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1.1.1 Children's Services Policies, Values and Principles

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter provides the context for all procedures, and contains the overarching policy for the provision of services to children and families.

AMENDMENT

In June 2016 this document, which sets out the overarching policy for the delivery of services to children in Derbyshire was reviewed and updated. Section 3, Our Operating Model - Stronger Families Safer Children® has been revised throughout.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Our Vision and Rationale
  3. Our Operating Model - Stronger Families Safer Children®
  4. Key Outcomes
  5. Key Principles
  6. Our Strategy
  7. Information Sharing and Confidentiality


1. Introduction

This policy sets out the framework within which Derbyshire Children's Services work with children, young people and their families. It is underpinned by a range of legislation including, but not limited to:

  • Children Acts 1989 and 2004;
  • 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;
  • The 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 Children's Services 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.


2. Our Vision and Rationale

Our vision for Children’s Services is one where we all work together to support and inspire young people and their families to be the best they can be: safe, healthy, happy, learning and working.

We have statutory responsibilities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, and improving outcomes for children and families is at the heart of everything we do.

We are committed to working in an interagency way; we want the child’s journey to be seamless and to ensure the child’s voice is heard and acted upon whenever possible. We are working to improve the participation of families, children and young people in our work with them.


3. Our Operating Model - Stronger Families Safer Children®

The Stronger Families Safer Children Operating Model® has been developed to provide an overarching framework for Early Help to Safeguarding and Specialist Services. In particular the model enables practitioners to:

  • Identify what level of intervention is required; and
  • Respond quickly and effectively to these identified needs.

The model also provides practitioners with guiding principles and tools to enable them to work in an efficient, effective and respectful manner with clear, measured outcomes.

The Model aligns with the joint Derby City and Derbyshire Threshold Document and is used at the point of referral to Starting Point. The same language and questions are used in the Single Assessment and the Single Plan.

The Model will:

  • Be child focussed;
  • Inform assessments;
  • Assess risk and worries in a balanced way;
  • Improve analysis;
  • Assist in decision making and provide the documented evidence to support decisions;
  • Support practitioners in engaging with families in a meaningful and appropriate way;
  • Be accessible for families, practitioners and partner agencies; and
  • Be underpinned by evidence based practice.

Theoretical Underpinnings

We are committed to using and promoting strength based approaches that have a clear evidence base including:

  • Systemic practice;
  • Social Pedagogy; and
  • Person Centred Approaches.


4. Key Outcomes

The key outcomes for all children are set out in our Children’s Service Plan and enable the Local Authority, the Children’s Services Department and its practitioners to focus on the key aspects for all children (the key outcomes identified in the Children Act 2004 remain relevant).

The performance indicators Local Authorities and partners use are structured around these outcomes. The statements set out below are based on these key outcomes and have been amended to reflect current Government policy priorities.

Children start school healthy and ready to learn

All children and young people have the right to have their physical, emotional and mental health safeguarded and promoted. Where appropriate, they should be supported to develop a sense of well being through:

  • Positively understanding their identity;
  • Building resilience;
  • Helping them to develop their self image and confidence;
  • An approach that provides positive affirmation and encouragement.

All young people should be given the encouragement and opportunity to live a healthy lifestyle.

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. Looked After Children should have the opportunity to attend good schools and higher education or training establishments where they make the expected or greater than expected progress and effective use is made of the additional resources available for them through the pupil premium. All children (not forgetting young carers) have the right to time and support to pursue appropriate leisure interests.

All children should be encouraged and supported to make an age-appropriate positive contribution wherever they are living or call ‘home’. They will be able to do this best where they have a continuity of care, an understanding about their identity and information which they can use to make informed decisions about themselves, and contribute to their own lives.

Keeping all children and young people safe from abuse and neglect

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. This includes being safe from a range of concerns. When they need help to achieve these outcomes it should be available in a timely way and delivered through effective interventions. 

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.

All children have a right to a loving and secure home and, where this cannot be provided by their birth parents and wider families, children should have the opportunity to experience this through adoption, special guardianship or long term fostering. 

Young people are ready for work

All children have the right to be supported in their studies, to be prepared for adult life and work, and to be equipped with the skills and knowledge that will help them overcome any social disadvantage, become  self-sufficient and able to make positive choices for themselves.

Children, young people and care leavers should also be encouraged to take an interest in their communities, through school, higher education/training or local clubs, and to take part in activities which contribute to these and /or support others.


5. Key Principles

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children will always be at the centre of the work Local Authorities and their partners undertake with children and their families. The child’s needs are paramount, and the needs and wishes of each child, be they a baby or infant, or an older child, should be put first, so that every child receives the support they need before a problem escalates.

Children's Services, together with their local authority colleagues as corporate parents, will work to secure the above outcomes by working to enable a child’s own family, including their wider family, to meet their needs. They will facilitate services, including early help services, to support children and families consistent with the child's safety and well-being.

Where a child cannot be cared for within his or her immediate family, strenuous efforts will be made to identify potential carers within the wider kinship network of the child who are able and willing to meet the needs and best interests of the child. If continuing care within his/her family is not possible, every effort will be made to identify suitable alternative carers through adoption or other forms of permanence. Efforts to secure the child’s future must be timely and avoid delay. Children's Services will ensure that permanence plans are made for all looked after children within 4 months of their becoming looked after.

Children's Services will ensure that children who are looked after are placed in properly approved placements, suitable to meet their needs and that, wherever possible, siblings are placed together.  They will be placed in a family placement unless there are assessed reasons why residential care or an alternative type of placement is the better option. Contact with their birth family should be promoted, and where required, supported, except where this may be contrary to the child’s best interests.

If a young person remains in care until adulthood  Children’s Services will ensure that they are supported when they leave care, including through remaining in their foster placement (Staying Put), at least until they are 21 (or 24) if in full time education, to give them a positive start to independent living.  This support will include personal assistance with living independently and with accessing and making the most of education and employment opportunities.

Children, their parents and other significant adults will be consulted about plans for their care and these plans will be subject to regular independent review. Children and their families will be encouraged to take part in their reviews and can expect that their views will be listened to and will help shape the child’s Plan.

Children's Services will ensure that children have access to advocacy services that will assist them in being heard.


6. Our Strategy

The Strategy of Derbyshire Children’s Services is to harness Government policy and funding opportunities to develop evidence-based services that meet the needs of children and families.

To reflect on and consider feedback on local and national issues and to promote a learning and development culture that will work to provide:

  • Sustainable and cost-effective structures and services;
  • Partnerships with other statutory services and locally based providers;
  • Well-trained and supported staff who are able to  carry out their responsibilities effectively;
  • A clear sense of corporate responsibility throughout the Council which ensures that children and their families have their needs met within the community.

This will deliver a range of universal, targeted and specialist services. These services will aim to reduce the numbers of children becoming children in need and concentrate specialist services on children most in need to give them the best possible life chances.


7. Information Sharing and Confidentiality

Staff employed by the Council have access to confidential information/data relating to the work of the Council, its service users and other staff. It is a condition of employment that all staff 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.

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. Further information can be found in the Employment Policies section of our website.

However, where there are concerns about the safety of a child, the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998 is not a barrier to sharing information where the failure to do so would result in a child or vulnerable adult being placed at risk of harm. The Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Board Information Sharing Agreement provides further information and guidance for practitioners.

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 should always be sought, from the Council's Data Protection Officer and/or Legal Services.

End