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WakefieldCouncil Children and Young People Service Procedures Manual

Countering Bullying and Harassment Policy and Procedure for Looked After Children

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Policy Statement
  3. Principles
  4. Definitions of Bullying and Harassment
  5. Implementation
  6. Procedure
    1. Prior to Placement
    2. When and Incident of Bullying Occurs
    3. Stage 1 - Counter Bullying Procedure
    4. Stage 2 - Counter Bullying Procedure
    5. Stage 3 - Counter Bullying Procedure (Safeguarding)
    6. Children with Disabilities
    7. Evaluation of Procedure

1. Introduction

The policy and procedure applies to all children who are Looked After and therefore concerns children and young people who are:

  • Accommodated under a voluntary agreement with parents;
  • Accommodated under a Full or Interim Care Order;
  • Subject to Emergency Protection Order or Police Protection Powers;
  • Accommodated in parents' absence e.g. Asylum Seekers or unaccompanied minors;
  • Remanded to the care of the Local Authority and not placed with parents;
  • Placed with prospective adoptive parents and awaiting adoption;
  • Disabled or other children looked after under an agreed series of short breaks.

This policy covers the management of bullying behaviour in all placement settings:

  • Residential homes;
  • Foster placements;
  • Children placed with friends and family and other Connected Persons, including private fostering arrangements;
  • Pre adoptive placements;
  • Residential schools;
  • Out of authority placements.

It covers all children who are present in the placement, for instance children of the foster carer with whom the young person lives. This is the case whether the children of the carers are thought to be the victims or the cause of bullying.

The procedure covers support to children and young people in all aspects of their lives who are the subject of bullying and harassment. It is therefore important that all those with corporate parenting responsibilities who have a responsibility for some aspect of a Looked After Child's care and welfare are aware of the policy and procedure relating to countering of bullying behaviour and contribute towards its aims.

Disabled children are particularly vulnerable and need the full protection and support outlined in these procedures which should be followed:

  • Whether the child is receiving short break care or is in a full time looked after placement;
  • If the bullying involves the child and his/her siblings in the family of origin;
  • If the bullying involves the child and other children in the short break family.

2. Policy Statement

Context

Wakefield Family Services is committed to creating an ethos, which ensures that no service user is subjected to intimidation, discrimination, racial or sexual harassment or any form of bullying.

Bullying was identified as the number one priority for children and young people as part of the consultation for the Children & Young People's Plan. In this context the Counter Bullying and Harassment Policy and associated procedures will contribute to tackling a key priority of looked after children. The policy and procedure for looked after children is consistent with and supports the aims and approach of Wakefield's multidisciplinary Anti Bullying Strategy Group, sharing common targets to combat bullying.

Family Services accepts as a minimum the statutory requirements laid down in the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, The Disability Discrimination Act 1995, West Yorkshire Consortium Procedures Manual, The Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the Children Act 1989, Adoption & Children Act 2002, Human Rights Act 1998, and Care Standards Act 2000, Children Act 2004, Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015.

Family Services believes that there is no justification for children living in children's homes or foster placements to be the victims of bullying of any kind. It will take steps to deal with this problem whenever it occurs. These steps will include the pursuit of a proactive preventative strategy that will recognise the endemic nature of bullying in situations in which children and young people live together. They will also include seeking to create opportunities to divert bullies into more appropriate forms of behaviour, whilst supporting young people who are the victims of bullying.

Family Services accepts that despite its best efforts there will be situations in which children and young people will be bullied by others. In these situations whether the incident is witnessed or reported, prompt protective action will be taken to keep the victim safe and the behaviour of the bully will be challenged and addressed. Where the problems of bullying are persistent, either for the victim or the perpetrator, these will be addressed through the childcare planning process.

It is recognised that the fear of bullying can cause children and young people as much anxiety as bullying itself and this procedure is intended to reassure children that members of staff will treat both their fears and experiences seriously.

3. Principles

This policy and associated procedures will be underpinned by the following principles:

  • Staff and carers should act as good role models for assertive, non-bullying, behaviour;
  • Staff and carers are vigilant to prevent and deal with bullying and harassing behaviour;
  • All staff and carers should take a Zero Tolerance approach to bullying and harassment;
  • Countering bullying and harassment is the responsibility of all those with a corporate parenting role.

4. Definitions of Bullying and Harassment

Bullying

Bullying can be defined as deliberately hurtful behaviour, repeated over a period of time, where it is difficult for those being bullied to defend themselves. Bullying can include:

  • Physical violence such as hitting, pushing, kicking or spitting;
  • Stealing, hiding, damaging or destroying someone else's belongings;
  • Name calling;
  • Writing offensive things or graffiti about another person;
  • Racial humiliation or abuse;
  • Sexual humiliation or abuse;
  • Forcing physical or sexual contact;
  • Making threats;
  • Teasing;
  • Lying;
  • Ignoring or social exclusion;
  • Use of the internet (cyber-bullying) or mobile phones (phone calls, text messages or cameras) to harass someone;
  • Or any other intentional behaviour, overt or covert, that causes another person to feel bad or unhappy.

This definition includes behaviour motivated on the grounds of:

  • Race;
  • Gender;
  • Sexuality;
  • Disability;
  • Culture;
  • Religion.

Harassment

Harassment occurs when an individual is the subject of offensive treatment because of their sex, sexuality, race, disability, culture or religion and where this is believed to be the motivating factor or where evidence suggests that this is the case.

It arises when the individual is subjected to actions, which are unwanted, unwelcome and unreciprocated. Such actions may occur once, they may be repeated, and they may or may not be deliberate. The main criterion is that they cause offence to the person concerned and the perpetrator knew or should have known that they would cause offence.

Examples of harassment could include:

  • Physical attacks or damage to personal property;
  • Unwanted contact such as deliberate touching or patting;
  • Persistent staring or leering;
  • Suggestive remarks and direct sexual propositioning;
  • Displaying provocative material;
  • Offensive remarks and jokes about race, sex, sexuality or disability;
  • Any other intentional behaviour, overt or covert that causes another person to feel oppressed or intimidated.

5. Implementation

Awareness of the Countering Bullying and Harassment Policy should be raised widely throughout Family Services, other sections of the Council including Elected Members, and partner agencies working with looked after children.

Posters should be displayed and Information Leaflets be on view in Units, Teams and Offices etc.

Policy and procedural guidance should be brought to the attention of all children's services staff, carers, partner agencies and elected members. There should be specific briefings for all staff who work directly with Looked After children.

Information about the Policy and procedure should be explained in guidance for parents and the young people themselves, via:

  • 'Is Your Child Being Looked After', a Guide For Parents, Carers and families;
  • The Young People's Guide to a Residential Home;
  • The Young People's Guide to Foster Care.

The implementation of this policy and associated procedures will be monitored and evaluated by Safeguarding and Family Support Management Group. Children and young people will be involved in this process through meetings with staff and advocates.

6. Procedure

In using this procedure, staff should also refer to West Yorkshire Consortium Procedures Manual, the Family Services procedures relating to Risk Assessments for Looked After Children (LAC10 et al), and Behaviour Management and Safe Caring Procedure.

For ease of reading, reference is made throughout to bullying behaviour but the procedure applies to all oppressive or intimidating behaviour, whether acts of bullying or harassment as defined on the Policy Statement.

Aim

  • To provide a consistent and proactive approach to the management of bullying behaviour;
  • To provide effective guidance and support to workers and foster carers in caring for the victims of bullying and those exhibiting bullying behaviour;
  • To ensure support and protection and to reduce the incidence of fear and intimidation experienced by children and young people;
  • To prevent, wherever possible, the breakdown of placements;
  • To raise awareness and promote the involvement of all those with corporate parenting responsibilities for developing strategies for countering bullying amongst looked after children.

6.1 Prior to Placement

A pre placement Risk Assessment will be carried out that specifically includes for each young person the risks of bullying and being bullied. The child's views should be sought.

Where an emergency placement is made this should be completed within 7 working days.

The young person will be provided with an information pack for looked after children that will include information about what to do if being bullied and of the possible consequences for young people displaying bullying behaviour.

Where an emergency placement is made the young person must be provided with this information within 7 working days.

Young people's families and carers' families should be made aware of policy and procedure and provided with information.

6.2 When and Incident of Bullying Occurs

When an incident of bullying is alleged, the possible victim and perpetrator are identified.

Enquiries should be made by the relevant worker and carer to determine whether bullying has occurred. A written record should be made and an HS3a accident/incident form should be completed where appropriate.

If the child is in a foster placement then the foster carer should inform the social worker/Signpost worker of an incident of bullying.

Where the carer has concerns that bullying may be taking place but there is no clear evidence then the following strategies may be employed:

  • Bullying should be discussed with young people as a group at the next opportunity;
  • Young people should be reassured about seeking help if they feel bullied;
  • The social worker should be informed;
  • Staff and carers should continue to be vigilant.

If there is clear evidence that bullying has occurred and it is clear who the perpetrator is, the social worker of both the victim(s) and perpetrator(s) should be informed.

The behaviour should then be managed at Section 6.3, Stage 1-Counter Bullying Procedure.

6.3 Stage 1 - Counter Bullying Procedure

Following investigation, if it is determined that bullying has occurred, all relevant Risk Assessments (LAC 10) should be reviewed and updated for both victim and perpetrator.

If there are clear and serious Child Protection risks identified then Stage 3 of the procedure should be followed (see Section 6.5, Stage 3 - Counter Bullying Procedure).

Otherwise continue with Section 6.3, Stage 1 - Counter Bullying Procedure of the process.

The carer/key worker should talk to the perpetrator about bullying behaviour and the consequences of further bullying be reinforced.

Parents and other significant people in either the victim or perpetrator's life should be informed where judged appropriate.

Strategies to support the victim should be identified including:

  • Direct support from carers/workers;
  • Support of the Children's Advocacy Service;
  • Opportunities for support and advice offered through such organisations as The Anti-Bullying Alliance; this includes information about cyberbullying. (This information should be included in the information pack for LAC);
  • Support to use the Complaints Procedure where the young person is dissatisfied with the outcome of other strategies;
  • Residential Worker/Foster Carer/Social Worker/Signpost Worker.

Where there is no further evidence, bullying, and strategies to combat bullying should be openly talked about with young people. Staff and carers should continue to be vigilant.

6.4 Stage 2 - Counter Bullying Procedure

Where a further incident of bullying by the same perpetrator is alleged, the incident should be fully investigated and the Social Worker for both victim(s) and perpetrator(s) informed.

Where the carer has concerns that bullying may be taking place but there is no clear evidence the approach outlined at Section 6.2, When an Incident of Bullying Occurs should be followed.

Where there is evidence that bullying has occurred and involves the same perpetrator, the social workers of both the victim and perpetrator should be informed.

All relevant Risk Assessments (LAC 10) should be reviewed and updated for both victim and perpetrator.

Where the Risk Assessment indicates the child or young person is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm, Section 6.5, Stage 3 - Counter Bullying (Safeguarding) Procedure should be followed.

Otherwise continue with Section 6.4, Stage 2 - Counter Bullying Procedure.

Where the perpetrator is a child of a foster carer, the situation should be reviewed by the Fostering Team Manager who will decide on a plan of action.

For any other situation, a Counter Bullying Meeting should be convened.

The following people should be invited as appropriate:

  • Social Worker-for both victim and perpetrator;
  • Parents/Carers;
  • Residential key worker;
  • Children's Advocates-for both victim and perpetrator;
  • The young people involved (i.e. victim and perpetrator) where practicable. There should be a presumption in favour of them attending unless the assessed risk would counter-indicate this.

A Principal Social Worker or Family Services Team Manager should chair the Counter Bullying Meeting.

A plan should be formulated to preclude any further occurrence of bullying. This should include support for the victim and strategies to divert the perpetrator into more appropriate forms of behaviour.

The recommendations of this meeting should be used to update the Risk Assessment forms for both the perpetrator and the victim and should inform the timing and content of the next Looked After Children Review i.e. this meeting could recommend that the date of the Looked After Children Review for either the victim, perpetrator or both is brought forward. 

The chair of the Counter Bullying Meeting will identify a carer or worker to assist the young person responsible for the bullying to complete the 'Counter Bullying Workbook' (see LAC 11i or LAC 11ii for children with learning difficulties).

A Counter Bullying Agreement should be drawn up and signed by the perpetrator (LAC 11iii). This will include an undertaking to complete the 'Counter Bullying Workbook'.

Strategies to support the victim should be identified - see Section 6.3, Stage 1 - Counter Bullying (Safeguarding) Procedure

The workbook should be completed within 4 weeks. If the perpetrator fails to complete the workbook, the social worker should be informed.

Failure to complete this should be recorded in his/her Risk Assessment as well as that of the victim.

Where no further incidence of bullying occurs, no further action is required.

Where there is evidence of further bullying behaviour, the process at Section 6.4, Stage 2 - Counter Bullying Procedure should be repeated.

However if the updated Risk Assessment indicates serious Child Protection concerns then Section 6.5, Stage 3 - Counter Bullying (Safeguarding) Procedure should be followed.

If the young person has failed to complete the workbook at Section 6.4, Stage 2 - Counter Bullying Procedure, but continues to display bullying behaviour, then a further Counter Bullying Meeting should be convened.

6.5 Stage 3 - Counter Bullying Procedure (Safeguarding)

Where a child or young person is deemed to be at risk of significant physical or mental harm then child protection procedures should be followed.

A Child Protection Strategy Meeting should be convened by the Social Worker in consultation with his or her Team Manager to consider whether Section 47 enquiries need to be initiated (see The West Yorkshire Consortium, Strategy Discussions in Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield and West Yorkshire Consortium, Section 47 Enquiries).

Risk Assessments for both the victim and perpetrator should be updated and care plans modified in line with this.

The victim should be supported to use the Complaints Procedure if the situation remains unresolved and they are dissatisfied with the way the matter is being dealt with.

The outcome of the Strategy Meeting should inform the timing and content of the next Looked After Children Review or planning meeting.

6.6 Children with Disabilities

When working with children with a disability whose communication is impaired, consideration should be given to the use of sign language, pictures, PECS and other methods of communication which may prove vital in understanding the child's feelings and behaviour.

Children who have learning disabilities should be given the support of an advocate to discuss issues relating to any potential bullying. The advocate could be involved in the more informal discussions at Stage One as well as the formal meetings of Stage Two and Three. Advocacy support should be provided where appropriate for both the victim and perpetrator of bullying behaviour and should consider:

  • The young person's perspective;
  • Staff's observations;
  • Connect feelings to behaviours;
  • Develop planning, practice, and seek alternatives;
  • Re-engage young person with group and routines.

6.7 Evaluation of Procedure

Incidents of bullying will be examined by the Critical Incident Monitoring Group. This will include analysis of the effectiveness of the procedure.

The findings of the Critical Incidents Monitoring group will will be reported to Safeguarding and Family Support Service Managers group, which will determine any review or amendment required to the procedure.

Issues of bullying identified through the Complaints and advocacy processes will be similarly reported to and considered by the Safeguarding and Family Support Service Managers group.