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3.3.4 Participation of Children in Looked After Reviews

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Guiding Principles for Involving Children and Young People who are Looked After in their Statutory Reviews
  3. Principles in Practice
  4. Participation Codes
  5. Recording Participation


1. Introduction

The importance of a child or young person's participation in the decision making processes of their lives is now a well accepted concept embedded in recent legislation, government regulations and guidelines. These include the Human Rights Act 1998; the UN Convention on the Rights of Children; The Children Act 1989; Every Child Matters Agenda; the Children Act 2004; Disability Discrimination Act 2005. If a child or his/her parents have not been given an opportunity for participation they may have grounds for complaint or even legal action. The Children's Services Department has an agreed Participation Strategy for Children Looked After to promote the active involvement of Children Looked After (CLA) in the design, delivery and review of services for CLA in Southwark and this protocol is one approach to help achieve this. 

Participation is also a theme which runs through new inspection frameworks for Children's Services with 'Participation in Reviews' defining one of the Performance Indicators for Local Authorities (PAF C63) measured by PN codes (see definitions below).

Much research is available to evidence the benefits of participation which includes

  • Promotion of child protection ( a recurrent finding of successive enquiries into child abuse has been the failure to listen to children)
  • Upholding Children's Rights and fulfilling legal responsibilities
  • Improvement in services and decision making for children
  • Promotion of democratic processes from an early age
  • Enhancement of children's skills for adulthood
  • Empowerment of children through increased self esteem and resilience
  • Engaging children and young people in the Care Planning Process

Participation is a process and not a single action. It requires a culture of inclusion right across all services and management to promote ongoing involvement and empowerment. It involves not just the opportunity to contribute a view but also

  • Preparation;
  • Provision of information;
  • Consultation, discussion and negotiation;
  • Explanations and feedback.

all in formats easily understood by children and /or their parents. Participation does not mean that children and young people carry the responsibility for decision making. This remains with the adults responsible for their care.

Participation at Statutory Reviews usually takes the format of physical attendance at meetings but it is not limited to this. For some children attending meetings may be extremely stressful, boring or meaningless. There are many other ways a child may wish to express their views and wishes and feelings in reviews, from briefing others as their advocates or through the use of IT video, artwork or for very young children or children with disabilities emotional responses - a method sometimes overlooked (though often open to individual interpretation). Although vast improvements have been made in hearing the views of children at reviews, a recent report from CSCI in Sept 06 'Children's Views on Standards' indicates further progress is required.

Children With Special Needs.

Involvement of children in Reviews must take into account the range of age, ability and communication requirements of children but none of these should prevent the Child being given the opportunity to express their wishes and feelings. For several groups of children this can be a challenge for professionals and developments in this area are ongoing.

Age and Ability

Many children due to age and ability may not be orally or physically able through writing, IT, artwork etc. to express their views. Their views may be assessed as far as is possible through their emotional responses, gestures, body language or changes in behaviour by the observations of those caring for them as well as professionals visiting. It is therefore essential that young children usually under 4 and children with complex needs are observed by social workers and if appropriate Chairs as well as a trusted adult carer being requested to represent the Child's wishes and feelings through assessment over time e.g. how happy they appear in placement, how they react to visits by certain people or to certain situations. Chairs reports will record these assessed views and how they were obtained.

There are many physical/sensory impairments (e.g. vision, hearing, speech) that require special communication systems to express their views. These systems include Braille, different forms of sign language e.g. Makaton, Widgit, IT, audio visual, artwork etc. It is unlikely that all chairs will be skilled in all of these methods of communication but it is essential that they ensure people skilled in these areas, who are trusted and preferably known to the child are able to input the Childs views to Review.

Southwark's Children with Disabilities Team have devised their own consultation form in Makaton format. VOICE Advocacy cards are in both Makaton and Widgit format.

Language

Many Children will not have English as their first spoken language. Assessment of ability to express themselves in English must be undertaken by the social worker and when necessary interpreting services provided. It is important to ensure as far as is possible that the person acting as interpreter who may be family, friend or from a professional interpreting service is providing an objective interpretation and is trusted by the child. Any written materials including reports must also be translated for the child.

It is also important that even where English is the first language of the child, the language used by social workers and Chairs verbally or in reports is not full of jargon or words unlikely to be understood by child or young person.

Literacy

Children who have not developed sufficient literacy skills for whatever reason ( age, ability, opportunity or language) to enable them to read reports or complete consultation documents will need to have reports read and explained to them and to be assisted in finding a method suitable for them to express their views.

Engagement

Many Children, most likely to be in teenage years, may have emotional and behavioural issues arising from both their backgrounds and present circumstances which discourage them from prioritising participating in Reviews. It is important for social workers, Chairs and carers to explore different methods to engage these young people and to help them understand the importance of expressing their views. Young people need to know that their views are valued and respected, even if sometimes they may not get what they want. Feedback and explanation for decisions taken are essential to achieving this. Arrangements for reviews are also important e.g. venue, attendance, timing etc. Many young people may value having a trusted friend, family member or professional or advocate to attend with them. This should be allowed though information discussed needs to bear in mind confidentiality issues. Written consultations, telephone consultations etc. are also a choice for the young person.

Different styles of Reviews can be explored with young people. For example enabling the young person to Chair their own review; allowing the young person to attend just that part of Review that addresses the issues they want to discuss and other more 'business' parts of agenda being completed without the young person or just negotiating with the young person how long they will stay for.


2. Guiding Principles for Involving Children and Young People who are Looked After in their Statutory Reviews

(Adapted by Speakerbox from Involving Children and Young People in Meetings and Reviews Report, Barnardos & Yorkshire and Humberside SEN Partnership2006)

  1. the child or young person should understand the purposes and processes of the Statutory Review and know that their views are as important as every one else's
  2. the child or young person should be given a variety of choices about how and to whom they communicate their views, including any method or person they may identify themselves
  3. the child or young person does not have to participate or give their views if they do not want to. Availability of opportunities for consultation does not in itself equal Participation and should not be recorded as Participation.
  4. the child or young person should be given a clear and realistic understanding of which decisions their views can change or influence
  5. the child or young person should be consulted well in advance about how, where and with whom Statutory Reviews are carried out and to whom the Review Records are circulated
  6. the child or young person should be given the opportunity to contribute to the agenda. The meeting will be child/young person focused and centred. Children and young people should be given the opportunity to contribute to the agenda.
  7. the child or young person should be given information about the outcomes of the Review in a clear, meaningful and timely way
  8. the child or young person should expect to have the Review Decisions carried out as agreed in the Review Record and any changes or delays in these to be explained to them
  9. the child or young person should know how they could express dissatisfaction with any part of the Review including any decisions made or not made, or carried out
  10. the child or young person has the right to request an advocate attends.


3. Principles in Practice

Before the Statutory Review

Social Worker's Role

  • Social workers should meet with the child or young person before a Review Meeting and explain the purposes of the Review, agree what they would like to have discussed and explain what other agenda items may be included. The child/young person and their carer must be informed of this expectation at beginning of placement. The Social worker will determine how (verbally, in writing, etc.- see codes below) the child or young person would like their views expressed and who, if anyone, (foster carer, social worker, friend, advocate etc.) they would like to help them express their views. As they become familiar with the Review Process the degree of preparation required for Reviews will decrease but should not be overlooked.
  • Social Worker will also confirm who the child/young person would like to attend the Review Meeting and their preference for where the meeting should take place. If they do not wish any key persons e.g. parent, to attend the same meeting as they do, alternative arrangements with IRO to be made to obtain those persons views.
  • Social worker is responsible for ensuring arrangements are made to fulfil the child's or young person's preferences or explain why they cannot be facilitated and put in place alternative acceptable arrangements.
  • Social worker to inform IRO of arrangements for Consultation and Review Meeting at pre-meet.
  • If a child or young person agrees, the social worker may delegate any of the above roles to another person e.g. carer if appropriate but the social worker remains responsible for ensuring it is carried out.

IRO's Role

  • IRO's will offer to meet separately with the child or young person before a Statutory Review to ensure they understand the purpose of a Review and ascertain their views. The child or young person and their carer will be made aware in advance of this opportunity for consultation. If not possible before the meeting, this may happen during or after Review Meeting.
  • IRO's will explain how the child or young person's views can influence decisions made at a Review as well as decisions made in other forums e.g. court. They will provide information on how the child or young person can challenge decisions or seek changes through the advocacy and complaints procedures. The child or young person will also be informed at the Review that they can seek clarification from the IRO following the Review of any decision made
  • IRO will ensure social worker has made Review arrangements to meet the child or young person's wishes with regards to venue, attendees, timing and circulation of Records wherever possible and must agree any alternatives.
  • R0's will include in the agenda for the Review areas the child or young person wishes to be addressed. If this is not possible they will explain why the meeting cannot address these issues and where they can be addressed

At the Statutory Review

  • Agenda to include areas raised by child/young person for discussion if appropriate for the Statutory Review, preferably at or near to beginning of Review Meeting. The child or young person may wish to attend just a part of meeting which addresses their identified issues.
  • Review to be carried out in child/young person centred way. Arrangements for Review as detailed above will be those most appropriate for the child or young person's needs and wishes when possible; any business matters which they may not wish to be involved in, or which are not appropriate for their age and needs, may take place without them present, with reasons recorded.
  • In fixing next Review date, place and attendees, the child or young person's views and preferences to be noted for implementation if possible.
  • The Child or young person's preference for consultation and participation at next Review to be discussed and agreed
  • In some cases child/young person may wish to be involved in Chairing meetings and this can be discussed and planned with IRO.

After Statutory Review

  • The child or young person should receive copy of the Review Record and Decisions within 2 weeks of Review date and have these explained to them by social worker or other person they may request. The review report should be written in language easily understood by the child or young person or have a child's version of discussion and decisions.
  • The child /young person may seek clarification of any Review Decision from the IRO or Team Manager.
  • Where required or requested the IRO will meet with the child or young person to discuss the Review outcomes
  • If the child or young person has not attended the Statutory Review meeting or expressed their views by another means, the IRO will make further attempts ASAP after review but within a maximum 1-month period only following the Review to determine their views and record these as an Addendum. Contact may be made in person, in writing or by phone. The child/young person may also contact the IRO.


4. Participation Codes

The IRO will record one of the following Participation codes for a child/young person at a Review. This code will reflect their participation as long as it has taken place within 1 week of initial or 1 month or subsequent reviews of the Review Meeting date recorded.

Code Definition Examples
PN0 Child aged under 4 at time of Review From 4th birthday child's views to be obtained and codes below used. Until then the child should be seen at Review by IRO if possible and this recorded as well as Code PN0
PN1 Child/young person physically attends and speaks for him or herself Attendance at Review meeting or part of Review Meeting and gives their own views
PN2 Child/young person physically attends and an advocate speaks on his or her behalf Child/young person attends as above but advocate or IRO expresses their views. An advocate is anyone the child/young person has consented to expressing their views on their behalf e.g. social worker, foster carer, Guardian, parent, friend, teacher etc. IRO must confirm that the child/young person's consent for advocate has been received and record this.
PN3 Child/young person attends and conveys his or her view symbolically (non-verbally)

Child/young person attends as above and uses non verbal communication e.g. writing, sign language, drawings,Makaton

This may be a more common method for some children/young people with Disabilities.

PN4 Child/young person physically attends but does not speak for him or herself, does not convey his or her views symbolically and does not ask an advocate to speak for him or her Attendance without contribution. Child/young person may attend (at Review meeting) but not express a view e.g. they may say nothing because they have special needs that make it difficult to understand what is being asked or difficult to communicate their views or they attend but do not wish to engage with the Review process. A child or young person must have been given a choice to attend or not. Challenge here is for professionals to find a way to enable the child to participate or engage for future reviews. All children with disabilities regardless of ability to participate in Review should be seen by IRO as part of Review Process if appropriate.
PN5

Child/young person does not attend physically but briefs an advocate to speak for him or her

A child /young person may not be able to attend meeting or may not wish to attend and should not be forced to do so. However their views should be obtained. An advocate as defined in 2 above, can express Child/young person's views, with their consent. The views can be expressed to the advocate by any means - written on paper, email or text, verbally in person, by phone, by audio /video/CD /viewpoint. Views (including 'nothing to say') expressed prior, during or after (within one month) Review Meeting are accepted. IRO will record the views and how expressed in Review Record or addendum to Record,
PN6 Child/young person does not attend but conveys his or her feelings to the Review by a facilitative medium Child/young person expresses their views directly to Review, i.e. not via advocate/IRO but any other format - written, verbally, visually, symbolically as above either at or within 1 week of initial or 1 month or subsequent reviews of Review meeting.
PN7

Child/young person does not attend nor are his or her views conveyed in any way to Review

E.g. situation where child / young person is missing, or where they been offered all or any of the above ways to convey views but do not respond or response is they don't wish to participate. However if the child/young person's response is that they have no views to express or which they wish to have considered at Review this should be coded under one of the above as appropriate.


5. Recording Participation

  • The IRO is responsible for defining the PN code for inputting to Mosaic by QA Executive Officers.
  • The code is defined within 1 week of review but can be changed up to one month after Review if the IRO receives representation from the child/young person in any of the above ways.
  • Corrections to Mosaic data will only be undertaken by a Senior Executive Officer who holds Data Cleansing responsibilities.
  • The IRO is responsible for recording the views of the child/young person and how they were received. The IRO may also recommend future methods of consultation
  • Any views received within 1 week of initial or 1 month of a subsequent Review meeting and after the Review Record has been completed and circulated, will be recorded as an addendum to Review Record. Addendum to detail changes to PN code, views of child /young person and any consequent changes to decisions of Review.
  • QA admin and/ or IRO's are responsible for filing addendums in CareAssess and circulating to Review circulation list

A child or young person may also express their views or concerns to the IRO at any other time and does not have to wait until the date of a Statutory Review. All children and young people will be given cards with their IRO's name and contact details.

References and for further information see the following websites

Department for Education

Research in Practice

Children's Commmissioner for England

The Children's Society

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