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Good Practice Supporting the Voice of the Child

Scope of this chapter

This chapter sets out guidance on enabling children to feel respected, to have their views heard, to have stable relationships with practitioners built on trust and to have consistent support provided for their individual needs.

Related guidance


In June 2024, this chapter was updated throughout in line with the revised Working Together to Safeguard Children.

June 20, 2024

Effective safeguarding systems must be child centred. Problems can arise in safeguarding systems when practitioners in agencies lose sight of the needs and views of the children within them, or place the interests of adults ahead of the needs of children. Everyone working with children and families must seek the voice of the child and reflect and respond to it in all aspects of work. This is rooted in legislation and good practice.

Children want to be respected, to have their views heard, to have stable relationships with practitioners built on trust and to have consistent support provided for their individual needs. This should guide the behaviour of practitioners. Anyone working with children should see and speak to the child; listen to what they say; observe their behaviour; take their views seriously; and work with them and their families and the people who know them well when deciding how to support their needs.

Legal duties under the Equality Act 2010 must be complied with, including putting special provision in place to support dialogue with children who may not be able to convey their wishes and feelings as they may want to. This might include, for example, those who have communication difficulties, unaccompanied children, refugees, those children who are victims of modern slavery and/or trafficking and those who do not speak English or for whom English is not their first language.

A child-centred approach is supported by:

  • The Children Act 1989 (as amended by Section 53 of the Children Act 2004). This Act requires local authorities to give due regard to a child's wishes when determining what services to provide under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, and before making decisions about action to be taken to protect individual children under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989. These duties complement requirements relating to the wishes and feelings of children who are, or may be, looked after (Section 22 (4) Children Act 1989), including those who are provided with accommodation under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 and children taken into police protection (Section 46(3) (d) of that Act);
  • The Equality Act 2010 which puts a responsibility on public authorities to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and promote equality of opportunity. This applies to the process of identification of need and risk faced by the individual child and the process of assessment. No child or group of children must be treated any less favourably than others in being able to access effective services which meet their particular needs. To comply with the Equality Act 2010, safeguarding partners must assess and where appropriate put in place measures ahead of time to support all children and families to access services, overcoming any barriers they may face due to a particular protected characteristic; 
  • The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). This is an international agreement that protects the rights of children and provides a child-centred framework for the development of services to children. The UK Government ratified the UNCRC in 1991 and, by doing so, recognises children's rights to expression and receiving information;
  • The Domestic Abuse Act 2021, section 38 recognises that a child is a victim of domestic abuse in their own right if they see, hear or experience the effects of domestic abuse and are related to either victim or perpetrator of the abuse, or either the victim or perpetrator of the abuse has parental responsibility for that child;
  • The Children’s Social Care National Framework is statutory guidance that sets out the purpose of children’s social care as existing to support children and families, to protect children by intervening decisively when they are at risk of harm and to provide care for those who need it, so they grow up and thrive with safety, stability, and love.

See Working Together to Safeguarding Children.

Children 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 on-going 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, exploitation, and discrimination, and the right to special protection and help if a refugee.

Effective ongoing action to keep the child in focus includes:

  • Listening to the child's wishes and feelings - about their situation now as well as plans and hopes for the future;
  • Providing children with honest and accurate information about the current situation, as seen by practitioners, and future possible actions and interventions;
  • Involving the child in key decision-making processes;
  • Providing appropriate information to the child about their right to protection and assistance;
  • Inviting children to make recommendations about the services and assistance they need and/or are available to them;
  • Ensuring children have access to independent advice and support (for example, through advocates or children's rights officers) to be able to express their views and influence decision-making;
  • Considering with them, issues arising in relation to identity, diversity, culture, faith, sexual orientation language, disability, low confidence and trust.

Talking with Children and Young People:

Practitioners should be aware that children may find it difficult to always speak about what they need, what is happening to them or what has happened to them.

Even initial discussions with children should be conducted in a way that minimises any distress to them and maximises the likelihood that they will feel enabled and supported in sharing their own information with the practitioners. Children may need time and more than one opportunity in order to develop sufficient trust to communicate any concerns they may have, especially if they have a communication impairment, learning disabilities, are very young or are experiencing mental health problems.

Practitioners are encouraged to:

  • Explain your own role, to listen openly and to seek the views/voice of the child without advising or judging;
  • Remember to consider explaining to parents and carers in advance and seek consent where necessary;
  • Consult with other practitioners working with the child to ensure that confusing messages are avoided and the child is not asked to repeat their information unnecessarily;
  • Avoid professional jargon and be clear about facts and opinion;
  • Allow time for the child to ask questions;
  • Be clear about next steps.

There are some guides and leaflets to give to parents and young people to assist with explanations and participation. It can be helpful to provide written material to take away and consider and then offer another opportunity to talk again later.

Recording Information:

The professional requirement to keep records should be explained and the child should be supported to make comments too. This should be embedded in practice and in records and they should be updated regularly, particularly when circumstances change for the child or there is a change of plan. All records should be clear, separating fact, opinion and professional judgement so that when a child becomes an adult and requests access to their records they should be able to understand how decisions were made about the services provided to them and they should be able to see any recording of their own contributions in whatever format.

The voice of the child should be recorded within documents and exemplars in the electronic records. They can also be attached or scanned into records where the child has written their own views or tools have been used which are handwritten or completed by the child.

Last Updated: June 17, 2024