There have been significant changes to safeguarding legislation recently, but it's fair to say that the impact of the changes has probably not yet been felt. However, the deadline for publishing the new arrangements – 29 June 2019 - is now only six months away.
In June 2018, Local Safeguarding Children Boards (“LSCBs”) were abolished by the Children and Social Work Act 2017, which has significantly amended the Children Act 2004; one of the main pieces of legislation on safeguarding children. The changes to legislation have resulted in the replacement of LSCBs with “local safeguarding partners”. The new statutory framework requires the three safeguarding partners (local authorities, police and CCGs): to join forces with relevant agencies, as they consider appropriate, to co-ordinate their safeguarding services; act as a strategic leadership group; and implement local and national learning, including from serious safeguarding incidents.
Relevant agencies include schools, youth offending teams, prison governors, immigration officials and many more (see the Schedule to the Child Safeguarding Practice Review and Relevant Agency (England) Regulations 2018/789).
It would be sensible for new local safeguarding partners to capture future safeguarding arrangements in a governing document that contains the responsibilities of each party, funding arrangements, liabilities and decision making.
An updated version of Working Together to Safeguard Children published in July 2018 requires local authorities to begin their transition from LSCBs to local safeguarding partners. There are a number of key points to note:
- The statutory guidance provides that local safeguarding partners should agree the level of funding secured from each partner to support the new safeguarding arrangements. The level of funding secured from each partner should be “equitable and proportionate”, with contributions from each relevant agency. Funding is required to be transparent to children and families in the local authority area and to include the cost of local child safeguarding practice reviews.
- Now that the statutory LSCBs have been abolished, how are these arrangements to be captured? How are the contributions to be calculated, the responsibilities to be defined and issues such as surpluses and deficits to be treated? It is appropriate for local safeguarding partners to set out how they will operate, share information and data, finance the arrangements, deal with press/PR/communications, generally undertake their obligations and deal with the consequences of not properly performing their responsibilities in a collaboration agreement or governing document.
- In terms of leadership, the lead representatives for the safeguarding partners are as follows:
- the local authority chief executive
- the accountable officer of a clinical commissioning group, and
- the chief officer of police.
- All three safeguarding partners have equal and joint responsibility for local safeguarding arrangements rather than operating through an independent chair of an LSCB. If a single point of leadership is required then all three safeguarding partners should decide on who would take the lead on issues that arise. Scrutiny of the effectiveness of the safeguarding arrangements is to be undertaken however, by an independent person. A governing document could capture how the partners will work together and how the scrutiny would be effected.
- At least every 12 months the local safeguarding partners and relevant agencies must publish a report on what they have done as a result of the arrangements, and how effective the arrangements have been in practice.
Deadline by which changes must be made
The requirement for local authorities to begin their transition from LSCBs to safeguarding partners began in June 2018. The arrangements must be published by 29 June 2019 and implemented by 29 September 2019. Once such arrangements have been entered into, LSCBs will have a 'grace' period of up to 12 months to complete and publish outstanding serous case reviews and four months to complete outstanding child death reviews (see Working Together: Transitional Guidance). LSCBs are required to continue to carry out all of their statutory functions until safeguarding partner arrangements are operative within a local area.
Local authorities ought to be gearing up to understand the legislative changes and enter into arrangements with their respective safeguarding partners. Given the extent of legislative change, there is a great deal of work that will need to be undertaken in order to comply fully with the new provisions.