1.1 Children's Services Values and Principles

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter contains the underlying values and principles for the provision of services and for recording, confidentiality and consultation. Staff in the Looked After Service should also read their relevant Statements of Purpose.


Contents

  1. Underlying Values and Principles
  2. Equal Opportunities
  3. Recording Values and Principles
  4. Confidentiality Values and Principles
  5. Consultation Values and Principles


1. Underlying Values and Principles

  1. The best interests of the child: All decisions made in relation to children must have, as the first and paramount consideration, the best interests of the child.
  2. Assessment, planning and review: Services will be provided to children on the basis of regular assessment, planning, monitoring and review. For those who are Looked After, this will continue through the transition from childhood to adulthood.
  3. Avoiding delay: All decisions in relation to the provision of services to children will be made promptly and within agreed time-scales, having regard to the needs of the child; the achievement of these timescales will be monitored and reviewed
  4. Anti-discriminatory: children will receive services which take account of their race, culture, language, disability, sexuality, level of literacy and religion. 
  5. Valuing the family: Children have the right, whenever possible, to be brought up within their own family, either with their parents or relatives. 
  6. Partnership: In promoting this right, services will be provided in partnership with parents, significant people in children’s lives and with other agencies to assist and support parents in meeting their children’s needs within the family. 
  7. Listening and taking action: We will promote an ‘open door’ culture for all children, which encourages them to express their views, wishes and feelings; and say what they think about anything which affects them. We will then do all we can to ensure their views are taken into account when decisions are made about them.
  8. Quality services for children: Where services are provided for children, they will be provided by skilled people, committed to meeting children’s needs; in a manner which promotes their educational, physical, emotional, social and psychological needs and in an environment where they feel safe, positive and encouraged.
  9. Keeping children informed: Children will be provided with a range of accessible information about our services and those which they may require to improve their life chances.
  10. Promoting independence: We will help children to be as independent and to take as full and active a part in everyday life as possible.
  11. Protecting children: We understand that, on occasions, it will be necessary for limits to be placed on the actions of some children for the sake of their welfare or to protect them or others from injury or harm. Interventions used in these circumstances will be the least restrictive and disruptive.
  12. Resolving dissatisfaction: Where children, or others on their behalf, are dissatisfied, we will take steps to resolve their dissatisfaction and provide opportunities for them to complain if they wish.
  13. The appropriate looked after placement: Where children are unable to live with their birth family, they will be looked after in family based care or, where appropriate, residential care.
  14. Respecting privacy: Looked after children will be treated with respect and afforded privacy. 
  15. Permanence: We will ensure a plan exists for all looked after children to achieve a permanent solution for their future upbringing. Wherever possible, permanence will be secured through a return to their parents’ care or a placement within their wider family but where this cannot be achieved within a time-scale appropriate to the child’s needs, plans will be made for a permanent alternative family placement, which may include adoption, or, for older children, a stable placement which prepares the child for adulthood.
  16. Maintaining community links: Where children are looked after away from the family, they will be placed as near to their family home or community as possible unless their needs otherwise dictate.
  17. Promoting contact: We will promote meaningful contact between looked after children and their families and community of origin unless particular circumstances indicate that such contact would not be in their best interests.
  18. Monitoring: We will ensure that all looked after children receive regular and frequent visits from their social workers for the purposes of monitoring and reviewing the suitability of their placement arrangements.


2. Equal Opportunities

The department will ensure that all services are aware of their responsibilities towards both users and staff in promoting an ongoing and critical review of the services they provide.

The authority and its employees will not discriminate against or disadvantage any child or family on the grounds of colour, race, religion, language, disability, gender or sexuality. All policies, procedures and practice will reflect this intention.


3. Recording Values and Principles

Each of the following values is summarised on the page specified. Click on title required.

  1. Records must be kept of all children
  2. The design of records and forms must be approved
  3. Children and their families must be informed about their records
  4. The member of staff primarily involved should complete the record
  5. All relevant information about children and their families must be recorded
  6. Recording legal advice
  7. Children and their families should be involved in the recording process
  8. Information about children/their families should be shared with them
  9. Records must be legible, signed and dated
  10. Records mst be kept up to date
  11. Records must be written avoiding jargon, and prejudice must be avoided
  12. Records must be accurate and adequate
  13. Managers must oversee, monitor and review records
  14. Records should be kept securely
  15. Records moved to a new location must be monitored
  16. Records must usually be retained after closure

1.

Records must be kept of all children

The Children and Families service has developed an electronic system for recording referrals, assessments, plans, reviews and general casework which all workers are required to use. Manual files are used to record non-electronic documents. Where manual files extend to more than one volume, the dates covered by each volume must be clearly recorded on the front cover. 

2.

The design of records and forms must be approved

Records and forms must be designed to fit their purpose and used consistently across the organisation

3.

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 Principles of Confidentiality, below

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.

4.

The member of staff primarily involved should complete the record

The practitioner primarily involved, that is by the person who directly observes or witnesses the event that is being recorded or who has participated in the meeting/conversation, must complete records.

If additional records are completed or updated by other people, it must be clear from the record which person provided the information being recorded. 

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

5.

All relevant information about children and their families must be recorded

Every child's case file must include a properly maintained chronology.

All visits, meetings or appointments made in relation to children must be recorded, stating who was present or seen, the relevant discussions which occurred, actions/decisions taken and by whom, and the reasons for decisions. 

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.

Information recorded must state the ethnic origin and disability of the Child/Young Person. When new/additional information has come to the attention of the team files must be updated within 1 working day of the information being received.

6.

Recording legal advice

All legal advice must remain privileged and is exempt from disclosure. Therefore, all advice should be recorded on the Children and Families Assessment System using either the Legal Advice Contact Sheets (not diary sheets) or Legal Planning Meeting Notes as appropriate. Information recorded on these documents must not be disclosed to Guardians ad Litem when reviewing case files.

7.

Children and their families should be involved in the recording process

Children and their families must be involved in the process of gathering and recording information about them. 

They should be asked to provide information, express their own views and wishes, and contribute to assessments, reports and to the formulation of plans.

Generally, they must be asked to give their agreement to the sharing of information about them with others – but there are exceptions.

8.

Information about children/their families should be shared with them

Information, including assessments, 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
  • The information was given in the expectation that it would not be disclosed or
  • The information relates to a third party who expressly indicated the information should not be disclosed.
  • Consideration should be given to the first language of the child/young person and their carers. The Manager may wish to use the speech translation services provided by the authority.

Before sharing any information previously deemed to be confidential, the manager must take all reasonable steps to consult the originator and take account of their views and wishes.

9.

Records must be legible, signed and dated

When used, manual records should be typed or handwritten in black ink and all records must be signed and dated. 

Any handwritten records must be produced so that readers not familiar with the handwriting of the writer can read the records quickly and easily. It must be possible to distinguish the name and post title or

status of the person completing the record. If there is any doubt of the identity of the writer from a signature, the name should be printed.

10.

Records mst 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.

11.

Records must be written avoiding jargon, 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.

12.

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.

13.

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 and date/sign samples of records to ensure they are up to date and maintained as required and, if not, that deficiencies are rectified as soon as practicable.

14.

Records should be kept securely

All records held on children must be kept securely.

Manual files should normally be stored in a locked cabinet, or a similar manner, usually in an office to which only staff/carers have access.

Manual records should not be left unattended when not in their normal location.

Accesses to electronic records are password protected. Workers will be required to change their unique passwords regularly and must not divulge their passwords to any other individual.

15.

Records moved to a new location must be monitored

Where records are moved to a new location, the date of transfer should be clearly recorded.

A member of the admin team should check that the records have arrived at their intended destination, the return slip should be completed and processed accordingly.

16.

Records must usually be retained after closure

All files must be retained in accordance with the Department’s Retention & Destruction of Files procedure.


4. Confidentiality Values and Principles

Each of the following values is summarised on the page specified. Click on title required.

  1. Principles of confidentiality
  2. Personal information is subject to a legal duty of confidence
  3. Disclosure of confidential information is permitted in specific circumstances
  4. Freedom of Information Act 2000


1.

Principles of confidentiality

The introduction of electronic case recording has resulted in much greater accessibility to individual records to those involved in a case. This does, however, increase the risk of information being used insensitively or inadvertently being disclosed to someone inappropriately.

Whilst there is no such thing as a totally safe system it is important to take appropriate measures to safeguard personal information. To help consider how best to record and store this information safely, the Children and Families Service has adopted the concept of three different levels of confidentiality. Workers must take this into account when collecting and recording information. The levels of confidentiality are:

  • CONFIDENTIAL
  • SENSITIVE
  • HIGHLY SENSITIVE

CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION is ALL INFORMATION which Social Care and Supported Housing holds on a service user/child/young person. This information must be kept confidential to the Department, and only accessed on a need to know basis.

SENSITIVE INFORMATION is information which is of a personal and sensitive nature and therefore requires not only to be kept confidential to the Department but careful and sensitive handling by all in contact with the service user/child/young person and their records. Examples of what constitutes sensitive information include:

  • Information about relationships
  • Private hopes, wishes or fears
  • Health information (mental, physical, sexual)
  • Sexuality
  • Sexual activity
  • Histories of physical or sexual abuse
  • Issues of parenthood where there may be information which is confidential to someone else (other than the child); the child does not know or aspects of parenthood which may have health implications - inherited conditions for example
  • Sensitive third party information

HIGHLY SENSITIVE INFORMATION is information which if disclosed to the wrong person could cause the service user/child/young person harm or acute distress. This information therefore needs to be kept confidential to the Department handled carefully and sensitive and restricted in its availability. Examples of highly sensitive information include:

  • Addresses and other locating information, e.g. schools, names and addresses of doctor etc. need to be kept particularly confidential because of risks of violence - threatened or actual - abduction, child protection
  • Where addresses need to be kept extra confidential because of regulation, e.g. adoption regulation.
  • Health information (mental, physical, sexual)
  • Information about sexuality and sexual activity
  • Histories of physical or sexual abuse
  • Issues of parenthood where there may be information that is confidential to someone else (other than the child); the child does not know or aspects of parenthood which may have health implications - inherited conditions for example
2.

Personal information is subject to a legal duty of confidence

 All personal information is subject to a legal duty of confidence. The legal framework for confidentiality is contained in common law, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Data Protection Act 1998. All staff are obliged to safeguard information held about our users and are personally responsible for any breach of this statutory responsibility. 

3.

Disclosure of confidential information is permitted in specific circumstances

As far as possible, a worker should seek consent before disclosing personal information, even to other care agencies. If consent is not forthcoming, information can be disclosed in circumstances when the individual’s right to confidentiality is superseded by the need to comply with a statute, court order, where there is a serious risk to public health, a risk of harm to other individuals particularly children or for the prevention, detection or prosecution of crime. If disclosure is made without consent, a careful record needs to be kept of what has been disclosed. Also, only the minimum personal information necessary should be disclosed. Information should not be disclosed to a non-agency body or person without first seeking legal advice. 

Workers are allowed to exchange necessary personal information with other care or health agencies when Child Protection Enquiries are being pursued under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989.

For more detailed guidance, seek advice from the Social Services Data Protection Contact Officer, the Council’s Data Protection and Freedom of Information Team or from the Department of Law & Administration.

4.

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:

  1. To be informed in writing whether or not the public authority holds the information requested;
    and if so
  2. 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. 

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 3 above.


5. Consultation Values and Principles

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, Confidentiality and Information Sharing 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. 

If consultation is not possible or is restricted for whatever reason, steps should be taken to ensure 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 decision, and of the availability of the Rperesentations and Complaints Procedure.

End