The government has launched a consultation (‘the Consultation’) on significant amendments to its “Working together to safeguard children” guidance (‘the Guidance’), which sets out what is expected of organisations to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. The changes are being made to reflect amendments to the safeguarding framework brought in by the Children and Social Work Act 2017 (‘the Act’).
The Act received Royal assent in April but is in the main not yet in force. In relation to safeguarding, the Act abolishes Local Child Safeguarding Boards (‘LCSBs’) and replaces them with safeguarding oversight coordinated by ‘safeguarding partners’. It also replaces the current serious case review regime with a system of local and national child safeguarding reviews and establishes the distinct role of child death review partners. Further detail on these amendments is set out below.
The Act abolishes Local Child Safeguarding Boards (‘LCSBs’) and introduces a new system of safeguarding oversight coordinated by safeguarding partners: the local authority, the local clinical commissioning group (‘CCG’) and the chief officer of police for the area. The change follows publication of the Wood Report in March 2016, which made a series of recommendations for fundamental reform to child protection mechanisms to improve efficacy.
The Act places a duty on those partners to make arrangements for themselves and ‘relevant agencies’they deem appropriate, to work together for the purpose of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in their area. The draft list of ‘relevant agencies’ includes all agencies that form the statutory membership of LCSBs, and includes children’s centres, schools, colleges and charities. The Consultation requests views about the composition of the list of relevant agencies.
The expectation in the draft Guidance is that local arrangements will contain explicit reference to how safeguarding partners plan to involve, and give voice to, local education providers and the Consultation seeks views on this approach.
Case review process
The Act replaces the current serious case review regime with a system of local and national child safeguarding reviews. Safeguarding partners will be responsible for identifying cases that raise particular issues within a local area and for commissioning and publishing reviews to draw out appropriate learning. The Act also creates a national Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel (‘the Panel’) that is responsible for commissioning and publishing national reviews and investigating cases that lead learning on a national level.
Alongside the Guidance the government has published draft regulations that set out the criteria for determining whether a case raises issues of a kind that are appropriate for review and makes provision for the eligibility and selection of those people who are appointed to conduct a review of a case. The Consultation invites views on the proposed criteria as well as eliciting views on the appropriate steps safeguarding partners should take upon receipt of a safeguarding incident.
Child death reviews
The Act establishes the distinct role of child death review partners: the local authority and all or part of any CCG which falls within the area. Working together, they will be responsible for reviewing and analysing the circumstances of the death of a child and making arrangements for the publication of reports in respect of those findings.
The rationale for child death reviews is to identify matters that are relevant to the welfare of children in an area (or to public health and safety) and to consider what action (if any) in response is required. The draft Guidance includes high level principles and requirements for child death reviews and directs readers to separate specific statutory guidance concerning child death reviews that is also subject to the Consultation.
The Consultation is also inviting comments on transitional arrangements.
The amendments brought in by the Act represent a widening of statutory responsibility from the local authority, to include the local police and health as joint and equal partners, and reflect that society’s perspective on safeguarding issues is developing to include wider issues such as radicalisation, internet safety and public health. It is encouraging that the government is consulting on the amendments to the Guidance and it is to be hoped that those working in this area respond to the Consultation, bringing their practical experience to seek to ensure the effectiveness of the new arrangements. The Consultation closes on 31 December 2017.
This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.
All content on this page is correct as of November 1, 2017.