New research on children and young people’s views of child protection system

‘Don’t make assumptions’: Children’s and young people’s views of the child protection system and messages for change, published today, was commissioned by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) and has been provided to Professor Eileen Munro as further evidence for her major review of child protection.

Key recommendations for government are:

• Good skills in communicating with children, based on detailed knowledge of child development, are needed in order to form meaningful relationships with children. Child development and child-centred communication skills should therefore be a key focus of social work training and continuing professional development.
• Guidance on good practice needs to be easily accessible and its importance to the quality of practice and professional development promoted.
• Local authorities should have a forum where children who are receiving services but are not in care can contribute their views of the child protection process and have an impact on practice and service development.

Lead author of the report Jeanette Cossar, of the Centre for Research on the Child and Family at UEA, said: “There has been little research into children’s views of the child protection system, so this is a distinctive and important perspective.

“These are young people who are incredibly vulnerable, but they are not passive and we need to engage with them. We should be listening to what they say and actively working with them to ensure the system acknowledges their views and supports their needs.”

Commenting on the report Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England said “Children in receipt of child protection services are amongst the most vulnerable in our society. Three key findings emerged from this research. These are that:

• Children develop their own ways of dealing with their worries and these need to be understood;
• Their relationship with their social worker is fundamental and assists them to participate in the child protection process;
• And social workers need to be aware of the impact of the child protection system itself on children as well as the risk of harm from the abuse which brought them into the system.

“Listening to children’s views is fundamental to ensuring that their rights to protection, support and participation under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are fully realised.

“The children and young people who shared their own experiences with us have allowed us to provide a real insight for everyone trying to improve child protection services. We now have a duty to ensure that we do our part by making sure that policy makers, service providers and professionals listen to their concerns and act upon them.”

“You’ve got to trust [the social worker] and she’s got to trust you. Otherwise there’s no point” said one child.

John Kemmis, Chief Executive of Voice said: “We welcome this research. If we want services and processes that protect children to be truly child centred, it is critical that we listen to and learn from those children and young people who have experience of the system. We would urge the Government to consider the recommendations in their review of the child protection system.”

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