tool which social workers can use as part of their case recording at any stage of involvement with a family.

Important Note: The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse requires all institutions to retain their records relating to the care of children for the duration of the Inquiry under Section 21 of the Inquiries Act 2005. There is therefore an obligation to preserve records for the Inquiry for as long as is necessary.


2.7 Supervision and Staff Development

2.7.1

All practitioners working in the area of Child Protection should receive advice and support from peers, managers or named and designated professionals.

For many practitioners involved in day to day work with children and families formal supervision with an identified manager is important to promoting good standards of practice and to supporting individual staff members.

2.7.2

The purpose of the practitioner-supervisor relationship should be to:

  • Support those practitioners working directly with children and families, promoting good standards of practice
  • Ensure that plans are followed or amended as appropriate, and procedures are adhered to
  • Ensure the practitioner understands their role, responsibilities and scope of their professional discretion and authority
  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the practitioner, and assist in the development of practice skills either personally or by ensuring that appropriate training is made available and attended, as appropriate, by practitioner and supervisor
  • Provide opportunities to reflect on, scrutinise and evaluate the work of the practitioner
  • Be available to provide advice and endorse decisions as appropriate in the safeguarding process
2.7.3 The supervision of staff working directly with children must include the supervisor reading, reviewing, recording key decisions and signing the case file at regular intervals.
2.7.4 When allocating work to a practitioner, the supervisor must ensure that the practitioner has the necessary training, experience and time to deal with the case properly and is clear what action is required and how that action will be reviewed and supervised.
2.7.5 There is also potential for learning and induction through observation of the safeguarding process, including at a Child Protection Conference. However, parents and children must be able to give informed consent without any pressure. Requests for observers to attend conferences must be made to the Quality Assurance Unit (see Contact Details Appendix) with sufficient notice to allow the practitioner to seek the views of family members prior to the conference.
  See also North West ADCS, Protocol for Standards in Supervision of Children and Families Social Workers.

End