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1.1.2 Children’s Policies, Values and Principles - Including Recording, Confidentiality and Consultation

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. It also sets out underlying values and principles for recording, confidentiality and consultation.

RELEVANT CHAPTER

Electronic Recording of Meetings and Conversations Procedure

AMENDMENT

This chapter has been comprehensively updated in March 2016 to ensure the values and principles of working with children were clear and accessible. The values and principles should be reflected in all work undertaken in the Department but the chapter continues to highlight the key areas of recording, confidentiality and consultation. In ‘Records must usually be retained after closure’ a note has been added to advise that whilst The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is active, all institutions are to retain their records relating to the care of children for the duration of the Inquiry under Section 21 of the Inquiries Act 2005


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Key Outcomes
  3. Key Principles
  4. Our Strategy
  5. Recording  Values and Principles
  6. Confidentiality Values and Principles
  7. Consultation Values and Principles


1. Introduction

This policy sets out the framework within which 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;
  • Children Act 2004;
  • 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.

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. Key Outcomes

The key outcomes for all children identified in the Children Act 2004 remain relevant and enable the local authority, the Children’s Services Department and its practitioners to focus on the key aspects for all children. 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.

2.1 Being healthy

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.

2.2 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. 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.

2.3 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. Looked after children should have the opportunity to attend good schools, higher education/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.

2.4 Making a positive contribution

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. Therefore, contributing to their own lives.

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.

2.5 Economic well-being

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.


3. 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 meet their needs. They will facilitate services, including early help services, to support children and families consistent with 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 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.


4. Our Strategy

The Strategy of the Children’s Services will be 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 developing 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.


5. Recording Values and Principles

This section sets out underlying values and principles for recording.

5.1

Records must be kept of all children on the ICS data base

5.2 Children and their families must be informed about their records
5.3 The practitioner primarily involved should complete the record
5.4 All relevant information must be recorded and a chronology maintained
5.5

Children and their families should be involved in the recording process

5.6 Information about children and their families should normally be shared with them
5.7

Practice Supervisors must monitor information in the 'confidential' section of the child's record

5.8

Records must be dated

5.9 Records must be kept up to date
5.10

Records must be written in plain English and prejudice must be avoided

5.11 Records must be accurate and adequate
5.12 Managers must oversee, monitor and review records
5.13 Records must usually be retained after closure

5.1 Records must be kept of all children

Each child must have his or her own electronic case record from the point of referral.

5.2 Children and their families must be informed about their records

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 Section 2, Confidentiality Values and Principles.

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.

5.3 The practitioner primarily involved should complete the record

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 confirm the content of the record.

Records of decisions must show who has made the decision and the basis on which it has been made.

5.4 All relevant information must be recorded and a chronology maintained

EVERY CHILD'S CASE RECORD MUST INCLUDE 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.

5.5 Children and their families should be involved in the recording process

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.

5.6 Information about children and their families should normally be shared with them

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 by Social Services; or
  • It is written information from 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 'confidential' section of the child's record and a note of the reasons, should be recorded.

5.7 Practice Supervisors must monitor information in the 'confidential' section of the child's record

Practice Supervisors must monitor information held in the 'confidential' section of electronic records, ensuring that the reason for holding it there is valid; if not, it should be shared with the child and/or moved to another section of the record, (see Access to Records Procedure). 

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.

5.8 Records must be dated

Those completing records must show their name and the date when the recording was completed.

5.9 Records must be kept up to date

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 and the date and time of the entry must be included.

5.10 Records must be written in plain English and prejudice must be avoided

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.

5.11 Records must be accurate and adequate

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, judgements and decisions. Records must also distinguish between first hand information and information obtained from third parties.

See Section 4, Confidentiality Values and Principles below

5.12 Managers must oversee, monitor and review records

The overall responsibility for ensuring all records are maintained appropriately rests with managers with day-to-day responsibility, delegated to other staff as appropriate.

The Manager should routinely check samples of records as part of the supervision process to ensure they are up to date and maintained as required and, if not, that deficiencies are rectified as soon as practicable.

5.13 Records must usually be retained after closure

Important Note: The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse requires all institutions to retain their records relating to the care of children for the duration of the Inquiry under Section 21 of the Inquiries Act 2005. There is therefore an obligation to preserve records for the Inquiry for as long as is necessary.

Records must be retained for the following time scales:

CHILDREN IN NEED 25 years from the date of birth of the child named in the records.
CHILDREN SUBJECT TO A CHILD PROTECTION PLAN 35 years from the date of birth of the child named in the records.
LOOKED AFTER CHILDREN 75 years from the date of birth of the child.
ADOPTION 100 years after date of Adoption Order
YOUTH JUSTICE

Client files - retain for 10 years after closure of case.

Reprimand or final warning - 3 years after closure of case or up to young person’s 18th birthday.

Conviction - 5 years after close of case.

LEAVING CARE 75 years from date of birth of the child.
FOSTER CARERS 30 years from end of last placement (retain in the Fostering service).
SUPERVISION ORDERS

(Criminal and Family Proceedings)

25 years from the date of birth of the child.

CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES 25 years from the date of birth of the child.
FINANCE RECORDS Retain for 7 years.
CHILDREN'S GUARDIAN RECORDS Retained by Guardian.
ASYLUM SEEKERS AND FAMILY COURT ASSESSMENT SERVICE  25 years from the date of birth of the child named in the records.

Each office and team should maintain a list of records which have been destroyed, the date when they were destroyed and by whom. 

See also Electronic Recording of Meetings and Conversations Procedure


6. Confidentiality Values and Principles

This section sets out underlying values and principles for confidentiality.

See also Information sharing – Advise for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers’.

Please also see Confidentiality and Loss of Sensitive Data Procedure.

N.B. Readers should be aware of and be read this section in conjunction with Purpose Specific Information Sharing Arrangements between the Metropolitan Police, Southwark Council, and Southwark Clinical Commissioning Group.

6.1 Legal duty of confidence
6.2 Disclosure of confidential information in exceptional circumstances
6.3 Situation where disclosure is permitted should be shared with children involved
6.4 Disclosures and sharing information with colleagues and agencies
6.5 Freedom of Information Act 2000

6.1 Legal duty of confidence

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 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.

6.2  Disclosure of confidential information in exceptional circumstances

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.

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.

6.3 Situation where disclosure is permitted should be shared with children involved

Children should be informed of the circumstances in which information about them will be shared with others. This may be provided in a User/Children's Guide or in other ways, and it will be made clear that in each case the information passed on will only be what is relevant and on a 'need to know' basis.

6.4 Disclosures and sharing information with colleagues and agencies

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.

For example:

  • Where professionals are undertaking a Child Protection Enquiry or Complaints investigation 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.

6.5 Freedom of Information Act 2000

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 came into force on 1 January 2005. 

Under the Act anybody may request information from a public authority (which includes all local authorities). 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 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 1 to 4 above in this section.


7. Consultation Values and Principles

This section sets out underlying values and principles for consultation.

7.1 General principles of consultation
7.2 Management consultation
7.3 Legal consultation

7.1 General principles of consultation

Everyone involved in the receipt and delivery of services should be consulted about decisions which may affect them. This includes children, 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 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. Detailed guidance on this is set out in Consents Guidance.

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 that 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

7.2 Management consultation

Unless otherwise stated in specific procedures in this Handbook, 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 Handbook require that managers are informed within specified timescales or that their approval is sought before actions are taken, this must be complied with unless there are exceptional circumstances that prevent it; for example, where it is necessary to act immediately to protect a child from injury. 

In which case, the most senior person should take what action seems appropriate in the circumstances and the manager must then be informed as soon as practicable thereafter, and at the latest within 24 hours.

7.3 Legal consultation

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 that do not have parental consent. This is particularly so in cases where emergency action is being considered.

Before a social worker seeks legal advice, the agreement of the Designated Manager (Legal Advice) is required.

End