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Key Definitions and Concepts
Children and Young People
3.1 All children and young people deserve the opportunity to achieve their full potential. In 2003, the Government published the Every Child Matters Green Paper alongside the formal response to the report into the death of Victoria Climbié. The Green Paper set out five outcomes that are key to children and young people’s well-being;
- stay safe;
- be healthy;
- enjoy and achieve;
- make a positive contribution;
- achieve economic well-being.
3.2 The Children Act 2004 subsequently became law and set out these outcomes in statute, as well as the Government’s approach to the well-being of children and young people from birth to age 19. To achieve this, children and young people need to feel loved and valued and be supported by a network of reliable and affectionate relationships. If they are denied the opportunity and support they need to achieve these outcomes, children and young people are at increased risk not only of an impoverished childhood, but of disadvantage and social exclusion in adulthood. Abuse and neglect pose particular problems.
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Safeguarding and Promoting Welfare and Child Protection
3.3 Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people is defined as:
- protecting children and young people from maltreatment;
- preventing impairment of children and young people’s health or development;
- ensuring that children and young people are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care;
- and undertaking that role so as to enable those children and young people to have optimum life chances and to enter adulthood successfully.
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Vulnerable children and young people (children and young people with additional needs)
3.4 Everybody who works or has contact with children and young people, parents and other adults in contact with children and young people should be able to recognise and know how to act upon, evidence that a child’s or young person’s health or development is or may be being impaired and especially when they are suffering or likely to suffer significant harm. Professionals, foster carers, staff members, managers and volunteers should be mindful always of the welfare and safety of children and young people - including unborn children, older children and children and young people living away from home or looked after - in their work.
3.5 The Common Assessment Framework (CAF) will be the principal assessment tool used to identify the needs of this group and be the information from which plans will be developed. There may be the need to coordinate the plans through multi agency meetings depending on the numbers of agencies involved.
3.6 Protecting children and young people from maltreatment is important in preventing the impairment of health or development. Protecting children and young people from maltreatment and preventing impairment of children’s and young people’s health and development are necessary but not sufficient to ensure that children and young people are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care. So these aspects of safeguarding and promoting welfare are cumulative and all contribute to the outcomes set out under Key Definitions above.
3.7 Child protection is a part of safeguarding and promoting welfare. This refers to the activity which is undertaken to protect specific children and young people who are suffering or are at risk of suffering significant harm.
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Children in Need
3.8 Children and young people who are defined as being ‘in need’, under Section 17 of the Children Acts 1989, are those whose vulnerability is such that they are unlikely to reach or maintain a satisfactory level of health or development, or their health and development will be significantly impaired without the provision of services (Section 17(10) of the Children Act 1989) plus those who are disabled. The critical factors to be taken into account in deciding whether a child or young person is in need under the Children Act 1989 are what will happen to a child’s health or development without services being provided and the likely effect the services will have on the child’s standard of health and development. Local Authorities have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in need.
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The Concept of Significant Harm
3.9 Some children and young people are in need because they are suffering or likely to suffer significant harm. The Children Act 1989 introduced the concept of significant harm as the threshold that justifies compulsory intervention in family life in the best interests of children and young people and gives Local Authorities a duty to make enquiries to decide whether they should take action to safeguard or promote the welfare of a child or young person who is suffering, or likely to suffer significant harm.
3.10 A Court may make a Care Order (committing the child or young person to the care of the Local Authority) or Supervision Order (putting the child or young person under the supervision of a Social Worker, or a Probation Officer) in respect of a child or young person if it is satisfied that:
- the child or young person is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm; and
- the harm, or likelihood of harm, is attributable to a lack of adequate parental care or control (Section 31, Children Act 1989)
3.11 There are no absolute criteria on which to rely when judging what constitutes significant harm. Consideration of the severity of ill-treatment may include the degree and the extent of physical harm, the duration and frequency of abuse and neglect, the extent of premeditation and the presence or degree of threat, coercion, sadism and bizarre or unusual elements. Each of these elements has been associated with more severe effects on the child or young person and/or relatively greater difficulty in helping the child or young person overcome the adverse impact of the maltreatment. Sometimes, a single traumatic event may constitute significant harm, e.g. a violent assault, suffocation or poisoning. More often, significant harm is a compilation of significant events, both acute and long-standing, which interrupt, change or damage the child or young person’s physical and psychological development. Some children live in family and social circumstances where their health and development are neglected. For them, it is the corrosiveness of long-term emotional, physical or sexual abuse that causes impairment to the extent of constituting significant harm. In each case, it is necessary to consider any maltreatment alongside the family’s strengths and supports as well as an assessment of the likelihood and capacity for change and improvements in parenting and the care of children and young people.
3.12 The child’s reactions, his or her perceptions, and wishes and feelings should be ascertained and taken account of according to the child’s age and understanding.
3.13 To do this depends on communicating effectively with children and young people, including those who find it difficult to do so because of their age, an impairment, or their particular psychological or social situation. It is essential that any accounts of adverse experiences coming from children are as accurate and complete as possible. Accuracy is key, for without it effective decisions cannot be made and, equally, inaccurate accounts can lead to children remaining unsafe, or to the possibility of wrongful actions being taken that affect children and adults.
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What is Abuse and Neglect?
3.14 Abuse and neglect are forms of maltreatment of a child or young person. Somebody may abuse or neglect a child or young person by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm. Children and young people may be abused in a family or in an institutional or community setting; by those known to them or, more rarely, by a stranger. They may be abused by an adult or adults or another child or children.
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3.15 Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child or young person. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer fabricates the symptoms of, or deliberately induces illness in a child or young person.
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3.16 Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child or young person such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child or young person’s emotional development. It may involve conveying to children and young people that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person. It may feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children and young people. These may include interactions that are beyond the child or young person’s developmental capability, as well as overprotection and limitation of exploration and learning, or preventing the child or young person participating in normal social interaction. It may involve seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another. It may involve serious bullying causing children and young people frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children and young people. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of maltreatment of a child or young person, though it may occur alone.
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3.17 Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, including prostitution, whether or not the child or young person is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative (e.g. rape, buggery or oral sex) or non penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing. They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children or young people in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or watching sexual activities, or encouraging children or young people to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse. Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children (usually defined where there is a significant age difference of three years or more).
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3.18 Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child or young person’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child or young person’s health or development. Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse. Once a child or young person is born, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to:
- provide adequate food and clothing
- shelter including exclusion from home or abandonment
- protect a child or young person from physical and emotional harm or danger
- ensure adequate supervision including the use of inadequate care-takers
- ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment.
- it may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child or young person’s basic emotional needs.
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Principles Underpinning Work to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of Children
3.19 Work to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people should be:
3.19.1 Child centred
Some of the worst failures in safeguarding children and young people have occurred when professionals have lost sight of the child or young person and concentrated instead on their relationship with the adults. The child or young person should be seen by the practitioner (alone when appropriate) and kept in focus throughout work with the child or young person and family. The child or young person’s voice should be heard and account taken of their perspective and their views.
3.19.2 Rooted in child development
Those working with children and young people should be informed by a developmental perspective; they should have a detailed understanding of child development and how the quality of the care they are receiving can have an impact on their health and development. Plans and interventions to safeguard and promote the child or young person’s welfare should be based on a clear assessment of the child or young person’s developmental progress and the difficulties a child or young person may be experiencing. Planned action should also be timely and appropriate for the child or young person’s age and stage of development.
3.19.3 Focused on outcomes for children
Any plan developed for the child or young person and their family or caregiver should be based on an assessment of the child or young person’s developmental needs and the parents/caregivers capacity to respond to these needs within their community contexts. This plan should set out the planned outcomes for each child or young person and at review the actual outcomes should be recorded. The purpose of all interventions should be to achieve the best possible outcomes for each child or young person recognising each is unique. These outcomes should contribute to the key outcomes set out for all children and young people in the Children Act 2004 (set out under Key Definitions at the beginning of this Chapter).
3.19.4 Holistic in approach
Having a holistic approach means having an understanding of a child or young person within the context of the child or young person’s family (parents or caregivers and the wider family) and of the educational setting, community and culture in which he or she is growing up. The interaction between the developmental needs of children and young people, the capacities of parents or caregivers to respond appropriately to those needs and the impact of wider family and environmental factors on children and young people and on parenting capacity requires careful exploration during an assessment. The ultimate aim is to understand the child or young person’s developmental needs within the context of the family and to provide appropriate services which respond to those needs. The analysis of the child or young person’s situation will inform planning and action in order to secure the best outcomes for the child or young person and will inform the subsequent review of the effectiveness of actions taken and services provided. The child or young person’s context will be even more complex when they are living away from home and looked after by adults who do not have parental responsibility for them.
3.19.5 Ensuring equality of opportunity
Equality of opportunity means that all children and young people have the opportunity to achieve the best possible development regardless of their gender, ability, race, ethnicity, circumstances or age. Some vulnerable children and young people may have been particularly disadvantaged in their access to important opportunities and their health and educational needs will require particular attention in order to optimise their current welfare as well as their long-term outcomes in young adulthood.
3.19.6 Involving children and families
In the process of finding out what is happening to a child or young person it is important to listen and develop an understanding of his or her wishes and feelings. The importance of developing a co-operative working relationship is emphasised, so that parents or caregivers feel respected and informed, they believe agency staff are being open and honest with them and in turn they are confident about providing vital information about their child, themselves and their circumstances. The consent of children, young people and their parents or caregivers should be obtained when sharing information unless to do so would place the child or young person at risk of significant harm. Decisions should also be made with their agreement, whenever possible, unless to do so would place the child or young person at risk of significant harm.
3.19.7 Building on strengths as well as identifying difficulties
Identifying both strengths (including resilience and protective factors) and difficulties (including vulnerabilities an risk factors) within the child or young person, his or her family and the context in which they are living is important, as is considering how these factors have an impact on the child or young person’s health and development. Too often it has been found that a deficit model of working with families predominates in practice and ignores crucial areas of success and effectiveness within the family on which to base interventions. Working with a child or family’s strengths becomes an important part of a plan to resolve difficulties.
3.19.8 Multi/Inter-agency in approach
From birth, there will be a variety of different agencies and services in the community involved with children and young people and their development, particularly in relation to their health and education. Multi and inter-agency work to safeguard and promote children and young people’s welfare starts as soon as there are concerns about a child or young person’s welfare, not just when there are questions about possible harm.
3.19.9 A continuing process not an event
Understanding what is happening to a vulnerable child or young person within the context of his or her family and the local community and taking appropriate action are continuing and interactive processes and not single events. Assessment should continue throughout a period of intervention and intervention may start at the beginning of an assessment. Where a child has complex needs as detailed by the child concern model and there is a change in circumstance such as the birth of a sibling, this should trigger a re-assessment of need and consideration of a referral to children’s social care.
3.19.10 Providing and reviewing services
Action and services should be provided according to the identified needs of the child or young person and family in parallel with assessment where necessary. It is not necessary to await completion of the assessment process. Immediate and practical needs should be addressed alongside more complex and longer term ones. The impact of service provision on a child or young person’s developmental progress should be reviewed at regular intervals.
3.19.11 Informed by evidence
Effective practice with children, young people and families requires sound professional judgements which are underpinned by a rigorous evidence base and draw on the practitioner’s knowledge and experience. Decisions based on these judgements should be kept under review, and take full account of any new information obtained during the course of work with the child and family.
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Race, Ethnicity and Culture
3.20 All children and young people whatever their religious or cultural background, must receive the same care and safeguards with regard to abuse and neglect.
3.21 Professionals should guard against myths and stereotypes - both positive and negative - of black and minority ethnic families. Anxiety about being accused of racist practice should not prevent the necessary action being taken to safeguard and promote a child or young person’s welfare. Careful assessment - based on evidence - of a child or young person’s needs and a family’s strengths and difficulties, understood in the context of the wider social environment, will help to avoid any distorting effect of these influences on professional judgements.
3.22 Children and young people from all cultures are subject to abuse and neglect. All children and young people have a right to grow up safe from harm. In order to make sensitive and informed professional judgements about a child or young person’s needs and parents capacity to respond to their child or young person’s needs, it is important that professionals are sensitive to differing family patterns and lifestyles and to child rearing patterns that vary across different racial, ethnic and cultural groups. At the same time they must be clear that child abuse cannot be condoned for religious or cultural reasons.
3.23 Professionals should also be aware of the broader social factors that serve to discriminate against black and minority ethnic people. Working in a multiracial and multi-cultural society requires professionals and organisations to be committed to equality in meeting the needs of all children, young people and families and to understand the effects of racial harassment, racial discrimination and institutional racism, as well as cultural misunderstanding or misinterpretation.
3.24 The assessment process should maintain a focus on the needs of the individual child or young person. It should always include consideration of the way religious beliefs and cultural traditions in different racial, ethnic and cultural groups influence their values, attitudes and behaviour and the way in which family and community life is structured and organised. Cultural and religious factors should not be regarded as acceptable explanations for child abuse or neglect and are not acceptable grounds for inaction when a child or young person is at risk of significant harm. Professionals should be aware of and work with the strengths and support systems available within families, ethnic groups and communities, which can be built upon to help safeguard children and young people and promote their welfare.
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Being Alert to Children’s Welfare
3.25 Anyone who has concerns about a child or young person but is unclear whether they should make a referral, should consult with a senior or specialist colleague, or the Referral and Assessment Service within the Local Authority’s Directorate of Children and Family Services.
3.26 In some circumstances practitioners may have undertaken a common assessment because they had concerns about a child or young person and were trying to ascertain how best to help, or the findings from the common assessment may have caused them to be concerned about a child or young person’s welfare. All staff members who have or become aware of concerns about the welfare or safety of a child or children should know:
- what services are available locally;
- how to gain access to them;
- what sources of further advice and expertise are available;
- who to contact in what circumstances and how; and
- when and how to make a referral to Local Authority Children Social Care.
3.27 These concerns should be discussed with a manager, or a named or designated health professional or a designated member of staff depending on the organisational setting. Concerns can also be discussed, without necessarily identifying the child or young person in question, with senior colleagues in another agency in order to develop an understanding of the child or young person’s needs and circumstances. If, after discussion, these concerns remain and it seems that the child or young person and family would benefit from other services, including those from within another part of the same agency decisions should be made about whom to make a referral to. If the child or young person is considered to be or may be a child in need under the Children Act 1989, the child or young person should be referred to Local Authority Children's Social Care. This includes a child or young person who is believed to be or may be at risk of suffering significant harm. If these concerns arise about a child or young person who is already known to Local Authority Children's Social Care, the allocated worker should be informed of these concerns. Where a child is not considered to be a child in need under the Children Act 1989 the practitioner should consider whether they have unmet additional needs that would benefit from targeted support, and therefore whether a common assessment should be offered.
3.28 Sources of information and advice should include at least one designated senior doctor and nurse within each PCT, and a designated member of staff within each school or further education institution. There should always be the opportunity to discuss child welfare concerns with, and seek advice from, colleagues, managers, a designated or named professional, or other agencies, but:
- never delay emergency action to protect a child from harm
- always record in writing discussions about a child or young person’s welfare, including whether or not further action is taken; and
- at the close of a discussion, always reach a clear and explicit recorded agreement about who will be taking what action, or that no further action will be taken, and record in the child’s file.
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The Welfare of Unborn Children
3.29 The procedures and time scales set out should also be followed when there are concerns about the welfare of an unborn child (Section 9 Part C Para C6.5). Where a core assessment under Section 47 gives rise to concerns that an unborn child maybe at risk of significant harm, Children and Family Services may decided to convene and Initial Child Protection Conference (Section 4 Para 4.39) prior to the child’s birth. The involvement of midwifery services is vital in such cases.
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The Processes for Safeguarding and Promoting the Welfare of Children
3.30 The processes for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people are:
- from the point that concerns are raised about a child or young person and are referred to a statutory organisation that can take action to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people (Chart 1 - Appendix B);
- through an initial assessment of the child or young person’s situation and what happens after that (Chart 2 - Appendix B)
- taking urgent action, if necessary (Chart 3 - Appendix B);
- to the strategy discussion, where there are concerns about a child or young person’s safety and beyond that to the Child Protection Conference (Chart 4 - Appendix B); and
- what happens after the Child Protection Conference and the review process (Chart 5 - Appendix B)
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Child Welfare Concerns
3.31 Where any person contacts The Local Authority’s Children's Social Care with concerns about a child or young person’s welfare, it is the responsibility of the Local Authority Children's Social Care to clarify with the referrer (including self referrals from children and families) the nature of the concerns; how and why they have arisen; and what appears to be the needs of the child or young person and family. This process should always identify clearly whether there are concerns about abuse or neglect, what their foundation is and whether the child or children may need urgent action to make them safe from harm. Referrals may lead to no further action, directly to the provision of services or other help – including from other agencies – and/or to a fuller initial assessment of the needs and circumstances of the child or young person which may, include enquiries under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 concerning the risk of significant harm.
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Making a Referral
3.32 Referrals of all children in need, including those where there are child protection concerns, will be made in writing or by telephone to the Referral and Assessment team. This team is part of the Local Authority’s Children's Social Care.
3.33 Urgent child protection referrals outside office hours should be made by telephone to the Out of Hours Service.
3.34 Parent’s permission or the child or young person’s if appropriate should be sought before discussing a referral about them with other agencies unless permission seeking may itself increase the risk of significant harm to the child or young person.
3.35 Referrers should always identify clearly whether there are concerns about abuse or neglect, what is their foundation is, and whether the child or children may need urgent action to make them safe from harm.
3.36 Professionals who telephone the Children's Social Care will confirm referrals in writing within 48 hours of the Referral to North East Lincolnshire’s Directorate of Children's Social Care(request for service) form.
3.37 When making a referral, professionals should ensure that as far as possible they have the correct factual information available and are clear about the apparent needs of the child, young person and family. The request for service form is available in Appendix C.
3.38 At the end of any discussion or dialogue about a child or young person the referrer (whether a professional or a member of the public or family) and the Children's Social Care should be clear about proposed action, time-scales and who will be taking it, or that no further action will be taken. The decision will be recorded by the Children's Social Care and by the referrer (if a professional in another service). Children's Social Care will acknowledge a written referral within one working day of receiving it. If the referrer has not received an acknowledgement within 3 working days they should contact Children's Social Care again. Where no further action is to be taken feedback will be provided to the referrer about the decision and reasons for taking it.
3.39 Where it is determined that emergency action should be taken to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child or young person such action would normally be preceded by an immediate strategy discussion/meeting between the Police, Children's Social Care and other agencies as appropriate.
3.40 Where new information received about a child or young person already known to Children's Social Care which suggests that the child or young person is or may be suffering significant harm a decision should be made about whether a strategy discussion should be initiated. In these circumstances an initial assessment will not be required but it may be appropriate to undertake or update a previous core assessment to inform future decision making.
3.41 Where further assessment or action is needed, the referrer may be asked to provide further information or attend meetings as part of the assessment process.
3.42 Personal information about children and families held by professionals and agencies is subject to a legal duty of confidence and should not normally be disclosed without the consent of the subject. However, the law permits the disclosure of confidential information necessary to safeguard a child or children in the public interest, i.e. the public interest in child protection may override the public interest in maintaining confidentiality. Disclosure must be justifiable in each case, according to the particular facts of the case and the Data Protection Acts. Legal advice should be sought in cases of doubt, and in every case where information contained in court documents could be helpful.
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3.43 Sharing information is essential to enable early intervention to help children, young people and families who need additional services, to achieve positive outcomes, thus reducing inequalities between disadvantaged children and others. These services could include additional help with learning, specialist health services, help and support to move away from criminal or anti-social behaviour, or support for parents in developing parenting skills. As local areas move towards integrated Children and Family Services, professional and confident sharing of information is becoming more important to realising the potential of these new arrangements to deliver benefits for children, young people and families.
3.44 Information sharing is also vital to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people. A key factor in many serious case reviews has been a failure to record information, to share it, to understand the significance of the information shared, and to take appropriate action in relation to known or suspected abuse or neglect.
3.45 The Children Act 2004 provides a framework for the establishment of information sharing systems, linking this directly to the co-operation duties on Local Authorities and other bodies and individual service providers and to the duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people that are placed on agencies within this Act as well as on Local Education Authorities, schools and colleges through the Education Act 2000.
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Information sharing for the purpose of LSCB functions
3.46 The Children, Schools and Families Bill currently before Parliament includes provision requiring compliance with a request from a LSCB for appropriate information to be disclosed to it in order to assist it in the exercise of its functions. Subject to the passage of the Bill this provision will help remove uncertainty and give greater confidence to practitioners to share appropriate information with a LSCB. This could include confidential personal information about children who are the subject of reviews and about third parties who have a relationship with those children (for example, parents and siblings).
3.47 Where the LSCB requests personal information, the request should be for appropriate information that is relevant and proportionate to the purpose for which the information is sought. The LSCB should be able to explain that purpose to record holders, and why the information sought is appropriate, relevant and proportionate should the record holder require any justification of the need for the information or of the overriding public interest served by the disclosure of personal information in each case. No request should require a record holder to breach data protection principles, or other protections of confidential or personal information (for example, under the Human Rights Act) in a manner which cannot be justified; the ‘golden rules’ set out in Information Sharing: Guidance for practitioners and managers will help record holders observe these protections and principles.
3.48 Personal information about children and families held by professionals and agencies is subject to a legal duty of confidence and should not normally be disclosed without the consent of the subject. However, the law permits the disclosure of confidential information necessary to safeguard a child or children in the public interest, i.e. the public interest in child protection may override the public interest in maintaining confidentiality. Disclosure must be justifiable in each case, according to the particular facts of the case and the Data Protection Acts. Legal advice should be sought in cases of doubt and in every case where information contained in court documents could be helpful.
3.49 Evidence gathered during a criminal investigation may be of use to Local Authority Solicitors who are preparing for civil proceedings to protect the victim/s. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) should be consulted, but evidence will normally be shared if it is in the best interests of the child or young person.
3.50 In cases which involve the death of a child or young person in a family where there are no other children and where harm by the parents or carers is confirmed or suspected, the Police will share appropriate information with the Children's Social Care at an early stage and maintain regular liaison throughout the investigation. Dependent upon the circumstances of the case, consideration will be given to the most appropriate time to convene a multi-agency meeting. The meeting will be convened by the relevant Principal Care Manager and, should comprise the same range of participants and be formally minuted as for an initial Child Protection Conference. Consideration should be given as to whether the circumstances meet the criteria for Serious Case Review. See Section 8.
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Consent / Agreement Seeking
3.51 The Data Protection Act 1998 and the Human Rights Act 1998 have extended the rights of individuals and families to confidentiality and professionals as a general rule should seek the agreement and consent of parents/carers before making a referral to Children's Social Care. However seeking consent is not necessary where it could increase the danger of risk of significant harm to the child.
3.52 Where the referrer is in doubt as to whether consent is necessary, the facts of the case can be discussed anonymously with the Children's Social Care, who have the power to dispense with consent to safeguard a child in the public interest. If it is decided that consent is not necessary, the referrer will then give identifying details.
3.53 Where doubt remains, legal advice should be sought.
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Responding to Child Welfare Concerns Where There is or May be an Alleged Crime
3.54 Whenever Children's Social Care has a case referred to them which constitutes, or may constitute, a criminal offence against a child or young person, they must always discuss the case with the police at the earliest opportunity.
3.55 Whenever other agencies, or the Local Authority in its other roles, encounter concerns about a child or young person’s welfare which constitute, or may constitute, a criminal offence against a child or young person, they must always consider sharing that information with Children's Social Care or the Police in order to protect the child or other children from the risk of significant harm. If a decision is taken not to share information, the reasons must be recorded.
3.56 Sharing of information in cases of concern about children and young people’s welfare will enable professionals to consider jointly how to proceed in the best interests of the child or young person and to safeguard children and young people more generally.
3.57 In dealing with alleged offences involving a child victim, the Police should normally work in partnership with children’s social care and/or other agencies. Whilst the responsibility to instigate a criminal investigation rests with the Police, they should consider the views expressed by other agencies. There will be less serious cases where, after discussion, it is agreed that the best interests of the child or young person are served by a children’s social care led intervention rather than a full Police investigation.
3.58 In deciding whether there is a need to share information, professionals need to consider their legal obligations, including whether they have a duty of confidentiality to the child or young person. Where there is such a duty, the professional may lawfully share information if the child or young person consents or if there is a public interest of sufficient force. This must be judged by the professional on the facts of each case. Where there is a clear risk of significant harm to a child or young person, or serious harm to adults, the public interest test will almost certainly be satisfied. However, there will be other cases where practitioners will be justified in sharing some confidential information in order to make decisions on sharing further information or taking action – the information shared should be proportionate.
3.59 The child or young person’s best interests must be the overriding consideration in making any such decision including in the cases of under-age sexual activity. Any decision whether or not to share information must be properly documented. Decisions in this area need to be made by, or with the advice of, people with suitable competence in child protection work such as named or designated professionals or senior managers.
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The Framework for the Assessment of Children and their Families
3.60 Once a request for service or a Child Protection referral is made Children's Social Care will determine its response to a referral within 24 hours. Unless the decision is to take no further action, an initial assessment by the Children's Social Care of all children in need, whether or not there are child protection concerns, should be completed within a maximum of seven working days of the date of the referral. However, the initial assessment period may be very brief if information suggests that the child or young person is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm and/or emergency action to protect the child or young person is required. In these circumstances a strategy discussion will be held.
3.61 During the initial assessment Local Authority’s Children and Family Services will look at the needs of the child or young person, whether they are being met and what action, if any, is needed to safeguard and promote the child or young person’s welfare.
3.62 Information should be gathered and analysed within the 3 domains of the Assessment Framework, namely;
- the child or young person’s developmental needs;
- the parents or caregivers capacity to respond appropriately to those needs; and
- the wider family and environmental factors.
3.63 The initial assessment should address the following questions:
- What are the developmental needs of the child or young person? What needs of the child are being met and how? What needs of the child are not being met and why?
- Are the parents able to respond appropriately to the child or young person’s identified needs?
- Is the child or young person being adequately safeguarded from significant harm and are the parents able to promote the child or young person’s health and development?
- What impact are family functioning (past and present) and history, the wider family and environmental factors having on the parent’s capacity to respond to their child’s needs and the child’s developmental progress?
- Is action required to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child or young person?
3.64 The process of initial assessment should involve: seeing and speaking to the child or young person (according to age and understanding), including alone when appropriate; seeing and meeting with parents, the family and wider family members as appropriate; drawing together and analysing available information from a range of sources (including existing records); involving and obtaining relevant information from professionals and others in contact with the child or young person and family. All relevant information (including historical information) should be taken into account.
3.65 All relevant information (including information about the history and functioning of the family both currently and in the past, and adult problems such as domestic violence, substance misuse, mental illness and criminal behaviour/convictions) should be taken into account. This includes seeking information from relevant services if the child and family have spent time abroad. Professionals from agencies such as health, local authority children’s social care or the police should request this information from their equivalent agencies in the country(ies) in which the child has lived. Information about who to contact can be obtained via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 0207 008 1500 or the appropriate Embassy or Consulate based in London see the London Diplomatic List (The Stationery Office), ISBN 0 11 591772 1 or the FCO website www.fco.gov.uk).
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Contribution by Other Agencies
3.66 All agencies are required to co-operate in the fullest way so that a thorough and speedy assessment can be made of the child or young person’s situation. Any information which may help this assessment will be shared including suspicious indicators of harm. The welfare of the child or young person must take priority over the needs of the parent or carer for confidentiality in these circumstances.
3.67 Following an initial assessment, Children's Social Care will decide on the next course of action, following discussion with the child or young person and family unless such a discussion may place the child or young person at risk of significant harm.
3.68 This information should be confirmed in writing to the agencies and the family.
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Child in Need but No Suspected Actual or Likely Significant Harm
3.69 An initial assessment may indicate that a child or young person may be “in need” as defined by Section17 of the Children Act 1989 but that there are no substantiated concerns that the child or young person may be suffering, or at risk of suffering significant harm. There may be sufficient information available to decide what services, if any, should be provided and by whom according to an agreed plan. Alternatively a core assessment may be necessary to provide a more in-depth understanding of the child or young person’s needs and circumstances. In these circumstances, the Assessment Framework provides guidance on undertaking a core assessment which builds on the findings from the initial assessment and addresses the central or most important aspects of the needs of a child and the capacity of his or her parents or caregivers to respond appropriately to these needs within the wider family and community context. This core assessment can provide a sound evidence base for professional judgements on what types of services are most likely to bring about good outcomes for the child. Family Group Conferences may be an effective vehicle for taking forward work in such cases.
3.70 The definition of “child in need” is wide and it will embrace children and young people in a diverse range of situations. The types of services which may help such children, young people and their families will vary greatly according to their needs and circumstances.
3.71 A multi-agency Child in Need meeting may be appropriate for the purpose of planning responses and support.
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Child in Need and Suspected Actual or Likely Significant Harm
3.72 Where a child or young person is suspected to be suffering or likely to suffer, significant harm, Children's Social Care are required by Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 to make enquiries to enable the local authority to decide whether it should take any action to safeguard or promote the child or young person’s welfare.
3.73 Significant harm to children and young people gives rise to both child welfare concerns and law enforcement concerns and Section 47 enquiries may run concurrently with Police investigations concerning possible associated crime(s).
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3.74 Where there is a risk to the life of a child or young person or a likelihood of serious immediate harm, an agency with statutory child protection powers should act quickly to secure the immediate safety of the child. When considering whether emergency action is required, an agency should always consider whether action is also required to safeguard and promote the welfare of other children and young people in the same household, the household of an alleged perpetrator, or elsewhere.
3.75 In some cases it may be sufficient to secure a child or young person’s safety by a parent taking action to remove an alleged perpetrator, or by the alleged perpetrator agreeing to leave the home. In other cases, it may be necessary to ensure either that the child or young person remains in a safe place or that the child or young person is removed to a safe place, either on a voluntary basis or by obtaining an Emergency Protection Order. The Police also have powers to remove a child or young person to suitable accommodation in cases of emergency. Police powers should only be used in exceptional circumstances where there is insufficient time to seek an Emergency Protection Order or for reasons relating to the immediate safety of the child or young person.
3.76 The Local Authority in whose area a child or young person is found in circumstances that require emergency action is responsible for taking that action. If the child or young person is looked after by (or is the subject of a Child Protection Plan in) another authority the first Authority should consult the Authority responsible for the child or young person. Only when the second Local Authority explicitly accepts responsibility is the first authority relieved of the responsibility to take emergency action. Such acceptance should be subsequently confirmed in writing.
3.77 Emergency action addresses only the immediate circumstances of the child(ren). The local Authority should follow this action quickly by initiating section 47 enquiries as necessary. Where an emergency protection order applies, Local Authority Children and Family Services will have to consider quickly whether to initiate care or other proceedings, or to let the order lapse and the child or young person return home.
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3.78 Whenever Children's Social Care (or the NSPCC if relevant) encounters or has a case referred to it which constitutes, or may constitute, a criminal offence against a child or young person, it will always inform the Police at the earliest opportunity. Similarly, the Police will always inform Children's Social Care of all alleged offences involving a child victim/witness (including those subject of a major investigation e.g. murder/manslaughter).
3.79 The police have a duty to carry out thorough and professional investigations into allegations of crime, since it makes it less likely that a child or young person will have to give evidence in criminal court. Enquiries may therefore give rise to information that is relevant to decisions that will be taken by both Children's Social Care and the Police. The findings from the assessment and/or Police investigation should be used to inform plans about future support and help to the child or young person and family. They may also contribute to legal proceedings whether criminal, civil or both.
3.80 Both agencies will be able to consider jointly how to proceed in the best interest of the child or young person. There will be less serious cases where, after discussion, it is agreed that the best interests of the child or young person are served by Children's Social Care led intervention rather than a full Police investigation.
3.81 Decisions will be endorsed at a managerial level and recorded in writing by both agencies. For Humberside Police this will be recorded in detail on the Child Protection Database.
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3.82 Whenever there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child or young person is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm, there should be a strategy discussion involving Children's Social Care and the Police and other agencies as appropriate (e.g. Education and Health), in particular any referring agency. The strategy discussion should be convened and led by local authority children’s social care and those participating should be sufficiently senior and able, therefore, to contribute to the discussion of available information and to make decisions on behalf of their agencies. If the child is a hospital patient (in- or out-patient) or receiving services from a child development team, the medical consultant responsible for the child’s health care should be involved, as should the senior ward nurse if the child is an in-patient. Where a medical examination may be necessary or has taken place a senior doctor from those providing services should also be involved. Where the parents or adults in the household are experiencing problems such as domestic violence, substance misuse or mental illness it will also be important to consider involving the relevant adult services professional(s).
3.83 A strategy discussion may take place following a referral, or at any other time (e.g. if concerns about significant harm emerge in respect of a child or young person receiving support under Section 17).
3.84 A strategy discussion may take place at a meeting or by other means (e.g. by telephone). In complex circumstances a meeting is likely to be the most effective way forward and in some circumstances more than one meeting may be necessary. Any information shared, all decisions, should be clearly recorded using the appropriate forms.
3.85 The discussion should be used to plan enquiries in more detail. This may not require a meeting, but normally the following people will be involved:
- The Social Worker and Police Officer appointed to the enquiry (known as the enquiry team)
- The person making the referral where appropriate
- In the case of a school age child, the child’s teacher or other appropriate member of the school staff
- All relevant professionals providing services to any child with complex health and care needs
- A person who knows the child or young person well, e.g. nursery nurse, education welfare officers, foster carer/residential worker if the child or young person is “Looked After”
- A specialist advisor, e.g. if the child or young person has individual communication needs
- The Service Manager/Principal Social Worker and Detective Inspector/Detective Sergeant
- Medical practitioner e.g. the child or young person’s GP
- Where a medical examination may be needed, a senior doctor from the providing service
- If the child or young person is a hospital patient (in or out patient) or receiving services from a child development team, the medical consultant responsible for the child or young person’s health care should be involved as should the senior ward nurse
- Legal advisor
- Any other person relevant to the enquiry
3.86 The purpose of the strategy discussion is to:
- Share, review and clarify the information currently available,
- Agree the conduct and timing of any criminal investigation
- Decide whether a core assessment under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 (Section 47 enquiries) should be initiated or continued if they have already begun.
- Make decisions about:
- When the child or young person and family will be interviewed and for what purposes and by whom
- How the child or young person will be interviewed i.e. video recorded or not and by whom
- Where the interview will take place - particularly a non-video recorded interview with the child or young person
- Whether the information supports the need for the child or young person to be medically examined and by whom, if no medical examination is to take place, reasons to be noted
- Identify, on the basis of the information available, those people with parental responsibility
- Identify, on the basis of the information available, a person with parental responsibility who may give consents e.g. for interview with the child or young person and for medical examination
- Establish what the role of the parents or other family members will be i.e. determine what information about the strategy discussion will be shared with the family, unless such information sharing may place a child or young person at risk of significant harm or jeopardise Police investigations into any alleged offence or offences
- Identify, any specialist assistance which may be required e.g. an interpreter, to take account of any ethnic or cultural issues for the child or young person and their family. Particular care should be taken in choosing an interpreter, having regard to language skills, their understanding of the issues under discussion, their commitment to confidentiality and their position in the wider community. There can be difficulties in using family members or friends as interpreters and this should be avoided. Children or young people should not be used as interpreters
- Consider the use of covert video surveillance in cases where fabricated or induced illness is suspected
- Decide on an appropriate person to support the child or young person during the enquiry process, if this is not to be a parent or other family member
- Agree plan for Section 47 enquiries as part of the core assessment - what further information is needed about the child, children, young person or young people and family and how it should be obtained
- Make “contingency plans” e.g. if there is a possibility that the child or young person will need immediate protection and/or provide interim services and support
- Consider needs of other children and young people who may be affected e.g. siblings and other children and young people in contact with alleged abusers
- Make sure that the enquiry team can contact their supervisors during the enquiry process
- Where the child or young person is disabled, there will always be a strategy meeting rather than a discussion and this will include at least one person who knows the child or young person well. This meeting must:
- Be clear about the purpose of any planned interview – it may be used for criminal proceedings, civil or both
- Not make assumptions that a disabled child or young person is unable to be interviewed or give credible evidence
- Carry out a full assessment of the child or young person’s abilities and needs, for example, for specialist interpreters in the child or young person’s chosen method of communication (e.g. B.S.L Makaton), access to buildings if the child or young person uses a wheelchair, their level of understanding of what is going on etc.
3.87 Where it is agreed that Section 47 enquiries will be carried out, this will trigger the completion of a core assessment by Children's Social Care. Section 47 enquiries will contribute to this assessment.
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3.88 Any adult having parental responsibility has the right to expect the fullest possible information about action to be taken in response to a referral concerning their child or young person. Parent’s permission should be sought before discussing a referral about them with other agencies. Exceptionally a suspected child victim may need to be spoken to without the knowledge of the parent or care giver. Relevant circumstances would include the possibility that the child or young person would be threatened or otherwise coerced into silence; strong evidence that important evidence would be destroyed; or that the child or young person did not wish the parent to be involved at that stage and is competent to make that decision. In all cases where the Police are involved the strategy discussion should decide on the most appropriate timing of parental participation.
3.89 Obtaining consent and respecting confidentiality may not always be straightforward, particularly in situations of family conflict or dispute, where a number of parental figures are involved, or where there are allegations of harm about which enquiries are being made. The consent of any one parent/person with parental responsibility (Section 9 Part K) acting alone, rather than all those with parental responsibility, is required to disclose information about a child or young person.
3.90 When responding to referrals from the wider community, it should be borne in mind that personal information about referrers, including identifying details, should only be disclosed to third parties (including subject families and other agencies) with the consent of the referrer. However, in some instances the nature of the referral information may enable a subject family to trace its source. Normally the source of a referral made by another professional will be shared with the family and other agencies, unless there are exceptional circumstances where to do so would be contrary to the child or young person’s welfare.
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Section 47 Enquiries and Core Assessment
3.91 The objective of Children's Social Care enquiries conducted under Section 47 is to determine whether action is needed to promote and safeguard the welfare of the child or children who are the subject of enquiries. The core assessment should begin by focusing on the information identified as being of most importance when considering whether the child or young person is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm. It should however cover all of the relevant dimensions in the Assessment Framework before its completion. Those making the enquiries should be alert of the potential needs of other children and young people in the household and other children or young people with whom the alleged offender may have had contact. At the same time, the Police will need (where relevant) to establish the facts about any offence which may have been committed against a child or young person and to collect evidence. The strategy discussion will have determined how the agencies will work together to conduct the enquiries.
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Interviewing the Child
3.92 Children and young people are sometimes the only source of information about what has happened to them. It is important discussions with children and young people are conducted in a way that minimises any distress caused to them and maximises the likelihood that they will provide accurate and complete information.
3.93 In accordance with the Achieving Best Evidence Guidance (2011) all joint interviews with children and young people should be conducted by those with specialist training and experience in interviewing children and young people.
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3.94 The medical examination of a child or young person who is suspected to have been harmed must always be considered by the enquiry team and particularly where the child or young person is known to be injured. The examination will have a number of purposes, including;
- assessment of the child or young person’s general health and development,
- diagnosis of any illness or injury present,
- recommendations for any treatment required,
- provision of a medical assessment for use as evidence in any future court proceedings.
3.95 Where there are other children or young people in the family of a child or young person who is injured or suspected to have been harmed, consideration must also be given to the need for them to be medically assessed.
3.96 The medical examination of infants, young children and young people is particularly important in order to assess their overall health and whether the child or young person has any injuries which may not be immediately apparent.
3.97 There may be some cases involving young people where a medical examination would serve no useful purpose, or the enquiry team considers that the emotional impact on the young person would constitute further harm, e.g. where the allegation is of sexual harm. Each case must be considered according to the particular circumstances of the young person. In order to comply with the evidential requirements of any future court proceedings, medical examinations will be carried out by:
- a force medical examiner (FME) or community gynaecologist with suitable training and experience in the examination of children or young people about whom there are child protection concerns or
- a paediatrician trained in forensic skills or
- a paediatrician, or other specialist as required, together with an FME trained and experienced as above.
Further information is available in Health’s Section 9 Part C.
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3.98 Further information regarding medical consent can be found in Section 9 Part K under Legislation.
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Post Enquiry Discussion
3.99 At the conclusion of the enquiries the Service Manager/Principal Social Worker will again consult with the Police co-decision maker and decide whether there is a need for further action to be taken. The possible outcomes of this consultation are;
- There is a need for the child or young person’s immediate protection.
- The child or young person is safe for the immediate future but child protection concerns persist, which necessitate the convening of a Child Protection Conference.
- The allegation is unsubstantiated or there are no continuing child protection concerns. However, the assessment of the child or young person and family’s needs should continue and any necessary services provided.
- Further criminal investigations should take place.
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