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Policy, Principles and Values

Throughout this Manual, safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is defined as:

  • Protecting children from maltreatment;
  • Preventing impairment of children's health or development;
  • Ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care;
  • Upholding all their rights as set out in the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child.

and undertaking that role so as to enable those children to have optimum life chances and to enter adulthood successfully.

These aspects of Safeguarding and Promoting Welfare are cumulative and all contribute to the five Every Child Matters outcomes.

Child protection is part of Safeguarding and Promoting Welfare, focusing on the 'Staying Safe' outcome; it refers to the activity that is undertaken to protect specific children who are suffering or at risk of suffering Significant Harm.

In carrying out any work to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, the Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Partnership and all managers, employees, professionals, volunteers and carers must ensure that their practice reflects an approach which is:

  1. Child centred

    The focus of the practitioner should always be the child. The child should be seen (alone when appropriate) by the Lead Social Worker in addition to all other professionals who have responsibility for the child's welfare. The child's welfare should be kept sharply in focus in all work with the child and family. The child's voice should be heard and taken into account and given serious consideration when making decisions. The decision must be fed back to the child in a manner, which is meaningful to them. Listening to the child helps to protect them and being listened to helps the healing after abuse. The safety of the child must be paramount at all times and in all circumstances.

  2. Rooted in child development

    Plans and actions should be based on a clear assessment of the child's continuing developmental needs, their progress and any difficulties the child may be experiencing as well as their wishes. Plans should be timely and appropriate for the child's capacity, age and stage of development. Those working with children should have a detailed understanding of child development and how the quality of the care they are receiving can have an impact on their health and development. They should recognise that as children grow, they continue to develop their skills and abilities.

    Recent years have seen a change in the way childhood and child development are understood:

    • Children need to be regarded as people in their own right. They have a past, are in the present and will have a future. They are competent and are capable of forming their own views. All services need to bear this in mind;
    • All children are unique; they develop at different times and in different ways. Age is not the only factor. Their experiences, communication, support given and how adults treat them all impact on their development.
  3. Focused on outcomes for children

    When working directly with a child, any plan developed for the child and their family or caregiver should be based on an assessment of the child's developmental needs and the parents/caregivers' capacity to respond to these needs within their family and environmental context. The plan should set out the planned outcomes for the child; progress against these should be regularly reviewed and the actual outcomes should be recorded. The purpose of all interventions should be to achieve the best possible outcomes for each child, recognising that each child is unique. These outcomes should contribute to the key outcomes set out for all children in the Children Act 2004

  4. Holistic

    This means having an understanding of the child within the context of the child's family and friends and of the educational setting, community and culture in which he or she is growing up.  At all stages, consideration must be given to issues of diversity so that the impact of cultural and religious expectations and obligations are taken into consideration. The ultimate aim is to understand the child's developmental needs and the capacity of the parents or caregivers to meet them and to provide services to the child and to the family members that respond to these needs. The child's context will be even more complex when they are living away from home and looked after by adults who do not have parental responsibility for them.

  5. Ensures equality of opportunity

    All children must have the opportunity to achieve the best possible developmental outcomes, regardless of their gender, ability, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, circumstances or age. Some vulnerable children may have been particularly disadvantaged in their access to important opportunities and their health and educational needs will require particular attention in order to optimise their current welfare as well as their long-term outcomes into adulthood.

  6. Involves children and families

    Build a relationship with parents /carers, but be clear that the best interests of the child come first.

    It is important to develop a cooperative working relationship with parents and carers so that they feel respected and informed, believe that professionals and staff are being open and honest with them and in turn they are confident about providing vital information about their child, themselves and their circumstances.

    Sharing information about children and their parents should only occur with their Consent unless to do so would place the child at an increased likelihood of suffering Significant Harm.

    In order to protect and empower children and young people, it is important to listen to and understand the child's views, wishes and feelings, to give them serious consideration and to explain decisions in a child friendly manner.

    Where abuse is alleged, the initial response by professionals should be limited to listening carefully to what the child says so as to:

    • Clarify the concerns;
    • Offer re-assurance about how (s)he will be kept safe; and
    • Explain what action will be taken.

    The child must not be pressed for information, led, cross-examined or given false assurances of absolute confidentiality. Such well intentioned actions could prejudice Police investigations, especially in cases of sexual abuse.

    If the child can understand the significance and consequences of making a referral to Children's Social Care, (s)he should be asked her/his view.

    Regardless of the child's view, it remains the responsibility of the professional to take whatever action is required to ensure the safety of that child and any other children."

    Most important, aim to appreciate and plan in response to, how the child may experience:

    1. Their situation;
    2. The role of the worker;
    3. Their hopes and concerns about sharing their views, wishes and feeling.

    Aim to understand the power relationships between the child's own conflicts and different feelings and the needs and roles of the workers and the views of the parents.

    Decisions should be made with the agreement of children and their parents whenever possible, unless to do so would place the child at an increased likelihood of suffering significant harm, and should be in their best interest.

  7. Builds on strengths as well as identifies difficulties

    Identifying both strengths ( including resilience and protective factors) and difficulties ( including vulnerabilities and risk factors) within the family and for the child is important. Too often working with children and families focuses on problematic and negative aspects and crucial areas of strength and success are ignored.

  8. Integrated in approach

    A variety of agencies are involved with a child throughout his or her life and these agencies should work together in partnership to safeguard and promote a child's welfare. As soon as there are any concerns about the child's welfare the agencies must communicate with one another, not just when there are questions about possible harm. Multi- and inter-agency work to safeguard and promote children's welfare starts as soon as it has been identified that the child or the family members have additional needs requiring support/services beyond universal services, not just when there are questions about possible harm.

    See Information Sharing and Confidentiality Procedure

  9. Continually Assesses

    Assessment should continue throughout a period of intervention, and services to the child and family can start at the beginning of any intervention and assessment. Understanding what is happening to a child should not be seen as a single event but should be seen in the context of the child and the family and the local community and taking action is a continuing and interactive process.

  10. Provides and reviews services

    All services should be provided according to the identified needs of the child. The needs may be immediate and practical as well as longer term and more complex. The impact of all service provision on the child's development and circumstances should be reviewed regularly and services should remain responsive to meeting the child's assessed needs. The child's views, wishes and feelings should always be addressed in assessments by all agencies and recorded fully. The impact of service provision on a child's developmental progress should be reviewed at regular intervals.

  11. Informed by evidence

    Effective practice with children and their families requires sound professional judgement based on research evidence and the practitioner's knowledge and experience. Decisions based on these judgements should be kept under review, and take full account of any new information obtained during the course of work with the child and family.

Any timescales referred to in the procedures are the Minimum Standards required by the Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Partnership.

Where the welfare of the child requires it, shorter time-scales must be achieved.

Extensions to the time-scales must be authorised by the relevant manager following consultation with relevant managers from the other agencies involved and can only be authorised where the following exceptional circumstances apply:

  • The need to engage interpreters and/or translators;
  • Pre-birth assessments;
  • Complex cases, for example those involving organised abuse or fabricated or induced illness;
  • Where there are allegations against professional, carers or volunteers;
  • Where the case requires coordination with other local authorities;
  • In any other exceptional circumstances in order to ensure that the welfare of the child is safeguarded.

Any decision to extend the timescale must be full recorded, with reasons, and interim arrangements to protect the child must be put into place.

The following is intended to ensure the security of children's case records and the integrity of the information that they contain.

Good quality case recording is essential in ensuring:

  • Continuity of service to children and families when staff are unavailable or change, or when a service resumes after a period of time;
  • Effective risk management practices to safeguard the well-being of children, especially in emergency situations;
  • Effective partnerships between staff, children, their families, their carers, other agencies and service providers;
  • Clarity of information for everyone involved in the planning and delivery of services, and in the event of investigations, inquiries, or audits;
  • Adequate information for staff and managers to ensure the best possible utilisation of available resources;
  • Respect and observance of children's rights.
Caption: Records for Values
i. Records Must Be Kept On All Individual Children and Family members Referred
  Records may be in the form of paper files and/or electronic records; audio or video recordings may also be kept. Separate case / file recordings must be made for each child.
  All case records must be organised in order to safeguard the contents, protect the confidentiality of the individuals concerned, and make them as easy as possible to use.
  Information held in electronic records must accurately reflect the corresponding information recorded within paper files.
  Records held on paper may extend to more than one volume. Where more than one volume exists, the dates covered by each volume must be clearly recorded on the front cover.
  Where information is held on a paper file, the electronic record must be used to identify the source and location of the paper record.
  All records must be signed (legibly) and dated
ii. Forms must be completed in accordance with instructions
  Forms must be completed in all fields as indicated by the agency's instructions and signed and dated
iii. Individuals must be informed about their records
  Individuals have a right to be informed about their records, the reasons why they are kept, their rights to confidentiality and how to access to their records.
  Information must be provided in a form that individuals will understand - in their preferred language or method of communication. An interpreter should be provided if needed.
iv. The practitioner primarily involved should complete the record
  The practitioner primarily involved, that is the person who directly observes or witnesses the event that is being recorded or who has participated in the meeting/conversation, must complete the record. Where this is not possible and records are completed or updated by other people, it must be clear from the record which person provided the information being recorded. Preferably the person with first hand knowledge should read and sign the record. There must be clear differentiation between opinion and fact.
  Records of decisions must show who has made the decision, the basis for it and the date.
v. All relevant information must be recorded
  Every case file or electronic record must be completed with information about the individual's full name, address, date of birth, ethnicity, religion, any reference or identification number, any risk assessment, a transfer/closing summary (where appropriate) and, in the case of paper files, volume number.
vi. Children and families should be involved in the recording process
  Children (depending on their capacity, age and understanding) 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 in respect of services they may receive.
  Generally, they must also be asked to give their agreement to the sharing of their information with others.
  Where there is uncertainty about the sharing of such information, staff should consult with supervisors / managers.
vii. Information about individuals should normally be shared with them
  Information obtained about individuals should usually be shared with them unless:
  • Sharing the information would be likely to result in serious harm to the individual, a 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.
  Where information is obtained and recorded which should not be shared with the individual concerned for one of the above reasons, it should be placed in the confidential section of the record and a note of the reasons, should be recorded.
viii. Records must be legible, signed and dated
  Those completing electronic records must show their name and the time and date when the recording was completed. The sequence of the recording must also be noted.
  Paper records should be typed or handwritten in black ink and all records must be signed and dated.
  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.
ix. Time scales for recording
  Records should be completed contemporaneously or as soon as practicable after the event occurs and should be updated as information becomes available or as decisions or actions are taken
  Where records are made or updated late or after the event, the fact must be stated in the record, and the date and time of the entry should be included.
  All agencies must adhere to their recording policy and procedures.
x. Records must be written in plain English and prejudice must be avoided
  Records must be written concisely, in plain English, avoiding statements that are judgmental or speculative, and focusing instead on facts about the needs, strengths, and objectives of individuals.
  Entries to case records should be written in a culturally competent manner, taking account of difference of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds and lifestyles.
  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.
xi. Records must be accurate and adequate
  Care must be taken to ensure that information contained in records is relevant and accurate and clearly distinguishes between facts, opinions, assessments, judgments and decisions. It must be sufficient to meet legislative responsibilities and the requirements of these procedures.
  Records must also distinguish between first hand information and information obtained from third parties.
xii. 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.
  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.
  All management recommendations, decisions and actions must also be recorded and regularly reviewed.
xiii. Records should be kept securely
  All records must be kept securely.
  Paper records will be kept in folders in chronological order with all documents firmly affixed to prevent their loss.
  Files in paper form should be stored in a locked cabinet, or a similar manner, usually in an office which only staff/carers have access to. Records should not be left unattended when not in their normal location.
xiv. Removal of records must be an exceptional occurrence
  Paper records should not 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.
xv. Record retention after closure
  Files should be retained for the period set out in each agency's own record retention policy.
  In all agencies the relevant policies apply and any member of staff responsible for a child's records when services end and the case is closed, is responsible for ensuring that the records to be retained are in good order and that unnecessary items have been removed, for example, compliment slips, duplicate copies etc.
  It should be noted that recent evidence shows that 'participatory report writing' is an effective way of involving families in the process.

Last Updated: December 7, 2023