2.1 Policy, Principles and Values
This chapter was reviewed and revised in August 2013.
The work of Surrey Safeguarding Children Board (SSCB) is part of the wider context of integrated services for children that aim to improve the overall well-being of all children living in the area..
Safeguarding Children Boards were established under the Children Act 2004, as part of the integration of services around children's needs. The Act recognises that shared responsibility and the need for effective joint working between agencies and professionals with different roles and expertise are essential if children are to be protected from harm and their welfare promoted and safeguarded.
Local authorities with responsibility for education, all schools and further education institutions in England, including independent schools, academies and City Technology Colleges, have a statutory duty with regard to the safety and welfare of children separate from the Children Act 2004. They are all required under the provisions of the Education Act 2002 to make arrangements to ensure that their functions are carried out with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. They all share the objective of keeping children safe by providing a safe environment for children to learn in education settings and identifying children who are suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm and taking appropriate action to make sure they are kept safe at home and in school.
Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children means:
- Protecting children from maltreatment;
- Preventing impairment of children's health and 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 enter adulthood successfully.
It is important to remember that the definition of children includes young people up to the age of 18 and the needs of older children and young people up to the age of 18 are covered by these procedures and their safety must be paramount at all times.
The Safer Surrey approach is a strength-based approach that works on the belief that children and their families have the strengths, resources and ability to recover from adversities. It has its roots in solution focused brief Therapy and creates a common language used by all professionals from universal services through to child protection. The different language used to describe children’s and families’ difficulties and struggles allows us to begin to see opportunities, hope and solutions. It invests power in children and families to help themselves, and puts practitioners in the role of supporting and helping them rather than as directors of change. The approach encourages us to support and reinforce child and family functioning rather than focus on individual or family deficits.
There are four principles underpinning the Safer Surrey approach:
The complex nature of child protection work means that dysfunctional relationships and poor communication between professionals and also the family often occur and can increase risk. Safer Surrey creates a shared language and understanding of risk making it easier for everyone to understand thresholds. It ensures that when discussing worries there is a shared agreement between all parties about what that worry is and what action needs to be taken to reduce it.
Professional curiosity & critical thinking
Relationships between professionals, and family members, can become fractured once someone decides they know the ‘truth’ about what’s going on but this ‘truth’ is not held by all. Once a ‘truth’ is decided then critical thinking diminishes and information that does not confirm this position can be excluded or reinterpreted to fit. It’s a challenge to restrain a natural urge to establish a ‘truth’ but very important to do in order to ensure that children are protected. Professionals need to have a questioning approach and show professional curiosity, Safer Surrey enables this.
Planning for success
The process of managing risk often tends to focus on minimising the possibility of negative outcomes, but we need always to remember that risk can also mean the possibility of success. To achieve a more balanced approach to risk management, we need to find out what works with families and avoid imposing our own solutions. This means recognising and valuing the wisdom and knowledge of practitioners, and in turn practitioners should aim to do this with families. Organisations in Surrey need to identify what good practice looks like and document this: see Safer Surrey Toolkit for detailed practical information.
Supportive organisational culture
In order for Safer Surrey to be effectively implemented organisations need to develop a collaborative, strength-based approach that demands rigorous thinking, emotional intelligence and compassion. Organisations need to adopt a questioning approach to their work with families, management and leadership and become a ‘learning organisation’.
A learning organisation is one where people continually develop their capacity, thinking is nurtured, learning opportunities are developed and there is continued inquiry and reflection in order to improve the work we do and outcomes for children.
Safer Surrey is an integrated approach which incorporates both problems and strengths into a practice framework through a planning and assessment framework that looks at:
What are we worried about? (past harm, future danger, complicating factors)
What’s working well? (existing strengths and safety)
What needs to happen? (for future safety)
2. Key Principles and Values
Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is defined as:
- Protecting children from maltreatment;
- Preventing impairment of children’s health and development;
- Ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care;
- Taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes.
To achieve this, children need to be loved and valued and be supported by a network of reliable and affectionate relationships. If they are denied the opportunity and support they need to achieve these outcomes, children are at increased risk not only of an impoverished childhood, but of disadvantage and social exclusion in adulthood. Abuse and neglect pose particular problems.
Support services for children and families cannot be separated from services designed to investigate and protect children from significant harm.
Effective measures to safeguard children are those which also promote their welfare. Effective safeguarding of children can only be achieved by putting children at the centre of the system and by every individual and agency playing their full part, working together to meet the needs of the most vulnerable children.
The work undertaken by members of the SSCB is underpinned by the following principles and values:
1. Child Centred
A child centred approach: For services to be effective they should be based on a clear understanding of the needs and views of children.
All professionals working with a child should understand their role in keeping the child safe and the SSCB oversees local arrangements to monitor the effectiveness of collaboration between professionals and agencies providing challenge to ensure that children are protected from harm.
Children want to be respected and have their views heard; to have stable relationships with professionals built on trust and for consistent support to be provided to meet their individual needs.
Anyone working with a child should see and speak to the child, having regard to their age and understanding; listen to what they say and take their views seriously; working collaboratively with other professionals to meet their needs. Children 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 and the importance of accurate recording of decisions about the provision of services.
The needs of older children and young people up to the age of 18 are covered by these procedures and their safety must be paramount at all times.
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 continuing developmental needs, their progress and any difficulties the child may be experiencing. Plans should 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' (including their partners') capacity to respond to these needs within their family and environmental context. The plan should ensure that children receive the right help and support at the right time and should consider: What are we worried about (risks- past harm, future danger, complicating factors); What's working well? (existing strengths and safety); What needs to happen (outcomes). The purpose of all interventions should be to achieve the best possible outcomes for each child, recognising that each child is unique.*
4. Holistic in approach
This means having an understanding of the child within the context of the child's family (parents or caregivers, their partners 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 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 services to the child and to the family members that respond to these 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. Ensuring equality of opportunity
All children must have the opportunity to achieve the best possible development, regardless of their gender, ability, race, ethnicity, circumstances or age.
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, develop a therapeutic relationship with the child and through this gain an understanding of his or her 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. In addition, in any assessments, both the mother and the father of the child should be included, together with any carers of the child and any partners of either parent.
Sharing information about children and their parents should only occur with their consent unless to do so would place the child at risk of Significant Harm.
Decisions should be made with the agreement of children and their parents whenever possible unless to do so would place the child at risk of Significant Harm.
7. Building on strengths as well as identifying difficulties
Identifying both strengths (including resilience and protective factors) and difficulties (including vulnerabilities and risk factors) within the child, his or her family is important 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 the negative and crucial areas of success are ignored. Working with a child or family's strengths becomes an important part of a plan to resolve difficulties.
8. Integrated in approach
A variety of agencies and services in the community are involved with a child throughout his or her life. 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.
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 actions are continuing and interactive processes, and not single events. Assessment should continue throughout a period of intervention, and intervention may start at the beginning of an assessment.
10. Providing and reviewing services
Services should be provided according to the identified needs of the child. The needs may be immediate and practical as well as longer term and more complex.
The impact of service provision on a child's development should be reviewed at regular intervals.
11. Informed by evidence
Effective practice with children and their families requires sound professional judgement based on evidence and 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.
*A Section 47 Enquiry may reveal significant unmet needs for support and services among children and families. These should always be explicitly considered even where concerns about Significant Harm are not substantiated, if the family so wishes.
If processes for managing concerns about individual children are to result in improved outcomes for children, then effective plans should be based on a wide-ranging assessment of the needs of the child, parental capacity and their family circumstances.
3. Race, Ethnicity and Culture
Children and families from black and minority ethnic groups may be suffering from, or to have experience of racial abuse. This form of abuse can cause Significant Harm and, when it is known to be occurring, could mean the child and or family concerned will be in need of services or protection. Failure to consider the impact of racism in the making of enquiries or any other assessment process will undermine efforts to protect children and to provide appropriate services.
This policy adopts the definition of institutional racism contained in the McPherson report into the death of Stephen Lawrence; the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, religion or ethnic origin.