1. A Child Focussed Approach to Safeguarding
Effective safeguarding systems are child centred. Failings in safeguarding systems are too often the result of losing sight of the needs and views of the children within them, or placing the interests of adults ahead of the needs of children.
Children want to be respected, their views to be heard, to have stable relationships with professionals built on trust and for consistent support provided for their individual needs. This should guide the behaviour of professionals. Anyone working with children should see and speak to the child; listen to what they say; take their views seriously; and work with them collaboratively when deciding how to support their needs. A child-centred approach is supported by:
- The Children Act 1989 (as amended by section 53 of the Children Act 2004). This Act requires local authorities to give due regard to a child's wishes when determining what services to provide under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, and before making decisions about action to be taken to protect individual children under section 47 of the Children Act 1989. These duties complement requirements relating to the wishes and feelings of children who are, or may be, looked after (section 22 (4) Children Act 1989), including those who are provided with accommodation under section 20 of the Children Act 1989 and children taken into police protection (section 46(3) (d) of that Act);
- The Equality Act 2010 which puts a responsibility on public authorities to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and promote equality of opportunity. This applies to the process of identification of need and risk faced by the individual child and the process of assessment. No child or group of children must be treated any less favourably than others in being able to access effective services which meet their particular needs; and
- The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). This is an international agreement that protects the rights of children and provides a child-centred framework for the development of services to children. The UK Government ratified the UNCRC in 1991 and, by doing so, recognises children's rights to expression and receiving information.
See Working Together to Safeguarding Children:Children have said that they need
- Vigilance: to have adults notice when things are troubling them;
- Understanding and action: to understand what is happening; to be heard and understood; and to have that understanding acted upon;
- Stability: to be able to develop an on-going stable relationship of trust with those helping them;
- Respect: to be treated with the expectation that they are competent rather than not;
- Information and engagement: to be informed about and involved in procedures, decisions, concerns and plans;
- Explanation: to be informed of the outcome of assessments and decisions and reasons when their views have not met with a positive response;
- Support: to be provided with support in their own right as well as a member of their family;
- Advocacy: to be provided with advocacy to assist them in putting forward their views.
- Eliciting the child's wishes and feelings - about their situation now as well as plans and hopes for the future;
- Providing children with honest and accurate information about the current situation, as seen by professionals, and future possible actions and interventions;
- Involving the child in key decision-making;
- Providing appropriate information to the child about his or her right to protection and assistance;
- Inviting children to make recommendations about the services and assistance they need and/or are available to them;
- Ensuring children have access to independent advice and support (for example, through advocates or children's rights officers) to be able to express their views and influence decision-making.
Even initial discussions with children should be conducted in a way that minimises any distress caused to them and maximises the likelihood that they will provide helpful information. Children may need time and more than one opportunity in order to develop sufficient trust to communicate any concerns they may have, especially if they have a communication impairment, learning disabilities, are very young or are experiencing mental health problems.
In addition to individual practitioners shaping support around the needs of individual children, local agencies need to have a clear understanding of the collective needs of children locally when commissioning effective services. As part of that process, the Director of Public Health should ensure that the needs of vulnerable children are a key part of the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment that is developed by the health and well-being board. The LSCP locally should use this assessment to help them understand the prevalence of abuse and neglect in their area, which in turn will help shape services.