LAC Manual - Guiding Principles
The child is at the centre
Children are individuals in their own right. The overarching principles within which we work, inherent within the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 are “so far as is consistent with safeguarding and promoting the child’s welfare, the public authority should promote the upbringing of children by their families”: but “the child’s welfare is the paramount consideration.
The child’s right to a family life
The emphasis on seeing the child within the context of their family combines a general belief in the importance of family life and the rights of the child to have and enjoy family life to the identity needs of each individual child. For children who cannot live with their parent/s, whether temporarily or in the longer term, being cared for by members of their extended family (kinship care) should be the first alternative to be considered. Other family placements are in most instances the next best option but residential care is preferable to some children and young people and may be better able to meet their particular needs.
The duty to seek and take account of children’s views and wishes
Parents and others making decisions which affect children have a duty to seek and take into account their views and wishes, having regard to their age and maturity. Children should be encouraged and supported to express their views and wishes. Listening to what children want and need helps them to develop greater understanding, learn how to make responsible decisions and become more resilient. Use should be made of independent advocacy such as Who Cares? or the Children 1st Children’s Rights Service to support children to express their views and wishes and to ensure that such support is seen to be independent of services with the statutory power to intervene in their lives.
Parental responsibility and the duty of agencies to work in partnership with parents
Parents are legally responsible for their children, unless specific judicial processes have conferred those responsibilities on another agency or person. Service providers should work in partnership with parents and on the basis of written agreements recorded and signed in the form of the Child’s Plan. Service agencies can only intervene in a child’s life against the wishes of parents if the authority to do so has been conferred upon them by a Children’s Hearing or higher legal authority. Even when children are looked after away from home on a compulsory basis, parents should be involved in their care and in all significant decisions about their care. Parental consent is required in most contexts in which it would normally be sought. Parents should be encouraged to express their views and wishes in relation to their child and any plans to meet their child’s needs and these should be recorded. Parents can also benefit from independent advocacy, which can support their engagement with planning for their child.
Supporting parents to achieve personal change when that is needed in order to meet the child’s needs
Parents of children who are looked after may need to achieve personal change in order to be able to meet their children’s needs or to resume looking after their child at home. If such change can be achieved, that will normally also achieve the best long term outcome for the child and relevant support should be offered to parents to help them to achieve that change. If such change is required before a child looked after away from home can return home, that should be clearly recorded in the Child’s Plan.
The child’s need for permanence
Children growing up need to have a stable and predictable home base, stable relationships and attachments and a sense of security if they are to develop healthily and to aspire, plan and work towards a positive future. Living with uncertainty and insecurity is positively damaging to their wellbeing. Practitioners have a duty to assess the progress that is being made towards achieving a positive outcome for the child, including any change that parents need to achieve. Where it becomes clear that necessary change is not being achieved, or that parents are not able, or not motivated to achieve change, practitioners have a duty to identify and assess options that could provide the stable, secure base and relationships that children need and to ensure that any delay is kept to a minimum.
The duty to minimise the necessity for compulsory intervention in the child’s life
Compulsory measures of supervision are made in order to achieve a better outcome for the child than would otherwise be achieved. They are also made on a temporary basis. Services should work towards achieving the necessary change for children, so that the compulsory intervention of the state in their lives can be discharged – either because compulsion is no longer required for their needs to be met at home, in their own families, or because those compulsory measures have been replaced by a more secure, permanent legal order that restores the child’s ordinary rights.