The Children's Views, Wishes and Feelings Standard

7.

  1. The children's views, wishes and feelings standard is that children receive care from staff who:
    1. Develop positive relationships with them;
    2. Engage with them; and
    3. Take their views, wishes and feelings into account in relation to matters affecting the children's care and welfare and their lives.
  2. In particular, the standard in paragraph (1) requires the registered person to:
    1. Ensure that staff:
      1. Ascertain and consider each child's views, wishes and feelings, and balance these against what they judge to be in the child's best interests when making decisions about the child's care and welfare;
      2. Help each child to express views, wishes and feelings;
      3. Help each child to understand how the child's views, wishes and feelings have been taken into account and give the child reasons for decisions in relation to the child;
      4. Regularly consult children, and seek their feedback, about the quality of the home's care;
      5. Help each child to understand how the child's privacy will be respected and the circumstances when it may have to be limited;
      6. Help each child to prepare for any review of the child's relevant plans and to make the child's views, wishes and feelings known for the purposes of that review; and
      7. Make each child aware of and, if necessary, remind them of each of the matters in sub-paragraph (d)(i) to (iii);
    2. Ensure that each child:
      1. Is enabled to provide feedback to, and raise issues with, a relevant person about the support and services that the child receives;
      2. Has access to the home's children's guide, and the home’s complaints procedure, when the child's placement in the home is agreed and throughout the child's stay in the home; and
      3. Is given appropriate advocacy support;
    3. Keep the children's guide and the home’s complaints procedure under review and seek children's comments before revising either document;
    4. Ensure that an explanation is given to each child as soon as reasonably practicable after the child's arrival about:
      1. The children's guide;
      2. How to make a complaint or representations in relation to the home or the care the child receives and how any such complaint or representations will be dealt with; and
      3. What advocacy support or services are available to the child, how the child may access that support or those services and any entitlement the child may have to independent advocacy provision; and
    5. Ensure that the views of each relevant person are taken into account, so far as reasonably practicable, before making a decision about the care or welfare of a child.

'Relevant Persons'

Any person, body or organisation involved in the care or protection of a particular child or children living in the home which the registered person considers to be relevant.

'Relevant Plans'

Relevant plans are defined in the interpretation section of the Regulations (regulation 2) as: any placement plan; any care plan; any statement of special educational needs; any education, health and care plan ("EHC plan")[1]; and where the child is a youth justice child any detention placement plan, or any other plan prepared by that child’s placing authority in relation to the remand or sentencing of that child. 'Relevant' thus has a meaning here that is distinct from the normal meaning of that word. If a child has any of the above plans, they will fall within the meaning of 'relevant plans', but a child may not have all of the plans defined as 'relevant' (for example, there will be children living in children's homes who do not have an EHC plan). Similarly, a child may have a plan that the Regulations define as 'relevant', but may have no impact on the issue the provider is considering at that point in time, and providers should not feel obliged to make a plan apply where it does not. The essential point is that a child’s plans should form the basis of their care, and providers should use their judgement as to what is relevant in each case, taking the plans listed in the definition in the Regulations as a starting point rather than a complete list or a tick-box exercise.

'Positive Relationships'

Positive relationships are those which are characterised by consistency and unconditional positive regard for the child on the part of the carer, and where the carer acknowledges the importance of understanding and responding to the child's lived experience of care. Positive, stable relationships help the child to feel secure and cared about and for.

'Advocacy'

Advocacy is the process of representing the views, wishes and feelings of the child in matters which affect the child, or of enabling the child to express their views, wishes and feelings themselves.

[1] In some cases, the child’s special education needs statement (SEN) will be a relevant plan, until such time as it is reviewed (the latest date being 2018) and replaced with an EHC plan.

The principle of listening to the child and taking their views, wishes and feelings into account when planning and undertaking their care applies to all children, including children with disabilities, special educational needs or other complex needs.

Section 22(5) of the Children Act 1989 and Children Act 1989: Care planning, placement and case review set out in detail the local authority's responsibilities with regard to seeking and taking into account a child’s wishes and feelings when they are looked-after.

The home should work in partnership with relevant people as appropriate to ensure that each child is provided with support (appropriate to their age and understanding) to communicate their views, wishes and feelings and participate as fully as possible in all aspects of their care planning and daily care. This may include the use of and support to use communication aids, equipment and/or any necessary language support.

For children who are looked-after, including those placed in care under section 20 of the Children Act 1989, the placing authority will have recorded the level or type of family involvement that is appropriate in their care plan. Children’s homes must follow regulation 7(2)(e) in accordance with this decision.

For children who are not looked-after the home should frequently seek the views and involvement of parents/carers and others with a significant relationship to the child as relevant persons in that child’s care. In following regulation 7(2)(e) in this situation, the relevant persons will always include parents.

In some instances, a child may express wishes that are not always in their best interests or which may conflict with the views of other children in the home. In such circumstances, the responsible adults will have to balance the wishes of the child against what they judge to be in the best interests of the child and reach a reasonable view about the best way forward in the interests of all. The reasons for reaching any decision will need to be carefully explained to and understood by the child or children concerned.

Staff should have the skills and confidence to communicate easily and understand the importance of listening to, involving and responding to the children they care for. Staff should understand that they have a responsibility to observe, notice and respond to children who are expressing their views, acknowledging that it is not the sole responsibility of the child to 'tell'. They should also understand how children might communicate their feelings through their behaviour, or non-verbally especially where the child has a disability which does not allow them to communicate as others might.

Children must be consulted regularly on their views about the home's care, to inform and support continued improvement in the quality of care provided. Due consideration should be given to the child's cognitive ability in the development and implementation of any consultation processes. Children should be able to see the results of their views being listened to and acted upon.

Staff should ensure that each child understands the home's procedures and policies for respecting their confidentiality and also when it will not be possible to preserve this – e.g. where protecting a confidence puts themselves or others at risk.

Staff should encourage children to share any concerns about their care or other matters as soon as they arise. Children must be able to take up issues or make a complaint with support and without any fear that this will result in any adverse consequences. Regulation 39 sets out the requirements on the registered person to have a complaints procedure. Children must be aware of this procedure and be reminded of it as necessary.

The registered person and the home's staff should be familiar with the care planning process for looked-after children and must assist children to prepare for meetings in relation to this. Staff should play an important role in these meetings, including supporting the child and enabling a clear understanding to be reached about the child’s views, wishes, feelings, and expectations for their future. An independent advocate can also be called upon by the child or staff to support the child in their reviews.

The registered person should provide opportunities and support, where needed, for children to engage with their local Children in Care Council, or other such local arrangements, which enable the views and experiences of children in care to be heard.

All children must have access to appropriate advocacy support, and where possible this should be provided by a person that the child chooses. Looked-after children are entitled to an independent advocate to advise them and ensure they have the support needed to express their views, wishes and feelings about their care and lives.

There is a legal requirement for the IRO of a looked-after child to ensure that the child understands they have an entitlement to independent advocacy support arranged by the child’s local authority (Chapter 3, IRO Handbook). Children’s home staff should complement any explanation given by the IRO by helping looked-after children to understand the role of an independent advocate and how they can access one. Staff should regularly remind children of their right to access an independent advocate, concerning any matter relevant to the child's status as looked-after. Independent advocates can support both the child and the home to seek redress of issues which affect them, such as lack of contact with their social worker, contact with family and leaving care grants, in addition to issues about their care within the home.

Although there is not a legal requirement for non-looked-after children to have access to an independent advocate, homes caring for these children should ensure that children can access advocacy support (as described in Advocacy) and should also consider the use of an independent advocate where necessary.

The registered person must ensure that the children in their care understand their rights as a looked-after child, or child living in a children's home. Children must be informed of how to contact the Office of the Children's Commissioner for advice and assistance about their rights and entitlements.

For further information about complaints and advocacy for children living in children's homes, see Get it Sorted (2004) Guidance on providing effective advocacy services for children and young people making a complaint under the Children Act 1989.

The children's home must produce a children's guide. The children's guide must be made available to all children when their placement in the home is agreed (or on arrival at the home if the placement is made in an emergency) and must be age appropriate, provided in an accessible format and explained to each child to make sure they understand it.

The children's guide should help children to understand:

  • What the day-to-day routines of the home are ('what happens in the home');
  • The Statement of Purpose of the home (the care they can expect to receive while living there);
  • How to make a complaint in line with the home's complaints procedure;
  • How they can access advocacy support or independent advocacy if eligible; and
  • How to contact the Office of the Children's Commissioner.

As part of reviewing and revising where appropriate the Statement of Purpose (regulation 16(3)(a)), the registered person should review and update the children's guide as necessary, and make sure children are given an explanation of any changes.

Children who cannot or choose not to verbalise, have the right to have their views, wishes and feelings heard and respected in the same way as other children. There may be children whose abilities and understanding are such that regulations 7(2)(a)(iv), (b)(i) and (c) will need interpretation according to their individual circumstances in consultation with their social worker.

The registered person must not automatically use the views of parents as a proxy for children's views. Children will have their own perspective and arrangements should be in place to engage with them directly. In some cases, the view of a relevant person, such as a social worker or IRO, might be included in discussions where the person is interpreting or advocating on behalf of a child.

Last Updated: February 9, 2022

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