On 26 February 2018, the government released their response to the ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children: revisions to statutory guidance’ consultation, which sought views on the proposed changes to Working Together to Safeguard Children (‘the statutory guidance’) and the draft regulations required to commence the Children and Social Work Act 2017.
The government said the response to the draft guidance “has been generally positive” and that most proposals were accepted “by a significant majority of respondents”.
While not all of the changes impact schools directly, it is important that schools have an understanding of how local safeguarding arrangements will be changing. This guidance outlines the government’s response to the consultation, how the statutory guidance will be changed and how this will affect schools.
The key points for schools
The main change impacting schools is that Working Together to Safeguard Children will include an expectation that all local safeguarding arrangements contain explicit reference to how safeguarding partners plan to involve, and give voice to, all local schools and academies. Currently, schools have a legal duty to safeguard their pupils; however, they do not need to be consulted on how other agencies deal with safeguarding – the updated statutory guidance will change this.
Despite calls from “a significant number of respondents” for schools to become a fourth safeguarding partner, the government will not go forward with this proposal because the statutory guidance is not able to amend structures set out in law.
The Children and Social Work Act 2017 replaces Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) with new local safeguarding arrangements, which are led by three safeguarding partners.
The following was confirmed in the consultation response in relation to safeguarding partners:
- The appropriate representatives for safeguarding partners will be clarified as the LA chief executive, the clinical commissioning group accountable officer and the chief officer of police.
- The statutory guidance will allow safeguarding partners a degree of flexibility in relation to selecting their own representatives and will clearly set out the appropriate levels of seniority for those representing their agencies.
- Certain specific functions that should be undertaken by safeguarding partners, e.g. multi-agency training, will be included in the statutory guidance – the government will also look generally at the core functions of safeguarding partners.
- The statutory guidance will be revised to recommend that safeguarding partners develop and publish a threshold document which outlines how multi-agency safeguarding arrangements work in their area.
- Safeguarding partners will be required to publish a report at least once every 12 months, setting out what they and their relevant agencies have done as a result of the safeguarding arrangements, and how effective the arrangements have been.
The following was confirmed in the consultation response in relation to relevant agencies:
- The Local Safeguarding Partner (Relevant Agencies) (England) Regulations will be revised to include entries for sport and religious organisations.
- The statutory guidance will be reviewed to ensure the responsibilities of agencies are clearly explained.
The following was confirmed in the consultation response in relation to the involvement of schools:
- All relevant statutory guidance, including Keeping Children Safe in Education will clearly explain the roles and responsibilities of schools.
- The statutory guidance will set the expectation that all local safeguarding arrangements contain explicit reference to how safeguarding partners plan to involve, and give voice to, all local schools and academies.
The following was confirmed in the consultation response in relation to independent scrutiny:
- Safeguarding partners will be given the flexibility to establish suitable independent scrutiny of their safeguarding arrangements, but the government will consider what high-level guidance can be provided to ensure consistent and effective outcomes nationally.
Reviews and the national panel
Chapter 4 of the statutory guidance includes arrangements for a new system of local and national child safeguarding practice reviews, which will replace serious case reviews. The following was confirmed in relation to reviews:
- Safeguarding partners must undertake a concise investigative exercise where they receive information about a safeguarding incident within five working days of notification – the government will clarify the purpose of the initial exercise and that the five-day timescale is intended to inform decisions on the next steps to take.
- The criteria and circumstances relating to if a review is appropriate outlined in the draft guidance will broadly go ahead. Flexibility will also be granted to safeguarding panels and partners in determining which cases to review.
- The government will talk to the new panel chair about the need for collaborative working between the panel and safeguarding partners, and will reflect the outcomes in the statutory guidance.
- A statutory list of local reviewers will not be established at this time; however, the government intends to consider the potential benefits of a non-statutory local list.
- The government proposes to further clarify that reviewers should be impartial.
- The central government intends to fund the panel and national reviewers’ contractual costs; however, local review costs must be funded locally.
- The government will review the drafting of guidance around methodology of reviews to ensure this is as clear and consistent as possible.
- The proposed timescale for publishing a final report (between two and six months depending on the nature and complexity of the case) will go ahead – the regulations regarding timescales for submitting final reports will be clarified.
Child death reviews
The Children and Social Work Act 2017 outlines the role of child death review partners. The statutory guidance will outline high-level principles and requirements for child death reviews, as well as signpost to a new guidance – ‘Child Death Review Statutory Guidance’, which will set out the detailed processes to be followed when responding to, investigating and reviewing a child’s death.
In relation to child death reviews, the following was confirmed:
- The child death review process will consider and identify ‘modifiable factors’, i.e. contributory factors to a death that could be modified to reduce the risk of future child deaths.
- The government intends to go ahead with a new proposed approach which would allow each individual death to be responded to appropriately, rather than determining whether or not a death meets certain criteria for investigation – further clarity will be offered on the new process.
- In accordance with the Children and Social Work Act 2017, child death review partners have the flexibility to combine the geographical boundaries for arrangements in their area – this means they can determine the area within which child deaths will need to be reviewed to allow for analysis of patterns, themes and trends of death.
- The government originally proposed an extension of geographical footprints, proposing that 80-120 child deaths are reviewed each year; however, this has been amended to 60 each year.
- The government intends to provide bereaved families with a key worker to act as a single point of contact during the child death review process. Clarification will also be made for how key workers should interact with family liaison officers and coroner’s officers.
- Every child’s death will be reviewed at a child death review meeting involving practitioners directly involved with the child’s care, prior to being discussed by the Child Death Overview Panel (CDOP) – more clarity will be provided around the aims and nature of these meetings and expectations regarding inviting other practitioners to attend review meetings will also be clarified.
- Child death review reporting forms will be revised to ensure that child death review meetings send a standard output to CDOPs.
- For LAC, the ‘Child Death Review Statutory Guidance’ will be amended to clarify which child death review partners are responsible for ensuring review when a LAC is placed in another area. In the section of guidance on child death review partners reviewing the death of non-resident children, the government will further clarify the main groups of children this would apply to.
In the guidance for LSCBs (published in a transitional version of Working Together to Safeguard Children) new information will be included regarding arrangements for transition. The following was confirmed in relation to the transitional guidance:
- CDOPs will have a ‘grace period’ of up to four months following the start of the child death review partner arrangements to complete any outstanding death reviews.
- LSCBs will have a grace period of up to 12 months following the start of the safeguarding partner arrangements in which to complete and publish outstanding serious case reviews.
- Safeguarding partners will need to take into consideration information emerging from serious case reviews. The government acknowledges that there may be a number of outstanding complete unpublished serious case reviews, even after the grace period, but in these circumstances, the safeguarding partners will need to consider the next steps.
The new regulations will be debated and voted on by both Houses of Parliament in the Spring 2018.
Following this, an updated version of Working Together to Safeguard Children will be published and the new safeguarding arrangements will come into effect. Local areas will have 12 months from the date of commencement to develop and publish their arrangements, and an additional three months to fully implement them.
HM Government (2018) ‘Changes to statutory guidance: Working Together to Safeguard Children; and new regulations’