Revised guidance published today by the Government clarifies the responsibilities of professionals towards safeguarding children, and strengthens the focus away from processes and onto the needs of the child.
In response to recommendations from Professor Eileen Munro’s report, A child-centred system, the revised Working together to safeguard children guidance clarifies the core legal requirements on individuals and organisations to keep children safe. It sets out, in one place, the legal requirements that health services, social workers, police, schools and other organisations that work with children, must follow - and emphasises that safeguarding is the responsibility of all professionals who work with children.
The guidance will come into effect from 15 April 2013.
Children’s Minister Edward Timpson said:
Eileen Munro’s review found that the system for safeguarding children focused on processes instead of the needs of children.
Today’s guidance makes absolutely clear the core legal requirements on all organisations and individuals working with children to promote their welfare and keep them safe. We expect professionals to use the guidance, along with their expertise and judgement, to tailor support to individual children and families.
This guidance will support professionals to take the right decisions and the right action to promote the welfare of children and keep them safe. Our most vulnerable children have the right to expect nothing less.
Professor Eileen Munro, author of A child-centred system, said:
I welcome today’s publication of the revised Working Together guidance. It marks an important step in reforming the confusing, prescriptive culture that has ruled professionals who work with children so they can focus more on how well they are helping children, young people and their families.
One of the most important recommendations in my report - to have guidance focusing on the core legal rules - was so those working to protect the welfare and needs of children can start to regain control of their practice while working within a clear framework so that different agencies know what to expect of each other.
I also welcome the change in approach to conducting serious case reviews that I recommended so that we can really understand why tragedies happen and how we can learn from them.
Today’s announcement should give all those reforming frontline work with children the clarity and confidence to take those reforms forward.
The NHS Commissioning Board is also publishing today its accountability and assurance framework for safeguarding in the NHS. The framework complements the revised statutory guidance and will support NHS organisations in fulfilling their safeguarding responsibilities.
Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said:
We want to do everything we can to keep children safe. This revised guidance will make it much easier for professionals to understand what they must do to make sure children are protected.
Last year I launched a new system that will help NHS doctors and nurses identify vulnerable and abused children much more quickly and save lives.
Just last month the Government joined with the NHS and many other organisations and committed to working together to do everything possible to improve children’s health.
In the Working Together guidance we have:
- created a single source document that brings together all the statutory responsibilities on organisations and individuals to safeguard children; and
- made it explicit that safeguarding is the responsibility of all professionals who work with children.
In order to meet Professor Munro’s recommendation of removing some of the layers of prescription which constrain professional judgement, we have:
- put children’s needs back at the heart of assessment by removing the requirement to have a separate ‘initial’ and ‘core’ assessment of children in need and the related 10 working day timescale for completion of the initial assessment. This will make the assessment a continuous process, rather than a stop/start one, and allow professionals the flexibility they need to carry out an assessment designed around individual children.
We have retained 45 working days for an assessment to conclude and reach a decision on next steps. We will continue to monitor the impact of these changes to determine whether the 45 day limit can ultimately be removed.
In addition, in order to ensure that lessons are learned from serious case reviews, we are:
- establishing a new national panel of independent experts. The panel will provide advice to local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs) about the application of SCR criteria and the requirement to publish reports. The Working Together guidance makes clear that LSCBs should have regard to the panel’s advice when making decision about SCRs.
Since 2010 we have taken steps to overhaul the system to protect the most vulnerable children in our society. This includes a large social work reform programme, including the appointments of principal child and family social workers in each local authority, a Step up to Social Work programme and a strengthened Ofsted inspection framework.
We are also working with the Office of the Children’s Rights Director to develop a young person’s guide to Working Together to Safeguard Children, the first time this has been done. This will be published shortly.
Notes to editors
- The Government response to Professor Eileen Munro’s review of child protection, published on 13 July 2011, accepted her recommendation that the Government should revise:
- Working Together to Safeguard Children (2010), the statutory guidance on how organisations and individuals should work together to safeguard children; and
- The Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families (2000), the statutory guidance for practitioners when conducting assessments of children.
The guidance is available on the Department’s website.
The SoS speech on vulnerable children in November 2012 can be found on the Department’s website.
The accountability and assurance framework for safeguarding in the NHS is available here.