Working with children and families to safeguard and promote the welfare of children raises complex issues of values, rights and potentially conflicting interests. Member and Partners agencies of the LSCP need to be guided by a set of principles as well as by specialist knowledge. The following key principles, which draw on findings from research, underpin work with children and their families to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. These principles are reflected in the LSCP Policies and supplementary guidance contained in later sections. They will be relevant to varying degrees depending on the functions and level of involvement of the organisation and the individual practitioner concerned.

Children First

The over-riding principle is that the needs and rights of children come first i.e. the safety and well-being of the child are paramount. Where the rights and needs of the child conflict with those of adults, whether parents/carers or professionals, any conflict must be resolved in the child's favour. LSCP strongly endorses the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Working in Partnership with Children and Families

LSCP strongly supports the principle of working in partnership with children, parents/carers and other family members. The importance of developing a co-operative working relationship is emphasised, so that parents or caregivers feel respected and informed and that they believe agency staff are being open and honest with them. In turn they are confident about providing vital information about their child, themselves and their circumstances.

Partnership does not mean always agreeing with parents, or always seeking a way forward which is acceptable to them.  The focus should remain on the child and what is best for him/her. Decisions should also be made with their agreement, whenever possible, unless to do so would place the child at risk of suffering significant harm.

Partnership does mean:

  • Always treating family members with courtesy, dignity and respect.
  • Being honest and open with children and families about professional roles, responsibilities and powers, and about what is and is not negotiable.
  • A presumption of openness and joint decision-making, unless this can be shown to be against the interests of the child.
  • Seeking the consent of the child and family wherever possible and being consistent with the child's best interests.
  • Respecting the rights of family members, and helping them to exercise those rights.
  • Acknowledging in all work the strengths of families as well as their difficulties, ensuring a deficit model of working does not happen
  • A commitment to maintain children within their own families where this is possible and safe.

Listening to Children

One way of promoting and respecting the rights of children is to ensure that they are listened to and their views responded to. It is important therefore that as far as possible the child's voice should be heard as directly as possible and care should be taken to ensure assumptions are not made about their ability to communicate. Where possible, children's views should be expressed in their own words and/or communicated in the way which is most comfortable for them and recorded in their own words, where recording is required.

Equal Opportunities

LSCP is committed to promoting equal opportunities and anti-oppressive practice. Equality of opportunity means that all children have the opportunity to achieve the best possible development, regardless of their gender, ability, race, ethnicity, circumstances or age. Some vulnerable children 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.

The LSCP recognise that children and families can suffer from discrimination because of race, ethnic origin, religion, culture or disability. The Board is committed to promoting equity of service, and to working in a non-discriminatory manner. LSCP recognises the challenge of working in Lincolnshire where minority groups are often small and isolated.

The principle of equal opportunities also means that children in minority groups have an equal right to protection from abuse, and that the same standards should apply when assessments are being made. Cultural factors neither explain nor condone abuse or neglect, and it must be acknowledged that children from all backgrounds can be abused or neglected.

Sharing Information

Research and experience have shown that keeping children safe requires professionals and others to share information about children and about their parents/carers and others who may pose a risk of harm. Often, it is only when information from a number of sources has been shared and is then put together that it becomes clear that a child is at risk of suffering significant harm. LSCP therefore endorses the principle of sharing information to protect children. At the same time the legitimate concerns and anxieties of professionals and agencies when dealing with sensitive personal information are recognised.

LSCP believes that:

  • The best way to resolve any potential difficulties is normally for agencies and professionals to seek the consent of the subject of the information to share it with others.
  • Where consent is not given, or seeking consent would place a child at further risk, sharing information should not normally be a problem where Children's Social Care are carrying out enquiries under. The law and most professional guidance in these circumstances would normally allow information to be disclosed without consent in order to safeguard the child and/or for the purposes of the prevention or detection of crime.

Where Children's Social care are seeking information as part of a social work assessment, in order to decide among other things whether a Section 47 Enquiry is needed, the position is less clear. 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 at risk of suffering significant harm

This is a sensitive and developing area of law and professional ethics. Further guidance is given in the protocol contained in Appendix 5 - Protocol on Sharing Information in Order to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of Children

Multi/Inter-agency in approach

From birth, there will be a variety of different agencies and programmes in the community involved with children and their development, particularly in relation to their health and education. Multi and inter-agency work to safeguard and promote children's welfare starts as soon as there are concerns about a child's welfare, not just when there are questions about possible harm.

LSCP recognises that agencies have different roles and responsibilities in terms of child protection. The essence of effective collaboration lies not in blurring these differences but in recognising that each agency and professional has its own contribution to make, complementing the roles of others. The main roles of agencies in relation to child protection are summarised in Section B.

Focused on outcomes for children

When working directly with a child, any plan developed for the child and their family or caregiver should be based on an assessment of the child'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 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 recognising each is unique.

Professional Judgement

The effective protection of children depends crucially on professionals exercising their professional judgement, that is, applying a body of theoretical and practical knowledge and experience to a particular situation, and making appropriate judgements and decisions. Understanding what is happening to a vulnerable child within the context of his or her family and the local community, and taking appropriate actions 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

LSCP strongly believes that professional judgement must be rooted in evidence based practice. There are two aspects to this:

  • Firstly, assessments, judgements and decisions in individual cases must be based on clear and demonstrable evidence about that particular situation. The Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and Their Families is designed to allow such evidence to be systematically gathered and recorded.
  • In addition, evidence based practice means applying findings from research, for example in terms of the impact on children of particular types of intervention, to a particular case. Agencies and individual practitioners therefore have a duty to remain aware of current research and best practice.

A Learning Organisation

The LSCP aims to be a learning organisation and is committed to the principle of continuous improvement of services. Learning will take place at different levels and in a number of different ways, including:

  • through the work of Sub- Groups developing practice guidance.
  • through auditing and monitoring of performance against targets.
  • through consideration of individual cases in the Case Monitoring Group.
  • through Serious Case Reviews.
  • through dissemination of national research and best practice.