SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter provides the context for all procedures.
It contains the overarching policy for the provision of services to children and families.
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;
- Children Act 2004;
- Data Protection Act 1998;
- Children and Families Act 2014.
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. Key Outcomes
The key outcomes for all children identified in the Children Act 2004 remain relevant and enable the local authority, the People's Services Department and its practitioners to focus on the key aspects for all children. The performance indicators local authorities and partners use are structured around these outcomes. The statements set out below are based on these key outcomes and have been amended to reflect current Government policy priorities.
All children and young people have the right to have their physical, emotional and mental health safeguarded and promoted. Where appropriate, they should be supported to develop a sense of well-being through:
- Positively understanding their identity;
- Building resilience;
- Helping them to develop their self-image and confidence;
- An approach that provides positive affirmation and encouragement.
All young people should be given the encouragement and opportunity to live a healthy lifestyle.
All children and young people have the right to be safe and secure, protected from harm and neglect, and to live in an environment that enables them to develop to their full physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social potential. This includes being safe from a range of concerns. When they need help to achieve these outcomes it should be available in a timely way and delivered through effective interventions.
All children and young people have the right to family life wherever possible and to be supported to take part in community life. They have the right to a continuity of care wherever possible and to develop and preserve their own identities.
All children have a right to a loving and secure home and, where this cannot be provided by their birth parents and wider families, children should have the opportunity to experience this through adoption, special guardianship, child arrangement orders or long term fostering.
Enjoying and achieving
All children and young people have the right to good education and training which meets their identified needs and equips them to live full adult lives. Looked after children should have the opportunity to attend good schools, higher education/training establishments where they make the expected or greater than expected progress and effective use is made of the additional resources available for them through the pupil premium. All children (not forgetting young carers) have the right to time and support to pursue appropriate leisure interests.
Making a positive contribution
All children should be encouraged and supported to make an age-appropriate positive contribution wherever they are living or call 'home'. They will be able to do this best where they have a continuity of care, an understanding about their identity and information which they can use to make informed decisions about themselves. Therefore, contributing to their own lives.
Children, young people and care leavers should also be encouraged to take an interest in their communities, through school, higher education/training or local clubs, and to take part in activities which contribute to these and /or support others.
All children have the right to be supported in their studies, to be prepared for adult life and work, and to be equipped with the skills and knowledge that will help them overcome any social disadvantage, become self-sufficient and able to make positive choices for themselves.
3. Key Principles
Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children will always be at the centre of the work Local Authorities and their partners undertake with children and their families. The child's needs are paramount, and the needs and wishes of each child, be they a baby or infant, or an older child, should be put first, so that every child receives the support they need before a problem escalates.
Children's Services, together with their local authority colleagues as corporate parents, will work to secure the above outcomes by working to enable a child's own family including their wider family to meet their needs. They will facilitate services, including early help services, to support children and families 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 meet the needs and best interests of the child. If continuing care within his/her family is not possible, every effort will be made to identify suitable alternative carers through adoption or other forms of permanence. Efforts to secure the child's future must be timely and avoid delay. Children's Services will ensure that permanence plans are made for all looked after children within 4 months of their becoming looked after.
Children's Services will ensure that children who are looked after are placed in properly approved placements, suitable to meet their needs and that, wherever possible, siblings are placed together. They will be placed in a family placement unless there are assessed reasons why residential care or an alternative type of placement is the better option. Contact with their birth family should be promoted, and where required, supported, except where this may be contrary to the child's best interests.
If a young person remains in care until adulthood Children's Services will ensure that they are supported when they leave care, including through remaining in their foster placement (Staying Put), at least until they are 21 (or 24) if in full time education, to give them a positive start to independent living. This support will include personal assistance with living independently and with accessing and making the most of education and employment opportunities.
Children, their parents and other significant adults will be consulted about plans for their care and these plans will be subject to regular independent review. Children and their families will be encouraged to take part in their reviews and can expect that their views will be listened to and will help shape the child's Plan.
Children's Services will ensure that children have access to advocacy services that will assist them in being heard, where this is appropriate.
4. Our Strategy
The Strategy of the Children's Services will be to harness Government policy and funding opportunities to develop evidence-based services that meet the needs of children and families.
To reflect on and consider feedback on local and national issues and to promote a learning and development culture that will work to provide:
- Sustainable and cost-effective structures and services;
- Partnerships with other statutory services and locally based providers;
- Well-trained and supported staff who are able to carry out their responsibilities effectively;
- A clear sense of corporate responsibility throughout the Council which ensures that children and their families have their needs met within the community.
This will deliver a range of universal, targeted and specialist services. These services will aim to reduce the numbers of children becoming children in need and concentrate specialist services on children most in need to give them the best possible life chances.