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7.2 Policy, Principles and Values

Contents

  1. Principles Underpinning all Work to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of Children
  2. Making Timely Decisions
  3. Recording Values and Principles


I.  Principles Underpinning All Work to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of Children

Throughout this Manual, safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is defined as:

  • Protecting children from maltreatment
  • Preventing impairment of children’s health or development
  • Ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care

and undertaking that role so as to enable those children to have optimum life chances and to enter adulthood successfully.

These aspects of Safeguarding and Promoting Welfare are cumulative and all contribute to the five Every Child Matters outcomes.

Child Protection is part of Safeguarding and Promoting Welfare, focusing on the ‘Staying Safe’ outcome; it refers to the activity that is undertaken to protect specific children who have suffered or are suffering Significant Harm.

In carrying out any work to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board and all managers, employees, professionals, volunteers and carers must ensure that their practice reflects an approach which is: 

  1. Child centred

    The child should be seen (alone when appropriate) by the Lead Social Worker in addition to all other professionals who have a responsibility for the child's welfare. His or her welfare should be kept sharply in focus in all 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 their wishes and feelings ascertained, taken into account (having regard to their age and understanding) and recorded when making decisions about the provision of services. Some of the worst failures of the system have occurred when professionals have lost sight of the child and concentrated instead on their relationship with the adults.
  2. Rooted in child development

    Those working with children should have a detailed understanding of child development and how the quality of the care they are receiving can have an impact on their health and development. They should recognise that as children grow, they continue to develop their skills and abilities. Each stage, from infancy through middle years to adolescence, lays the foundation for more complex development. Plans and interventions to safeguard and promote the child's welfare should be based on a clear assessment of the child's developmental progress and the difficulties the child may be experiencing. Planned action should also be timely and appropriate for the child's age and stage of development.
  3. Focused on outcomes for children

     When working directly with a child, any plan developed for the child and their family or caregiver should be based on an assessment of the child's developmental needs and the parents/caregivers' capacity to respond to these needs within their family and environmental context. The plan should set out the planned outcomes for the child; progress against these should be regularly reviewed and the actual outcomes should be recorded.

    The purpose of all interventions should be to achieve the best possible outcomes for each child recognising each is unique. These outcomes should contribute to the key outcomes set out for all children set out in the Children Act 2004, namely:
    • Stay safe
    • Be healthy
    • Enjoy and achieve
    • Make a positive contribution
    • Achieve economic wellbeing
  4. Holistic

    This means having an understanding of the child within the context of the child’s family (parent, care-givers and the wider family) and of the educational setting, community and culture in which he or she is growing up. At all stages, consideration must be given to issues of diversity so that the impact of cultural and religious expectations and obligations are taken into consideration.

    The interaction between the developmental needs of children, the capacities of parents or caregivers to respond appropriately to those needs, the impact of wider family and environmental factors on children and on parenting capacity, requires careful exploration during an assessment.

    The ultimate aim is to understand the child's developmental needs and the capacity of the parents or caregivers to meet them and to provide appropriate services to the child and to the family which respond to those needs. The child's context will be even more complex when they are living away from home and looked after by adults who do not have parental responsibility for them.
  5. Ensures equality of opportunity

    All children must have the opportunity to achieve the best possible developmental outcomes, regardless of their gender, ability, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, circumstances or age. Some vulnerable children may have been particularly disadvantaged in their access to important opportunities and their health and educational needs will require particular attention in order to optimise their current welfare as well as their long-term outcomes into adulthood.       
  6. Involving children and families

    In the process of finding out what is happening to a child, it is important to listen to the child and develop a therapeutic relationship with the child and through this gain an understanding of the child’s wishes and feelings. It is also important to develop a cooperative working relationship with parents and carers so that they feel respected and informed, believe that members of staff are being open and honest with them and in turn they are confident about providing vital information about their child, themselves and their circumstances. 

    Sharing information about children and their parents/care-givers should only occur with their consent unless to do so would mean the child may be suffering Significant Harm.

    Decisions should also be made with the agreement of children and their parents/care-givers, whenever possible, unless to do so would place the child at risk of Significant Harm.
  7. Builds on strengths as well as identifies difficulties

    Identifying both strengths (including resilience and protective factors) and difficulties (including vulnerabilities and risk factors) within the child, his or her family and the context in which they are living is important, as is considering how these factors are having an impact on the child's health and development. Too often working with families focuses on problematic and negative aspects and crucial areas of success and effectiveness within the family are ignored. Working with a child or family's strengths becomes an important part of a plan to resolve difficulties.
  8. Integrated in Approach

    From birth, there will be a variety of agencies and services in the community involved with children and their development, particularly in relation to their health and education. Multi and inter-agency work to safeguard and promote children's welfare starts as soon as it has been identified that the child or the family members have additional needs requiring support/services beyond universal services, not just when there are questions about possible harm. See Information Sharing Protocol
  9. A continuing process not an event

    Understanding what is happening to a vulnerable child within the context of his or her family and the local community and taking appropriate action are continuing and interactive processes, and not single events. Assessment should continue throughout a period of intervention, and services to the child and family can start at the beginning of any intervention and assessment.
  10. Providing and reviewing services

    All services should be provided according to the identified needs of the child and family in parallel with assessments where necessary. It is not necessary to await completion of the assessment process. The needs may be immediate and practical as well as longer term and more complex. The impact of all service provision on the child's development and circumstances should be reviewed regularly and services should remain responsive to meeting the child's assessed needs
  11. Informed by evidence

    Effective practice with children and their families requires sound professional judgement which are underpinned by a rigorous evidence base, and draw on the practitioner's knowledge and experience. Decisions based on these judgements should be kept under review, and take full account of any new information obtained during the course of work with the child and family.


II. Making Timely Decisions

Any timescales referred to in the procedures are the Minimum Standards required by the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board.

Where the welfare of the child requires it, shorter time-scales must be achieved.

Extensions to the time-scales must be authorised by the relevant manager following consultation with relevant managers from the other agencies involved and can only be authorised where the following exceptional circumstances apply:

  • The need to engage interpreters and/or translators
  • Pre-birth assessments
  • Complex cases, for example those involving organised abuse or fabricated or induced illness
  • Where there are allegations against professional, carers or volunteers
  • Where the case requires coordination with other local authorities
  • In any other exceptional circumstances in order to ensure that the welfare of the child is safeguarded

Any decision to extend the timescale must be full recorded, with reasons, and interim arrangements to protect the child must be put into place.


III. Recording Values and Principles

The following is intended to ensure the security of children’s case records and the integrity of the information that they contain. 

Good quality case recording is essential in ensuring:

  • continuity of service to children and families when staff are unavailable or change, or when a service resumes after a period of time
  • effective risk management practices to safeguard the well-being of children, especially in emergency situations;
  • effective partnerships between staff, children, their families, their carers, other agencies and service providers;
  • clarity of information for everyone involved in the planning and delivery of services, and in the event of investigations, inquiries, or audits;
  • adequate information for staff and managers to ensure the best possible utilisation of available resources.

i.

Records Must Be Kept On All Individual Children and Family members Referred

  Records may be in the form of paper files and/or electronic records; audio or video recordings may also be kept. Separate case / file recordings must be made for each child.
  All case records must be organised in order to safeguard the contents, protect the confidentiality of the individuals concerned, and make them as easy as possible to use. 
  Information held in electronic records must accurately reflect the corresponding information recorded within paper files.
  Records held on paper may extend to more than one volume. Where more than one volume exists, the dates covered by each volume must be clearly recorded on the front cover.
  Where information is held on a paper file, the electronic record must be used to identify the source and location of the paper record.
  All records must be signed (legibly) and dated


ii.


Forms must be completed in accordance with instructions

  Forms must be completed in all fields as indicated by the agency’s instructions and signed and dated


iii.


Individuals must be informed about their records

  Individuals have a right to be informed about their records, the reasons why they are kept, their rights to confidentiality and how to access to their records.
  Information must be provided in a form that individuals will understand - in their preferred language or method of communication. An interpreter should be provided if needed.


iv.


The practitioner primarily involved should complete the record

  The practitioner primarily involved, that is the person who directly observes or witnesses the event that is being recorded or who has participated in the meeting/conversation, must complete the record. Where this is not possible and records are completed or updated by other people, it must be clear from the record which person provided the information being recorded. Preferably the person with first hand knowledge should read and sign the record. There must be clear differentiation between opinion and fact.
  Records of decisions must show who has made the decision, the basis for it and the date.


v.


All relevant information must be recorded

  Every case file or electronic record must be completed with information about the individual’s full name, address, date of birth, ethnicity, religion, any reference or identification number, any risk assessment, a transfer/closing summary (where appropriate) and, in the case of paper files, volume number.


vi.


Children and families should be involved in the recording process

  Children (depending on their age and understanding) and their families must be routinely involved in the process of gathering and recording information about them. They should feel they are part of the recording process
  They should be asked to provide information, express their own views and wishes, and contribute to assessments, reports and to the formulation of plans in respect of services they may receive.
  Generally, they must also be asked to give their agreement to the sharing of their information with others.
  Where there is uncertainty about the sharing of such information, staff should consult with supervisors / managers.


vii.


Information about individuals should normally be shared with them

 

Information obtained about individuals should usually be shared with them unless:

 
  • Sharing the information would be likely to result in serious harm to the individual, a child or another person, or
  • The information was given in the expectation that it would not be disclosed, or
  • The information relates to a third party who expressly indicated the information should not be disclosed.
  Where information is obtained and recorded which should not be shared with the individual concerned for one of the above reasons, it should be placed in the confidential section of the record and a note of the reasons, should be recorded.


viii.


Records must be legible, signed and dated

  Those completing electronic records must show their name and the time and date when the recording was completed. The sequence of the recording must also be noted.
  Paper records should be typed or handwritten in black ink and all records must be signed and dated.
  Any handwritten records must be produced so that readers not familiar with the handwriting of the writer can read the records quickly and easily.
  It must be possible to distinguish the name and post title or status of the person completing the record. If there is any doubt of the identity of the writer from a signature, the name should be printed.


ix.


Time scales for recording

  Records should be completed contemporaneously or as soon as practicable after the event occurs and should be updated as information becomes available or as decisions or actions are taken
  Where records are made or updated late or after the event, the fact must be stated in the record, and the date and time of the entry should be included.
  All agencies must adhere to their recording policy and procedures.


x.


Records must be written in plain English and prejudice must be avoided

  Records must be written concisely, in plain English, avoiding statements that are judgmental or speculative, and focusing instead on facts about the needs, strengths, and objectives of individuals.
  Entries to case records should be written in a culturally competent manner, taking account of difference of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds and lifestyles.
  Use of technical or professional terms and abbreviations must be kept to a minimum; and if there is likely to be any doubt of their meaning, they must be defined or explained.


xi.


Records must be accurate and adequate

  Care must be taken to ensure that information contained in records is relevant and accurate and clearly distinguishes between facts, opinions, assessments, judgments and decisions. It must be sufficient to meet legislative responsibilities and the requirements of these procedures.
  Records must also distinguish between first hand information and information obtained from third parties.


xii.


Managers must oversee and monitor all records

  The overall responsibility for ensuring all records are maintained appropriately rests with managers with day-to-day responsibility, delegated to other staff as appropriate.
  The manager should routinely check samples of records to ensure they are up to date and maintained as required and, if not, that deficiencies are rectified as soon as practicable.
  All management recommendations, decisions and actions must also be recorded and regularly reviewed.


xiii.


Records should be kept securely

  All records must be kept securely.
  Paper records will be kept in folders in chronological order with all documents firmly affixed to prevent their loss.
  Files in paper form should be stored in a locked cabinet, or a similar manner, usually in an office which only staff/carers have access to. Records should not be left unattended when not in their normal location.


xiv.


Removal of records must be an exceptional occurrence

  Paper records should not be taken from the location where they are normally kept.
  If it is necessary to remove a record from its normal location, a manager should approve this and should stipulate or agree how long it is necessary to remove the record. The manager must also be satisfied that adequate measures are in place to ensure the security of the record(s) whilst they are removed. For example, records must never be left in unattended vehicles.
  The authorisation for a record to be removed must be recorded and those who may have need to see the records should be informed of their removal. The manager must then ensure the record is returned as required/agreed.


xv.


Record retention after closure

  Files should be retained for the period set out in each agency’s own record retention policy.
  In all agencies the relevant policies apply and any member of staff responsible for a child’s records when services end and the case is closed, is responsible for ensuring that the records to be retained are in good order and that unnecessary items have been removed, for example, compliment slips, duplicate copies etc.

End