Children's Services Policies, Values and Principles
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter provides the context for all procedures.
It contains the over arching policy for the provision of services to children and families. It also sets out underlying values and principles for recording, confidentiality and consultation.
In September 2018, a new Section 2, Corporate Parenting was added in response to the DfE Applying Corporate Parenting Principles to Looked-after Children and Care Leavers – Statutory Guidance (Feb 2018). It includes the seven corporate parenting principles set out in the guidance.
This policy sets out the framework within which Children's Services work with children, young people and their families. It is underpinned by a range of legislation including, but not limited to:
- Children Acts 1989 and 2004;
- Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000;
- Care Standards Act 2000;
- United Nations Convention on the Rights of The Child;
- Human Rights Act 1998;
- Adoption and Children Act 2002;
- Data Protection Legislation;
- Children and Families Act 2014;
- Children and Social Work Act 2017.
The policy framework also has regard to and is consistent with a range of government guidance, particularly the principles set out in Working Together to Safeguard Children.
It is largely directed towards the work that Children's Services undertakes with Children in Need and Looked After Children; which is carried out in partnership with all sectors of the Local Authority and with other statutory, independent and voluntary sector services.
2. Corporate Parenting
2.1 Corporate Parenting Responsibilities
The role that councils play in looking after children is one of the most important things they do. Local authorities have a unique responsibility to the children they look after and their care leavers.
The term 'corporate parent' is broadly understood by Directors of Children's Services and Lead Members for Children, as well as those working directly in Children's Services, in relation to how local authorities should approach their responsibilities for looked after children and care leavers. A strong ethos of corporate parenting means that sense of vision and responsibility towards the children they look after and their care leavers is a priority for everyone. Corporate Parenting is an important part of the Ofsted inspection framework and the Corporate Parenting Principles are referenced in Ofsted's Inspecting Local Authority Children's Services.
The Corporate Parenting Principles are intended to facilitate as far as possible secure, nurturing, and positive experiences for looked after children and young people and enable positive outcomes for them.
The experiences of looked-after children and care leavers, particularly in regards to whether they feel cared for and listened to, will therefore be an important measure of how successfully local authorities embed these principles.
2.2 Corporate Parenting Principles
The Corporate Parenting Principles set out seven principles that local authorities will have regard to when exercising their functions in relation to looked after children and young people, as follows:
- To act in the best interests, and promote the physical and mental health and wellbeing, of those children and young people;
- To encourage those children and young people to express their views, wishes and feelings;
- To take into account the views, wishes and feelings of those children and young people;
- To help those children and young people gain access to, and make the best use of, services provided by the local authority and its relevant partners;
- To promote high aspirations, and seek to secure the best outcomes, for those children and young people;
- For those children and young people to be safe, and for stability in their home lives, relationships and education or work; and
- To prepare those children and young people for adulthood and independent living.
The Corporate Parenting Principles do not replace or change existing legal duties, The principles are intended to encourage local authorities to be ambitious and aspirational for their looked-after children and care leavers.
In addition, Section 10 of the Children Act 2004 sets out the responsibility to make arrangements to promote co-operation between 'relevant partners' with a view to improving the well-being of children in their area. This should include arrangements in relation to looked-after children and care leavers. Section 10(5) of the 2004 Act places a duty on relevant partners to co-operate with the local authority in the making of these arrangements, therefore promoting and ensuring a joined-up approach to improving the well-being of children in their area.
3. Key Outcomes
In Central Bedfordshire the Children's Trust is a group made of organisations that work with children and young people across the area, including the police, schools and youth groups and many others. They have identified four key areas for the Trust to focus on:
- Improving educational achievement - improving GCSE results, making sure young people have careers advice early so they can make decisions, reducing the number of young people that are not in employment, education or training;
- Protecting vulnerable children - making sure vulnerable children get the help they need, when they need it, providing safe and stable homes for children whose parents are unable to look after them, tackling domestic abuse, youth offending and child sexual exploitation;
- Early help and improving life chances - promoting free childcare for two-year-olds from disadvantaged families, identifying and supporting young carers, reducing the number of children living in low income homes;
- Being healthy and positive - supporting mothers through pregnancy, reducing childhood obesity, encouraging children and young people to get involved in more physical activity.
4. Key Principles
Consideration of children's welfare and best interests will always be at the centre of the work that is undertaken.
Children's Services will work to ensure the above outcomes by working to maintain children within their own families, and facilitating services to support this arrangement, wherever this is possible and consistent with the child's safety and well-being.
Where a child cannot be cared for within his or her immediate family, strenuous efforts will be made to identify potential carers within the wider kinship network of the child who are able and willing to care for the child.
If continuing care within his/her family is not possible every effort will be made to identify suitable alternative carers, reflecting the child's ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background wherever possible and appropriate. Suitable local placements will be identified to achieve educational and social continuity.
Children's Services will ensure that children who are looked after are placed in approved placements, suitable to meet their needs and that, wherever possible, siblings are placed together. For younger children, they will be placed in a family placement unless there are sound assessed reasons why residential care is the preferred option.
Children's Services will ensure that permanence plans are made for all looked after children within 4 months of their becoming looked after and enacted as quickly as possible. If a young person remains in care we will ensure that they are supported when they leave care at least until they are 25 to give them a positive start to independent living.
Children, their parents and other significant adults will be consulted about plans for their care and these plans will be subject to independent review. Children's Services will also consult about the services it provides and ensure that children have access to advocacy services that will assist them in being heard.