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Good Practice Supporting the Voice of the Child


This chapter was added to the procedures manual in October 2017.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Legislation
  3. Children and Young People's Views
  4. St Helens Voice of the Child Standards


1. Introduction

Effective safeguarding systems must be child centred. Problems can arise in safeguarding systems when practitioners in agencies lose sight of the needs and views of the children within them, or place the interests of adults ahead of the needs of children. Everyone working with children and families must seek the voice of the child and reflect and respond to it in all aspects of work. This is rooted in legislation and good practice.


2. The Legislation

Children want to be respected, to have their views heard, to have stable relationships with practitioners built on trust and to have consistent support provided for their individual needs. This should guide the behaviour of practitioners. Anyone working with children should see and speak to the child; listen to what they say; take their views seriously; and work with them collaboratively when deciding how to support their needs. A child-centred approach is supported by:

  • The Children Act 1989 (as amended by Section 53 of the Children Act 2004). This Act requires local authorities to give due regard to a child's wishes when determining what services to provide under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, and before making decisions about action to be taken to protect individual children under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989. These duties complement requirements relating to the wishes and feelings of children who are, or may be, looked after (Section 22 (4) Children Act 1989), including those who are provided with accommodation under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 and children taken into police protection (Section 46(3) (d) of that Act);
  • The Equality Act 2010 which puts a responsibility on public authorities to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and promote equality of opportunity. This applies to the process of identification of need and risk faced by the individual child and the process of assessment. No child or group of children must be treated any less favourably than others in being able to access effective services which meet their particular needs; and
  • The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). This is an international agreement that protects the rights of children and provides a child-centred framework for the development of services to children. The UK Government ratified the UNCRC in 1991 and, by doing so, recognises children's rights to expression and receiving information.

See Working Together to Safeguarding Children


3. Children and Young People's Views

Children have said that they need:

  • Vigilance: to have adults notice when things are troubling them;
  • Understanding and action: to understand what is happening; to be heard and understood; and to have that understanding acted upon;
  • Stability: to be able to develop an on-going stable relationship of trust with those helping them;
  • Respect: to be treated with the expectation that they are competent rather than not;
  • Information and engagement: to be informed about and involved in procedures, decisions, concerns and plans;
  • Explanation: to be informed of the outcome of assessments and decisions and reasons when their views have not met with a positive response;
  • Support: to be provided with support in their own right as well as a member of their family;
  • Advocacy: to be provided with advocacy to assist them in putting forward their views.

Effective ongoing action to keep the child in focus includes:

  • Listening to the child's wishes and feelings - about their situation now as well as plans and hopes for the future;
  • Providing children with honest and accurate information about the current situation, as seen by practitioners, and future possible actions and interventions;
  • Involving the child in key decision-making processes;
  • Providing appropriate information to the child about his or her right to protection and assistance;
  • Inviting children to make recommendations about the services and assistance they need and/or are available to them;
  • Ensuring children have access to independent advice and support (for example, through advocates or children's rights officers) to be able to express their views and influence decision-making;
  • Considering with them, issues arising in relation to identity, diversity, culture, faith, sexual orientation language, disability, low confidence and trust.

Talking with Children and Young People:

Even initial discussions with children should be conducted in a way that minimises any distress to them and maximises the likelihood that they will feel enabled and supported in sharing their own information with the practitioners. Children may need time and more than one opportunity in order to develop sufficient trust to communicate any concerns they may have, especially if they have a communication impairment, learning disabilities, are very young or are experiencing mental health problems.

Practitioners are encouraged to:

  • Explain your own role, to listen openly and to seek the views/voice of the child without advising or judging;
  • Remember to consider explaining to parents and carers in advance and seek consent where necessary;
  • Consult with other practitioners working with the child to ensure that confusing messages are avoided and the child is not asked to repeat their information unnecessarily;
  • Avoid professional jargon and be clear about facts and opinion;
  • Allow time for the child to ask questions;
  • Be clear about next steps.

There are some guides and leaflets to give to parents and young people to assist with explanations and participation. It can be helpful to provide written material to take away and consider and then offer another opportunity to talk again later.

Recording Information:

The professional requirement to keep records should be explained and the child should be supported to make comments too. This should be embedded in practice and in records and they should be updated regularly, particularly when circumstances change for the child or there is a change of plan. All records should be clear, separating fact, opinion and professional judgement so that when a child becomes an adult and requests access to their records they should be able to understand how decisions were made about the services provided to them and they should be able to see any recording of their own contributions in whatever format.

The voice of the child should be recorded within documents and exemplars in the electronic records. They can also be attached or scanned into records where the child has written their own views or tools have been used which are handwritten or completed by the child.

Strategic Planning:

In addition to individual practitioners shaping support around the needs of individual children, local agencies need to have a clear understanding of the collective needs of children locally when commissioning effective services. As part of that process, the Director of Public Health England should ensure that the needs of vulnerable children are a key part of the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment that is developed by the Health and Well-being board. The St. Helens Safeguarding Partnership locally should use this assessment to help them understand the prevalence of abuse and neglect in their area, which in turn will help shape services.


4. St Helens Voice of the Child Standards

Children and young people in St Helens were given the opportunity to shape how they would like to be listened to and to state the values and type of leader they felt would be most important and relevant to them. The values were based on the themes of the Lilac Standards for inclusion and are as follows:

Values

  1. Respect;
  2. Equality;
  3. Trust;
  4. Politeness;
  5. Tolerance;
  6. Listening;
  7. Kindness.

Style of Leadership

  • A person who respects us and who we can respect;
  • A person who shows us courage;
  • A confident person;
  • Someone who is loyal;
  • Someone who can be bossy;
  • A polite person.

A leader also needs the following things:

  • Listening skills;
  • Friendliness;
  • Tolerance.

Structure and Service Delivery

Our children determined that the following things are important in working together:

Things that improved working together Problems with working together
Communication Lack of communication
Team working Inability to share ideas
Trust Lack of support
Faith Lack of listening
Helping each other Feeling left out
Sharing ideas and opinions When a task is not clear
Support Lack of eye contact – personal connection
Understanding  

Practice

Things teachers or people who work with children could do to make sure other adults know what are important to children:

  • Posters to share important messages with other adults – for example about how it is important to listen;
  • Letting young people share their opinion on things that are important to them;
  • Setting up an alert system between children and adults or a private symbol so the adult can know the child needs support;
  • Communicating with children and young people through assemblies and speeches;
  • Worry and suggestion boxes so children and adults can share their thoughts;
  • Activities to encourage sharing information through group work;
  • One-to-one time with adults who know a child well;
  • Playing and speaking with children;
  • Letting children write or draw their message and share it with the adult.

Things adults could change to make it easier for adults to share that information with children:

  • Communication through an app;
  • Chatting to each other;
  • Using different activities or objects – like dolls or books;
  • Communication in ways that suits an individual child;
  • Interactive communication like making pictures;
  • Making sure a child understands the words being said;
  • Adults could talk to family members for advice;
  • Private chats;
  • Allowing children to bring someone with them;
  • Making sure that children can sit down and talk to someone who will listen;
  • Tackling the problem;
  • Building trust;
  • Make sure children’s needs are met to make sure they are heard and understood – sign language or apps etc.;
  • Making sure there are opportunities for 1:1 communication;
  • Private spaces and places;
  • Use social media, school websites, help websites;
  • School and out of school groups and clubs – share information.

Recruitment and Selection

Involvement:

Our young people said they would want to be involved by asking questions directly at interviews as well as having a teacher do an example lesson with them so they could see if they liked the way a teacher taught.

Qualities:

Our young people said they would like people who work with them to show that they are:

  • Kind;
  • Friendly;
  • Respectful;
  • Good at listening to children;
  • Good at teaching;
  • Wants to help;
  • Approachable;
  • Includes everyone.

Planning:

Our young people gave us a wide range of times they felt included and pulled out the following themes:

  • Feeling they were being respected;
  • Spoken to like an equal;
  • Given helpful advice;
  • To be listened to;
  • To have people be dependable and do what they say;
  • To be given the opportunity to express and share their opinion;
  • To be allowed to ask for 1:1 meetings so children don’t feel embarrassed;
  • To be believed;
  • To share the same values with the people around them.

Complaints and Advocacy

Our young people felt confident that they would know how to complain and would value having an advocate. They said they felt the role of an advocate should be to understand them, to be caring or loving, to give advice and that an advocate would need to be familiar. An advocate should do something when a situation needs it, fixing problems and acting as peacemaker. They should be trustworthy and be someone who is there for a child when they need them.

End.