1.1.3 Consultation Policy
AMENDMENTIn March 2020, minor amendments were made throughout in line with local practice and terminology.
1. General Principles of Consultation
Everyone involved in the receipt and delivery of services should be consulted about decisions which may affect them.
This includes children, with support from an advocate if required, their parents, other significant family members and those charged with providing the service; including managers, staff, carers and professionals or colleagues from other agencies.
This means that people's views should be sought and taken into account in relation to all decisions, which are likely to affect their daily life and their future.
Unless there are exceptional circumstances, reasonable steps must be taken in all cases to consult the parents. Exceptions will include where a child is placed for adoption and where older children with an appropriate level of maturity specifically request that their parents are not consulted and a decision is made to respect their wishes.
Consultation should take place on a regular and frequent basis with those who need to be consulted, and assumptions should not be made about the inability or lack of interest of those who should be consulted.
All assessments and reports carried out by social workers should include the views of the service user, whether adult or child. Records on individuals should state that service users' views have been consulted and that they have been informed they can access and view those assessments and reports. All assessments will be carried out in partnership with children and their families where appropriate. Copies of the assessments will be provided upon completion.
Where people have communication difficulties of any sort, suitable means must be provided to enable them to be consulted, including arranging access to advocates or representatives. Whilst the Children's Involvement Team are able to give advice on working with communication difficulties, they will only act as advocates where specific issues have been identified (see below).
Consultation should be undertaken in a creative manner. Again, the Children's Involvement Team are available for advice regarding undertaking consultation, and practitioners should be aware of the resources that are available to aid this, such as the Communi-crates.
If consultation is not possible or is restricted for whatever reason, steps should be taken to ensure that those affected are informed of decisions as soon as practicable after they are made, and an explanation for the decision given, together with the opportunity to make a comment and express their views.
If it is then felt that a different decision may have been appropriate, steps should be taken to reconsider the decision.
If decisions are made against people's wishes, they should be informed of the decision, and the reasons for the decision should be explained. In these circumstances, the person should be informed of any rights they have to formally challenge the decision, and of the availability of the Complaints or Grievance Procedure.
Children should also be informed of their right to appoint an Advocate, and if an advocate is appointed, he or she must be consulted in accordance with the principles set out in this section.
The Children's Involvement Team provides issue based advocacy for children and young people in and leaving care in Sheffield, and work to ensure that children and young people's wishes, views and feelings are heard and considered in important decisions about their life when the child or young person feels that they need additional support with this.
The Children's Involvement Team have also been commissioned by the Sheffield Safeguarding Children Service to provide advocacy for children aged 5 - 17 years old, in Initial Child Protection Conferences and in some first review conferences. More information can be found at Sheffkids, Giving Children of Sheffield a Voice.
Service user feedback and contribution to service development and design
Sheffield Children and Families Service are committed to ensuring effective consultation about service design and delivery with children, young people and their families, including the following:
- The User Voice Programme, chaired by the Principal Child and Family Social Worker, leads on service wide consultation and responses and reports directly to the Senior Leadership Team;
- The Children in Care Council, facilitated by the Children's Involvement Team;
- Sheffield Care Leavers' Union, facilitated by the Children's Involvement Team;
- Surveys of children and young people who are looked after;
- Consultation with and feedback from foster carers.
The Children and Families Service is committed to the active involvement of service users in all of our recruitment processes and young people and foster carers are routinely involved in recruitment panels and assessment centres for all levels of staff in social care.
2. Management Consultation
Practitioners working in Sheffield will take reasonable steps to keep their managers informed of their actions; and will consult and seek their approval where they do not have decision-making responsibility delegated to them.
In order to facilitate this, managers must ensure that effective lines of communication are established and maintained.If procedures in this manual require that managers are informed within specified timescales or that their approval is sought before actions are taken, this must be complied with.
3. Legal Consultation
It is assumed that, in following these procedures, social workers and/or their managers will seek legal advice as appropriate before taking any action and/or making decisions which will or may change the legal status of a child, or decisions which do not have parental consent. This is particularly so in cases where emergency action is being considered.
In order to facilitate this, managers must ensure that effective lines of communication are established and maintained between the Children and Families Service and the Council's Legal Advisers, and that workers are aware of who may authorise contact, who may have contact and how contact should be made.
Consideration should also be given to the Scheme of Delegation when making any decisions in relation to a child/young person.