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1.1.2 Consultation and Participation with Children and Young People

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

Working Together to Safeguard Children promotes a child centred approach to safeguarding, and is clear that practitioners should keep the child in focus when making decisions about their lives and work in partnership with them and their families. Anyone working with children should see and speak to the child; listen to what they say; take their views seriously; and work with them and their families collaboratively when deciding how to support their needs. Special provision should be put in place to support dialogue with children who have communication difficulties, unaccompanied children, refugees and those children who are victims of modern slavery and/or trafficking.

It is essential therefore that children and young people are enabled by professionals to participate in matters that affect them, particularly any plans or arrangements that will affect them and/or their family and are consulted with regard to processes designed to improve services both to them individually and more generally.

RELATED INFORMATION

MOMO Guide for Staff

MOMO Practice Guidance

RELATED CHAPTERS

Case Recording Procedure

Social Worker Visits to Looked After Children Procedure

Advocacy and Independent Visitors Procedure

Appointment and Role of Independent Reviewing Officers Procedure

Looked After Reviews Procedure

AMENDMENT

In April 2019, this procedure was updated to reflect local practice requirements.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Benefits of Participation
  3. The Role of the Social Worker
  4. MOMO: Mind of my Own
  5. Children's Participation Service


1. Introduction

The participation of children and young people in decisions about their lives is an essential part of growing up and, if done well, it can enhance their safety and wellbeing and help improve services designed to support and protect them. In social care it is often happening in complex and emotionally charged situations and care must be taken to avoid overloading children or giving them an inappropriate level, or sense, of responsibility.

There are two main types of engagement involving children and young people- involvement in an age-appropriate way in the plans made to respond to their individual needs and those of their family, and engagement with wider service design and development to ensure that services reflect and are responsive to the needs of children and young people more generally.

All staff are required to engage fully with the children and young people they work with, seeking and recording their views and ensuring these are considered within and, where appropriate, influence, decision making processes. In every case, care should be taken to understand and record all aspects of the child's 'lived experience', indicating in records how and when children's views were ascertained. Staff will record the decisions that are made and the influence that the views of the child/young person have had on those decisions. Where decisions are made that are different from, or contrary to, the views of the child or young person this will be clearly recorded and the rationale clearly explained to the young person.


2. Benefits of Participation

Children and young people have an important role to play, both in their own 'cases' and in advising public agencies on the development of accessible, relevant and child-friendly services.

The benefits for children and young people in relation to their individual/family situation can include:

  • Having a safe space to reflect on the events that have brought them into contact with Children's Services;
  • An opportunity to give their version of what has happened to them, describe its impact and to say what they would like to happen in the future;
  • A sense of empowerment from being listened to and seeing what is said make a difference;
  • Having their concerns, anxieties and issues understood and responded to at an early stage, potentially reducing their long term effects';
  • Having explained to them – and understanding - what is happening in the present and what is likely to happen in the future and what will be done to keep them (and their siblings) safe.

For parents/carers the benefits of children's participation can be:

  • The opportunity (perhaps for the first time) to hear their children's views about what has happened and what they want to change; some parents may have been in denial about the impact of certain experiences in their children
  • A model of communicating that may improve their relationship with their child(ren);
  • Increased awareness of the impact of adult behaviour upon children.

For professionals and organisations offering services to children and young people the benefits can be:

  • Understanding the child's 'lived experience' and using this as a focus and driver for work supporting the child's safety and wellbeing;
  • A challenge from young people to ensure they are the focus;
  • Increased likelihood of effective engagement with any plan by the child / young person themselves;
  • A shared focus for all professionals.

In addition, involving children and young people in service development and design can:

  • Draw on young people's experiences as service users;
  • Give a child-centred focus/structure to services and processes;
  • Support and encourage young people to take responsibility and develop transferable 'citizenship' skills;
  • Value their experience and expertise, particularly when involved in changing things that have not seemed helpful to them.


3. The Role of the Social Worker

The most important means of encouraging and enabling participation by children and young people in decisions that affect them and their lives remains the relationship with their Social Worker and other significant professionals and adults in their lives.

Enabling children and young people who have not previously had opportunities to express their views is demanding and can be challenging work that requires creativity, empathy and resilience on the part of the worker. Consultations need to be planned for, reflected on and, if necessary, returned to in order that children and young people are given every opportunity to express their views which must always be recorded on their file.

In order for them to express views about matters that affect them it is also vital that children and young people are in possession of information and have support to enable them to make informed choices. Social workers are encouraged to be creative in their approach to engaging children and young people, finding a medium through which they can open up. It is important to find the right approach for every child, regardless of any disability or language issues. The recording of all visits to children must specifically include 'the child's voice', an account of the child's views, wishes and feelings that build a picture of their 'lived experience' and inform planning and case direction.

Children and young people can be supported by and advocate or independent visitor (see Advocacy and Independent Visitors Procedure) and must also be supported to access the complaints process if unhappy about any aspect of their situation (see Complaints and Representations - Staff Guidance).

The worker should always be clear about their own views and, if these differ from the child's, a clear and sensitive explanation should be given. This only increases the importance of supporting the child to express their views or to articulate them on their behalf.

If participation is not possible or is restricted, this should be explained and reassurance given that the social worker will faithfully represent the child's views and they should be informed of decisions as soon as practicable after they are made, and an explanation for the decision given, together with the opportunity to make comment and express their views.

Sometimes children and young people express their preferences through their behaviour rather than through words, for example. by running away or through challenging behaviour. It is important to look beyond the behaviour to try to see what the child or young person might be trying to express and giving them support and the opportunity to express this.


4. MOMO: Mind of my Own

Better care happens when children are better listened to. MOMO has been introduced by Cambridgeshire County Council because children and young people should be able to participate fully in their care and it should be easy for them to speak up anytime they want. The overall aim is to encourage and support them to be more active within their own plans.

MOMO apps give young people an instant and convenient way to express their views, wishes and feelings, and social workers an easy way to understand and evidence them.

MOMO is an online applications that:

  • Makes one-to-one conversations with young people easier;
  • Creates verbatim statements of their views;
  • Helps them prepare for meetings, raise problems or ask for something;
  • Facilitates problem solving and saves time.

Young people and social workers both sign up to the service. Young people who do not have an email account may need to have a MOMO account created for them. It provides a secure medium for communication and, when someone adds something to MOMO, this triggers an alert to the intended recipient who can then go online, read it and respond.

For further information, see the MOMO Guide for Staff and MOMO Practice Guidance.


5. Children's Participation Service

The Children's Participation Service aims to support children and young people to actively participate in shaping the services they receive.

  • They hold regular junior and senior 'Just Us' groups. These are fun groups that are art/activity based. The groups provide an opportunity for looked after children to get together and enjoy themselves. Some groups may have a focused discussions about the things that impact them as a group;
  • There is a children in care council called 'Voices Matter' where a panel of looked after young people meet with service directors and County Council members to represent the views of other looked after children and young people and talk about how they can improve services. The panel includes representation from Elected Members and is chaired by the Participation Service. Key to this work is that young people are supported to understand that their views will be given credibility and due consideration although final decisions rest with service managers. The Participation Service supports children with this to see this as a positive experience that does not devalue their views. This is for ages ten and upwards;
  • There is a Care Leaver's Forum that meets on a monthly basis which is run by care leavers and supported by the Participation Service. The Care Leaver's Forum ensures that young people can comment openly about their experiences and work towards independence with support from local authority services. The Forum is for young people aged sixteen to twenty five;
  • The Service trains and supports a group of young people who are involved with the Skills to Foster, foster carer training. Young people are also given the opportunity to share their experiences at a range of training events supported by the Participation Service;
  • The Service leads on MOMO delivery for staff and young people, a tool for all children and young people to express and share how they are feeling and for making contact with key workers and services;
  • The Service runs annual events like the summer 'Fun Day' and works with Cambridge University to promote projects and events for looked after young people and those that work with them;
  • The Service invites a panel of young people to participate in staff recruitment, taking part in interviews and giving feedback to inform the decision-making process;
  • All new referrals can be made to the Children's Participation Service by phone (01223 715915) or e-mail: csc.participation@cambridgeshire.gov.uk.

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