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Clear and effective communication between partners is central to working with children and young people, it allows partners to put the needs and requirements of the children first enabling them to achieve the best possible outcomes for the children and their family. Good communication between partners allows trust to be built between everyone and enables everybody concerned to share their views and have them considered and valued. Having clear and effective communication between partners helps with the collection and sharing of relevant information between all parties involved regarding the child, which may also contain sensitive information. Clear and effective communication also ensures that everyone is working towards the same aims helping to prevent any misunderstandings between partners, with one of the aims being working together to meet the emotional, health and educational needs of the children. It will also help with the process of collecting and maintaining information/records about the children providing an understanding of the children’s needs and requirements which then allows partners to provide the correct activities for individual children and maintain a safe learning environment for the children and young people. Regarding the importance of effective communication between parents/carers, clear and effective communication encourages the parent, carer or legal guardian to seek advice when needed and to use services provided which is the key to establishing and maintaining working relationships. Clear lines of communication also allow the parent/carer to discuss issues more freely and resolve problems with ease between partners if they feel there is foundation of trust built and good communication.
The policies and procedures in the work setting for information sharing are as follows,
Information regarding the children must remain confidential
Information must be stored/recorded as stated (Data Protection Act 1998)
Confidentiality & Respecting Confidentiality
Establishments storing records on a PC must be registered on the Data Protection Register
The Data Protection Act 1998 gives individuals the rights to view all information stored regarding themselves.
Staff must be familiar and conform to the guidelines
Confidential matters should not be discussed with colleagues unless necessary
Information regarding the children, establishment and staff should not be shared with third parties unless it regards to safeguarding
Confidential information must be handled with care & stored securely
Never leave sensitive paperwork/files unattended or where individuals who do not need to know will have access to them
All records must be stored safely and password protected ensuring restricted access only
Confidentiality within a setting is vital; breach of confidentiality is only acceptable when it is on a need-to-know basis. For example particular personal information may have to be shared with members of staff that specialize and deal with a child’s health, welfare or well being. Working within this type of environment means particular information has to be gathered and recorded regarding the children and stored securely, this information includes:
- Addresses & Contact Numbers
- Medical History Records
- Dietary Requirements/Nutritional Restrictions
- Family Changes
- Progress Reports
- Child’s GP & Dentist Details
- Emergency Contact Details
- Special Educational Needs SEN
Sharing any of the above information is in fact a breach of confidentiality and should only be shared on a need-to-know basis, breaching confidentiality can cause great upset for a lot of individuals, loose trust and cause damage to working relationships. Breaching confidentiality within a childcare setting should only be done so in extreme circumstances, for example bullying, suspected child abuse and a medical emergency concerning the child.
Within a childcare setting there is a responsibility to ensure that all information/records are correct, kept up to date and confidential, following the settings policies and guidelines and passed onto relevant staff members only. Information and details provided by the parents/carers is given in trust and concerns the child and their family. This information should only be shared between individuals who are directly involved with the child, for example a named carer or member of staff who works directly with the child.
As a practitioner you may find yourself in a position where you want or need to share information but have been asked not to disclose any information. It may even be due to a matter of safeguarding a child within your care who you feel is at risk, putting you in a difficult position where you must break the confidence discussing it with your line manager.
When you are in the position of having to share information and maintain confidentiality, conflicts or dilemmas may surface.
For example you may find yourself being given confidential information by a parent who has trusted and confided in you as a practitioner discussing with you personal family issues, providing you with information regarding her husband leaving her and filing for divorce resulting in her feeling that she cannot manage and is also struggling to manage but requests that no one else is to be told this information. But as a practitioner being given this type of information gives an automatic concern for the child or young person’s welfare. This then may result in causing conflict or dilemma because you were placed in a position of trust and confidentiality by the parent who confided in you and specifically asked you not to tell anyone else but you are also in a position where you must consider the welfare of the child or young person and speak to your line manager, the manager has to know this information in order to care for the child effectively bearing in mind the Children Act 1989 – The welfare of the child is paramount. But it is important that the parent(s) is informed that you are going to tell your line manager this information.
Conflicts or dilemmas may also arise if a concern has been made about a child by for example a practitioner, key worker or manager directly to the child’s parents. The parents may in fact feel there is no reason for concern or that there is nothing wrong and therefore request that there is no further action to be taken or required and that no confidential information is to be shared with any other outside agencies. Putting the person with concern in a difficult position as this concern regards the welfare of the child or young person involved.
You may also find conflicts or dilemmas arising in relation to sharing information with partners and maintaining confidentiality in situations such as having concerns regarding a child’s welfare because for example you have observed frequent bruising and the child is now refusing to get changed for P.E and appears nervous and jumpy. You want to share this information but it would be inappropriate to ask permission from the child’s parents as this could possibly put the child at further risk of harm. Finding yourself in a very difficult position where you want to share information with a senior member of staff e.g. Line Manager or possibly with outside agencies.
It is important to record information clearly, accurately, legibly and concisely, meeting legal requirements to ensure any decisions or actions that have been put into place for a child or young person are not forgotten or lost and to ensure that written records are not misspelt, are containing incomplete sentences and long confusing paragraphs making it more time consuming for an individual to find the information they are want. This also allows everyone involved regarding a child or young person to receive the most accurate and up to date information and records when required and will enable individuals to refer back to the information for future reference and for the monitoring of children and young people’s behaviour patterns, giving an insight on whether the child’s behaviour has improved or gotten worse over time. It will also prevent any misunderstandings with any future reference at a later date and prevent any complications reading back on the written records. It is also important because all written records need to be up to date, dated and signed to meet the legal requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998. All settings handling personal and sensitive information/records have a number of legal obligations to protect this information under the Data Protection Act 1998. Information must also be recorded clearly, accurately, legibly and concisely, meeting legal requirements for self protection reasons to ensure that there is documented evidence in the case of something happening, which will abide by the procedures and policies put in place within your setting.
Communications and records are recorded and securely stored meeting data protection requirements by carefully carrying out the following:
All written records must be stored carefully
All records must be adequate, sufficient and relevant
Paper records should be kept stored in a locked filing cabinet
Electronic records must be (password protected)
Invoices, bills and money details are to be stored in locked files (password protected) on the computer.
Personal details about each child are to be kept within locked files and password protected documents on the computer.
All records must be maintained, kept up to date and accurate
Records and recording must comply with the Data Protection Act 1998
Personal information must be kept securely & only used for the purposes it was originally stated for.
Records must be kept safe and secure away from any unauthorized access.
Within the setting the following actions are taken to record and store information securely meeting data protection requirements
Invoices, bills, money details – Are stored in locked files (password protected) on the computer which are only accessible to the manager.
Outside agencies – If there has been a meeting of any kind with an outside agency regarding a child or young person within the setting a detailed and clear report must be typed up and a copy of the report distributed to only the relevant concerning parties involved with the child or young person.
Personal details about each child – Each child within the setting has their own individual file containing personal and sensitive information from things such as letters to parents/carers to special dietary requirements. These files are securely locked away within a filing cabinet where they must be kept and used only for the purposes originally stated. They are not to be shared with anyone other than the parents unless they have given permission to do so.
Child protection records – When making a child protection record an appropriate form is to be completed recording the concerns. The written record should consist of relevant details and accurate information. These sensitive records are then locked away and strictly controlled where only limited staff can have access, they are not to be kept on file for any longer than a 6 year period.
Child development records – Child development records are made by observing a child or young person on a daily basis and filling out an observation form and keeping a “daily diary” sometimes including photographs. These records are only shared with the child’s family and contain sensitive & confidential information which is then kept stored individually and securely.
All young children within a setting have their development monitored and recorded on day-to-day basis but if a member of staff believes there is reason for concern or a parent/carer shares concerns regarding their child’s development a meeting will be arranged where the concerns can be shared, the child’s development record reviewed and where information can be gathered on the child’s home life. If the conclusion is that the child in fact requires additional help and support with their development then the manager within the setting will complete the appropriate forms, which will then be sent to the corresponding agency(s) that will make contact with the parents/carers. For example a child who has been assessed as having a speech impediment would be referred to a speech and language team/therapist that will then assess the child and establish a programme that would then be put in place for them which would then be implemented by the teachers and TA’s within a school setting. They may also arrange one to one sessions for the child with the consent of the parents/carers and will assess the child to help recognize the cause of the speech problem or delay.
Referrals are made to ensure that a child or young person is receiving the best possible outcome and start in life. Referrals are usually made by practitioners who observe and make recordings of the child’s development and may pick up on any additional support needed, problems or difficulties the child may be experiencing. It is important to indentify a child or young person’s needs as early as possible to ensure that the child’s needs are assessed quickly and that they are referred to the appropriate setting or agency.
Referrals are made for many different reasons such as concerns regarding a child’s safety and welfare or well being etc. When a referral is required for a child who is in need it should ideally be accompanied by the consent of the child’s parents/carers. If a child or young person is suffering significant harm or abuse then social services will be involved in their case, in some cases depending on the severity of the harm the police may be involved. Other children may suffer from different problems such as emotional and/or learning difficulties. For example a child who has been assessed as having separation anxiety and sensory issues may be referred to CAMHS where they will under go different investigations and have an occupational therapy assessment and may be seen by a child psychologist. Or a child may be displaying signs of behaviour problems and thought to be displaying signs and symptoms of ADHD such as inattention during class time. And therefore may be referred for an ADHD assessment after under going a CAF assessment. They may then be referred to a hospital and consultant where further testing may take place to find out the outcome.
When a child is thought to be in need of additional help or support then a common framework is put into place known as CAF, CAF firstly provides a checklist to ensure that the child’s needs are being met and are up to the standard requirements. If the child’s needs meet the CAF standards required according to the checklist then a meeting would be held where the child’s needs would be accessed and possible support would be discussed within the group, giving the practitioner the opportunity to share their assessments, plans and recommendations for support. It is important to provide a precise, accurate and factual view on the child’s specific needs and requirements including both their strengths and weaknesses. A decision should then be made after the meeting on whether further support is required and a CAF may only then be completed once you have made an agreement with your manager and the child’s parents/carers on whether the child requires additional help and support which is not provided within the setting. During the CAF procedure the agreement will contain permission to share the findings of the CAF assessment with other agencies as sometimes outside agencies may need to be brought into the equation for the benefit of the child and their needs. You must have the parent’s permission for the competition of the CAF process when it is concerning a child and they should be kept well informed but a young person is required to give permission themselves. On competition of the assessment a plan must be built addressing the child’s needs, this should consist of short and achievable goals for the child and should include how these targets can be achieved. Plans must be reviewed and updated on a regular occurrence and referrals must involve the parents/carers and a senior member of staff.
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