Duty of Care
The term duty of care refers to the duties and responsibilities that someone in charge and authority has to those they are caring for. In the area of childcare and early years, teachers, nursery workers and other care workers have a duty of care to the children they are looking after and are responsible for. There is a general definition for duty of care as well as different definitions in greater detail. For example moral and legal duties of care.
Legal duty of care is where there are strict laws and guidelines that state what must be done when caring for an individual, such as health and safety matters. While moral duty of care is where there are no set laws or legal obligations, but it is what is the right thing to do in a situation morally, for example a care worker comforting a child that is crying. In some senses we as human beings have a duty of care to one another when we are interacting.
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1. 2 Duty of care within the area of childcare and early years helps to contribute to the safeguarding and protection of children and young people.
How this is, is that in working with children care workers, whatever their job in some way, their role is to protect and keep children safe from harm. However the workers with a duty of care to the children are responsible for the individual child’s/children’s welfare, safety and well being with greater effect. In having duty of care in place children are protected by having set authoritative figures in charge that are responsible for them and caring for them to a better degree.
In having these figures the risk of neglect is much lower and children are greater protected through having someone responsible directly for them, allowing them to be better supervised and given more opportunities to thrive in a safe environment. The younger the child the greater the duty of care, but by watching the child and providing attention and care, the child can be given the opportunity and chance to develop as they should. In having duty of care a worker would instantly have more responsibility with safeguarding and protecting the child/children in every form, including physically, socially and psychologically. Therefore the worker with duty of care to the children/child should be safeguarding the child/children by: Observing the children and assessing their development, making sure that the child is developing correctly and whether any additional support is necessary. Other agencies and parents/carers/guardians in such a situation should be informed. Also parents must be regularly updated about their child’s progress to better protect the child and allow the child to prosper. The worker should watch out for any signs that a child is being ill treated or abused.
By doing this the care worker with the duty of care can contact social services and allow the child to be protected and given safety through the system. By protecting the child is this way any future injuries or a potential death should be adverted and the child as a result can be safe. The worker with duty of care responsibilities should also be responsible for carrying out a risk assessment in the early years setting. (For example a school or nursery) By carrying this out accidents could be prevented and the children kept safer from hazards, harm and injuries.
By maintaining a well kept environment the children are safer and less likely to be hurt or harmed in any way. A worker with duty of care to safeguard children could also outline setting behavior expectations so children do not hurt one another, or hurt themselves through fighting for example. This method helps to protect and safeguard children physically, socially and emotionally. Potentially conflicts and dilemmas may arise between the duty of care and an individual’s rights, this situation sometimes can occur, an example of which is a child is being abused.
For example a child in the care setting has physical injuries and his behavior has changed negatively. The worker with duty of care has noticed this and professionally wishes to contact social services or inform the supervisor. However when asked about the injuries the child makes up excuses and tells the worker not to inform another member of staff. In this situation the child is at risk and potentially in danger, therefore the worker with duty of care has a responsibility to the child to protect the child and safeguard him against endangerment.
However informing the supervisor or contacting social services could be classed as violating the child’s rights for confidentiality and personal choice. In reporting the situation the carer would essentially be going against the child’s personal desires and this is where some conflict and dilemmas could potentially arise. When there are conflicts, there too can be risks associated with this, how that these risks could be managed by seeking out and receiving additional support and advice on how to deal with the situation.
Often a care worker requires help to allow them to work effectively and give the child in need the best treatment possible. In this case risks must be handed and managed to allow the child to understand the situation and feel safe and well taken care of. One risk in this conflict is that the child could be able to “slip through the net” and unnecessary injury and harm could be inflicted. However another risk is if a care worker when dealing with the situation could potentially get in trouble for violating rights and not acting accordingly and to legislation.
Risks should be managed to create a situation where no care workers, children or carers should be conflicting negatively and creating a far worse situation, or where worse dilemmas are being formed. Risks are also managed by care workers following the policies and procedures within their early years work setting. Also in duty of care risk taking as a whole with children is too often taken too far. For example child are in a sense “wrapped in cotton wool” and are unable to complete potentially more adventurous challenges such as climbing.
Often care workers with duty of care will avoid activities with more risk associated with them, but by doing this it is essentially blocking children’s rights to be able to have and explore new experiences as well as develop through interpreting, predicting and avoiding dangerous situations. Risks can still be taken and managed in these situations to protect both the care worker and the children. When care workers require additional support and advice about conflict and dilemmas often the supervisor or other care workers may help to provide this.
However confidentiality should be maintained if required. On occasion other professionals may be sought to help provide experience and outside knowledge on the issue at hand. Parents are also able to provide useful knowledge and support in some select scenarios; however it is sometimes worse for the child to have any parents or carers involved. In many situations confidentiality is overridden by duty of care, for example if a child is in immediate serious danger and at risk from harm. But sometimes confidentiality overrides duty of care.
If in an early years setting any complaints about duty of care or other issues are received then general policies and procedures are to be followed as with any complaint, whether the complaint is about care duty or any other situation. Sometimes a parent may complain feeling that duty of care has violated their child’s rights, or that their child’s care has not been sufficient enough. If a parent does complain then the complaint should never be ignored, if ignored the relationship and trust between the parent and the worker/early years setting could be damaged and the parent may feel they have to remove their child from the setting.
Furthermore parents have a right to complain if they feel their child’s safety or welfare is at risk, they have a right to say if they believe the setting is not exercising a good level of duty of care. If a complaint does arise then the policies and procedures of the individual care setting should be followed and exercised, making sure that care workers are being appropriately protected and that the child in questions rights as well as the parent/carers rights, are being protected and maintained.
Overall Duty of Care helps to a massive degree to protect and safeguard children in all scenarios and situations. Children are being given protection and are safeguarded physically, emotionally, socially and psychologically from their carers, other children and from complete strangers by there being a form of care duty in place. Having duty of care is a legal requirement and not to be taken lightly when dealing with young children. This system is protecting children and allowing them to do well and succeed for their future.