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Good Practice Supporting the Voice of the Child


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Introduction
The Legislation
Children and Young People's Views


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.


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. The Jersey Safeguarding Partnership Board has a set of policies and procedures guided by the UK Government’s Working Together to Safeguard Children Statutory Guidance, which is reflected in the Safeguarding Partnership Board Memorandum of Understanding. A child-centred approach is supported by the following policies:

  • The Jersey SPB Equality and Diversity Guidance;
  • This reinforces the recommendation in Working Together to Safeguard Children for every assessment to reflect the unique characteristics of the child within both their family and community context.
  • 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. This was extended to Jersey in 2014 and by doing so, recognises children's rights to expression and receiving information.

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 on going 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.

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, organisations need to have a clear understanding of the collective needs of children locally when commissioning effective services.

The Children’s Commissioner for Jersey was appointed in December 2017 to work on behalf of children and young people in Jersey and to promote and protect their rights and best interests. The voice of the child is paramount to the Commissioner’s role.

The Children’s Plan was launched in 2018 in response to the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry. The Plan sets out key outcomes for services to work towards in order to make a positive difference to children’s lives. The voice of the child encompasses the plan and children and young people helped create the plan.

End.