Skip to content
Company Logo

Safeguarding Partnership Principles

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is defined for the purposes of Working Together to Safeguard Children as:

  • Providing help and support to meet the needs of children as soon as problems emerge;
  • Protecting children from maltreatment, whether that is within or outside the home, including online;
  • Preventing impairment of children’s mental and physical health or development;
  • Ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care;
  • Promoting the upbringing of children with their birth parents, or otherwise their family network through a kinship care arrangement, whenever possible and where this is in the best interests of the children;
  • Taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes in line with the outcomes set out in the Children’s Social Care National Framework.

Child protection is part of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and is defined for the purpose of Working Together to Safeguard Children as activity that is undertaken to protect specific children who are suspected to be suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm. This includes harm that occurs inside or outside the home, including online.

Successful outcomes for children depend on strong partnership working between parents/carers and the practitioners working with them. Practitioners should take a child-centred approach to meeting the needs of the whole family.

As set out in the Children’s Social Care National Framework, the following principles apply:

  • Children’s welfare is paramount;
  • Children’s wishes and feelings are sought, heard, and responded to;
  • Children’s social care works in partnership with whole families
  • Children are raised by their families, with their family networks or in family environments wherever possible;
  • Local authorities work with other agencies to effectively identify and meet the needs of children, young people, and families;
  • Local authorities consider the economic and social circumstances impacting children, young people, and families.

A child-centred approach is fundamental to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of every child. All practitioners should follow the principles of the Children Acts 1989 and 2004. These Acts make clear that the welfare of children is paramount and that they are best looked after within their families, with their parents playing a full part in their lives, unless compulsory intervention in family life is necessary.

In the context of a child-centred approach, all practitioners should work in partnership with parents and carers as far as possible. Parents and carers need to understand what is happening, what they can expect from the help and support provided, what is expected of them and be supported to say what they think. This is particularly important when there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm, whether the harm is from inside or outside the home including online. Working collaboratively will mean parents and carers have the best chance of making changes, and practitioners can make fair and accurate decisions about how to support children and keep them safe.

While collaborative relationships between practitioners and, parents and carers are important, the wishes and feelings of the child and what is in their best interest remain central to decision-making. Practitioners need to be particularly skilled in engaging and working with parents and carers whom services have found difficult to engage. Some examples may be parents and carers of disabled children, parents, and carers whose children are at risk of, or experiencing, harm from outside the home, fathers, and male carers, and those who are neurodivergent. Practitioners also need to recognise, engage, and work with parents and carers who are unwilling or unable to engage with services.

Four principles underpin work with parents and carers:

  • Effective partnership working with parents and carers happens when practitioners build strong, positive, trusting, and co-operative relationships by:
    • Approaching families and their wider family networks and communities with empathy, respect, compassion, and creativity;
    • Avoiding reinforcing family shame, suffering, and blaming;
    • Using strength-based approaches, working with parents and carers to identify what is working well and how their strengths could support them to effect positive change;
    • Ensuring they work sensitively with parents, carers, and children, to identify and understand the impact of adversity and trauma in their lives. Seeking to understand how adversity and trauma might manifest and affect children and parents’ engagement and using their expertise to adapt their response with care and compassion;
    • Adapting their responses to meet the diverse needs of parents and carers, including fathers and male carers, and the specific challenges being faced, including parents and carers of disabled children, and where harm is outside the home;
    • Ensuring they understand the families’ background, ethnicity, religion, financial situation, ability, education, sex, ages and sexual orientation, and potential barriers these create in seeking and accessing help and support;
    • Being alert and recognising where parents or carers may not be acting in the best interest of the child or where children may be experiencing abuse, neglect, and exploitation as a result of actions by parents, carers, or other individuals in their lives. Using their skills and expertise to adapt their response to secure engagement;
    • Being mindful of negative stereotypes when making decisions which might lead to false assumptions.
  • Verbal and non-verbal communication should be respectful, non-blaming, clear, inclusive, and adapted to parents and carers needs. Practitioners should ensure that all materials provided to children, parents, carers, and families are jargon-free, developmentally appropriate and in a format that is easily understood. Where appropriate, material provided to children, parents, carers, and families should be made accessible and translated into their first language if necessary. Professional interpreters should be provided where needed. Practitioners should not need to rely on family members or partners for interpretation services, including British Sign Language.
  • Practitioners empower parents and carers to participate in decision-making to help, support and protect children by:
  • Creating a culture of “no surprises”, for example, making parents and carers aware of who will attend meetings and discussions, if the child will be invited to participate and the format of the meeting or discussion;
  • Explaining that parents and carers can bring a family member, a friend or supporter to meetings;
  • Giving parents and carers adequate preparation at every stage, relevant information, a safe and appropriate environment for participation and suitable access arrangements;
  • Signposting parents and carers to sources of help and support available locally or through the local authority;
  • Helping parents and carers to understand what the issues are and how these impact on the child, what decisions could be made, what changes need to be made, why and how, timescales and possible outcomes.
  • Practitioners involve parents, carers, families, and local communities in designing processes that affect them, including those focused on safeguarding children. They value their contributions, expertise and knowledge reflecting them in service design and continuously seek feedback from parents, carers, family networks, children, and local communities to inform service improvements. Practitioners use feedback from parents and carers to reflect on their own practice.

Children’s Social Care National Framework:  Statutory Guidance on the Purpose, Principles for Practice and Expected Outcomes of Children’s Social Care sets out that all organisations, including safeguarding partners and relevant agencies, should use the National Framework to:

  • Raise aspirations for what high-quality support and practice with children, young people and families can achieve;
  • Establish a shared approach and strong relationships across agencies, so everyone can engage constructively in delivering effective support to children, young people and families;
  • Embed voices of children, young people and families in the design and delivery of services and support;
  • Determine the right support, challenge, and accountability across agencies so that everyone can work towards the goal of seeing families thrive, and understand the impact of their services in helping to deliver that ambition.

Multi-agency practice expectations apply to all agencies and practitioners involved in supporting children and young people. The practice expectations are organised around 5 key principles: to collaborate, to learn, to resource, to include, and to mutually challenge. They set out how safeguarding partners and other agencies should work together and align their practice, including towards the outcomes in the National Framework.

In addition to individual practitioners shaping support around the needs of individual children, local organisations and agencies should have a clear understanding of the collective needs of children locally when commissioning effective services. As part of that, ICBs are required to have executive lead roles for children, children with SEND and for safeguarding (these could be individual roles or combined as part of one role). It is expected that these executive leads will work with key partners across public health, social care, justice, and education to ensure the interests of those groups are met, including appropriate resources are allocated for the provision of services and maintaining an overview of the quality of services. As part of that process, the Director of Public Health, informed by the relevant ICB Executive Leads, should ensure that the needs of children are a key part of the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) developed by the Health and Wellbeing Board. Safeguarding partners should use this assessment to help them understand the prevalence and contexts of need, including specific needs relating to disabled children and those relating to abuse, neglect and exploitation, which in turn should help shape services.

Last Updated: February 16, 2024