10/06/2019

Following our article on 26 November 2018 about the new safeguarding partner arrangements replacing Local Safeguarding Children's Boards ("LSCBs") we are writing to remind Partners that the deadline for publishing your new arrangements is less than three weeks away – 29 June 2019.

Stephanie Brivio, Deputy Director for Safeguarding and Child Protection in the DfE explained at a Westminster briefing last Wednesday that only one third of safeguarding partners had so far published their new arrangements.

The new arrangements need to cover a number of things set out in the statutory guidance, Working Together to Safeguard Children published in July 2018 and at pages 78/79 the publication requirements include:

  • Details of the partners (especially if they cover more than one local authority area);
  • Geographical boundaries;
  • How the partners will work together;
  • Arrangements for commissioning and publishing local child safeguarding practice reviews;
  • Arrangements for independent scrutiny of the effectiveness of the arrangements;
  • Which of the "relevant agencies" set out in the Child Safeguarding Practice Review and Relevant Agency (England) Regulations 2018 the partners will work with, why these agencies are being chosen, how they will collaborate and work together to improve outcomes for children and families (as there are 38 categories this will require some thought);
  • How all early years settings, schools and other educational establishments will be included in the arrangements (for example will there be a separate Forum or sub-group of the Partners and how will the designated school leads liaise with the partners?);
  • How youth custody and residential homes for children will be included;
  • How the partners will use data and intelligence to assess the effectiveness of the help being provided to children and families, including early help;
  • How interagency training will be commissioned, delivered and monitored for impact and how multiagency and interagency audits will be undertaken;
  • How the arrangements will be funded and in particular whether funds will be pooled or what support in kind might be available to support the partners’ responsibilities;
  • The process for undertaking local child safeguarding reviews including the arrangements for embedding learning across organisations and agencies;
  • How the arrangements will include the voice of children and families; and
  • How the threshold document setting out the local criteria for action aligns with the arrangements.

One thing that Stephanie Brivio added to the list was a requirement that the safeguarding partner arrangements or plans must be signed by all three of the partners, otherwise they were in danger of being rejected.

There are of course other matters that need to be included in the arrangements, including matters such as:

  • Dispute resolution procedures;
  • The governance arrangements including who will take what decisions and how far arrangements will be delegated within each organisation;
  • Who and how will the annual reports be prepared;
  • Liabilities and how they are shared, for example in respect of shared teams co-located in the offices of one partner;
  • Ensuring adequate insurance and indemnity for the arrangements;
  • Data and information sharing arrangements, noting that various sections of the Children Act 2004 require organisations to provide information and data in connection with safeguarding functions and functions to promote the welfare of children.

The arrangements need to be captured in a plan or some form of Collaboration Agreement between the partners.

The new arrangements are intended to enable a more streamlined strategic leadership on both safeguarding and promoting and improving the welfare of children, hence the Lead Representatives are:

  • Chief Executives of local authorities;
  • Accountable officers of CCGs;
  • Chief Constables in respect of the Police.

Whilst these three individuals may delegate their functions to others, they remain responsible and accountable for delivering and they are expected to play an "active role" pursuant to the Working Together statutory guidance. Where functions are delegated, the persons to whom the functions are delegated must be able to:

  • Speak with authority for the partner;
  • Take decisions and commit on policy, resourcing and practice; and
  • Hold the organisation to account on how effectively it participates and implements the arrangements.

It goes without saying that there needs to be an audit trail of how these responsibilities are delegated within the organisation and how the lead representatives will oversee, manage and ensure that their statutory obligations are met. Clearly there will be overlap with the responsibilities with the Director of Children's Services who in turn has responsibility with the Lead Member for Children's Services in respect of local authority safeguarding matters.

Although the new arrangements need to be published by 29 June 2019, there is a further three months allowed for implementation, up to 29 September 2019.

As mentioned in our previous article all three safeguarding partners have equal responsibility for ensuring that the new arrangements encompass relevant agencies and promote and improve the welfare of children. Perhaps the saving grace is that the transitional arrangements allow the LSCBs to continue until such time as the new arrangements come into effect.

One further question arose from the conference around the extent to which local government had a national coordinator promoting the new arrangements within local government. The LGA and/or SOLACE might wish to consider the extent to which a national lead or resource is available to support local authorities with the new arrangements. The LGA produced guidance in February 2019 highlighting what Chief Executives "must know" for Children's Services, however, there was little reference to Working Together and the new safeguarding partner arrangements, including the need to conclude the arrangements at the earliest opportunity.

To conclude, Stephanie Brivio asked "should I be worried?" The general consensus of those present at the conference was that there is still plenty of time to develop, agree and approve the new arrangements and that it was not surprising that only one third of partners had already published their schemes.

Those that have not yet agreed, documented or even designed their arrangements might struggle to make 29 June, in which case they should expect a letter from the DfE in early July highlighting the omission.

Of those two thirds of partners that have yet to agree their arrangements there is still time - not a lot - but it will be important to get the Lead Representatives around the table at the earliest opportunity to agree how to move forward for the future and then to document the arrangements if you are to meet the deadline of 29 June (we would be happy to assist where we can).

Read our previous article here.