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CHILDREN ACT - THE INDEX

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Regulations to s12 Children Act 2004

Regulations to allow the Government to pilot the Children’s Index have now been approved by Parliament. The pilots will take place in the following areas:  

Barnsley

Bolton

Coventry

Cumbria

Dorset with Bournemouth and Poole

Gateshead

Knowsley

Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland

Nottinghamshire

Sheffield

Telford & Wrekin and Shropshire

Wandsworth

 

The Government plans to hold a public consultation later in the year when the pilots are completed, and will then put new regulations before Parliament to extend the Index to the whole of England. The draft regulations can be seen here: http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2006/20060983.htm   and the accompanying memo here: http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/em2006/uksiem_20060983_en.pdf

ARCH is told that: ‘The IS Index data trials will examine the data to be used for the index - not the system itself - and will inform future work on matching and loading data.  We are not building a trial Index; we are intending to produce a statistical analysis of the data we may use for the Index.’

 

Common Assessment Framework (CAF)

 The CAF is an assessment tool to be used by every practitioner who is ‘concerned’ about a child. Once the form has been completed, the practitioner can indicate on the Children’s Index that a Common Assessment has been carried out.  The questions to be asked are set out in the CAF Form

 Information for the Common Assessment will be collected under the following headings:

 Development of unborn baby, infant, child or young person:

General health

Physical development

Speech, language and communication

Emotional and social development

Behavioural development

Identity, self-esteem, self-image and social presentation

Family and social relationships

Self-care skills and independence

Understanding, reasoning and problem solving

Participation in learning, education and employment

Progress and achievement in learning

Aspirations

 

Parents and carers:

Basic care, ensuring safety and protection

Emotional warmth and stability

Guidance, boundaries and stimulation

 

Family and environmental:

Basic care, ensuring safety and protection

Wider family

Housing, employment and financial considerations

Social and community elements and resources, including education

 

The CAF Practitioner’s Guide   says that: ‘You do not have to be an expert in any particular area to do a common assessment’.  The only requirement is that a practitioner has attended a training course on completing the form.

Information-Sharing

 There is space for consent to share information at the end of the CAF form. The Government’s guidance on information sharing  stresses that consent should normally be sought to share information, but:

‘A young person aged 16 or 17, or a child under 16 who has the capacity to understand and make their own decisions, may give (or refuse) consent to sharing...Children aged 12 or over may generally be expected to have sufficient understanding. Younger children may also have sufficient understanding.

 

It goes on to say:

‘If you judge a child or young person to be competent to give consent, then their consent or refusal to consent is the one to consider even if a parent or carer disagrees.’

 

The basis upon which a person under 16 can give valid consent is set out in the ‘Fraser Guidelines’ that followed the Gillick case in the House of Lords in 1985. This was a case about the circumstances in which a young person could be given contraception without parental knowledge, and it is instructive to read what Lord Fraser actually said when he delivered the judgment. It should be noted that the judgment is limited to talking about doctors and other health professionals:

 

‘The only practicable course is to entrust the doctor with a discretion to act in accordance with his view of what is best in the interests of the girl who is his patient.  He should, of course, always seek to persuade her to tell her parents that she is seeking contraceptive advice, and the nature of the advice that she receives.  At least he should seek to persuade her to agree to the doctor's informing the parents.  But there may well be cases, and I think there will be some cases, where the girl refuses either to tell the parents herself or to permit the doctor to do so and in such cases, the doctor will, in my opinion, be justified in proceeding without the parents' consent or even knowledge provided he is satisfied on the following matters:

 

(1) that the girl (although under 16 years of age) will understand his advice;

 

(2) that he cannot persuade her to inform her parents or to allow him to inform the parents that she is seeking contraceptive advice;

 

(3) that she is very likely to begin or continue having sexual intercourse with or without contraceptive treatment;

 

(4) that unless she receives contraceptive advice or treatment her physical or mental health or both are likely to suffer;

 

(5) that her best interests require him to give her contraceptive advice, treatment or both without the parental consent.

 

That result ought not to be regarded as a licence for doctors to disregard the wishes of parents on this matter whenever they find it convenient to do so. Any doctor who behaves in such a way would be failing to discharge his professional responsibilities, and I would expect him to be disciplined by his own professional body accordingly’

 

Note the emphasis that the Law Lords placed upon adopting this course only when a young person specifically refuses parental involvement. The judgment in Gillick was reaffirmed earlier this year (2006) in the ‘Axon’ case – again, a medical situation concerning the right of a young person to seek abortion without parental knowledge.

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