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.
AMENDMENTIn December 2021 this chapter was amended throughout to reflect changes in local practice.
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 Legislation (UK General Data Protection Regulations and Data Protection Act 2018)
- Computer Misuse Act 1990;
- The Children and Families Act 2014;
- Children and Social Work Act 2017.
The policy framework also has regard to, and is consistent with, a range of government guidance, particularly the principles set out in the statutory guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children.
It is largely directed towards the work that Children's Services undertakes with Children in Need and Children in Care; which is carried out in partnership with all sectors of the local authority and with other statutory, independent and voluntary sector services.
2. Corporate Parenting
2.1 Corporate Parenting Responsibilities
The role that councils play in looking after children is one of the most important things they do. Local authorities have a unique responsibility to the children they look after and their care leavers.
Everyone from the local authority to partner agencies who directly works with or provides a service to children in care and care leavers is a ‘corporate parent.’ Being a Corporate Parent means acting in their best interests, promoting their physical and mental health and wellbeing, to ultimately prepare them for adulthood and independent living, as is the role of any parent.
A good Corporate Parent listens to the voices of children in care and care leavers and ensures that they are at the centre of all decisions that are made about their lives, and includes them where appropriate.
A strong ethos of corporate parenting means that sense of vision and responsibility towards the children they look after and their care leavers is a priority for everyone. Corporate Parenting is an important part of the Ofsted inspection framework and the Corporate Parenting Principles are referenced in Ofsted's Inspecting Local Authority Children's Services.
The Corporate Parenting Principles are intended to facilitate as far as possible secure, nurturing, and positive experiences for Children in Care and enable positive outcomes for them.
The experiences of Children in Care and care leavers, particularly in regards to whether they feel cared for and listened to, will therefore be an important measure of how successfully local authorities embed these principles.
Corporate Parents work hard to develop and maintain strong partnerships and relationships with relevant partner agencies to make sure that the children and young people’s individual needs and wants are properly taken care of.
2.2 Corporate Parenting Principles
The Corporate Parenting Principles set out seven principles that local authorities will have regard to when exercising their functions in relation to Children in Care, as follows:
- To act in the best interests, and promote the physical and mental health and wellbeing, of those children and young people;
- To encourage those children and young people to express their views, wishes and feelings;
- To take into account the views, wishes and feelings of those children and young people;
- To help those children and young people gain access to, and make the best use of, services provided by the local authority and its relevant partners;
- To promote high aspirations, and seek to secure the best outcomes, for those children and young people;
- For those children and young people to be safe, and for stability in their home lives, relationships and education or work; and
- To prepare those children and young people for adulthood and independent living.
The Corporate Parenting Principles do not replace or change existing legal duties, The principles are intended to encourage local authorities to be ambitious and aspirational for their looked-after children and care leavers.
In addition, section 10 of the Children Act 2004 sets out the responsibility to make arrangements to promote co-operation between 'relevant partners' with a view to improving the well-being of children in their area. This should include arrangements in relation to looked-after children and care leavers. Section 10(5) of the 2004 Act places a duty on relevant partners to co-operate with the local authority in the making of these arrangements, therefore promoting and ensuring a joined-up approach to improving the well-being of children in their area.
3. Our Vision and Rationale
Our vision for Children's Services is one where we all work creatively together to inspire and empower children, young people and their families to be the best they can be: safe, healthy, happy, learning and working.
Our ambition is to achieve sustained positive outcomes for children and young people and to improve their physical, social and emotional well-being and safety, close the gap in educational achievement and support all children and young people in realising their potential.
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.
4. Our Practice Model - Stronger Families Safer Children®
The Stronger Families Safer Children Practice Model® has been developed to provide an overarching framework for Early Help to Safeguarding and Specialist Services. In particular the model enables practitioners to:
- Understand the lived experience of the child;
- Identify what level of intervention is required; and
- Respond quickly, purposefully 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, purposeful , collaborative and respectful manner with clear, measurable outcomes.
The Model supports the joint Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Threshold Document which promotes quality constructive conversations at the point of referral to Starting Point, and throughout our involvement with a child and their family.
The Model is/will:
- Child focused;
- Inform assessments;
- Strengths based in its approach – to enable a balanced assessment of risks, needs and protective factors;
- Improve analysis;
- Assist in decision making and provide the documented evidence to support those decisions;
- Support practitioners in engaging with families in a meaningful and appropriate way;
- Accessible for families, practitioners and partner agencies;
- Underpinned by evidence-based practice.
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.
These 3 main theoretical approaches underpin our practice model and form the basis of all work undertaken with children, young people and families.
5. 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:
- Building resilience;
- Developing their self image and confidence;
- Experiencing 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. Children in Care 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.
6. 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 Children in Care within 4 months of their becoming looked after.
Children's Services will ensure that Children in Care 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 25, 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.
7. 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 commitment to seek the views of service users/stakeholders and to use their input as a key method for evaluating current services and improving future service delivery;
- 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.
8. 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 2018 or Computer Misuse Act 1990.
However, where there are concerns about the safety of a child, the UK GDPR and the Data Protection Act (DPA) 2018 are 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 Children Partnership 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.