2. Key Principles

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


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


Information Sharing Procedure


This chapter was updated in June 2019 to reflect Working Together and Keeping Children Safe in Education (see Section 2.1, An Integrated Approach and Section 2.6, 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.

There are additional duties for schools to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people (Keeping children safe in education: Statutory guidance for schools and colleges). In essence these require all school staff to have knowledge of the signs and symptoms of abuse and an understanding of the local early help and child protection arrangements.

Schools also have additional responsibilities in cases of suspected FGM, Child-on-Child abuse and children at risk of sexual exploitation.
2.1.6 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.

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 Working in Partnership with Children and Families

2.3.1 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.
2.3.2 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.
2.3.3 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.
2.3.4 Professionals should be honest and explicit about professional roles, responsibilities, powers and expectations and about what is not negotiable.
2.3.5 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.

2.4 Race, Ethnicity and Culture

2.4.1 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.
2.4.2 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.
2.4.3 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.
2.4.4 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.

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)

2.5 Record Keeping

2.5.1 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.
2.5.2 Accurate recording is also essential to ensuring the accountability of agencies to those children and families with whom the agency is involved.
2.5.3 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.

2.6 Supervision and Staff Development


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. Professionals in Knowsley are supported through training and supervision to understand their role in identifying new and emerging threats, including online abuse, grooming, sexual exploitation and radicalisation. 

They continue to develop their knowledge and skills in sharing information with other professionals to assist with early identification and use of assessments such as Early Help Assessment process.

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.
2.6.3 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.
2.6.4 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.
2.6.5 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 Safeguarding Quality Assurance Service (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.