The past weeks have presented many challenges for public services, in the face of terrorism, fire, neglect and an apparent failure of investment and concern for the poor and marginalised. We have a Queen’s Speech that makes little reference to the challenges for children’s services, despite acute demand and pressures. This is not the place for a political statement, but I hope that LSCBs are remaining steadfast in asking hard questions about how well children are kept safe in our communities, especially when there is fear, disruption and concern. We conduct reviews, and consider how to learn from tragic events, as part of our core work – and often receive criticism for doing so – but recent events make it clear that we must all bear witness to injustice and failures to learn across our public services and political system. One of our colleagues, chair of an outstanding board, told me that the most important message was “never let it go”, which I believe is a worthy motto for these times.
My sincere thanks to so many chairs, and particularly partnerships, who have promptly renewed their membership already this year. This really is a massive help that we can plan knowing the level of income and engagement we have already secured. A few changes – some in and some out - but I am also encouraged that as a community across children’s safeguarding we recognize the value of standing together to argue for the interests of children and young people during a time of change, reducing resources and great uncertainty.
With the election over, we can obviously now push ahead with thinking through the implications of the CSW Act, and seeking to influence the detailed guidance on local safeguarding plans that will be needed. Working Together is now expected around November for a formal period of consultation, followed by the preparation of new plans for each local partnership. Some of the key questions are now becoming clearer:
- What will be the footprint and area coverage for joint arrangements?
- Is there a vision for partnership working that is owned by senior leaders and can motivate and inspire improvement and practice?
- Are there adequate resources committed by the partners – allowing for the costs of creating and running a local multi-agency strategic body, and the necessary delivery of scrutiny, training,
- innovation, quality assurance etc? How will this build on the existing capacity of LSCBs and partner boards?
- What is the model for assessing quality and practice – how will the safeguarding partnership intervene when performance falters?
- What are the strategies for information sharing; workforce development; identifying and managing risk; and communications?
- What will be the ‘issues of importance’ that underpin local inquiry and reviews into cases and incidents?
- How will cross boundary issues be dealt with?
These topics will come into increasing focus over the next few months and I hope that the Association can keep you informed as they develop. Please do let us know how plans are developing in your area.
The Department for Education has two new Ministers of State; Anne Milton and Robert Goodwill, and we say to goodbye to Edward Timpson, who lost his seat at the election, and had been a stable part of the ministerial team for nearly five years. Edward undoubtedly knew his brief well and was passionate about many aspects of improving children’s lives. It is unusual to have consistency in political leadership for such a relatively long time and we extend our thanks for his work.
I have recently met, or am just about to meet, with a range of partners and stakeholders to seek out where we have common concerns and/or see common opportunities. These partners include Department for Education, Home Office, National Police Chiefs Council, ADCS, Children’s Commissioner, Department for Health, LGA, National Network of Designated Health Professionals, Adults Chairs Network and others. As an Association, we seek to keep open channels of communication, persuasion and lobbying to partners.
Many of you also have links and involvement with these and others. Please use our briefings, reports, presentations and other publications where you can, and please feedback issues you believe need further attention. We need to be an active network, arguing on behalf of effective children’s safeguarding and seeking alliances and partnership where we can, but also making clear the risks of a ‘lowest common denominator’ approach to safeguarding.
We have been invited to participate in a workshop on safeguarding arrangements at the July ADCS conference, and we will be announcing the key messages from last month’s members’ survey at that event, demonstrating how critical our network is to the success of future plans.
The AILC Board meeting last week reviewed a draft Strategic Plan, setting out some of the key assumptions we believe underpin future safeguarding and partnership working, and setting out revised priorities for the rest of this year and beyond. This will be a major feature of next month’s newsletter, so that we can consult on these priorities and seek your views. This is not a radical new Plan, but an opportunity to refresh and refocus our thinking, building on the key propositions that we adopted last year.
Our immediate priorities remain to influence the implementation of the new Act and related guidance in Working Together; to deliver a successful national conference in November; to sustain the support for members; to collate, influence and disseminate new models for local partnerships; to develop the Association for the future; and above all to ensure that during this period of transition there remains a very clear and paramount emphasis on the robust safeguarding of children and young people.
This introduction is developing from a brief preface into something like a blog – providing me with an opportunity to air a few points and thoughts. Please respond with your comments, encouragement, criticisms and suggestions – all are welcome.