Policies, Values and Principles (Values)
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter provides the context for all procedures.
It contains the overarching policy for the provision of services to children and families.
|1.||Child Care Policy and Strategy|
|2.||Recording Values and Principles|
|3.||Confidentiality Policy, Values and Principles|
|4.||Consultation Values and Principles|
This policy sets out the framework within which Children's Social Care work with children, young people and their families. It is underpinned by a range of legislation including, but not limited to:
- Children Act 1989;
- Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000;
- Care Standards Act 2000;
- United Nations Convention on the Rights of The Child;
- Human Rights Act 1998;
- Adoption and Children Act 2002;
- Data Protection Act 1998;
- Children and Families Act 2014.
The policy framework also has regard to and is consistent with a range of government guidance, particularly the principles set out in Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015.
It is largely directed towards the work that Safeguarding and Family Support (Children's Social Care) undertakes with Children in Need and Looked After children; which is carried out in partnership with all sectors of the local authority and with other statutory, independent and voluntary sector services.
In Children's Social Care, we will work to ensure that all children have the best chances in life to achieve their full potential.
This can be summarised under 5 key outcomes for children and young people:
- Being healthy.
All children and young people have the right to have their physical and mental health safeguarded and promoted. They also have the right to live a healthy lifestyle.
- Being safe.
All children and young people have the right to be safe and secure, protected from harm and neglect, and to live in an environment that enables them to develop to their full physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social potential.
- Enjoying and achieving.
All children and young people have the right to the best possible education and training which meets their identified needs and equips them to live full adult lives. They also have the right to time and support to pursue appropriate leisure interests, especially children acting as young carers.
- Making a positive contribution.
All children and young people have the right to family life wherever possible and to be supported to take part in community life. They have the right to a continuity of care wherever possible and to develop and preserve their own identities. They also have a right to information and to make choices about their lives, having regard to their age and understanding. Through this they will be enabled to make a positive contribution to the community and to society.
- Economic well-being.
All children have the right to live above the poverty threshold and to be equipped with the skills and knowledge that will help them overcome socio-economic disadvantage where necessary.
Consideration of children's welfare and best interests will always be at the centre of our work.
Safeguarding and Family Support (Children's Social Care) will work to ensure the above outcomes by working to maintain children within their own families, and facilitating services to support this arrangements, wherever this is possible and consistent with the child's safety and well-being.
Where a child cannot be cared for within his or her immediate family, we will make strenuous efforts to identify potential carers within the wider kinship network of the child who are able and willing to care for the child.
If continuing care within his/her family is not possible we will make every effort to identify suitable alternative carers, reflecting the child's ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background wherever possible and appropriate. We will seek to identify suitable local placements to provide educational and social continuity.
We will ensure that children who are looked after are placed in approved placements, suitable to meet their needs and that, wherever possible, siblings are placed together. For younger children, they will be placed in a family placement unless there are sound assessed reasons why residential care is the preferred option.
We will ensure that permanence plans are made for all looked after children within four months of their becoming looked after and enacted as quickly as possible. If a young person remains in care we will ensure that they are supported when they leave care at least until they are 21, to give them a positive start to independent living.
We will consult with children, their parents and other significant adults about plans for their care and these plans will be subject to independent review. We will also consult about the services we provide and ensure that children have access to advocacy services that will assist them in being heard.
Wakefield District has been successful in joining a group of ten Local Authority areas who will be developing and implementing the Signs of Safety Programme within the umbrella of English Innovations Project led by Professor Eileen Munro.
The development of Signs of Safety began in the 1990’s drawing on solution-focused therapy and the direct experience of effective practice by child protection workers and the experiences of families.
Signs of Safety is an integrated framework for how to do child intervention work, and covers the principles for practice; the disciplines for practitioners’ application of the approach; a range of tools for assessment and planning, decision making and engaging children and families; and processes through which the work is undertaken with families and children, and including partner agencies.
Signs of Safety practice returns child intervention to being the catalyst that initiates behaviour change by families.
Each of the following values is summarised.
- Records must be kept on all Children
- The design of records and forms must be approved
- Children and their families must be informed about their records
- The practitioner primarily involved should complete the record
- All relevant information about children and their families must be recorded
- Children and their families should be involved in the recording process
- Information about children/their families should normally be shared with them
- Managers must ensure that confidential information is identified
- Records must be legible, signed and dated
- Records must be kept up to date
- Records must be written in plain English and prejudice must be avoided
- Records must be accurate and adequate
- Managers must oversee, monitor and review records
- Records should be kept securely
- Removal of records must be an exceptional occurrence
- Records moved to a new location must be monitored
- Records must usually be retained after closure
- Use of computers at home
Each child must have his or her own electronic case record from the point of referral to case closure; audio, video and digital recordings may also be kept.
Where paper files are also kept, 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.
Records and forms must be designed to fit their purpose and used consistently across the organisation.
A manager must approve the design of all records and forms before coming into use.
Children and their families have a right to be informed about the records kept on them, the reasons why and their rights to confidentiality and of access to their records.
See also Access to Records Procedure.
Where children have been adopted, see also Access to Birth Records and Adoption Case Records Procedure.
Information must be provided in a form that children and their families will understand-in their preferred language or method of communication. An interpreter will be provided if needed.
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 records.
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 originator should read and sign/endorse the record.
Records of decisions must show who has made the decision and the basis on which it has been made.
Every child's case record must hold details of the child's full name, date of birth and any identification number.
It must also include a risk assessment, transfer/closing summary (where appropriate) and a properly maintained chronology.
All other relevant contacts with children, their families, colleagues, professionals or other significant people must be recorded in the same way, i.e. who was present or seen, the relevant discussions, actions or decisions taken and by whom, and the reasons for decisions.
Children 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.
Generally, they must be asked to give their agreement to the sharing of information about them with others-but there are exceptions.
Information obtained about children and their families should be shared with them unless:
- Sharing the information would be likely to result in serious harm to the 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 child concerned for one of the above reasons, it should be placed in the 'Restricted from user' section of the child's record and the reasons should be recorded.
See also Access to Records Procedure.
Where children have been adopted, see also Access to Birth Records and Adoption Case Records Procedure.
Managers must monitor confidential information held on the 'Restricted from user' section of case records, ensuring that the reason for it being considered confidential is valid; if not, it should be available to be shared with the child.
However, before sharing any such information, the manager must take all reasonable steps to consult the originator and take account of their views and wishes. See also Access to Records Procedure.
Those completing electronic records must show their name and the date when the recording was completed.
If possible, paper records should be typed or handwritten in black ink and all such 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.
Records should be updated as information becomes available or as decisions or actions are taken as soon as practicable or, at the latest, within 24 hours.
Where records are made or updated late or after the event, the fact must be stated as a 'Late Entry' in the record, and the date and time of the entry should be included.
Records must be written concisely, in plain English, and must not contain any expressions that might give offence to any individual or group of people on the basis of race, culture, religion, age, disability, or sexual orientation.
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.
Care must be taken to ensure that information contained in records is relevant and accurate and is sufficient to meet legislative responsibilities and the requirements of these procedures.
Every effort must be made to ensure records are factually correct.
Records must distinguish clearly between facts, opinions, assessments, judgments and decisions. Records must also distinguish between first hand information and information obtained from third parties.
The overall responsibility for ensuring all records are maintained appropriately rests with line managers, although the responsibility can be delegated to other staff as appropriate.
The line 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 records held on children must be kept securely.
Children's paper files should normally be stored in a locked cabinet, or a similar manner, usually in an office which only staff/carers have access to.
Other day-to-day records, such as Contact or Daily Records, should also be kept securely in a manner authorised by the manager.
These records should not be left unattended when not in their normal location.
Records should not normally be taken from the location where they are usually 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.
Where records are moved to a new location, the date of transfer should be clearly recorded.
The sender should check that the records have arrived at their intended destination.
The member of staff responsible for the case when the case is closed is responsible for ensuring that the file to be retained is in good order and that unnecessary items have been removed, for example, compliment slips, duplicate copies etc.
Staff using computers at home for work purposes must ensure that they are working within the rules of the ‘data protection principles’ in accordance with the Data Protection Act (1998). Staff are required to familiarise themselves with the local information security policy.
This applies to staff using laptop computers and mobile devices in the course of their duties.
Each of the following values is summarised.
Children's Social Care recognises its common law duties to safeguard the confidentiality of all personal information. Wherever disclosure of confidential information to another person or organisation is being considered, a check will always be made to ensure that such disclosure is lawful.
All Council staff must be made aware that the Data Protection Act (DPA) applies to the processing of all personal data, both in paper and electronic records. Where disclosure is proposed, and there is any doubt as to whether the DPA applies or whether only the common law of confidentiality applies, advice will always be sought, from the Council's Data Protection Officer and/or Legal Services.
The Council will always record its reasons for deciding not to observe any duty of confidence it owes to a person who is the subject of information disclosed.
E-mail messages sent via the Internet can be intercepted, read and changed relatively easily. Consequently, Council staff will not use the Internet to pass on personal identifiable information about service users unless a secure or encrypted connection is in place.
1.2 Staff Obligations
The Council's conditions of employment, issued as part of every employee's contract, detail the obligations placed upon the Council staff.
Staff employed with the Council will come into contact with confidential information/data relating to the work of the Council, its service users and other staff. Staff are bound by their conditions of service to respect the confidentiality of any information that they may come into contact with and under no circumstances should such information be divulged or passed to any persons or organisation in any form unless such disclosure is authorised under this policy.
Any unauthorised disclosure of confidential information by Council staff may result in disciplinary action. Staff may also face prosecution under the Data Protection Act 1998.
Where Council staff misuse confidential information, e.g. disclose their password to someone else or use someone else's password to gain access to systems, they could face disciplinary action that could lead to dismissal. They may also be prosecuted under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.
Managers must ensure that confidentiality is discussed with all new employees, as part of their induction. It is recommended that staff acknowledge that they have taken note of the contents of this policy.
Volunteers and work experience students must also have their role in maintaining confidentiality made clear by the member of staff responsible for them and must be aware of and adhere to this policy.
1.3 Commercial Confidentiality
Some Council staff may have access to commercial information, agreements or contracts. This information must be treated as confidential, and only discussed/disclosed where this forms part of the employee's remit within the organisation. Staff should consult their manager if they are in any doubt.
1.4 Research, Audit and Monitoring
Access to confidential information or anonymous data may be sought for research, audit or monitoring purposes, either by other Council areas or by outside organisations or public bodies.
Internal requests related to research projects must be approved and a formal submission will be required.
All external requests or enquiries may need to be directed to the Data Protection Officer for clarification or Legal Services for their approval.
1.5 Press Interest, Police and Legal Enquiries
All media enquiries should be referred to the Chief Executive via the press office.
The Police do not have automatic rights to personal information held by the Council about service users. The matter should always be referred to a manager and/or the Data Protection Officer/Legal Services.
Any requests for access to confidential information held by the Council for the purpose of any legal proceedings must be referred to the Council's Legal Services. A Court Order is required in order to release such information for legal proceedings. Verbal or written requests from lawyers are not sufficient. Staff should also seek advice from their manager and, where advised, the Data Protection Officer to ensure that correct action is taken.
The following should be read along in conjunction with:
Personal information held about children is subject to a legal duty of confidence and should not normally be disclosed without the consent of the subject. The exceptions to this are set out in paragraph 2.2 below.
The legal framework for confidentiality is contained in the common law duty of confidence, the Children Act 1989, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Data Protection Act 1998.
Whilst the general principle is that information obtained about children must be shared with them and not with others, there are exceptions. The public interest in child protection overrides the public interest in maintaining confidentiality and the law permits the disclosure of confidential information necessary to safeguard a child or children. Effective information-sharing underpins integrated working and is a vital element of both early intervention and safeguarding.
Disclosure should be justifiable in each case, for example to provide information to professionals from other agencies working with the child, and where possible and appropriate, the agreement of the person concerned should be obtained.
Those working with children must make it clear that confidentiality may not be maintained if the disclosure of information is necessary in the interests of the child. Even in these circumstances, disclosure will be appropriate for the purpose and only to the extent necessary to achieve that purpose.
There may also be situations where third parties have a statutory right of access to the information or where a Court Order requires that access be given.
The circumstances in which information held in records on children and families can and should be disclosed and shared with others with or without consent are set out in the following sections.
In all other cases, where third parties such as advocates, solicitors or external researchers request access to information, this should only be given if written consent is given by the person concerned or if a Court Order requires it.
Children should be informed of the circumstances in which information about them will be shared with others. It should be made clear that in each case the information passed on will only be what is relevant and on a 'need to know' basis.
2.4 Information should be disclosed to colleagues and other professionals/agencies on a need to know basis
Sharing information promptly with others working with the same child, or who may need to know, is invariably the key to safeguarding the child's interests.
Therefore, relevant information about children must be shared with colleagues, other professionals or agencies that may have a role to play in their care.
However, the general principle is that information may only be shared on a 'need to know' basis.
- Where professionals are undertaking a Section 47 Enquiry in relation to a child;
- Where the Police are investigating a criminal offence or require information to help them find an absent, missing or absconded child;
- Where information is requested in the furtherance of an inquiry or tribunal, or for the purposes of a Serious Case Review.
In such circumstances the person to whom the information relates should be informed that records have been requested unless to do so would prejudice the purpose of the request.
Any objections they have should be considered before responding to the person making the request.
Where information or records are passed to others it should be noted and confirmed in writing.
Information may also be disclosed to persons who have a statutory right of access to the information, for example:
- Where the Court directs that records be produced or a Children's Guardian is appointed;
- Where information is requested by Inspectors of the Regulatory Authority (who have specific statutory powers that permit access to records)
Where information is requested by telephone or electronically, great care must be taken to ensure that the recipient is entitled to receive the information requested. Where there is any doubt the information may not be provided without the approval of a manager.
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 came into force on 1 January 2005.
Under the Act anybody may request information in writing or via e-mail from a public authority (which includes all local authorities) and must receive a response within 20 working days. The Act confers two statutory rights on applicants:
- To be informed in writing whether or not the public authority holds the information requested; and if so
- To have that information communicated to him/her.
The Act applies to all information whether recent or old.
The Act sets out 23 exemptions from rights of access to information. If the information is exempt, there is no right of access under the Act.
One exemption relates to personal information. This means that an application for personal information under the Act is exempt and will not therefore be dealt with under the Act. A person's right of access to such information must still be dealt with in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. The procedure is set out in the Access to Records Procedure.
Another category relates to information provided in confidence where disclosure would involve an actionable breach of confidence. This would include information provided by a member of the public about a child protection issue where the provider has provided the information on the basis that anonymity will be maintained.
The Act therefore does not change the legal position into the principles of confidentiality set out in paragraphs 2.1 to 2.4 above.
|4.1||General Principle of Consultation|
Everyone involved in the receipt and delivery of services should be consulted about decisions, which may affect them.
This includes children, their advocates, their parents, other significant family members and those charged with providing the service; including managers, staff, carers and professionals or colleagues from other agencies.
This means that people's views should be sought and taken into account in relation to all decisions, which are likely to affect their daily life and their future.
The older and more mature the child is, the more weight can and should be given to their wishes and feelings.
Unless there are exceptional circumstances, reasonable steps must be taken in all cases to consult the parents. Exceptions will include where a child is placed for adoption and where older children with an appropriate level of maturity specifically request that their parents are not consulted and a decision is made to respect their wishes.
Consultation should take place on a regular and frequent basis with those who need to be consulted and assumptions should not be made about the inability or lack of interest of those who should be consulted.
Where people have communication difficulties of any sort, suitable means must be provided to enable them to be consulted, including arranging access to advocates or representatives who may speak on their behalf.
Consultation should be undertaken in a creative manner.
If consultation is not possible or is restricted for whatever reason, steps should be taken to ensure those affected are informed of decisions as soon as practicable after they are made, and an explanation for the decision given, together with the opportunity to make a comment and express their views.
If it is then felt that a different decision may have been appropriate, steps should be taken to reconsider the decision.
If decisions are made against people's wishes, they should be informed of the decision and the reasons for the decision should be explained. In these circumstances, the person should be informed of any rights they have to formally challenge the decision, and of the availability of the Complaints or Grievance Procedure.
Children should also be informed of their right to appoint an advocate, and if an advocate is appointed, he or she must be consulted in accordance with the principles set out in this section.
Unless otherwise stated in specific procedures in this manual, it is assumed that people working in this organisation will take reasonable steps to keep their managers informed of their actions; and will consult and seek their approval where they do not have decision making responsibility delegated to them.
In order to facilitate this, managers must ensure that effective lines of communication are established and maintained.
If procedures in this manual require that managers are informed within specified timescales or their approval is sought before actions are taken, this must be complied with.
It is assumed that, in following these procedures, social workers and/or their managers will seek legal advice as appropriate before taking any action and/or making decisions, which will or may change the legal status of a child or decisions which do not have parental consent. This is particularly so in cases where emergency action is being considered.
In order to facilitate this, managers must ensure that effective lines of communication are established and maintained between Children's Social Care and the Council's Legal Advisers, and that workers are aware of who may authorise contact, who may have contact and how contact should be made.