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Intimate care

The purpose of the links within this page is to set out a framework within which staff who provide intimate care to children with additional support needs can offer a service and an approach which acknowledges the responsibilities and protects the rights of everyone involved. The additional support needs of children and young people might arise from a variety of reasons, including learning disabilities, physical, visual, hearing or speech and communication impairments. These children and young people may attend all phases of education and types of setting including those designated as both mainstream and special.

Intimate care can be defined as any care which involves washing, touching or carrying out a procedure to intimate personal areas which most people usually carry out themselves but some pupils are unable to do because of their young age, physical difficulties or other special needs. Examples include care associated with continence and menstrual management as well as more ordinary tasks such as help with washing, toileting or dressing.

It is the responsibility of schools to develop their own policy and procedures in partnership with staff, pupils, parents and other members of the school community. Bladder & Bowel UK and ERIC have developed guidance to support settings with this: ‘Managing Bladder and Bowel Issues in Nurseries, Schools and Colleges Guidance for School Leaders, Proprietors, Governors, Staff and Practitioners’ . Both charities have a wealth of information of relevance to those working with and caring for children and young people.

The convention on the Rights of Child states that all children are entitled to:

  • Privacy (article 16)
  • Good quality health care (article 24)
  • Those who have any kind of disability have the right to special care and support so that they can live full and independent lives (article 23)

All adults who work with and on behalf of children and young people are accountable for the way in which they exercise authority, manage risk, use resources and safeguard children and young people.

This means that adults should:

  • Understand their responsibilities, which are part of their employment or agreed role.
  • Always act, and be seen to act, in the child’s/young person’s best interests.
  • Avoid any conduct which would lead any reasonable person to question their motivation and intentions.
  • Take responsibility for their own actions and behaviour.

The Children Act 2004 places a duty on organisations, including schools and settings to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people. This includes the need to ensure that all adults who work with or on behalf of children and young people are competent, confident and safe to do so. It follows that the duty of care is exercised through the behaviour of the adult, whom at all times should demonstrate integrity, maturity and good judgement. Keeping children safe in education sets out sets out the legal duties that must be followed to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people under the age of 18 in schools and colleges.

The School admissions code (Department of Education, 2014) states that it is for admission authorities to formulate their admission arrangements, they must not discriminate against or disadvantage disabled children or those with special educational needs. This is in line with the Equality Act 2010 and the SEN and Disabilities Code of Practice of 2014 which state that a person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment, which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on that person’s ability to carry out day to day activities. It is not acceptable to refuse admission to school to children who are delayed in achieving continence. Education providers are required to make reasonable adjustments for pupils and staff who have a disability. This duty covers all areas of education including schools, colleges and universities. The Department for Education (DfE) has published guidance to help schools understand their responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010.

Employers also have a duty of care towards their employees, both paid and unpaid, under the Health and Safety at work act 1974. Guidance for schools can be found here. The Human Rights Act 1998 and Equality Act of 2010 set out important principals regarding the protection, equal opportunity and treatment of both paid and unpaid adults. Employers have a duty of care to protect employees from violence and aggression in the workplace.

The attached example template documents should be adapted and personalised for the setting.