Today I am publishing the revised statutory guidance ‘Working together to safeguard children’.
In May 2011 Professor Eileen Munro concluded her review of the system in England for safeguarding children. Her final report – ‘A child centred system’ – made a number of recommendations for reform, to create a shift from an overly bureaucratic system to one that keeps the focus on the child.
This included a recommendation that the government revise:
- ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ (2010), the statutory guidance on how organisations and individuals should work together to safeguard children
- The ‘Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families’ (2000), the statutory guidance for practitioners when conducting assessments of children
The government response to Professor Munro’s review – ‘The government’s response to the Munro review of child protection’ – published on 13 July 2011, accepted her analysis that the cumulative increase over recent years in central prescription and guidance in child protection and safeguarding has led to a loss of focus on the individual needs of the child. Alongside this the expansion of the guidance to hundreds of pages, seeking to cover every eventuality, has reduced clarity over the responsibilities of different professionals.
Supported by Professor Munro’s analysis the government conducted a consultation on revised guidance between 12 June and 4 September 2012. Since September we have considered carefully the consultation responses and worked with organisations to finalise the guidance.
The revised guidance published today which comes into force from the 15 April 2013, clarifies the core legal requirements, making it much clearer what individuals and organisations should do to keep children safe and promote their welfare. We want social workers and other professionals to focus on the needs of individual children and families and take decisive and effective action to help those children. Today’s guidance will support that. It makes absolutely clear the legal framework and the expectations on different professionals.
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.
In the final guidance we have:
- created a single source document that brings together all the statutory responsibilities on organisations and individuals to safeguard children
- made it explicit that safeguarding is the responsibility of all professionals who work with children
In order to meet Professor Munro’s recommendations of removing the detailed prescription which constrains professional judgement, we have:
- put children’s needs back at the heart of assessment by reducing prescription, 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 assessments designed around individual children.
We have retained 45 working days for an assessment to conclude and reach a decision on next steps. We propose to continue work with the 8 authorities who have been trialling these more flexible approaches to assessment to analyse the impact of changes over a longer time period to decide whether the 45 days 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.
The revised statutory guidance sits alongside measures taken by the government to drive up the quality of social work practice and the revised Ofsted child protection inspection framework.
It clarifies the essential roles of local agencies – including health services and the police – in keeping children safe and promoting the welfare of children in need. The NHS Commissioning Board is also publishing today its accountability and assurance framework for safeguarding. The framework complements the revised statutory guidance.
Copies of ‘Working together to safeguard children’ have been placed in the House libraries.