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5.5.4 Anti-Bullying Policy


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Purpose
  3. Principles
  4. Initial Actions and Responsibilities

    Appendix 1: Action following an incident of bullying from one Child to another within Residential Units

    Appendix 2: Action following an incident of bullying from one Child to another within a Foster Care Placement

    Appendix 3: Additional Guidance following an incident of Group Bullying


1. Introduction

Bolton Children's Services Department will not tolerate bullying in any way. The safety and well-being of children and young people with whom Bolton Children's Services works needs to be the primary concern of all adults working on behalf of the department.

Bullying can and does happen in a variety of settings. Children and young people who are Looked After by Children's Services may be particularly vulnerable by virtue of their past experiences and/or the circumstances under which they are being Looked After. It is therefore essential that all service providers who have a responsibility for caring for such vulnerable children and young people have in place procedures for enabling young people and staff to report incidents of bullying and that such reports are acted on.

Section 64 of the Children act 1989 outlines the responsibility of those running a residential establishment for children to protect the welfare of the child.

Article 39 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 states:

'recovery and re-integration should take place in an environment which fosters the safety, health, self -respect and dignity of the child'.

It is acknowledged that bullying can happen in many different relationships. This anti-bullying policy focuses on incidents of bullying from child/young person to child/ young person. If a child or young person discloses bullying from a member of staff or other professional adult, the Alleged Guidance on Safer Working Practice to Adults who work with children and young people(to follow) is to be followed.


2. Purpose

This anti-bullying policy places responsibility upon everyone employed by the department to act according to the policy if they see or know about any incidents of bullying.

The creation and maintenance of positive relationships between adults and children/young people, and between children and young people themselves, is vital to secure their safety and well-being.

The intention of the Anti-Bullying policy is to help create a safer organisation by promoting and supporting positive relationships.

Whilst the emphasis is necessarily on the primacy of the child's interest, it is also essential to ensure that such incidents of bullying are dealt with sensitively, in a manner that is fair to all involved and which is consistent with procedures.

It will be necessary in the implementation of these procedures to make a distinction between those behaviours which, although inappropriate or unacceptable may be dealt with informally, those behaviours which should be dealt with in accordance to this policy and those which involve an investigation under child protection procedures. All concerns of abuse should be discussed with the Head of Service Child Protection who will assist in determining the appropriate response.

This assessment of the severity of the bullying incident must be done alongside the child/ young person and they should be kept fully involved in decision making throughout the process.

Whilst there can be no absolute definitive criteria for determining what course of action should be taken the following categories are proposed as a guide when deciding upon the most appropriate course of action:

2.1 Informal Response

Behaviour may be a one-off argument/ disagreement where one young person is verbally aggressive to another. In this case young people should be supported to address their negative behaviour in line with the Positive Approach to Working with Looked After Children Policy and the incident should be recorded. Young people should be made aware again of the anti-bullying policy and talked through the issues surrounding bullying.

2.2 Anti-Bullying Procedures

Bullying is something that happens in a relationship that involves some form of hurtful abuse of power and occurs more than once. It is the intention behind the act, rather than the act itself which is important. I.e. if the behaviour is intended to and does in fact cause distress. It may be any of the following:

  • Verbal: Name calling, sarcasm, spreading rumours, persistent teasing;
  • Social: Not being spoken to or being left out of activities;
  • Emotional: Threatening ridicule, tormenting, humiliation, pressure to conform applied over short or long periods;
  • Material: Possessions stolen, damaged or extortion;
  • Physical: Pushing, kicking, hitting, pinching, any form of violence or physical threat;
  • Sexual: (see Harassment below). Unwanted physical contact, sexually abusive comments, exposure;
  • Racial: (see Harassment below). Racist taunts, graffiti, gestures, racist language;
  • Homophobic: (see Harassment below). Taunts about sexuality, graffiti, gestures, homophobic language;
  • Offensive: This is targeted, sustained and aggressive bullying that exploits the power imbalance between young people. It may happen one on one or may involve a group of young people targeting one individual.

Often bullying incorporates more than one of the above elements and some elements may be more visible than others.

Young children and children with learning disabilities may not always be aware of the distress and other outcomes which result from their behaviour which may have been imitated or learnt. However, the child on the receiving end may well feel bullied. This needs to be addressed with the young people.

Bullying is different from fighting which is usually a one-off incident with the purpose of dealing with immediate conflict. It is also different from play fighting or rough and tumble, which are marked by laughter, smiles, restraint and turn taking.

All bullying is serious. However some factors increase the severity including:

  • How much hurt was intended;
  • The effect on the bullied child and/or their family;
  • How often it happened;
  • For how long;
  • How much threat was involved;
  • How personal it was;
  • How many were involved;
  • The ability of the bullied child to see the impact;
  • Whether unprovoked or provoked;
  • Whether planned;
  • How much the person was trapped;
  • The perceived status of the bullying child;
  • The reaction of onlookers.

Harassment is a particularly serious form of bullying and has several different dimensions:

  • It reflects inequalities between groups;
  • The individual's group identity, for example gender, race, sexuality or disability is being attacked;
  • The members of minority or less powerful groups start off being more vulnerable and this never goes away;
  • It is often targeted, offensive and sustained against an individual.

2.3 Child Protection Response

If the nature of physical, sexual or emotional bullying is so severe as to raise significant concerns for the safety and well-being of a child then child protection procedures and/or criminal procedures may need to be implemented.

This may happen when:

  • Other strategies have been implemented and have not successfully addressed the bullying and it is increasing in severity or impact;
  • Harassment in any form is sustained;
  • Serious physical assault occurs;
  • An adult is bullying a child or young person;
  • Sexual Abuse is disclosed.

Sexual Abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve sexual contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts. They may include non penetrative activities such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.

If this is the case then staff should immediately share these concerns with their line manager who may implement other Safeguarding Children procedures.


3. Principles

The anti-bullying procedures are based on the following principles:

Children and young people receiving a service from the local authority are entitled to the same level and standard of protection as other children.

The bullying of children and young people is unacceptable and is taken seriously by all staff.

Bullying is dealt with wherever possible educationally not punitively.

Residential units and foster placements develop an approach for dealing with bullying based on positive action.

The right of children and young people to protection from abuse and Neglect is upheld. (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 9)

The strengths and positives of individuals are worked with in order to address negative behaviours.


4. Initial Actions and Responsibilities

Children and young people living in residential units or foster placements can experience bullying from a number of areas:

  • Other children or young people in the unit/home;
  • Staff within the unit/foster carers;
  • Young people or adults within the local community;
  • Other children/young people or teachers at school;
  • Family members;
  • Other professionals.

Staff/carers may become aware of an incident of bullying in a number of ways:

  • Direct complaint from the young person concerned;
  • Witnessing bullying behaviour;
  • Become aware of behaviour changes with young people;
  • Receive information from other children in the unit, family members, friends of young person or other professionals.

Setting the correct ethos:

  1. Management, staff and/or carers give explicit and consistent messages that bullying is unacceptable and promote a zero-tolerance attitude to bullying. These may be given verbally, written and pictorial forms;
  2. Agreement is sought on what bullying is by staff/carers and children and young people. This is then made explicit and a distinction is made between bullying, harassment and assault;
  3. Staff teams and foster carers ensure that within their households distribution of power does not model bullying but are based on mutual respect, co-operation and accepting responsibility for own behaviour;
  4. Traditional ideas about bullying and punishment are challenged;
  5. Children and young people are consistently reassured that staff and carers are dealing with bullying seriously;
  6. An open environment where children and young people can disclose incidents of bullying is fostered;
  7. Project staff/ foster carers do not use children and young people to control other children in a negative way i.e. through use of threat or intimidation;
  8. Staff/ carers search for solutions not problems, allocate responsibility not blame, look forward not backward, focus on behaviour not personalities, resolve the problem not establish guilt;
  9. Work practise/ quality of care is continually reviewed, to help identify any aspects that might allow or encourage bullying. This is a regular item on team meeting agendas.

There is agreement about what bullying is amongst staff, children and young people, parents and carers, and it is clear to them all how bullying will be dealt with.


Appendix 1: Action following an incident of bullying from one Child to another within Residential Units

STAGE 1

1. Record the information

When the staff member is made aware of a bullying incident by someone other that the person being bullied they must explain the confidentiality policy to that person and stress the need to record the information. They must explain the anti-bullying procedure to that individual and seek out support for the individual if required.

If the young person who is experiencing the bullying discloses to a staff member then the confidentiality policy and anti-bullying policy must be explained. Staff must convey the importance of recording and acting on the incident whilst understanding the fears and lack of control young person may be feeling.

A staff member will be nominated by the Registered Manager to investigate the incident and support young people through the procedure. Nomination is a joint process incorporating the views of all young people involved to ensure that this is fair.

2. Interview the Bullied Child

The staff must approach the young person who is being bullied in a sensitive and supportive way. Working alongside the young person they must help them identify the staff member who they would like to support them through this process. This could include additional support from a mentor, friend or children's rights officer (Action for Children, Bolton).

The bullied child may need to be supported through a number of stages - denial of the problem, partial disclosure, acceptance and problem solving.

Required Actions

  • Staff anticipate an emotional reaction from the child such as guilt, shame or anger;
  • A quiet and safe place is found (outside the unit if necessary) and enough time is set aside to talk;
  • Staff help initially by giving reassurance, believing the child, acknowledging their fears and stressing that it is not their fault;
  • Staff find out the facts but resist persistent questioning, going at the child's pace and seeking information from elsewhere;
  • Staff work out an action plan with the child or young person. This gives the child a chance to suggest ways of dealing with the problem, discuss the power imbalance the bully is exploiting, looking for other strengths the child can use to counter this;
  • Staff help the child more longer term by helping them express feelings of anger, practise defence strategies, plan a response;
  • Staff enable social development by encouraging a new hobby or skill to boost confidence, providing opportunities for friendship formation and pairing up bullied children with more robust or older children for protection.

3. Interview the Bullying Child or Young Person

Staff aim to enlist the co-operation of the child or young person who is doing the bullying, without building resentment by avoiding accusations, threats or any response which will only serve to silence the child or young person. This could include additional support from a mentor, friend or children's rights officer (Action for Children, Bolton).

Required Actions

  1. Staff respond immediately by:
    • Staying calm and not over-reacting;
    • Getting the child to talk about the problem and what they think is happening;
    • Asking the child to describe how they see the situation;
    • Focussing on the bullying behaviour rather than the child;
    • Giving a clear indication of the upset caused;
    • Not accepting any minimisation or excuses;
    • Exploring the ways that other people in society view bullying.
  2. In the long term staff may respond by:
    • Assessing what the bullying child gets out of it, and whether the bully is a victim themselves;
    • Exploring and where possible dealing with the reasons for the behaviour;
    • Helping see the bullied child's point of view;
    • Getting the child or young person to make amends in some way;
    • Encouraging them to support a younger or weaker child;
    • Rewarding good behaviour to other children;
    • Clearly monitoring the child or young person in the unit;
    • Helping the young person to communicate more effectively in conflict situations;
    • Staff implement sanctions that reflect the seriousness of the incident;
    • Behaviour management strategies are designed to deal with persistent bullying;.
    • Closer monitoring and recording of both the positive and negative behaviours of young people involved and how the young people continue to interact.
  3. REVIEW STAGE 1

    After seven days the Registered Manager ensures that the nominated staff member discusses with each young person how things are progressing. This allows the nominated staff member to monitor the bullying and keeps the young person involved in the process.

    If things have improved, all staff/ carers will need to continue monitoring the situation and working through the agreed plan but no further official action is required.

    If the situation has not shown any improvement then stage two should be implemented unless there is sufficient evidence that change is forthcoming.

    All information must be recorded and kept on the young person's file and reviewed regularly.

STAGE 2

If the bullying is continuing a meeting will be held, chaired by the Registered Manager. Both the bullied child and the bullying child will be present at this meeting with their field social worker, representative from the unit staff team and independent children's rights officer, advocate/ mentor. There should be consideration made for parental attendance within this process.

The meeting will ensure:

  • The department's policy on bullying and the possible implications should the incidents continue are made clear;
  • All parties have an opportunity to share their views and feelings of the situation. This must start with the bullied child's views and then the bullying child's views, then professionals;
  • All parties to the meeting identify an Positive Handling Plan that includes direct work with both young people; this should be a development of the Action Plans at Stage 1;
  • The Positive Handling Plan should be shared with the Head of Service who must sign the plan.;
  • Further sanctions jointly agreed.

REVIEW STAGE 2

Over the next two weeks the situation is clearly monitored and recorded and staff members will meet regularly with both young people to monitor the situation and assess whether it has improved. The Registered Manager should be provided with a written update of the situation.

Should the situation have improved the staff member/ carer will need to monitor the situation and keep working through the agreed Positive Handling Plan but no further official action will be required.

If the situation does not improve then staff should proceed to stage 3.

All information and actions must be written up by the key worker and placed on file.

STAGE 3

At this stage a strategy meeting, chaired by the Service Manager, involving the young people if appropriate and all relevant professionals must be held. This meeting will discuss the present situation, highlighting risk and work strategies and interventions that have been taken to date.

The bullied child's safety and well-being will be placed at the centre of this meeting. A decision will be reached on the best way forward; this could involve a change of placement or end of accommodation. However, a child should not be moved until a review involving the young person, field social worker, carers, mentor/ advocate, other relevant professionals and parents if appropriate is held. Whatever decision is reached the needs and circumstances of all young people involved must be taken into account. However, unless the bullied child has stated that they are the one that wishes to move, in all possible circumstances the bullying child should be found a different placement.

REVIEW STAGE 3

The whole process is reviewed by the Registered Manager and positive feedback is provided about aspects of the policy that were implemented well and recommendations are given about how things may be improved upon.

A report that protects individual confidentiality but shares recommendations and good practise should be circulated to all units to ensure consistent learning is gained.

If the situation arises with the same individuals again at another date, then the anti-bullying procedure should be accessed at the most appropriate stage. This could include direct access at stage 3.

This procedure does not affect any of the statutory rights for young people to use the complaints process. This should always be offered to young people who are expressing dissatisfaction in their placement.


Appendix 2: Action following an incident of bullying from one Child to another within a Foster Care Placement

STAGE 1

1. Record the information

When the carer is made aware of a bullying incident by someone other that the person being bullied they must explain the confidentiality policy to that person and stress the need to record the information. They must explain the anti-bullying procedure to that individual and seek out support for the individual if required.

If the young person who is experiencing the bullying discloses to a foster carer then the confidentiality policy and anti-bullying policy must be explained. Foster carers must convey the importance of recording and acting on the incident whilst understanding the fears and lack of control young person may be feeling.

In consultation with the Family placement link worker and where appropriate the field social workers of the young people involved, a person will be nominated to investigate the incident and support young people through the procedure. The nominated person could be a foster carer or another professional. Nomination is a joint process incorporating the views of all young people involved to ensure that this is fair.

2. Interview the Bullied Child

The carers must approach the young person who is being bullied in a sensitive and supportive way. Working alongside the young person they must help them identify the person who they would like to support them through this process. This could include additional support from a mentor, friend or children's rights officer (Action for Children, Bolton).

The bullied child may need to be supported through a number of stages - denial of the problem, partial disclosure, acceptance and problem solving.

Required Actions

  • Carers anticipate an emotional reaction from the child such as guilt, shame or anger;
  • A quiet and safe place is found (outside the home if necessary) and enough time is set aside to talk;
  • Carers help initially by giving reassurance, believing the child, acknowledging their fears and stressing that it is not their fault;
  • Carers and nominated person find out the facts but resist persistent questioning, going at the child's pace and seeking information from elsewhere;
  • Carers and nominated person work out an action plan with the child or young person. This gives the child a chance to suggest ways of dealing with the problem, discuss the power imbalance the bully is exploiting, looking for other strengths the child can use to counter this;
  • Carers help the child more longer term by helping them express feelings of anger, practise defence strategies, plan a response;
  • Carers enable social development by encouraging a new hobby or skill to boost confidence, providing opportunities for friendship formation and pairing up bullied children with more robust or older children for protection.

3. Interview the Bullying Child or Young Person

Carers and the nominated person aim to enlist the co-operation of the child or young person who is doing the bullying, without building resentment by avoiding accusations, threats or any response which will only serve to silence the child or young person. This could include additional support from a mentor, friend or children's rights officer (Action for Children, Bolton).

Required Actions

  1. Carers and nominated person respond immediately by:
    • Staying calm and not over-reacting;
    • Getting the child to talk about the problem and what they think is happening;
    • Asking the child to describe how they see the situation;
    • Focussing on the bullying behaviour rather than the child;
    • Giving a clear indication of the upset caused;
    • Not accepting any minimisation or excuses;
    • Exploring the ways that other people in society view bullying.
  2. In the long term carers and nominated person may respond by:
    • Assessing what the bullying child gets out of it, and whether the bully is a victim themselves;
    • Exploring and where possible dealing with the reasons for the behaviour;
    • Helping see the bullied child's point of view;
    • Getting the child or young person to make amends in some way;
    • Encouraging skills where the young person can feel better about themselves;
    • Encouraging them to support a younger or weaker child;
    • Rewarding good behaviour to other children;
    • Clearly monitoring the child or young person in the home;
    • Helping the young person to communicate more effectively in conflict situations;
    • Carers implement sanctions that reflect the seriousness of the incident;
    • Behaviour management strategies are designed to deal with persistent bullying;
    • Closer monitoring and recording of both the positive and negative behaviours of young people involved and how the young people continue to interact.
  3. REVIEW STAGE 1

    After seven days the Family placement supervising social worker ensures that the nominated person discusses with each young person how things are progressing. This allows the nominated person to monitor the bullying and keeps the young person involved in the process.

    If things have improved, carers will need to continue monitoring the situation and working through the agreed plan but no further official action is required.

    If the situation has not shown any improvement then stage two should be implemented unless there is sufficient evidence that change is forthcoming.

    All information must be recorded and kept on the young person's file and reviewed regularly.

STAGE 2

If the bullying is continuing a meeting will be held, chaired by the family placement supervising social worker from the family placement team. Both the bullied child and the bullying child will be present at this meeting with their field social worker, foster carers and independent children's rights officer, advocate/ mentor. There should be consideration made for parental attendance within this process.

The meeting will ensure:

  • The department's policy on bullying and the possible implications should the incidents continue are made clear;
  • All parties have an opportunity to share their views and feelings of the situation. This must start with the bullied child's views and then the bullying child's views, carers, and then professionals;
  • All parties to the meeting identify a Positive Handling Plan (see A Positive Approach to Working with LAC) that includes direct work with both young people; this should be a development of the Action Plans at Stage 1;
  • This Positive Handling Plan is shared with the Head of Service who must sign the plan;
  • Further sanctions jointly agreed.

REVIEW STAGE 2

Over the next two weeks the situation is clearly monitored and recorded and carers and the nominated person will talk regularly with both young people to monitor the situation and assess whether it has improved. The senior social worker should be provided with a written update of the situation.

Should the situation have improved the foster carers will need to monitor the situation and keep working through the agreed Positive Handling Plan but no further official action will be required.

If the situation does not improve then proceed to stage 3.

All information and actions must be written up by the family placement link worker and placed on file.

STAGE 3

At this stage a strategy meeting, chaired by the Team Leader from Family Placement, involving the young people if appropriate, carers and all relevant professionals must be held. This meeting will discuss the present situation, highlighting risk and work strategies and interventions that have been taken to date.

The bullied child's safety and well-being will be placed at the centre of this meeting. A decision will be reached on the best way forward; this could involve a change of placement or end of accommodation. However, a child should not be moved until a review involving the young person, field social worker, carers, mentor/ advocate, other relevant professionals and parents if appropriate is held. Whatever decision is reached the needs and circumstances of all young people involved must be taken into account. However, unless the bullied child has stated that they are the one that wishes to move, in all possible circumstances the bullying child should be found a different placement.

REVIEW STAGE 3

The whole process is reviewed by the senior social worker and positive feedback is provided about aspects of the policy that were implemented well and recommendations are given about how things may be improved upon.

A brief report that protects individual confidentiality but shares recommendations and good practise should be circulated within family placement team meetings to ensure consistent learning is gained.

If the situation arises with the same individuals again at another date, then the anti-bullying procedure should be accessed at the most appropriate stage. This could include direct access at stage 3.

This procedure does not affect any of the statutory rights for young people to use the complaints process. This should always be offered to young people who are expressing dissatisfaction in their placement.


Appendix 3: Additional Guidance following an incident of Group Bullying

The same anti-bullying procedure used for individual bullying is implemented when group bullying occurs. However, staff and carers need to be aware of additional strategies to use when dealing with incidents of group bullying. Group bullying occurs in both residential units and foster care placements.

  • Staff / carers interview each group member on their own, in accordance with Stage 1 procedure, and encouraged to understand the impact of bullying on the child/ young person, acknowledge their part, and look at ways to make up for their behaviour;
  • Staff/ carers enable each member of the group to feel individually responsible for their part in the bullying and offer a way out;
  • In addition to the procedure talks with the group are repeated on a weekly basis, with or without the bullied child depending on circumstances;
  • Interviews at Stage 1 aim for a matter of fact discussion, asking what each person knows about the situation, letting the person know he/she are involved, but asking for his/her version of events without questioning or disbelieving;
  • During interviews, staff/carers reinforce the answers of children and shape the discussion towards the feelings of the bullied child as something to be concerned about. Staff/carers share their support for the bullied child;
  • If a child denies their involvement, staff/carers take a couple of steps back and the relationships within the unit or home are talked about in a relaxed way before returning to the bullied child's situation. As soon as there is the slightest agreement that the bullied young person's situation is not good, then this is reinforced by staff/carers;
  • The first priority of staff/carers is to resolve the problem and change the behaviour, not punish the bullying young person.

End