Guide to: Working Together Guidance

The Working Together to Safeguard Children guidance on multi-agency working was updated in June. So, what is new? Hannah Crown reports

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In June, the Government published an updated version of Working Together 2018, the statutory guidance for multi-agency working. The guidance exists to show what the Government’s expectations are on how relevant parties should work locally and nationally to keep children safe.

The guidance has been changed to take into account local safeguarding arrangements enshrined in the Children and Social Work Act 2017. The new guidance also follows a public consultation on how these multi-agency safeguarding arrangements are made locally, and a Government response in February.

Key changes:

Local Safeguarding Children Boards no longer statutory – local safeguarding ‘partners’ now have legal safeguarding duties

Who: Local authorities, chief officers of police and clinical commissioning groups will replace Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards (LSCBs). All three safeguarding partners have equal and joint responsibility for local safeguarding arrangements. LSCBs are no longer a statutory requirement; some local authorities may choose to keep them and others not. Details of new local arrangements must be published by the three safeguarding partners no later than 29 June 2019, and be in place no later than 29 September 2019.

Role: their key role has three main elements, to:

  • agree on ways to co-ordinate their safeguarding services
  • act as a strategic leadership group in supporting and engaging others
  • implement local and national learning, including from serious child safeguarding incidents.

They will also have the freedom to determine:

  • geographical boundaries for the arrangements in their area (which may include two or more local authority areas)
  • bespoke arrangements for local areas and publishing them
  • which relevant agencies they should work with and publishing a list. Note: governing bodies of schools and proprietors of settings are ‘relevant agencies’ which means they have a statutory duty to comply with the published arrangements
  • arrangements to provide for independent scrutiny into how effective their arrangements have been
  • securing appropriate and sustainable funding for their arrangements
  • dispute resolution. Safeguarding partners and relevant agencies must comply with the arrangements for their area, and will be expected to work together to resolve any disputes locally

Why? Sir Alan Wood, former president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, undertook a review which found LSCBs are not effective enough and many lack purpose and/or leadership. He also found there was a ‘clear appetite’ for their reform.

Action point: Settings must update the local procedures in their child protection policies, make sure they are listed as a relevant agency and get to know who to contact.

There will be a new system of local and national reviews

Who: Some cases will now be dealt with by local child safeguarding practice reviews, and more serious ones by a new national review panel. The child death reviews system is also being reformed.

What: Serious case reviews are being scrapped. Instead, an initial ‘rapid review’ by the safeguarding partners will take place. This will be followed by either a local or national review depending on the severity and complexity of the case. A Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review will be carried out by a panel for ‘serious child safeguarding cases which raise issues of importance in relation to the area’. In the most serious cases, a National Child Safeguarding Practice Review will be carried out – a panel will commission and supervise reviewers for these reviews. A list of all reviewers who sit on the National Child Safeguarding Practice Review panel must be made public.

Child death reviews: Child death reviews, which already take place for all children who die, will now be undertaken by new ‘child death review partners’ under the Department of Health (this role was formerly undertaken by the Department for Education). Child death review partners are a new entity and will be made up of local clinical commissioning groups and local authorities. The guidance states, ‘Child death review partners may, if they consider it appropriate, model their child death review structures and processes on the current Child Death Overview Panel framework.’ More guidance on this process was published in October.

Why? Too often, Serious Case Reviews were poor in quality, long and costly, created a defensive culture and were not learned from in any systematic way, according to Sir Alan. He says the new national panel will ‘pave the way for a national learning framework’ to help prevent the same mistakes from being continually repeated.

Action point: Just as settings can learn from Serious Case Reviews, they should now be on the lookout for local and national safeguarding reviews and be aware of specific public health and other issues prevalent in their area.

Further information:

New guidance, Working Together to Safeguard Children: https://bit.ly/2OYSwvJ

Child death reviews: https://bit.ly/2yjaKBv

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