Principles for Implementing Duty of Care in Health, Social Care or Children’s and Young People’s Settings

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1. What duty of care means in children and young people settings?

Duty of care is a requirement to exercise reasonable care, attention and caution to avoid negligence which would lead to the harm of other people.

‘The fundamental obligation that anyone working in child care, whatever the type of service and whatever their role, is to keep children safe.’ (Marilyn Hopkins LLB, Dip.Ed.. (March 2006). DUTY OF CARE. Available: http://www.rch.org.au/emplibrary/ecconnections/CCH_Vol9_No1_March2006.pdf last accessed 26/10/11)

It is generally accepted that people in authority have a responsibility for those in their charge. Therefore practitioners in childcare settings owe a duty of care to the children in their care. They are seen as experts and children and young people rely on their carers to ensure they are cared for properly. A duty of care also extends to the parents, as they too expect practitioners to use their knowledge and expertise to care for their children properly.

It is also relevant that in childcare settings, because of a child’s limited ability to care for themselves, a very meticulous and comprehensive duty of care is owed to the children. More so to an infant than a school aged child due to the differences in their ability to provide for their own needs, look after themselves and their awareness of danger.

Duty of care in a childcare setting is keeping children and young people safe, protecting them not only from physical harm but also emotional and sexual harm. It is guarding the rights of a child as they have the right to independence and be treated with respect and dignity. This extends to respecting the rights, cultural beliefs and values of the parents and family. The Children Act 1989 ‘Its dominant principle was that the child’s welfare should be the major consideration in any decision relating to upbringing; it is assumed that upbringing is normally best within the child’s own family’ (Children and young people’s workforce information sheet, Children Act 1989, level 3 Diploma 2011)

It is the Equality Act 2010 that says everyone has a legal duty to provide a service that is non-discriminative and inclusive to all children, including their families and any visitors into the setting.

The Early years Foundation stage is the statutory framework to which all early years providers (birth to five years), must follow and compliance ensures the required standards of duty of care are met, including a child’s learning and development.

‘It sets out the legal requirements relating to learning and development (the early learning goals; the educational programmes; and the assessment arrangements) in section 2 and the legal requirements relating to welfare (safeguarding and promoting children’s welfare; suitable people; suitable premises, environment and equipment; organisation; and documentation) in section 3.’ (Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage May 2008, section 1 – Introduction; About this document 1.7)

The EYFS requirements are given legal force by the EYFS Order 2007 and regulations made under section 39 (1) (a) and (b), and section 44 (1) of the Childcare Act 2006.

We have a duty of care to safeguard the information we hold about others. ‘The Data Protection Act 1998 gives individuals certain rights in relation to the use of their personal data’ (Children and Young people’s Workforce information sheet, Data Protection Act 1998, level 3 Diploma 2011)

The Health and Safety at work Act 1974 requires us to have a duty of care towards ourselves, our colleagues, employees and visitors whilst at work. We have a duty to ensure the safety of ourselves and others and ensure our working environment is safe. We must not put ourselves or others at risk of harm through our actions or work activities.

2. How this contributes to the safeguarding or protection of individuals?

Duty - ‘Moral or legal obligation’ (The Oxford Popular Dictionary, 2nd Edition, published 1995...
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