Changes to local safeguarding provisions have begun, but what does this mean for schools?
The Children and Social Work Act 2017 delivered an overhaul to national safeguarding procedures and serious case reviews (SCR) in England. Case reviews had highlighted that there were still lots of gaps in safeguarding and child protection, often attributed to variable practice, underfunding, stretched services and a range of other issues. A number of reviews, including the Wood Review 2016, had identified that things needs to change and improve, which is what the Act attempts to address. Many of us have been waiting to see when the changes would come into effect and, as we sit here in November 2018, we now have a clearer idea of the timeframe for transition.
What will it mean for us?
Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) will disappear and local safeguarding arrangements will be the responsibility of the 3 local partners: the Local Authority; the Chief of Police and Health.
These partners are responsible for:
A new version of “Working Together to Safeguard Children” (2018) is available. The guidance should be read by all relevant practitioners working with children and their families.
“Local Safeguarding — Transitional Arrangements” has also been published to support the process. This describes the procedures to be followed during the transition from LSCBs to local safeguarding partners and to child death review partners. It also covers the transitional arrangements which should be followed during the change from the system of SCRs to the new national and local review arrangements.
Councils and their safeguarding partners will have up to 12 months to agree the new arrangements, and three months to implement the changes. The final deadline date is 29 September 2019. We will need to pay close attention in our local areas to ensure we understand the new arrangements as they come on board.
Once the arrangements have been published and implemented, the LSCB for the local area will be given a "grace" period of up to 12 months to complete and publish outstanding SCRs and of up to four months to complete outstanding child death reviews.
The guidance states that LSCBs must complete all child death reviews by 29 January 2020 and all SCRs by 29 September 2020 at the latest. Once outstanding SCRs and child death reviews have been completed, the LSCB will cease to exist.
What will it mean in our local areas?
Currently, we still don’t know what new arrangements will look like in our local areas. Many areas are currently going through a process of consultation with key stakeholders. In Brighton and Hove, for example, recent discussions have concluded that they are happy with the Local Safeguarding Board model and want that to continue in some form. What that will mean in practice is unclear. What is clear is that each local area final plans must be approved by the Department for Education before being implemented.
The government has also announced that 17 areas of the country, covering 39 local authorities, will act as "early adopters", working with the National Children's Bureau to implement the new arrangements before they are established across the rest of the country.
The early adopters will be tasked with "developing new and innovative approaches to set up multi-agency safeguarding processes and produce clear learning which can be shared across other areas".
Schools: a relevant agency
In the Children and Social Work Act, schools became a “relevant agency” rather than a safeguarding partner. The safeguarding partners are required to involve schools and other education providers in formulating the new arrangements and ensuring they are fit for purpose.
“Working Together” 2018 states: “The safeguarding partners should make arrangements to allow all schools and other educational partners in the local area to be fully engaged and involved, making sure communication is effective.” (p 81)
It acknowledges that schools have an important role to play in multi-agency safeguarding arrangements and that schools will continue to be held to account for this by Ofsted.
For many in education safeguarding, this was disappointing as the majority of replies to the “Working Together” consultation document earlier in the year had asked that education become a 4th partner. The response was that, as this idea of education as a partner was not part of the original Act, this was not possible without amendments to the Act itself.
An updated version of “Keeping Children Safe in Education” (KCSIE) went live on 3rd September 2018 to set out the role of education providers in safeguarding. One thing is clear. Those that see and work with children and young people every day will always have a pivotal role to play in local safeguarding.
Updates on the local consultation should be available through your Local Safeguarding Board website.