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1.1.2 Policy Framework, Values and Principles of Recording, Confidentiality and Consultation

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter provides the context for all procedures. 

It contains the overall policy for the provision of services to children and families. It also sets out underlying values and principles for recording, confidentiality and consultation.

AMENDMENT

In October 2015, a new Section 4, Information Sharing - Confidentiality and Consent, was added to this chapter to reflect the March 2015 national guidance, Information Sharing: Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers.


Contents

  1. Policy Statement
  2. Equal Opportunities Statement 
  3. Recording Values and Principles 
  4. Information Sharing - Confidentiality and Consent
  5. Consultation Values and Principles 


1. Policy Statement 

  • In all dealings with the child and her/his family, the Department’s commitment to anti-discriminatory practice and culturally sensitive services must be evident - see also Section 2, Equal Opportunities Statement;
  • The best outcomes for children will be promoted by working in partnership with them, their parents and relatives wherever possible;
  • If a child cannot live with his/her birth parents, care by friends and family carers is the placement of first consideration in assessing how best to meet the needs of the child - see also Kinship Care Policy;
  • Children and their parents should be provided with good quality information to enable them to exercise choice and understand what they can reasonably expect to happen. Interpreters and non-verbal communication methods will be used as appropriate;
  • The child will be at the centre of all planning, review and decision-making. Her/his feelings and views will always be sought, given serious consideration and recorded. Any complaint made by her/him will be responded to seriously and promptly;
  • Good outcomes depend on thorough, evidence-based assessment of need and planned interventions to meet assessed needs. Consistent use of the Assessment Framework will support such assessment and planning;
  • Decision-making for a child should be within the child’s timescale and informed by the need to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare throughout her/his childhood;
  • The child’s confidentiality, and that of her/his parent, will be respected so far as this is consistent with safeguarding her/his welfare. See also Section 4, Confidentiality Values and Principles;
  • Where a child is Looked After, this will be disclosed only to those who need to have this information. Where age appropriate, the child’s wishes about disclosure will be sought and considered;
  • The authority’s overarching objective for any child it looks after will be to ensure a permanent arrangement for that child throughout his or her childhood;
  • Wherever possible and appropriate, a child will be placed close to his or her family home, preferably with a relative or friend;
  • The capacity of a placement to meet any specific needs arising from the child’s religion, race, culture, language or impairment will be among the criteria used in selecting placements;
  • Wherever possible and appropriate, siblings will be placed together;
  • The role of foster carers in offering a family placement to a child who cannot live with his or her birth family will be valued and respected;
  • Where permanence away from the birth family is the plan for the child this will be progressed in a timely manner, to meet the identified needs of the child. Any unnecessary and/or inappropriate delay will be avoided, as it is recognised that delays in achieving permanence can have a severe impact on the health and development of children;
  • The role of adoptive parents, special guardians and those applying for Child Arrangements Orders in offering a permanent family to a child who cannot live with his or her birth family will be valued and respected;
  • Children should be offered appropriate counselling about all areas of their care, including their placement.


2. Equal Opportunities Statement

This statement shows the commitment of the Education and Children's Services Department to Equal Opportunities and will be made available in other languages if requested.

  • The Education and Children's Services Department is committed to ensuring that services are equally available to all people;
  • The Department is opposed to all forms of racism and other forms of discrimination based on age, beliefs, class, disability, health, ethnic origin, gender or sexual orientation;
  • We will not tolerate offensive or abusive remarks or behaviour nor offensive jokes or imitations;
  • We will resist and challenge acts of discrimination and support our clients and staff when confronted with racial or sexual harassment. This support means that we will offer advice, counselling and help if clients or staff wish to pursue action via the police, complaints system or harassment procedures;
  • If any person feels they have been discriminated against here or anywhere else, please tell us and we will try to help - see also the Whistle Blowing Procedure;
  • Hillingdon Council's Services are open to all and should be accessible to everybody.


3. Recording Values and Principles

  1. Case Records Must be Kept on All Children
  2. The Design of Records and Forms Must be Approved 
  3. Children and their Families Must be Informed about their Records 
  4. All Relevant Information about Children and their Families Must be Recorded, including a Chronology  
  5. Children and their Families should be Involved in the Recording Process
  6. Information about Children and their Families Should Normally be Shared with Them
  7. Managers Must Monitor Information held in ’Restricted Access’ Section of the Child's Case Record
  8. Records Must be Legible, Signed and Dated 
  9. Records Must be Kept up to Date 
  10. Records Must be written in Plain English and Prejudice Must be Avoided
  11. Records Must be Accurate and Adequate
  12. Records Must be Relevant and not Excessive 
  13. Managers Must Oversee and Monitor all Records
  14. Records Should be Kept Securely 
  15. Removal of Records Must be an Exceptional Occurrence 
  16. Records Moved to a New Location Must be Monitored  
  17. Records Must Usually be Retained after Closure


1. 
Case Records Must be Kept on All Children

Each child must have his or her own individual case record on ICS from the point of referral: primary case records are held electronically but records may be in paper form, e.g. letters, plans and diary sheets; audio or video recordings may also be kept.

Information held in electronic records must accurately reflect any corresponding information held within paper files.

2. The Design of Records and Forms Must be Approved

Records and forms must be designed to fit their purpose and have the approval of the relevant Service Manager.

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 also Section 4, Confidentiality, Values and Principles

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.

For children, the Department’s records are one of the most detailed accounts of large parts of their lives. It is important, therefore that this information is gathered and kept in such a way that they are able to gain the maximum understanding and benefit from it.

It is the responsibility of workers to ensure that children know about their lives and are given access to this information when they are sufficiently mature to cope with it.

4. All Relevant Information about Children and their Families Must be Recorded, including a Chronology

Every child’s electronic record must include basic information, a risk assessment, a properly maintained and updated Chronology and a transfer/closing summary (where appropriate).

The Chronology must be started on ICS where it is identified that the further involvement of Children and Families is required.

All relevant contacts with children, their families, colleagues, professionals or other significant people must be recorded electronically, i.e. who was present or seen, the relevant discussions, actions or decisions taken.

Records of decisions must show who has made the decision, the reasons why it has been made and the evidence upon which it is based. 

5. Children and their Families should be Involved in the Recording Process

Children and their families must be routinely involved in the process of gathering and recording information about them. They should feel they are part of the recording process.

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 - see Section 6 below.

6. Information about Children and their Families Should Normally be Shared with Them

Information 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, or

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

The information is relevant to the prevention or detection of a crime and to release it would prejudice the investigation.

In relation to adoption, see Access to Birth Records and Adoption Case Records Procedure.

Where information, which should not be shared with the child concerned for one of the above reasons, is obtained and recorded, it should be placed in the ‘Restricted Access’ section of the child’s record and the reasons should be recorded. 

7. Managers Must Monitor Information in the ‘Restricted Access’ Section of the Child’s Case Record

Managers must monitor information held in the 'Restricted Access' section of a child's record, ensuring that the reason for holding it there is valid; if not, it should be shared with the child and/or moved to another section of the record. 

8. Records Must be Legible, Signed and Dated

Those completing electronic records must show their name and the date when the recording was completed.

All paper records should be typed or handwritten in black ink and all records must be signed and dated. Wherever appropriate and possible, hand written notes should be transferred to the electronic record as soon as practicable or filed in the correct section of the paper record.

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.

9. Records Must be Kept up to Date

Records should be kept up to date with any new information as it becomes available or as decisions or actions are taken. Any change of address, change of school, change of responsible social worker and/or the start/end of particular services should be updated as soon as practicable or, at the latest, within 24 hours.

The sooner the record is updated, the more accurate it is and the better evidence it provides. 

10. Records Must be Written in Plain English 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.

It should always be remembered that clients have a right of access to their records and records should be written with this in mind. It is anticipated that as much information as possible will be shared with clients as part of working with them.

11. Records Must be Accurate and Adequate

Records must be accurate and distinguish clearly between facts, opinions, assessments and decisions. 

Opinions should have a clear indication as to their foundation.

Records must also distinguish between first hand information and information obtained from third parties.

Unsubstantiated comments have no place in records unless the source and truth of comment are also recorded as far as they can be determined.

If a member of staff receives information from an anonymous source, this fact must be recorded together with a record of the worker’s attempt to verify the information and the extent to which it was successful or unsuccessful. 

See Section 4, Confidentiality Values and Principles

12. Records Must be Relevant and not Excessive 

Only the information needed to do the job should be collected – don’t ask for things because you think it would be ‘nice to know’.

13. Managers Must Oversee and Monitor all 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.

Files must contain evidence of management oversight/endorsement of decisions, which should support work and ensure accountability. Decisions made in supervision should be clearly recorded and held on the child's record.

The manager should routinely check 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 members of staff have a responsibility to ensure that the information contained in records is kept securely.

This involves preventing unauthorised access by keeping passwords secret and protecting electronic records from corruption caused by hardware faults or a virus.

Children’s paper records should normally be stored in a locked cabinet, or a similar manner, usually in an office which only staff/carers have access to.

Other day-to-day records, such as Contact or Daily Records, should also be kept securely in a manner authorised by the relevant manager.

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

15. Removal of Records Must be an Exceptional Occurrence

Paper records should not normally be taken from the location where they are normally kept.

If it is necessary to remove a record from its normal location, a manager should approve this and should stipulate or agree how long it is necessary to remove the record. The manager must also be satisfied that adequate measures are in place to ensure the security of the record(s) whilst they are removed. For example, records must never be left in unattended vehicles.

The authorisation for a record to be removed must be recorded and those who may have need to see the records should be informed of their removal. The manager must then ensure the record is returned as required/agreed.

16. 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.

The sender should check that the records have arrived at their intended destination.

17. Records Must Usually be Retained after Closure

Files should be retained for the period set out in the Retention and Destruction of Children's Records Procedure.

The member of staff responsible for the case when the case is closed is responsible for ensuring that the record to be retained is in good order and that unnecessary items have been removed, for example, duplicate copies.


4. Information Sharing – Confidentiality and Consent

  1. Introduction
  2. The Concept of Information Sharing
  3. Key Points for Workers when Sharing Information
  4. Confidentiality and Consent
  5. National Guidance on Information Sharing
  6. Freedom of Information Act 2000

    Further Information

1. Introduction

Effective information-sharing underpins integrated working and is a vital element of both early intervention and safeguarding. Research and experience have shown repeatedly that keeping children safe from harm requires professionals and others to share information:

  • About a child's health and development, and exposure to possible harm;
  • About a parent who may need help, or may not be able to care for a child adequately and safely; and
  • About those who may pose a risk of harm to a child.

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 has suffered, or is likely to suffer, significant harm. However, when professionals share information at an early stage, this should reduce the risk of significant harm.

Those providing services to adults and children, for example GP's, will be concerned about the need to balance their duties to protect children from harm and their general duty of care towards their patient or service user, e.g. a parent. Some professionals and staff face the added dimension of being involved in caring for or supporting more than one family member - the abused child, siblings, and an alleged abuser. In English Law, where there are concerns that a child is, or may be, at risk of significant harm, the overriding consideration is to safeguard the child. (Children Act 1989.)

Practitioners should use their judgement when making decisions on what information to share and when and should follow their organisation procedures or consult with their manager if in doubt. The most important consideration is whether sharing information is likely to safeguard and protect a child. (Information Sharing March 2015)

2. The Concept of Information Sharing

Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015 states that:

“Effective sharing of information between professionals and local agencies is essential for effective identification, assessment and service provision.

Early sharing of information is the key to providing effective early help where there are emerging problems. At the other end of the continuum, sharing information can be essential to put in place effective child protection services. Serious Case Reviews (SCRs) have shown how poor information - sharing has contributed to the deaths or serious injuries of children.

Fears about sharing information cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the need to promote the welfare and protect the safety of children.” (Working Together 2015)

3. Key Points for Workers when Sharing Information

The general principle is that information will only be shared with the consent of the subject of the information.

Sharing confidential information without consent will normally be justified in the public interest in the circumstances shown in Section 4, Confidentiality and Consent.

The Seven Golden Rules for Information Sharing

  1. Remember that the Data Protection Act 1998 and human rights laws are not barriers to justified information sharing but provide a framework to ensure that personal information about living individuals is shared appropriately;
  2. Be open and honest with the individual (and/or their family where appropriate) from the outset about why, what, how and with whom information will, or could be shared, and seek their agreement, unless it is unsafe or inappropriate to do so;
  3. Seek advice from other practitioners if you are in any doubt about sharing the information concerned, without disclosing the identity of the individual where possible;
  4. Share with informed consent where appropriate and, where possible, respect the wishes of those who do not consent to share confidential information. You may still share information without consent if, in your judgement, there is good reason to do so, such as where safety may be at risk. You will need to base your judgment on the facts of the case. When you are sharing or requesting personal information from someone, be certain of the basis upon which you are doing so. Where you have consent, be mindful that an individual might not expect information to be shared;
  5. Consider safety and well-being: Base your information sharing decisions on considerations of the safety and wellbeing of the individual and others who may be affected by their actions;
  6. Necessary, proportionate, relevant, accurate, timely and secure: Ensure that the information you share is necessary for the purpose for which you are sharing it, is shared only with those people who need to have it, is accurate and up-to-date, is shared in a timely fashion, and is shared securely (Practitioners must always follow their organisation’s policy on security for handling personal information);
  7. Keep a record of your decision and the reasons for it - whether it is to share information or not. If you decide to share, then record what you have shared, with whom and for what purpose.

    Source:- Information sharing: advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services (March 2015).

Each situation should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Professionals should always seek advice from senior colleagues, including those in legal services, where clarity is required; in the first instance practitioners should contact The Service Manager for their Service.

The Information sharing guidance for Practitioners makes a point which should be borne in mind. Information can be held in many different ways, in case records or electronically in a variety of IT systems with access for different professionals. The use of emails in professional communications also raises another mechanism for sharing information other than in direct person to person contact. However the information is shared, it should always be recorded in the individual’s record.

If you answer ‘not sure’ to any of the questions, seek advice from your supervisor, manager, nominated person within your organisation or area, or from a professional body.

4. Confidentiality and Consent

Information sharing: advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services (March 2015) states that:

Wherever possible, you should seek consent or be open and honest with the individual (and/or their family, where appropriate) from the outset as to why, what, how and with whom, their information will be shared. You should seek consent where an individual may not expect their information to be passed on and they have a genuine choice about this. Consent in relation to personal information does not need to be explicit – it can be implied where to do so would be reasonable, i.e. a referral to a provider or another service. More stringent rules apply to sensitive personal information, when, if consent is necessary then it should be explicit. But even without consent, or explicit consent, it is still possible to share personal information if it is necessary in order to carry out your role, or to protect the vital interests of the individual where, for example, consent cannot be given. Also, if it is unsafe or inappropriate to do so, i.e. where there are concerns that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm, you would not need to seek consent. A record of what has been shared should be kept.

It is also possible that an overriding public interest would justify disclosure of the information (or that sharing is required by a court order, other legal obligation or statutory exemption). To overcome the common law duty of confidence, the public interest threshold is not necessarily difficult to meet – particularly in emergency situations. Confidential health information carries a higher threshold, but it should still be possible to proceed where the circumstances are serious enough. As is the case for all personal information processing, initial thought needs to be given as to whether the objective can be achieved by limiting the amount of information shared – does all of the personal information need to be shared to achieve the objective?

5. National Guidance on Sharing Information

Working Together 2015 states that:

“… all organisations should have arrangements in place which set out clearly the processes and the principles for sharing information between each other, with other professionals and with the LSCB; and no professional should assume that someone else will pass on information which they think may be critical to keeping a child safe. If a professional has concerns about a child’s welfare and believes they are suffering, or likely to suffer, harm, then they should share the information with local authority children’s social care.

Information Sharing: Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers (2015) supports frontline practitioners working in child or adult service who have to make decisions about sharing personal information on a case- by-case basis. The guidance can be used to supplement local guidance and encourage good practice in information sharing.” (Working Together 2015)

Where there is a clear risk of significant harm to a child, or serious harm to adults, the public interest test will almost certainly be satisfied. However, there will be other cases where practitioners will be justified in sharing some confidential information in order to make decisions on sharing further information or taking action. The information shared should be proportionate. Decisions in this area need to be made by, or with the advice of, people with suitable competence in Child Protection work such as named or designated professionals or senior managers.

The Data Protection Act 1998 requires that:

Personal information is obtained and processed fairly and lawfully; only disclosed in appropriate circumstances; is accurate, relevant and not held longer than necessary; and is kept securely.

The Act balances the rights of the information subject (the individual whom the information is about) and the need to share information about them. Never assume sharing is prohibited – it is essential to consider this balance in every case. The Information Commissioner has published a statutory code of practice on information sharing to help organisations adopt good practice.

The relevant issues for social workers are usually around sharing information where consent has been withheld. There is a public interest defence if sharing information is for the purposes of safeguarding a child or vulnerable person.

Caldicott Guardian Principles:

A Caldicott Guardian is a senior person responsible for protecting the confidentiality of patient and service-user information and enabling appropriate information-sharing. The Guardian plays a key role in ensuring that the NHS, Local Authority Social Services Departments and partner organisations satisfy the highest practicable standards for handling patient identifiable information. Since Caldicott Guardians were established, key legislation including: the Data Protection Act 1998, Human Rights Act 1998, Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, Audit Commission Act 1998, Terrorism Act 2000, section 60 of the Health and Social Care Act 2001 and Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, and The Freedom of Information Act 2000 have become law which has extended the role and responsibility of the Caldicott Guardian.

The Seven Caldicott Principles

  1. Justify the purpose(s) for using confidential information;
  2. Don't use personal confidential data unless it is absolutely necessary;
  3. Use the minimum necessary personal confidential data;
  4. Access to personal confidential data should be on a strict need-to-know basis;
  5. Everyone with access to personal confidential data should be aware of their responsibilities;
  6. Comply with the law;
  7. The duty to share information can be as important as the duty to protect patient confidentiality.

These are applicable to Children and Young People's Directorate and Health Trusts. They have more recently been extended into councils with social care responsibilities, in order to provide a framework for working within the Data Protection Act 1998 and to promote appropriate information sharing.

Every local Health Service and Children and Young People's Directorate has its own Caldicott Guardian, to provide advice and guidance on appropriate information sharing.

In Hillingdon the Caldicott Guardian is the Director of Children and Young Peoples Service.

Section 115 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 establishes:

The power to disclose information is central to the Act's partnership approach. The Police have an important general power under common law to disclose information for the prevention, detection and reduction of crime. However, some other public bodies that collect information may not previously have had power to disclose it to the Police and others. This section puts beyond doubt the power of any organisation to disclose information to Police authorities, local authorities, Probation Provider, Health Authorities, or to persons acting on their behalf, so long as such disclosure is necessary or expedient for the purposes of crime prevention. These bodies also have the power to use this information.

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme:

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) commenced on 8 March 2014. The DVDS gives members of the public a formal mechanism to make enquires about an individual who they are in a relationship with, or who is in a relationship with someone they know, where there is a concern that the individual may be violent towards their partner. This scheme adds a further dimension to the information sharing about children where there are concerns that domestic violence and abuse is impacting on the care and welfare of the children in the family.

Members of the public can make an application for a disclosure, known as the ‘right to ask’. Anybody can make an enquiry, but information will only be given to someone at risk or a person in a position to safeguard the victim. The scheme is for anyone in an intimate relationship regardless of gender.

Partner agencies can also request disclosure is made of an offender’s past history where it is believed someone is at risk of harm. This is known as ‘right to know’.

If a potentially violent individual is identified as having convictions for violent offences, or information is held about their behaviour which reasonably leads the police and other agencies to believe they pose a risk of harm to their partner, a disclosure will be made. 

Article 8 in the European Convention on Human Rights states that:

Everyone has the right to respect for his/her private and family life, home and correspondence;

There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of rights and freedoms of others.

Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme

The Child Sex Offender Review (CSOR) Disclosure Scheme is designed to provide members of the public with a formal mechanism to ask for disclosure about people they are concerned about, who have unsupervised access to children and may therefore pose a risk. This scheme builds on existing, well established third-party disclosures that operate under the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA).

Police will reveal details confidentially to the person most able to protect the child (usually parents, carers or guardians) if they think it is in the child’s interests.

The scheme has been operating in all 43 police areas in England and Wales since 2010. The scheme is managed by the Police and information can only be accessed through direct application to them.

If a disclosure is made, the information must be kept confidential and only used to keep the child in question safe. Legal action may be taken if confidentiality is breached. A disclosure is delivered in person (as opposed to in writing) with the following warning:

  • 'That the information must only be used for the purpose for which it has been shared i.e. in order to safeguard children;
  • The person to whom the disclosure is made will be asked to sign an undertaking that they agree that the information is confidential and they will not disclose this information further;
  • A warning should be given that legal proceedings could result if this confidentiality is breached. This should be explained to the person and they must sign the undertaking’ (Home Office, 2011, p16).

If the person is unwilling to sign the undertaking, the police must consider whether the disclosure should still take place.

6. 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:

  • To be informed in writing whether or not the public authority holds the information requested; and if so;
  • 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 this section.

Further Information

Information sharing: advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services (March 2015)


6. Consultation Values and Principles

  1. General Principles of Consultation 
  2. Management Consultation
  3. Legal Consultation 


1. General Principles of Consultation

Everyone involved in the receipt and delivery of services should be consulted about decisions which may affect them. This includes children, their advocates, their parents, other significant family members and those charged with providing the service; including managers, staff, carers and professionals or colleagues from other agencies. 

This means that 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. Whether consents have been given should be recorded.

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. 

Consultation should be undertaken in a creative manner.

If consultation is not possible or is restricted for whatever reason, steps should be taken to ensure that 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 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 Complaints Procedure.

Children should also be informed of their right to appoint an advocate, and if an Advocate is appointed, he or she must be consulted in accordance with the principles set out in this section.

2. Management Consultation

Unless otherwise stated in specific procedures in this manual, it is assumed that people working in this organisation will take reasonable steps to keep their managers informed of their actions; and will consult and seek their approval where they do not have decision-making responsibility delegated to them.

In order to facilitate this, managers must ensure that effective lines of communication are established and maintained.

If procedures in this manual require that managers are informed within specified timescales or that their approval is sought before actions are taken, this must be complied with. 

3. Legal Consultation

It is assumed that, in following these procedures, social workers and/or their managers will seek legal advice as appropriate before taking any action and/or making decisions which will or may change the legal status of a child or decisions which do not have parental consent. This is particularly so in cases where emergency action is being considered.

In order to facilitate this, managers must ensure that effective lines of communication are established and maintained with Legal Services, and that workers are aware of who may authorise contact, who may have contact and how contact should be made.

End