February 2018

Chair's Introduction by David Ashcroft

A new secretary of state and a new Children's Minister – so we hope for a renewed commitment across government to make safeguarding and children’s welfare a priority. The funding gap and the demand pressures on children’s services are now clearly the top challenges for most agencies, as recent comments from LGIU attest. Let’s hope Government delivers.

We will see to what extent there are substantive revisions to the WT guidance – which is now expected to be available from the end of May. Very, very early indications suggest that there may be some greater clarity about strengthening the narrative, if not the formal powers, around the involvement of schools; some definition of the seniority of partner representatives required in the new arrangements; a requirement to publish a threshold framework; and some greater definition of what will be subject to independent scrutiny. But on all these topics, I stress that there is still much work going on in DfE and with other departments to respond to the 700+ responses to the consultation – so there still remains a lot of uncertainty. Local partners are still likely to have to hammer out local solutions to many of these issues.

The details of arrangements for practice reviews are pending the appointment of the chair of the new national panel, who is expected to lead much of this work. An announcement was expected before Christmas, but it still awaited.

I have been talking regularly with other stakeholders and sector leaders, and we continue to share very similar concerns about the gaps in the guidance, and the risks of inconsistent and fragmented implementation. There is a strong national commitment to working together – please encourage local leaders to tap into this and draw support and good ideas from each other. We do not want to see a retreat into agency silos and in particular we need to encourage health colleagues to recognise the new obligations they will have to undertake a full role in leading new partnerships. This cannot just be left to designated health professionals – who already have a heavy burden of responsibility – but must be a core expectation of CCGs accountable officers and health boards. Dr Peter Green, as chair of the NNDHP, has written to CCGs to remind them of expectations on NHS bodies to include issues for children in STPs, in the realignment of local health bodies, and for the new MASAs. Peter has kindly agreed that we may share his letter as LSCB Chairs may wish to pursue their own dialogue with CCG partners on these issues. The letter is available here. Please let us know of any responses.

Last week I gave evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children as part of their inquiry into thresholds and the changing reach and impact of work with children. This is a development of their "No Good Options" report from last year

We also heard at that session from Professor Paul Bywaters and other colleagues about their research on the impact of austerity and poverty, and the correlation between deprivation and levels of intervention in children’s lives. This clearly argues that deprivation, poverty and neglect are fundamental determinants of outcomes for children – and correlate to Ofsted ratings and the levels of service funding.

In our evidence, I was able to stress how important it is that thresholds are not just seen as a mechanism to manage entry into social care but as a tool for the whole children’s system. They must be understood and operated as part of a multi-agency system and need active support and application by all partners. If we are to break from the spiral of diminishing resources facing growing referral demand, then we need to rethink the wider context of prevention, early help and enabling families to support themselves. The role that LSCBs have played to ensure that all partners contribute to safe arrangements for children is a critical function that will be required in new arrangements. The focus on children’s services, police and health as the core of new arrangements may result in a minimalist approach to managing acute demand pressures – making fewer S47 referrals, reducing NFA referrals or managing the volume of calls through the MASH – rather than tackling root causes. Housing, benefits, access to education, employment and training, community safety and cohesion are as significant as the risks of abuse and neglect that child protection tends to emphasise, and for which we have categories of intervention through LAC and CP plans. In Norfolk we have started to talk about seeing thresholds as vantage points from which to have a dialogue with children and families – not as gatekeeping hurdles to manage social care interventions. Our recent animation sets out our approach here

I know that several boards and localities have pioneered really innovative ideas here. We would be delighted to hear about other examples of innovation on thresholds, and in recognising and responding to the wider determinants of children’s wellbeing. We are also happy to pass further evidence to the APPGC as it prepares its further report this year.

Thank you for the feedback we receive on AILC’s work – mostly positive and encouraging! We will need to secure the membership of as many partnerships and chairs as possible if we are to be able to continue this at the same level. Please confirm as soon as possible your contribution for 2018-2019. 
These newsletter introductions have now been posted to the website, and there are also further sets of presentation slides on safeguarding topics that I have used and that are available to use.

Association News

The Children & Social Work Act Update

On 26th January 2018, AILC wrote to the Secretary of State, Damian Hinds, asking him to give full consideration to the multitude of responses (700+) to ‘Working Together’:

“It is critical that there is sufficient time and attention paid to the consultation feedback to ensure that the new arrangements protect children effectively. We expect that the Department will publish a full account of how it proposes to respond to the consultation feedback and that the consultation responses will be published.”

We reflected to the Secretary of State the concern we are hearing from LSCBs around the country, and from other key children’s sector organisations, that the proposed draft guidance - and some of the changes already being made locally - are led by a drive to reduce expenditure rather than to enhance safeguarding outcomes for children;

“We remain concerned that the new legislative framework and permissive guidance will not deliver the improvements in multi-agency working that are intended. There is danger that the new arrangements will become the minimum that agencies can afford, rather than the best we can do for children.”

We raised five areas of concern with the Secretary of State:

  • The functions of MASA’s need to be specified so that there is a clear definition of the core purpose, duties and expectations of local partnerships against which they can be judged;
  • Adequate and equitable resources are in place contributed by all partners to sustain these functions;
  • Regular external inspection of the new multi-agency safeguarding arrangements is in place;
  • Schools to become a fourth statutory partner alongside health, social care and police. Schools see more of children than any other agency and are therefore best placed to safeguard children - they are currently an equal partner through membership of LSCBs, but the new guidance “demotes them” to a relevant agency.
  • Clarity about the decision-making and dispute resolution arrangements between statutory partners in order to ensure effective brokerage of competing priorities and objectives in the interests of children rather than mere agency compliance.

On 13th February 2018 we noted in the press an indication of some postponement in the schedule for transition and implementation, with a new start date of September 2019 when “LA’s have local arrangements in place”, and May 2018 for “new multi-agency regulations”. We have asked DfE for clarification of this, and are told that the Parliamentary timetable is late March for starting the process of laying the regulations, but the revised WT cannot be issued until after debates have happened, and DfE are “considering all consultation responses as part of our revisions to WT.” Click here.

Here is our regular reminder of the requirement to continue to comply with existing legislation and guidance:

“LSCBs must continue to undertake their statutory functions, as they are legally required to do, until the new safeguarding arrangements are in place.” DfE 2017

AILC Charting LSCB Changes Across the Country

AILC’s information on those LSCBs making changes across the country will be uploaded this month – look out on the ‘Resources, Early Adopters’ page.

To date there are still limited changes to structures, and no dominant patterns emerging –there is some mostly partial merging with adult’s functions particularly in sub-groups, and a few areas joining on footprint.

Business Managers and Chairs. Thank you to those who have shared their changes – others, please do not hesitate to share your local ideas and developments with Sarah Webb at policy@lscbchairs.org.uk or call to discuss on 07880 209788.

News from LSCB Areas

SCRs

An LSCB is undertaking a SCR which they may not publish and would like to hear from any LSCB regarding responses to this from DfE. Please drop a line on any such experience to policy@lscbchairs.org.uk.

Neglect

Devon has published a detailed Neglect strategy which we have uploaded in Resources - click here.

CSE

Lincolnshire LSCB has produced a suite of info on CSE including Fact Sheets, see AILC’s website and click on Resources and Effective Safeguarding Partnerships.

Taxi Drivers

In our last Newsletter we published information regarding Sheffield’s Checklist for LSCBs on children Staying Safe in Taxis. This month we have seen that there is a national Consultation on ‘Determining the suitability of applicants and licensees in the hackney carriage and private hire trades’. Click here to access the link for you to view and comment, or send your thoughts/experiences/comments to Sarah Webb, by 26th February 2018, if you would like us to incorporate your views in AILC’s response.

AILC’s New Analysis of Ofsted Reports of LSCBs - forthcoming

AILC, with Liz Murphy, has just completed its analysis of the final cohort of Ofsted’s LSCB reports. This will go to members in the next few weeks and includes all comments about Chairs, the list of LSCB judgements, themes from 2017, all extracts from Neglect JTAIS re LSCBs, and what Good looks like across 3 years of reports.

We now have a series of reports detailing the results of the reviews of LSCBs over four years, highlighting the key components of effectiveness, and providing a blueprint of what strong local arrangements should look like. We believe this is an invaluable resource for the future – and that it also highlights the pitfalls and challenges evidenced from weak local arrangements.

Safeguarding Children in the Custodial Estate – a new AILC Group

Following concern expressed at AILC’s national conference about the recently publicised plight of children in the custodial estate, John Drew of Medway has convened a group of Chairs of LSCBs whose area includes either a YOI or STC in England, convened under the auspices of AILC.

A very successful meeting was held in January, attended by all but one of the above Chairs, with the common purpose of improving the current state of safety in these establishments, motivated in particular by reaction to the conclusion of the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, that there was a time last summer where not one custodial establishment that he had inspected was safely accommodating the children in their care.

For the group, John flagged up with DfE that they are now doing a piece of work, drawing on respective experience, describing what should be the role and actions of host LSCBs in the current arrangements, with a view to helping DfE consider these issues when they receive proposed new Safeguarding Arrangements from the new Safeguarding Partners.

The Group will also be sharing best practice around a range of issues, including the Working Together requirement that LSCBs (and the successor arrangements) conduct annual reviews of restraint, and alsopossibly developing a simple commentary on the state of safety in the secure estate for children.

The Group’s next meeting will be in London on Tuesday 1st May 2018, and is open to any Chair (or their rep), so not just those with secure custodial establishments in their area. Already two such Chairs are involved in this work. For further information contactjjhdrew@me.com.

National Policy News

Ofsted

“Good to see Haringey LSCB's prompt and positive response to their recent JTAI report; "a thorough and informative joint inspection....we very much welcomed this scrutiny." @AssocLSCBChairs

Safe Recruitment, DBS Checks

LSCBs can find a new report by the Audit Office on the DBS Update service below – its findings include important reminders to ensure effective safe recruitment - this must not be lost in new safeguarding arrangements, not least in the knowledge that there are 64,000 barred individuals:

“DBS does not believe that either the delay or lower-than-expected take-up of the update service have stopped it providing an effective safeguarding service. In 2016-2017: some four million disclosures were issued, of which some 260,000 (6.1%) contained information potentially relevant to safeguarding; there were one million subscriptions to the update service, for which 2.6 million status checks were made (of which 0.1% indicated new information was available); and the lists of people barred from working with children or vulnerable adults contained some 64,000 individuals as at 31st March 2017.” Access here.

RCPCH Calls for ‘Child Health in ALL Policies’

A fragmented approach to child health is damaging the long-term health of nation warns the Royal College. Child health is suffering at the hands of a disjointed approach from central Government is the warning from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) as it publishes its “State of Child Health: One year on” scorecard today.

The RCPCH is calling for each national government to commit to a ‘child health in all policies’ approach, meaning that whenever legislation is passed, the impact on child health must be considered, access here.

New Multi-Agency Approach re Sexual Images of Children Online

Police forces from Cheshire, Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Cumbria and North Wales are today joining forces with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation to launch a campaign to tackle growing demand for sexual images of children online.

Contact the Association

Please do phone the Association on 07880 209 788 if you would like any help at all, or email mailto:info@lscbchairs.org.uk if you have queries or comments.

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I always welcome feedback on the Newsletter or the activity of the Association.

Please contact me at chair@lscbchairs.org.uk

With best wishes,

 

David Ashcroft

 AILC Chair

www.lscbchairs.org.uk

Association Phone 07880 209788

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