The power of the voice
Friday, October 18, 2019
Like in most local authorities, children who are subject to a child protection plan in Derbyshire are encouraged to attend their child protection conferences and when they can't there is input on their behalf.
However, more recently we have actively sought ways to utilise the power of the child's voice as a lever for change within the conference itself.
At the final meeting of our Local Safeguarding Children's Board (LSCB) held on 27 September 2019, we received a report on progress and it contained examples of how one child's voice had contained such power that it had been the catalyst for their family's change journey.
"I am happy when I see my brothers and sisters and like to bake cakes with mummy, I love school. I am sad when mummy and daddy argue, I get scared, I need it to stop." The mother of this child said that for the first time her daughter's words hit home and helped her to understand the impact the situation at home was having on her, as a result the family situation has changed and risks have been reduced.
Equally, there were examples of how the child's voice within the conference had enabled professionals to hear and understand a child's needs differently. A 14-year-old girl at risk of sexual exploitation who was on a care order spoke to her conference, her voice influenced how a rehabilitation plan was managed and there were proactive arrangements to ensure that the young person was not overloaded with contacts from numerous professionals and that her points of contact were the professionals whom she identified as being her "team of helpers". Also, an 11-year-old refined her own plan by putting a tick and a heart against the actions, suggested by professionals, that she thought would be helpful for her.
I have reflected on the power of the voice a lot since this meeting and how it is starting to move the child protection conference from a procedural requirement to an active piece of direct work with the child, the family and the professionals engaged with them.
Strategically too, we seek to be influenced by the child's voice although we sometimes need to check and remind ourselves of how we are doing this - at the end of our LSCB meetings our chair always used to ask us to consider what the Board had done that day to make a difference to the lives of children. My test of self will be asking myself ‘what have I/we done or changed today as a result of a child's voice'? In this way can it turn from the power of the voice into the voice having power?
Jane Parfrement is strategic director of children's services at Derbyshire County Council. This blog first appeared on the ADCS website