Chair's Update - by David Ashcroft
This has been a busy few weeks and as I see the latest turbulence in Westminster today there may be even more change to come! I trust you have all received and had a chance to digest the final publication of Working Together 2018 and the related transitional guidance and letters from the minister and Edward Timpson (in respect of SCRs and Practice Reviews). We have circulated these to all chairs and partnerships. The new legislation and arrangements came into force on 29th June 2018, and there are now 12 months for local partnerships to negotiate and agree proposals for new multi-agency safeguarding arrangements, and to publish these. Implementation must be completed by September 2019. LSCBs may continue in being for up to a further 12 months where there are SCRs to complete. The Association will be working hard to ensure that we highlight and help with the many different options that will need to be explored and thought through.
The final version of Working Together 2018, is a disappointment – it does not deliver on the feedback that Whitehall received from consultation and continues to leave great potential for divergent and variable expectations for safeguarding and partner engagement across the country. There is a growing concern that we may see a patchwork of different arrangements and that it may well become more and more difficult to ensure smooth and frictionless safeguarding work across different jurisdictions. We will be continuing to press strongly for a consistent approach to the functions, standards and cooperation that are required.
It is disappointment that there is not a clearer statement about the importance of having clear and inclusive threshold protocols as part of multi-agency co-operation. The only reference to this now sits in the arrangements for access to social care assessment – reinforcing thresholds as part of a gatekeeping process for social care, rather than as a means of engaging all relevant agencies and practitioners with the needs to the child and family. This will not help the development of effective early help and prevention work.
There is little detail on funding, decision-making and dispute resolution, or on the role of independent scrutiny. Multi-agency training hardly features, and the work to develop Learning and Improvement Frameworks is not taken forward. The Early Adopters announced last week (39 local authorities in 17 local partnerships) will seek to address some of these issues – we urgently need all partnerships to start thinking through these challenges. The Association was not successful in our bid to secure the contract to facilitate the EA programme – this has been awarded to NCB. However, we are already starting discussions with them as to how we can bring our collective experience and knowledge to this programme. We are concerned to see adequate support for those areas that are not ‘early adopters’ where advice, peer support and practical help may be needed to help set up new arrangements. We are continuing to work positively with national representatives of police, health, local authorities and DCSs on these challenges. Please contact me if you feel that we can offer advice or support as your local discussion develop firstname.lastname@example.org.
There have been a range of other important publications which may be of interest to Chairs, Boards and partnerships. The Children’s Commissioner launched last week her Vulnerability Report 2018. I was pleased to represent the Association at the launch and spoke to Anne Longfield and her team about the important information that this presents and I recommend that Boards consider how the analysis of the wider range of children and young people who are vulnerable – rather than just those who are “in Need”, on Protection Plans or Looked After – can be applied to priorities both locally and nationally. We hope this will feature as part of the agenda at our national conference in November
The Joint Inspectorates have published an important thematic report from the recent JTAIs looking at neglect for older children. This particularly calls for greater awareness among professionals in adult’s services of the risks of neglect of older children who are living with parents with complex needs. Cooperation and consistency for young people across simplistic age barriers was also a key message from the ADCS conference, for SEND, Care Leavers, and those caught up in criminal exploitation, access here.
The Government has published important new guidance in information sharing which reinforces the importance of strong working relationships between agencies and encourages a willingness to share and use information in the interest of children. The ‘Myth Busters’ section maybe something LSCB can promote locally where inhibitions about sharing information can undercut effective safeguarding practice, access here.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Children will publish this week its report Storing Up Trouble (following on from No Good Options last year), which will highlight the increasing variability of services for children, and especially the considerable local variation in thresholds. This will stress the need to address the funding gap in children’s social care, and the need for a sustainable and long-term support for early help and preventative services.
The programme and speakers for the conference are nearing completion and we will be circulating further details shortly. The theme of the conference will be “Partnerships for Safeguarding Children” and we hope to attract, as last year, a wider range of those concerned about safeguarding while still providing the opportunity for independent chairs and business managers to focus on their specific concerns and interests. Some feedback from the work on early adopters will feature, but we also want to ensure that there is a focus on the lives of children and young people, not just on our organisational arrangements.
Thank you to the many Chairs and Partnerships who have renewed Association membership promptly this year. We do need to encourage more local partnerships to join the Association if we are to remain effective and a strong voice for multi-agency working. We believe that this coming year (or more) of transition is probably the most critical in our history and we want to bring to the November conference significant and workable proposals for how AILC can develop for the future. We set out the direction of travel in our Strategic Plan towards the end of last year. We strongly believe that there is going to continue to be a need for a network of safeguarding partnerships – to support learning and best practice, and to advocate for children and young people in the midst of the competing pressures on statutory and other partners. If you are able to encourage neighbours (or your own partnership) who have not yet joined, please do so. I will be writing shortly to all to renew our request for support and involvement with the Association as we move forward. The AILC Board this month did agree that we need to refocus some of our staff and director time within our current resources and we have started discussions with staff to streamline the operation of our team. I hope we will have concluded these changes by next month’s Newsletter and can confirm any new arrangements.
Newsletter introductions have now been posted to AILC’s website under News/Chairs Perspective.
Each month we send this members’ Newsletter directly to members (Chairs, Business Managers for LSCBs etc.) and simultaneously upload the previous months’ newsletter for public view.