SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter provides the context for all procedures.
It contains the overarching values and principles for the provision of services to children and families.
In October 2018, a new Section 5, Corporate Parenting was added in response to the Applying Corporate Parenting Principles to Looked-after Children and Care Leavers – Statutory Guidance (DfE, Feb 2018). It includes the seven corporate parenting principles set out in the guidance.
OUR MISSION STATEMENT
(written by the Stand up Speak up Children in Care Council)
Working to improve the safety and wellbeing of children and young people in Devon
This section 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;
- Adoption and Children Act 2002;
- Care Standards Act 2000;
- United Nations Convention on the Rights of The Child;
- Human Rights Act 1998;
- Adoption and Children Act 2002;
- Mental Capacity Act 2005;
- Data Protection Act 1984;
- Human Rights Act 1998.
- Children and Families Act 2014;
- Children and Social Work Act 2017.
The 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, children in need of protection 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. Our Vision
Our Vision for children's social care in Devon is to have a service which:
- Thinks child, thinks family, thinks community;
- Has safeguarding children as its core priority;
- Maximises the life chances of children, young people and their families;
- Sees good practice as standard practice;
- Provides an effective multi-agency social care response which is centred around the child and links appropriately with education and health care services;
- Is dynamic and has capability, capacity and flexibility to respond to the needs of children and their families in the most appropriate and effective way;
- Provides a supportive environment to all staff to create a confident and resilient workforce;
- Maximises the time spent by frontline staff to work directly with children and families;
- Reflects the diversity of children and communities in Devon.
Higher Expectations, High Challenge and Closer Scrutiny for our Children:
“Childrens' Social care is characterised by complexity, risk, and the responsibility for making decisions that can change the course of a child's life”… (Ofsted raising standards improving lives 2013: p4).
Devon aims to drive forward changes which focus on the actions that make a difference to the experiences of children and their families.
Because we make life changing decisions on behalf of children we have to be doubly sure that our decisions will make a positive difference to each and every child and family we serve. Therefore, we have to have high expectations of ourselves and others, high aspirations for our children and the commitment to pursue the changes that will improve the lives of the children on whose behalf we work.
Our decisions on behalf of children and families should be fully explored, robustly challenged at all levels and evidenced. Any change for a child should be reflective, mulled over, shared and robustly and constructively challenged at every point of their journey. The underlying question will always be “What difference is this making, does it give this baby, this child, this young person the opportunity to have value added to their life?''
We are setting an ambitious standard for the lives of our most vulnerable children and young people in Devon. We must remember at all times that we have a collective responsibility with our key agencies, voluntary and professional bodies to set and work to the highest possible standards also set the standard.
These procedures are designed to ensure that robust decision making with challenge is a normal acceptable culture in Devon's Childrens' Services We need to keep children at the forefront of our practice; to view and analyse their situation so that we can respond to it and improve their lives. By sharing the responsibility, sharing professional opinion and learning from each other – we will be able to create a safe and healthy professional tension. Decisions and discussion should also be mindful of cost and the potential for creativity and flexibility.
Think Permanence: Permanence is a term that describes the way a child needs to feel about where they live and with whom. For a child to thrive physically, emotionally and intellectually, they need the security of belonging and of receiving consistent, reliable care from one or more particular adults.
3. Our Principles
Our principles are informed by, and support the vision statements in the Children and Young People's Plan and those developed by young people with disabilities and their families. They underpin any work with children and families across the Devon Children and Families Partnership;
Children are best brought up in families, with local, place based support when needed. Where children can't be brought up in their birth family, timely permanent arrangements for them will be secured.
We will support families to find their own solutions, building on their strengths and finding solutions to whatever difficulties they are confronting to be resilient, improve family life and increase opportunities for their children. Children who need protection will receive it and, wherever possible, early help will prevent the need for statutory intervention in family life.
We will listen to each other, and work together and services will be shaped by all (children, young people and families, providers and commissioners). We will work in partnership and collaborate to meet the diverse needs of Devon's children and families, always focused on improving outcomes and life chances. Together we will manage risk confidently.Children and families will always know where they stand with us. We won't give up on children and families and will listen, actively encouraging two way communication and seeking feedback. We will be clear and fair about what may need to change and what support families can expect.
4. Our Practice Standards
These are the rules that describe the (minimum) service or practice, that can be expected by every service user. Most of them are legally set through government guidance and legislation, or are based on evidence based research. They are mandatory.
5. Corporate Parenting
5.1 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.
5.2 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.
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.