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10 Principles

10 Prinicpals


The development of the 10 principles started at the end of 2018 and was the outcome of a reflective learning event for safeguarding partners. It draws on the learning from local and national serious case reviews and the contribution of safeguarding leads from schools, CCG and health professionals, police and children's social care. The Principles are underpinned by the following messages for improving practice:

  • Keeping good records, and sharing information with other colleagues in the safeguarding network, and escalating concerns when necessary;
  • Ensuring that the correct policies, procedures and escalation processes are in place and followed;
  • Convening a multi-agency planning meeting following any unexpected outcome of care proceedings;
  • Consider the impact of children living in resistant, deceptive and hostile environments and ensure their voices are heard;
  • Recognising disguised compliance and understanding the importance of professional curiosity;
  • Acknowledging fear and anxiety in staff, through regular supervision or similar opportunities for reflection;
  • The emotional impact on staff when you are working with children, and ensuring that they are supported.

It was also clear from the start that we wanted to convey the 10 Principles from the experience of the child which resulted in the development of the "Please Listen" animation. 

The 10 Principles are also embedded in the e-learning module and conveyed through 10 case scenarios based on serious case reviews published in the last two years. 

 Keep clear and detailed records

Effective record keeping is vital to identify any risks or problems that have arisen, and the steps taken to deal with them, so that colleagues who use the records have all the information they need to inform their decision making. Organisations must ensure staff are given guidance, time and support with documenting children’s records as part of the child protection policies which comes under Section 11 requirements under the Children Act 2004. 


Keep a record of your decision and the reasons for it, whether it is to share information or not. If you decide to share, then record what you have shared, with whom and for what purpose. Further details are available in the guidance on information sharing for people who provide safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers.


The following principles for record keeping draw on learning from research and the findings of serious case reviews to highlight some of the common pitfalls in recording for both practitioners and managers.


Pitfalls and how to avoid them:

1. Case records are out of date    

  • Recognise that recording is an important task, not just for the agency but for the service user or carer; 
  • See recording as an integral and important part of your practice; 
  • Plan your recording, and allocate time to record and minimise interruptions and diversions;  
  • Record information as you go along and don't let it accumulate. Keeping information in your head to record at a later date may result in key information being forgotten; 
  • When planning a significant contact with a family or individual, include recording as part of your time allocation.

 2. The child is "missing" from the record, often for the following reasons:

  • The parents dominate at the expense of the children;
  • The practitioner is trying to protect the child from talking about painful and distressing issues;
  • The practitioner has found the child to be uncommunicative, or expressing different views at different times;
  • The importance of accurately recording observations about children cannot be over-emphasised; 
  • It is essential that the views of the child and their understanding of the situation are clearly recorded, and it is important to record when and how those views were expressed;
  • Where different tools have been used to help children express their views, such as drawings, their use should be explained;
  • Letters and notes from children, along with drawings, can form a legitimate part of the record and can also be used to indicate progress; 
  • The absence of records suggests that no work has been undertaken with the child, or that the child has not been actively engaged in decision making that has an impact on their life.

3. Facts and professional judgements are not distinguished in the record

  • Failing to differentiate between fact and opinion can result in the significance of some information being overlooked, or opinions becoming accepted as facts and unduly influencing the management of the case;
  • A lack of analysis can result in records that focus on description, and the rationale for decision making is not understood;
  • Records should contain both facts and the rationale for the professional judgment, and any details relating to joint decision making within the multi-disciplinary process. 

4. Lack of clarity about the function and purpose of recording

  • Practitioners play it safe and record as much as possible to protect themselves;
  • Procedural guidance is not sufficiently clear, or not accessed until a problem is already in existence
  • The use of regular supervision or similar opportunities to address issues about the quality of recording is part of management oversight. 

5. The record is not used as a tool for analysis

  • Do not record simply what is happening, use analysis to move beyond this to hypothesise and explain why particular situations and events are occurring;
  • Use genograms, ecomaps, chronologies and assessment records to help you to organise and to analyse information;
  • Use case summaries as a way of reviewing progress and evaluating the effectiveness of interventions;
  • Keep up to date with developments in research and regularly attend training to inform your practice.

 6. Recording is not an integral part of performance management 

  • Making recording an integral part of the way the agency monitors practice, for example through regular case audits, has been found to raise standards;
  • Where practitioners are involved in new developments and are supported with training, new recording formats, policies and procedures have generally been welcomed and have resulted in improvements in the quality of recording practice.

 Never make assumptions

An all too common theme in Serious Case Reviews is to assume that someone else is doing something, and therefore there is no need for the individual to take action. Here are some examples from the most recent triennial analysis of SCRs:


1. Thresholds for referral and assessments

  • Practitioners are at times unsure if a referral will meet the threshold for children’s services or they have experiences of cases that have not met the threshold in the past. Such experiences can make them reluctant to refer again;
  • The school did not make referrals to Children Social Care, as they did not think the case would reach their threshold;
  • If a case does not meet the threshold, then there is a risk that the referring agency feels reassured that the child is safe rather than continuing observing patterns of neglect or abuse, and then not refer again when there is a more serious concern;
  • Children Social Care assumed that the young person was engaging with another service this was not ascertained. The SCR found that he was not engaging which left him at risk.

2. Poverty

  • Practitioners can become desensitised to the impact of poverty and accept lower standards for children and families rather than assessing it from the perspective of neglect and drawing conclusions about the impact on the child e.g deprivation of food;
  • Supervision can support reflective practice that would challenge such assumptions, and enable practitioners to identify poverty and work proactively with families to address its causes and consequences. 

3. Backgrounds, culture and beliefs 

  • SCR commonly make the point about needing to find out about people’s backgrounds, culture and beliefs, and then apply that knowledge;
  • It is about finding out what beliefs mean in practice, how this manifests in the internal world of the parent or carer and the part it plays in their identity;
  • Unexplored assumptions by the professional, then found their way into assessments and plans. 

4. Lack of professional curiosity

  • Gaps in practitioners ability to explore and understand what is happening within a family rather than making assumptions or accepting what is said by parents or carers at face value is a common feature in SCRs;
  • The term "respectful uncertainty" is sometimes used to describe an approach which is focused on safety for children but that takes into account changing information, different perspectives and acknowledges that certainty may not be achievable.

 Always share information

Working Together guidance refers to serious case reviews having highlighted that missed opportunities to record, understanding the significance of and share information in a timely manner can have severe consequences for the safety and welfare of children. It sets out that:

  • Practitioners should be proactive in sharing information as early as possible to help identify, assess and respond to risks or concerns about the safety and welfare of children, whether this is when problems are first emerging, or where a child is already known to local authority children’s social care (e.g. they are being supported as a child in need or have a child protection plan);
  • Practitioners should be alert to sharing important information about any adults with whom that child has contact, which may impact the child’s safety or welfare;
  • Information sharing is also essential for the identification of patterns of behaviour when a child is at risk of going missing or has gone missing, when multiple children appear associated to the same context or locations of risk.

Information sharing and communication

The top key learning point in the most recent triennial analysis of SCRs report was the information sharing and communication between professionals, and highlighted the need for:

  • Greater rigour in information sharing, assessment and planning at all stages of the process;
  • Having a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of different organisations, and clear pathways for information sharing and shared working;
  • When families are receiving services from both adult and children’s services, information sharing and joint working to enable the development of more realistic plans to safeguard children;
  • Information sharing between the police and other agencies, and also for the police to be active participants in decision-making forums;
  • Effective information sharing across local authority boundaries to tackle the specific challenges raised by families or individuals with transient lifestyles;
  • A clear multi-agency picture of the household; the varying perceptions of different professionals on issues like neglect can create conflicting accounts and a confused picture of the household and their acceptability;
  • An information sharing agreement between housing and children's social care when tenancies are cancelled and there are young children in the household.

 To effectively share information:

  • All practitioners should be confident of the processing conditions, which allow them to store, and share, the information that they need to carry out their safeguarding role. Information which is relevant to safeguarding will often be data which is considered ‘special category personal data’, meaning it is sensitive and personal and should be stored securely;
  • Where practitioners need to share special category personal data, they should be aware that the Data Protection Act 2018 includes ‘safeguarding of children and individuals at risk’ as a condition that allows practitioners to share information without consent;
  • Information can be shared legally without consent, if a practitioner is unable to, cannot be reasonably expected to gain consent from the individual, or if to gain consent could place a child at risk;
  • Relevant personal information can be shared lawfully if it is to keep a child or individual at risk safe from neglect or physical, emotional or mental harm, or if it is protecting their physical, mental, or emotional well-being.

 Don't be afraid to challenge decisions

Working Together 2018 clearly sets out the need for the three safeguarding partners (local authority, police and health) and relevant agencies to ‘challenge appropriately and hold one another to account effectively’. There should also be local arrangements in place clearly setting out escalation policies and how disputes will be resolved. 

A central component of the SCR process is understanding the perspective of frontline practitioners and the opportunities and challenges about the 'system' within which they work to analyse why incidents occurred and the contributory factors rather than just what occurred.

Examples of learning from recently published reviews are listed below:

  • Children's behaviour is the voice:  the  absence of challenge to address disguised compliance and manipulative behaviour by the perpetrators put the children at risk
  • Management oversight:  it was only with the oversight of a new manager that some of these assumptions were challenged and examined more critically;
  • Legal advice: there was not sufficient challenge by the police or social care to the legal advice to not seek approval for the removal of the children;
  • Medical opinion:  the consultant’s view that the child had not been abuse was accepted by professionals due to the lack of inter-professional challenge;
  • Professional disagreement: opinions from those practitioners or agencies who held a different view were not challenged rigorously to keep the children safe;
  • Use of supervision: is especially important especially when professionals are making potentially high risk decisions; 
  • Procedural checks and balances: the function of these in child protection system is to challenge and review the optimism of the recommendation, and share responsibility and accountability. 

 Consider convening a multi-agency meeting

The first annual report of the national child safeguarding review panel found that:

1. Children subject to care proceedings

  • Children who died or were seriously harmed had previously been subject to public care proceedings because of concerns about significant harm;
  • Following the identification of serious known or suspected abuse at the hands of their parents, some children were then returned home, or to other carers, only to later experience serious harm or death;
  • Children had been previously removed and permanently so, but their subsequent siblings were not returned to court for protection as enough parental change was thought to have occurred.

2. Effective multi-agency partnership working

  • When there is an unexpected outcome of proceedings in the Family Court, safeguarding partners may need to come together to review the arrangements for safeguarding the child and any siblings in the family.
  • Effective multi-agency plans to manage any level of risk, are dependent on all the relevant agencies being represented at meetings and actively engaged in implementing plans;
  • One of the key elements in achieving adherence to a multi-agency child protection plan is a clear understanding of the role of individual agencies in its delivery.

3. Lead professional

  • Ensuring effective joint working in complex service environments is a common SCR theme and a recurring recommendation is to have a lead professional, acting as the key contact for the child or family, co-ordinating activities and interventions delivered by involved agencies;
  • Holding the full picture of the context which is the child’s reality is a key part of this role as all too often they are hidden from the views of professionals, for example where parental mental health services are involved in the family. 


 Clear, concise and consistent communication

Case reviews show that communication barriers can sometimes prevent professionals from effectively assessing, supporting and protecting families. The learning from these reviews highlight that efforts should always be made to resolve barriers of communication, between professionals and in the direct work with children and their families to ensure that they are effectively safeguarded. 

1. Professional communication

It is recognised that different professional perspectives within safeguarding practice is a sign of a healthy and well functioning partnership, as it reflects an open approach and honest relationships between professionals. Professional differences could arise in a number of areas of multi-agency working as well as within single agency working such as:

  • Whether the criteria for referrals and levels of need has been met as set out in the local multi-agency threshold guidance;
  • The information gathering process and whether relevant and sufficent details have been provided by those in the multi-agency network;
  • Outcomes of assessments;
  • The need for action and whether appropriate actions are being taken;
  • Roles and responsibilities of those in the multi-agency safeguarding network;
  • Service provision;
  • Timeliness of interventions to respond to the needs of the child and family;

Working Together 2018 sets out that:

  • Practitioners who make a referral should always follow up their concerns if they are not satisfied with the response, and should escalate their concerns if they remain dissatisfied;
  • Safeguarding partners and relevant agencies must act in accordance with the arrangements for their area, and will be expected to work together to resolve any disputes locally. 

2. Effective communication with children and their families 

NSPCC provide a summary of risk factors for improved practice around people whose first learning is not English. Summary of risk factors and learning for improved practice around people whose first language is not English, which covers the following learning points from SCRs:

  • An imbalance of power
  • Lack of confidential space
  • Child involvement in adult topics
  • Children who have grown up in the UK often serve as interpreters for their parents which are inappropriate for their age.
  • Social isolation where families live in areas where they feel isolated from their local community.
  • Written communication and use of interpreters

3. How to have difficult conversations with children and young people

NSPCC have produced a range of resources to support practitioners to have difficult conversations with children and young people that can be accessed here

 All need training to work with challenging and evasive parents

SCR learning highlights how behaviours can influence interactions and decisions to safeguard the child which might include reluctance, disguised compliance or open hostility.

Presenting issues can be additionally complex when families’ involvement in services is accompanied by fear or anxiety about the consequences.  In these scenarios, professionals can find their practice, approach and perceptions challenged in various ways and will need support in managing their responses

1. Authoritative practice

  • Is described as the ability to negotiate the complexity and ambiguity of child protection work with confidence and competence;
  • It enables ‘professionals to be curious and exercise their professional judgement in the light of the circumstances of particular cases;
  • All too often undue optimism finds its way into risk assessment and planning.

2. Negative experiences of statutory agencies

  • The complicated and complex lives of many parents can leave them with negative experiences of statutory agencies; professionals have to be robust in addressing the strategies parents use to defend themselves and their family from scrutiny;
  • When childcare professionals ask questions about a child, parents can become extremely stressed; such questioning may be perceived as blame; and information may not be ‘heard’ and agreements not fully understood.

3. Disguised compliance

  • The pattern of compliance is known to fluctuate, for example an increased level of compliance when the 'spotlight' is on the family by improving the home environment and care for the children when subject to a child protection plan, to then revert back to previous behaviour which may result in re-convening a multi-agency meeting. 
  • Even when parents work cooperatively with practitioners, for a period of time, this does not automatically result in improvements in parenting and children can continue to suffer neglect and abuse.

4. Working with fathers

  • Research of children with newly made child protection plans found that although fathers were present rather than absent in children’s lives and the majority were involved in parenting, there was very little information about these men in children’s case files;
  • Such lack of professional curiosity or interest in fathers and partners, not only potentially leaves women and children vulnerable, it can also leave fathers themselves feeling alienated, forgotten and their role in bringing up their children dismissed.

5, How to identify disguised compliance: 

  • Conflicting accounts from family members
  • Conflicting accounts from different professionals 
  • Conflicting accounts from neighbours
  • Persistently unmet needs of children 
  • Repeat incidents of harm/neglect to children 
  • Use of case chronology, to identify and reflect on patterns of behaviour over time

The video clips below provide further learning from SCRs about working with resistant, hostile and challenging families, disguised compliance and working with fathers or other significant male carers who have previous criminal convictions of violence.  

 Support your staff

The challenges facing practitioners are strongly evident in the SCRs and when practitioners are working with deeply disturbing cases, it is critical that organisations support and safeguard their staff effectively so that they can safeguard children confidently.

1. Challenges

  • The challenges of working with high caseloads, high levels of staff turnover, and fragmented services has implications for the invidividuals and the management oversight of cases, in particular how to both manage the emotional impact of the work on staff, and facilitate thoughtful case evaluation and analysis.

2. Service changes

  • The impact on staff of service changes and the implications for families they work with was a feature in SCRs, for example in some instances, professionals were not aware when essential support services, particularly from third sector agencies, had ceased to be provided and the implications for child protection practice had not been sufficiently grasped.

3. Supervision

  • Safeguarding children work is emotive and has lasting effects for individuals, and managers have a role to promote access to systems of support and eliminate the barriers from taking up support offered;
  • Regular supervision or similar opportunities for reflection should be core business for all organisations who have a safeguarding role, and after a significant safeguarding incident consideration should be given to debriefing staff, and how to best provide post-incident support.

4. Debriefs and support systems

  • Debriefs following safeguarding children incidents has been considered beneficial following a serious incidents in order to have a clearer understanding of the situation, the reasoning behind the actions and the outcome of the case;
  • Reflective group sessions has been found to provide a feeling of mutual support and provided an opportunity to air difficult feelings and emotions;
  • The importance of learning stemming from practitioners’ participation in the review was a prominent theme to emerge from the most recent triennial analysis of SCRs.

5. Multi-agency training

  • Multi-agency training is recognised to enhance the knowledge and understanding of individual roles and the pressures that each agency may be facing;
  • Informed training and on-going learning from past tragedies and experiences is often used as a driving force to improve practises and systems;
  • The triennial SCR analysis, included the importance of promoting responsive cultures within child safeguarding systems. 


 Safeguarding is everyone's responsibility

Working Together 2018 sets out that everyone who works with children has a responsibility for keeping them safe, and specifically: 

  • No single practitioner can have a full picture of a child’s needs and circumstances and, if children and families are to receive the right help at the right time;
  • Everyone who comes into contact with children and young people has a role to play in identifying concerns, sharing information and taking prompt action.
  • It is vital that everyone working with children and families, including those who work with parents/carers, understands the role they should play and the role of other practitioners.
  • Everyone should be aware of, and comply with, the published arrangements set out by the local safeguarding partners.
  • Practitioners working in both universal services and specialist services have a responsibility to identify the symptoms and triggers of abuse and neglect, to share that information and provide children with the help they need.
  • To be effective, practitioners need to continue to develop their knowledge and skills in this area and be aware of the new and emerging threats, including online abuse, grooming, sexual exploitation, child criminal exploitation and radicalisation.
  • Practitioners should also continue to develop their understanding of domestic abuse, which includes controlling and coercive behaviour from perpetrators of domestic abuse, and the impact this has on children.

The S.11 duty under the Children Act 2004, sets out that organisations and agencies should have in place arrangements that reflect the importance of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, including:

  • A culture of listening to children and taking account of their wishes and feelings, both in individual decisions and the development of services;
  • Clear whistleblowing procedures, which reflect the principles in Sir Robert Francis’ Freedom to Speak Up Review and are suitably referenced in staff training and codes of conduct, and a culture that enables issues about safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children to be addressed; 
  • Clear escalation policies for staff to follow when their child safeguarding concerns are not being addressed within their organisation or by other agencies; 
  • Arrangements which set out clearly the processes for sharing information, with other practitioners and with safeguarding partners; 
  • Practitioners should be given sufficient time, funding, supervision and support to fulfil their child welfare and safeguarding responsibilities effectively; 
  • Safe recruitment practices and ongoing safe working practices for individuals whom the organisation or agency permit to work regularly with children, including policies on when to obtain a criminal record check; 
  • Appropriate supervision and support for staff, including undertaking safeguarding training; 
  • Creating a culture of safety, equality and protection within the services they provide.

The S.11 duty also refers to employer responsibilities for ensuring that their staff are competent to carry out their responsibilities for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and creating an enviroment where staff feel able to raise concerns and feel supported in their safeguarding role. 



 Keep listening to the voice of the child

A key message from SCRs is that professionals should not only look at what has happened to the children in the past and what that implies for their needs now, but also to look to the future for what it means for the help they are likely to need as they grow up. 

The importance of observing and listening to children was highlighted in this example from the Triennial Analysis of SCRs:

  • "Child J lived with her aunt for two years, and throughout that time there were many occasions when she had bruising, and there were ongoing concerns about her behaviour and health. At times Child J did speak about the harsh treatment she was receiving, but she later retracted what she had said."
  • The SCR report observes: There was never any discussion regarding why a child of 6 or 7 might lie, what this might mean about her wellbeing or how this might impact on her own help seeking behaviour. The aunt’s explanations for the injuries were accepted, and she was able to dominate meetings and deflect any attention on her own role.


The examples of not listening to children’s voices, and being deflected from them by the needs and behaviour of the parents/carers is an often repeated SCR finding. 

  • In the case of Child G, a three-year-old boy, the report concludes that: "The children’s voices were not sufficiently sought, evaluated or explored, and that they were silenced by their parents."
  • It recounts an incident when the older siblings told a school nurse about their inadequate diet at home; later a social worker had spoken to one of the children about food, and the girl had said that her father had prohibited her from speaking to anyone outside the family about ‘family business’.


The triennial analysis of SCRs concluded that:

  • To understand the emotional world of a child requires a holistic approach which takes account not only of the here and now, but also his or her past experiences. Often, the SCRs revealed a focus on individual incidents, for example of self-harm, violence or going missing, and the underlying causes and the lived experience of the child is not explored;
  • Recognising that the unborn child does not have a voice, practitioners need to be particularly alert to when the circumstances of a pregnant mother may be putting that baby at risk, and consider how best to safeguard the mother and the baby both prior to and following delivery. Pre-birth child protection conferences and other multi-agency meetings, along with inter-agency discharge-planning meetings can help to ensure a positive transfer to home and subsequent safe and effective care of a vulnerable baby;
  • Health visitors play a significant role in the lives of babies and young children and are in a good position to help ensure the focus is kept on the child, particularly when parents have complicated and complex lives which may come to dominate professional intervention;
  • Teachers spend considerable time with school-aged children and the development of a trusting relationship enables children to talk about what is happening to them. School staff are well placed to notice a child’s distress and any worrying behavioural changes;
  • Particular attention should be paid to those children who may find it particularly difficult to express their experiences, through communication or learning difficulties, or their home circumstances;
  • Professionals working with adolescents who have a long history of disturbing and disturbed behaviour may become reactive rather than proactive;
  • When children self-harm or disclose suicidal ideation professionals may focus on each individual incident, a holistic perspective helps to understand better the underlying causes.


Working Together summarises what children themselves have said that they need:

  • Vigilance: to have adults notice when things are troubling them;
  • Understanding and action: to understand what is happening; to be heard and understood; and to have that understanding acted upon;
  • Stability: to be able to develop an ongoing stable relationship of trust with those helping them;
  • Respect: to be treated with the expectation that they are competent rather than not;
  • Information and engagement: to be informed about and involved in procedures, decisions, concerns and plans;
  • Explanation: to be informed of the outcome of assessments and decisions and reasons when their views have not met with a positive response;
  • Support: to be provided with support in their own right as well as a member of their family;
  • Advocacy: to be provided with advocacy to assist them in putting forward their views;
  • Protection: to be protected against all forms of abuse and discrimination and the right to special protection and help if a refugee.