Chair's Perspective

Posted July 12, 2018 by Alison Thorpe

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 chair@lscbchairs.org.uk.

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.


Posted May 21, 2018 by Alison Thorpe

Chair's Update -  by David Ashcroft


We are well down the journey towards new local (and national) safeguarding arrangements – and as an Association, and as your chair – I have made our commitment to improvement, to better outcomes for children, and our appetite and ability to innovate and adapt very clear. However, given the track record of many LSCBs over the past few years it was frustrating to see that the Department was still citing the poor ratings of early Ofsted Reviews from before the Wood Review as a justification for the reforms in its recent announcements. Thank you for the responses and endorsement that I had back when we circulated the letter to Graham Archer and his colleagues to register our position, a copy of which was sent to all members.

On a much more positive note, the Association is submitting a bid to be the facilitator for the early adopter programme and we hope this will be successful, and underwrite the work required to help you and your partner agencies deliver safe and effective new arrangements over the coming year. We believe that the Association is uniquely placed to provide this central core of activity and to encourage new ways of working. We want to invite chairs and business managers to be part of this work, contributing your knowledge and experience, and further details will follow if we are successful. We will post details of the bid on the website as soon as possible.

Richard Burrows and I met with Yvette Stanley, the new National Director for Social Care at Ofsted, this week. This was a valuable opportunity to identify some areas of common concern with the regulator. We discussed the growing recognition of the safeguarding risks in some elective home education; and acknowledged that it has been our joint lobbying across the sector which has helped raise the profile of this issue. Please encourage a response to the current DfE consultation on this topic from your partnership.

We also identified the importance of multi-agency understanding of thresholds remaining at the core of good safeguarding practice, and not retreating to gate-keeping for social care as a means of managing demand and controlling resources.   Recommendations from new ILACS inspections will continue to highlight partnership issues and expectations. Both AILC and Ofsted hope that the new annual self-evaluation undertaken by Local Authorities will be shared with partners and be a useful tool for identifying joint challenges. Mental health and emotional wellbeing, and early help were also common areas of interest – and it is possible that prevention and early help could be the focus for a future JTAI round.  We believe this could be very helpful for local partnerships in reinforcing the need for strong multi-agency support for children and families where there are causes for concern, but not explicit child protection risks.

We discussed with Ofsted the importance of retaining partnership engagement over SEND services, and the importance of holding health and others to account for their support for vulnerable children with disabilities. We agreed to meet again later in the year and we continue to attend the Ofsted social care forum and meet regularly with the joint inspectorates. Please raise any topics that you would like us to cover at these meetings or to seek information about.

We also met with the Department for Education and provided practical feedback about some of the complexities for managing practice reviews, and securing timely notifications and robust decisions about what can be learnt from reviewing cases.  We have asked for an early meeting with the Chair of the new National Panel, Edward Timpson, to offer our insights into learning from reviews.

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.

Posted April 18, 2018 by Alison Thorpe

Chair's Update -  by David Ashcroft

This time of year is always challenging for the Association as we anticipate your renewals and membership contributions while seeking to maintain the levels of service and influence that you expect. Please can I urge all members to process their renewals as quickly as possible – prompt payment makes a real difference to the cash flow position of the Association and ensures that we can start planning properly for our work later in the year and for the national conference in November. My thanks to all those who have already agreed and paid for the coming year.

The AILC Board has already made reductions in the number of days allocated to Officers and Directors working for the Association, and we are looking very hard at the budget for the coming year to ensure that we can deliver good value and concentrate on the work that is most essential. But this means that we have limited capacity in some of the other work we want to do to highlight safeguarding issues, and to provide support for chairs and partnerships. We have prepared a bid to the Department for Education to enable us to fully contribute to the process of implementing the new arrangements, recognising that as a network we are key players and leaders in this process, but that we will need additional resources if we are to provide the support that you need to make the best of new changes. Please advocate whenever you have the opportunity with your colleagues across other agencies at local, regional and national levels for their support for the work of the Association.

You will see that the deadline for publishing Working Together is now expected to be “the summer” – possibly late June. The current duties and work of LSCBs is required to be fully continued and sustained – despite this extended anticipation of the new arrangements – and this means that Boards and Chairs must continue to commission Serious Case Reviews, monitor the performance of local partner agencies, sustain training and undertake Section 11 audits – all recorded and published in Annual Reports. The Association has built up considerable expertise and exemplars of how to do this well – please continue to use the information available through our website and keep us informed of new developments and innovations that you may be taking forward locally.

At the AILC Board meeting last week we received a very detailed and useful presentation from Will Kerr (Director, Vulnerabilities) from the National Crime Agency, based on the Falder case and highlighting many important aspects of grooming and abuse through the internet. We hope this is the start of a more regular engagement with the NCA and we will ensure that we report fully in next month’s newsletter on how LSCBs can be better placed to learn from such investigations and what areas of co-operation we can develop.

I will be on leave for the rest of this month – a chance to recharge batteries on Orkney, where you can experience four seasons in a day – whatever time of year. On reflection maybe that is not too different from work in safeguarding after all!!

Newsletter introductions have now been posted to AILC’s website under News/Chairs Perspective.

Posted March 26, 2018 by Alison Thorpe

Chair's Update -  by David Ashcroft


Another busy month – with the DfE response to the Working Together consultation coming out at the end of February and indicating some important shifts in emphasis and the significant and essential addition of the need to have a threshold document published in each local area.  You will note that much of what we anticipated in last month’s newsletter has been addressed – although we still have to see the final wording in June. The details are set out in the section below.

I really feel that this shows how the collective voice we have been able to present on safeguarding is now fully recognised as well-informed, powerfully argued and responsible in the interests of children and young people. That is only possible because we can represent the majority of LSCBs and Chairs – so thank you for the continuing support. It is clear that in most areas it will take time to put the full set of new arrangements in place – we fully anticipate that LSCBs will be operating well into 2019.

Mental Health support for young people, CSE, historic abuse cases in the churches and sport, have all been high profile subjects in the media over the past month. I am sure that these will have featured on recent Board agendas across the country in various ways. The other dominant factor has been the funding pressures not just on children’s social care, but across all services working with and for children. We are starting to see increasing evidence of the impact of poverty and austerity on the capacity of families to cope with pressures of all types. It does appear that this argument – made by ourselves, LGA, ADCS and many others - is starting to be recognised as well founded.

There is also a growing examination of the safeguarding risks for children who fall outside setting regulated and institutional education settings.  Several chairs have argued loudly and clearly for a long time on the need to address the risks of some elective home education for some children (it was a powerfully articulated point when the Minister last attended our national conference). The recent ADCS survey has helped raise the issues, and in my own Board we recently received a very comprehensive report on the numbers, reasons and prevalence of EHE which helped the Board form a full appreciation of the issues.

The last of our reports on the Ofsted reviews of LSCBs is now published and continues to set out the key components of effective Boards and strong partnerships. Please use this evidence in your local discussions about future arrangements.

At the next AILC meeting in April we will be hearing from the National Crime Agency about the lessons from the Falder abuse case – we also hope that this will be an opportunity to discuss with senior NCA colleagues about how LSCBs can work more effectively with them in the future and be better briefed on complex and challenging investigations and abuse cases. If there are any specific issues you want raised please let me know.

These newsletter introductions have now been posted to AILC’s website under News/Chairs Perspective.


Posted February 23, 2018 by Alison Thorpe

Chair's Update -  by David Ashcroft

A new secretary of state and a new Children's Minister – so we hope for a renewed commitment across government to make safeguarding and children’s welfare a priority. The funding gap and the demand pressures on children’s services are now clearly the top challenges for most agencies, as recent comments from LGIU attest. Let’s hope Government delivers.

We will see to what extent there are substantive revisions to the WT guidance – which is now expected to be available from the end of May. Very, very early indications suggest that there may be some greater clarity about strengthening the narrative, if not the formal powers, around the involvement of schools; some definition of the seniority of partner representatives required in the new arrangements; a requirement to publish a threshold framework; and some greater definition of what will be subject to independent scrutiny. But on all these topics, I stress that there is still much work going on in DfE and with other departments to respond to the 700+ responses to the consultation – so there still remains a lot of uncertainty. Local partners are still likely to have to hammer out local solutions to many of these issues.

The details of arrangements for practice reviews are pending the appointment of the chair of the new national panel, who is expected to lead much of this work. An announcement was expected before Christmas, but it still awaited.

I have been talking regularly with other stakeholders and sector leaders, and we continue to share very similar concerns about the gaps in the guidance, and the risks of inconsistent and fragmented implementation. There is a strong national commitment to working together – please encourage local leaders to tap into this and draw support and good ideas from each other. We do not want to see a retreat into agency silos and in particular we need to encourage health colleagues to recognise the new obligations they will have to undertake a full role in leading new partnerships. This cannot just be left to designated health professionals – who already have a heavy burden of responsibility – but must be a core expectation of CCGs accountable officers and health boards. Dr Peter Green, as chair of the NNDHP, has written to CCGs to remind them of expectations on NHS bodies to include issues for children in STPs, in the realignment of local health bodies, and for the new MASAs. Peter has kindly agreed that we may share his letter as LSCB Chairs may wish to pursue their own dialogue with CCG partners on these issues. The letter is available here. Please let us know of any responses.

Last week I gave evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children as part of their inquiry into thresholds and the changing reach and impact of work with children. This is a development of their "No Good Options" report from last year

We also heard at that session from Professor Paul Bywaters and other colleagues about their research on the impact of austerity and poverty, and the correlation between deprivation and levels of intervention in children’s lives. This clearly argues that deprivation, poverty and neglect are fundamental determinants of outcomes for children – and correlate to Ofsted ratings and the levels of service funding.

In our evidence, I was able to stress how important it is that thresholds are not just seen as a mechanism to manage entry into social care but as a tool for the whole children’s system. They must be understood and operated as part of a multi-agency system and need active support and application by all partners. If we are to break from the spiral of diminishing resources facing growing referral demand, then we need to rethink the wider context of prevention, early help and enabling families to support themselves. The role that LSCBs have played to ensure that all partners contribute to safe arrangements for children is a critical function that will be required in new arrangements. The focus on children’s services, police and health as the core of new arrangements may result in a minimalist approach to managing acute demand pressures – making fewer S47 referrals, reducing NFA referrals or managing the volume of calls through the MASH – rather than tackling root causes. Housing, benefits, access to education, employment and training, community safety and cohesion are as significant as the risks of abuse and neglect that child protection tends to emphasise, and for which we have categories of intervention through LAC and CP plans. In Norfolk we have started to talk about seeing thresholds as vantage points from which to have a dialogue with children and families – not as gatekeeping hurdles to manage social care interventions. Our recent animation sets out our approach here


I know that several boards and localities have pioneered really innovative ideas here. We would be delighted to hear about other examples of innovation on thresholds, and in recognising and responding to the wider determinants of children’s wellbeing. We are also happy to pass further evidence to the APPGC as it prepares its further report this year.

Thank you for the feedback we receive on AILC’s work – mostly positive and encouraging! We will need to secure the membership of as many partnerships and chairs as possible if we are to be able to continue this at the same level. Please confirm as soon as possible your contribution for 2018-2019. 



December 2017

It was a privilege to meet so many Chairs, Board Managers and other colleagues at the AILC national Conference last month – and I am delighted that more than a few of you said that it felt the best conference we have held. The venue was congenial, the programme varied, and the contributions and interest from all delegates were stimulating and challenging. There was a great deal of common purpose and determination to be ambitious for children – and to make sure that new safeguarding arrangements really do make a difference.

I tried through my opening keynote address to set out some of the challenges and opportunities we face – please make use of these arguments and ideas, and the other material available on our website here. 

In particular, I sought to articulate the context of austerity, the rising demand pressures, the significant funding shortfalls and new and evolving risks that face families, children and young people. As an Association, we have put together a number of documents and plans over recent months that not only help frame our national work – but are also, I trust, useful and relevant to local discussions about safeguarding priorities. If you were not able to attend Conference I hope you will find these of interest and helpful:

  • AILC Strategic Plan for 2017-2018 setting priorities for the coming year based on shared assumptions and a description of the context in which we operate
  • Our regular reports on Ofsted Reviews now showing 52% of Boards are good or outstanding
  • Our regular Newsletters and Annual Report providing information and suggestions for local action, and reporting on the activity undertaken so far 
  • Our initial “Big Issues” paper on the Working Together Consultation which will be developed into a comprehensive response to the Government’s proposals 
  • Our regular surveys of LSCBs, Chairs and Business Managers about how you are confronting the prospect and opportunities of new arrangements 
  • Our initial working paper on possible new configurations and membership and purpose for AILC itself 
  • Our developing exchange of information and ideas about new local partnership arrangements and the so-called “early adopters” 

The December issue of Children and Young People Now carries an article on the new plans for local safeguarding arrangements, and I was interviewed for this to highlight some of our concerns and hopes for the new arrangements. I repeated my concern that there is a risk that the new arrangements are based on what agencies can afford rather than what is best for children – as a time of increasing demand and need. There is still a lot of work to do to hammer out agreements on footprint, functions and funding.

What is encouraging and stimulating is the various ways in which several LSCBs and chairs are taking the lead in fashioning new local arrangements, looking at different ways of structuring and focusing local leadership and enhancing frontline practice.

Alan Wood is quoted that LSCBs and Serious Case Reviews were not, in his view, sufficiently effective. With the continuing evidence that many Boards are inclusive partnerships, working well and developing innovation, I think this can no longer be sustained as the basis for change and future improvement. We need to root that loudly and clearly in what makes the difference for children and young people – not in the structure of inter-agency working.

October 2017

I am looking forward to the Association’s National Conference with anticipation now – we have had a very good response in terms of bookings and the programme is comprehensive and stimulating. Thanks to the Chairs and Business Managers who have contributed to the planning working group, led by Sally Lewis. There will be plenty of time for networking and informal discussion over the two days.

I appreciate the encouragement that many of you have given to get lay members and other Board reps as well as Chairs and Business Managers to come. We do not want to dilute the unique opportunity for chairs and managers to meet together, given our specific and demanding roles, but at this time particularly we also need to show that we can be a catalyst for wider discussion and partnership around safeguarding. I hope we have got the balance right for Crewe.

As I say, the programme is pretty full – and I appreciate the time commitment that it requires, but I would urge everyone to make travel arrangements, if at all possible, to allow you to stay for the full event – we have important sessions on the Wednesday afternoon, including looking at future leadership for safeguarding change, representatives from the Safeguarding Reform Board and hearing from the inspectorates – and we want the conference to end on a determined and positive note reflecting the engaged and uniquely qualified constituency that we draw upon. There will be transport arranged to the rail station if required.

I sent out the AILC Strategic Plan three weeks ago, which seeks to provide a context and guide to our collective efforts over the coming months. I hope it meets with your approval and support and can be useful not just in how the Association develops and changes, but as a prompt for some of the partnership questions that you will be addressing at a local and regional level.

We have continued to contribute to the discussions and consultation on the implementation of the CSW Act and the revised guidance (Working Together) and regulations that are expected for next year (for details and timetable see below). I have significant concerns that the complexity of unpicking LSCB arrangements in favour of new Multi-Agency Safeguarding Arrangements (MASAs) is still not fully appreciated by the Department. Given the innovation, restructuring and streamlining that is already taking place to ensure that partnerships are truly fit for purpose, effective and proportionate, I am not convinced that the provisions of the Act will ensure a comprehensive focus on outcomes for children, but will be, in too many places, a series of trade-offs between agencies. I think there is a touching naivety in thinking that police and health colleagues will easily step up to shoulder the funding and functions that have largely been led in the past by Boards and by local authorities, and often more narrowly by children’s social care. Where successful new arrangements are being tried they still require strong relationships and joined-up leadership, clear purpose and time.

On a more positive note there does seem to be a great deal of new thinking about how to square the circle of delivering robust children’s services within a massively underfunded system, and thinking afresh about the roles of community, families, voluntary partners as well as statutory agencies. The NSPCC is developing a New Vision for Safeguarding, to which we have been invited to contribute and which may be included in our conference discussions; Barnardo’s recently proclaimed their development of new partnerships with social care departments; NCB is supporting the work of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children in its inquiry into the operation of thresholds; ADCS is developing thinking about A Country that Works for All Children. We have put our Key  Propositions about the future of safeguarding arrangements into the mix.

The Association will be running a workshop of safeguarding at the National Children and Adults Services conference in Bournemouth. For those who receive this in time and are attending, please come along for the debate on Friday morning (Workshop 27).

This Autumn there are elections for regional Directors for the Association in the following regions:

  • Yorkshire & Humber
  • Greater London
  • East Midlands
  • South East
  • South West
Member Chairs should have already received a request for nominations. My thanks to Rob Mayall, for his work as Board member, who is no longer an LSCB Chair and has stepped down in Yorkshire & Humber.

Please consider contributing to the Association – we need willing volunteers and a range of views and viewpoints to make sure that the AILC stays relevant. I appreciate that the regional structure dates back before new configurations and alliances and does not always seem relevant or accessible, but we have decided that piecemeal change would not be helpful when we may need to consider the whole future and existence of the Association in its current form over the coming year. The best way to influence change is to become part of the process!

The AILC Board meeting last month reviewed a number of wider safeguarding issues which were raised by members. These included LSCB and chairs’ responses post-Grenfell to risks in emergency planning, housing provision and temporary accommodation; home education; HMIC consultations on inspection priorities; and the availability of welfare and secure placements for children and young people with mental health needs. AILC is making formal representations on your behalf on these and other points. You will see further information on some of these below. Thank you for the growing number of queries and issues that are being raised for us to work on.

September 2017

There is a constant tension in our safeguarding work between nurturing and developing the relationships and structures needed for effective partnerships – and actually concentrating on the risk and issues that face children and young people. The AILC Board meeting this month is looking at a number of current issues to try to harness our collective attention and knowledge. The topics include:

 

  • Strengthening our national strategic response to CSE and Online Grooming
  • Home Education
  • The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children’s inquiry into thresholds which starts soon
  • The recent statements from Sir James Munby and inspectors on the availability and safety of welfare and secure beds

It is vital that we keep these challenges in focus as we confront change and reorganisation over the coming year. Please let us know of local or national issues that are causing concern with your Boards (by emailing policy@lscbchairs.org.uk) and ensure that your Boards are testing how well your local arrangements are doing to identify and address factors that help keep children safe.

There is a great deal of good practice now established around Section 11 audits, challenge events, self-assessment processes etc., but the equally important Section 175 audits for schools, are often less prominent and, do not always inform Boards about safeguarding issues across the education sector. With schools’ relationship to the new arrangements uncertain, it is vital to make sure that we have a solid baseline of how well schools, of all types, comply with their safeguarding responsibilities. Not all LSCBs make use of the S175 results, make sure that your education colleagues see this as a key part of Working Together (see here for‘ Keeping Children Safe in Education’ HM Govt 2016) 

The recent coverage of the implementation difficulties in meeting the 30 hour nursery place offer highlights how key nursery and child minding settings are for supporting families, and for being aware of safeguarding and protection issues. In my own Board, a recent SCR highlighted gaps in how early year settings are supported and informed about safeguarding best practice and how they access advice when they have concerns, so we have now set up an Advisory Group to the Board which is tackling these issues. Across a large rural county, we have many very local and dispersed services who can become isolated from our larger system. It has struck me how we have to keep asking fresh questions about safeguarding practice all the time – it doesn’t just happen, but has to be worked on, built and sustained.

A few random observations from me this month – must be that start of term feeling! We will have further bulletins in October and November before the Conference – please let me know any issues that are of concern to you or you’re Boards. As always, please send me any comments or views on the Newsletter – it is meant to be a helpful compendium of thoughts and information, but we need feedback in order to improve!

July 2017

Successful LSCBs!
It is marvellous that we have another group of effective Boards recognised with recent Ofsted reports as we identify below. Congratulations to all concerned. What is clear is that there is now a good benchmark of what is required to deliver effective local arrangements that improve the outcomes for children – and we need to ensure that these characteristics, and the partner commitment and capacity to deliver them – is carried forward into the new arrangements that will replace LSCBs by September 2019.

Yes - the timetable is now running into 2019! The redrafted Working Together is not expected until the end of this year, and a recognition that it will take some time to work through the details of preparing and publishing a local safeguarding plan, and agreeing budgets, personnel, and securing proper partner sign-up, means that it is expected that it will take most of 2018-19 to finalise local details. The Department for Education has issued a statement (see below) on this and further bulletins will be circulated over coming months.
Hidden Issues Now Surfacing!

As local discussion starts about future arrangements it is clear that we are unpicking a number of issues that may not have been identified earlier, and certainly aren’t covered in the Act itself. The FOI position in relation to LSCBs has been clear and confirmed by the courts (as not subject to FOI):

  • What will be the rules applicable to new partnerships?
  • How will this affect future case reviews?
  • Who will provide professional, legal and other specialist advice to the partnership and will it be independent of the agencies?
These and other issues are starting to come into focus – please raise any that emerge from your local discussions with AILC. Thank you to those who have already contacted me about these and other questions.

How Safe are Children?
Following on from the debate about future arrangements, we have recently had a series of publications and events that have brought the spotlight back onto the real opportunities and risks for children in our society. As I said in last month’s newsletter, we must ensure that there remains at national and local level a paramount emphasis on the practical safeguarding of children, even while we debate new structures and partnerships.

In June the NSPCC published their annual overview of child protection in the UK – How safe are our children? The Early Intervention Foundation and LGA published their research on Improving the Effectiveness of the Child Protection System – together with a further set of research papers produced, amongst others, by RIP and NSPCC.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) produced an assessment of the impacts of child sexual abuse this month. At the ADCS conference in Manchester we also heard informative presentations from the Child Poverty Action Group and others which set out the impact of poverty for families in work on the outcomes and opportunities for children.

The Children’s Commissioner produced her first report into the extent of vulnerability for children in England and also spoke out about asking questions locally, in the light of recent events, about how well our emergency plans recognise the impact on children. We need to consider the same questions. Has the work of housing partners and responsible councils to make high rise buildings safe already been a subject for your Board’s discussion? Has the LSCB questioned how well emergency plans deal with the risks for children and particularly recognised the need for longer term support and engagement beyond the crisis response?

All these reports and information are items that you may consider discussing in your Boards – and they provide a basis for asking questions about how well local areas are serving children and young people.

Home Education
I am pleased to report that the issue of Home Education, and the connected challenge of those out of school or attending unregulated (or illegal) provision, which several Boards have been raising as a significant issue of safeguarding risk, is now being picked up by parliament and by inspection. The new Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, made the following comments at the ADCS Conference:

“Whether in alternative provision, being tutored at home, or being taught in some of the small non-association independent faith schools that we are increasingly concerned about, the education and welfare of these children is our collective responsibility. And the related problem of children being put at risk in illegal unregistered schools is also something I intend to tackle with the same zeal and passion as my predecessor. These are evolving challenges that require creative and joined-up solutions.”

There is currently a bill before the House of Lords introduced by Lord Soley to create a duty for local authorities to monitor home education. We will see whether this progresses. AILC has been lobbying that this issue needed to be addressed, so I am pleased to see at least some indications of movement. It is also clear that some police areas are starting to address this issue in respect of risks to children. I hope we will have more information over coming months.

AILC Strategic Plan

Last month I set out the priorities that AILC is working on for the rest of this year:

  • To influence the implementation of the CSW Act and related guidance
  • To deliver a successful and inclusive national conference in November
  • To sustain support for members
  • To collate, influence and disseminate new models for local partnerships
  • To develop the Association for the future
  • To ensure there is a paramount emphasis on the continuing robust safeguarding of children and young people
As part of this work we have been trying to capture some of the assumptions that we should make in a time of change and transition. I would welcome comments, additions and views on these. We are assuming:

  • That there is merit in a national network for those involved in leading local safeguarding arrangements – this can be a wider pool than current LSCB chairs
  • Peer support and sector-led improvement will continue to be key drivers
  • Existing networks are not always focused on multi-agency and multi-professional perspectives
  • That support for those exercising an independent or challenge role is necessary and valuable
  • That there is value in collating and exchanging information and expertise
  • That this expertise can, and should, contribute to both policy and implementation, and can influence others in the interest of children and effective safeguarding
  • That there are sufficient common interests across other safeguarding and public protection agendas to support wider networks of individuals and interests
  • That AILC has been a success and seeks to have a positive legacy
Please contribute your thoughts, reactions and views on these assumptions as this will help shape the work we undertake into 2018 and beyond.

June 2017

The past weeks have presented many challenges for public services, in the face of terrorism, fire, neglect and an apparent failure of investment and concern for the poor and marginalised. We have a Queen’s Speech that makes little reference to the challenges for children’s services, despite acute demand and pressures. This is not the place for a political statement, but I hope that LSCBs are remaining steadfast in asking hard questions about how well children are kept safe in our communities, especially when there is fear, disruption and concern. We conduct reviews, and consider how to learn from tragic events, as part of our core work – and often receive criticism for doing so – but recent events make it clear that we must all bear witness to injustice and failures to learn across our public services and political system. One of our colleagues, chair of an outstanding board, told me that the most important message was “never let it go”, which I believe is a worthy motto for these times.

My sincere thanks to so many chairs, and particularly partnerships, who have promptly renewed their membership already this year. This really is a massive help that we can plan knowing the level of income and engagement we have already secured. A few changes – some in and some out - but I am also encouraged that as a community across children’s safeguarding we recognize the value of standing together to argue for the interests of children and young people during a time of change, reducing resources and great uncertainty.

With the election over, we can obviously now push ahead with thinking through the implications of the CSW Act, and seeking to influence the detailed guidance on local safeguarding plans that will be needed. Working Together is now expected around November for a formal period of consultation, followed by the preparation of new plans for each local partnership. Some of the key questions are now becoming clearer:

  • What will be the footprint and area coverage for joint arrangements?
  • Is there a vision for partnership working that is owned by senior leaders and can motivate and inspire improvement and practice?
  • Are there adequate resources committed by the partners – allowing for the costs of creating and running a local multi-agency strategic body, and the necessary delivery of scrutiny, training,
  • innovation, quality assurance etc? How will this build on the existing capacity of LSCBs and partner boards?
  • What is the model for assessing quality and practice – how will the safeguarding partnership intervene when performance falters?
  • What are the strategies for information sharing; workforce development; identifying and managing risk; and communications?
  • What will be the ‘issues of importance’ that underpin local inquiry and reviews into cases and incidents?
  • How will cross boundary issues be dealt with?
These topics will come into increasing focus over the next few months and I hope that the Association can keep you informed as they develop. Please do let us know how plans are developing in your area.

The Department for Education has two new Ministers of State; Anne Milton and Robert Goodwill, and we say to goodbye to Edward Timpson, who lost his seat at the election, and had been a stable part of the ministerial team for nearly five years. Edward undoubtedly knew his brief well and was passionate about many aspects of improving children’s lives. It is unusual to have consistency in political leadership for such a relatively long time and we extend our thanks for his work.

I have recently met, or am just about to meet, with a range of partners and stakeholders to seek out where we have common concerns and/or see common opportunities. These partners include Department for Education, Home Office, National Police Chiefs Council, ADCS, Children’s Commissioner, Department for Health, LGA, National Network of Designated Health Professionals, Adults Chairs Network and others. As an Association, we seek to keep open channels of communication, persuasion and lobbying to partners.

Many of you also have links and involvement with these and others. Please use our briefings, reports, presentations and other publications where you can, and please feedback issues you believe need further attention. We need to be an active network, arguing on behalf of effective children’s safeguarding and seeking alliances and partnership where we can, but also making clear the risks of a ‘lowest common denominator’ approach to safeguarding.

We have been invited to participate in a workshop on safeguarding arrangements at the July ADCS conference, and we will be announcing the key messages from last month’s members’ survey at that event, demonstrating how critical our network is to the success of future plans.

The AILC Board meeting last week reviewed a draft Strategic Plan, setting out some of the key assumptions we believe underpin future safeguarding and partnership working, and setting out revised priorities for the rest of this year and beyond. This will be a major feature of next month’s newsletter, so that we can consult on these priorities and seek your views. This is not a radical new Plan, but an opportunity to refresh and refocus our thinking, building on the key propositions that we adopted last year.

Our immediate priorities remain to influence the implementation of the new Act and related guidance in Working Together; to deliver a successful national conference in November; to sustain the support for members; to collate, influence and disseminate new models for local partnerships; to develop the Association for the future; and above all to ensure that during this period of transition there remains a very clear and paramount emphasis on the robust safeguarding of children and young people.

This introduction is developing from a brief preface into something like a blog – providing me with an opportunity to air a few points and thoughts. Please respond with your comments, encouragement, criticisms and suggestions – all are welcome.

May 2017

Thank you to all colleagues who responded to our recent members’ survey on the CSW Act. Details of the initial conclusions are included in this Newsletter, but we will be tracking the changing progress for new arrangements over the coming months and rerunning the survey later in the year. Clearly most people are at an early stage of digesting the Act and thinking through how they will approach new partnership arrangements. There are three key messages I want to give. 

Firstly – please hold firm to the principles and propositions that we have set out for effective safeguarding. The structure and form of local arrangements should follow agreement on the core functions of multi-agency partnership. Inclusive arrangements; strong oversight of performance and practice; listening to children and championing their rights and interests; adequate resources and expertise to hold all to account; a focus on learning and improvement; and facilitating leadership for safeguarding in the face of competing priorities, are all critical. These are the key elements that we have said must be at the heart of any new local plan. The latest report on Ofsted reviews of LSCBs (also covered in this Newsletter) reinforces that these elements should be the benchmark of what needs to in place. Many Boards and Chairs are demonstrating these qualities, and the Ofsted reviews have shown a steady improvement in the effectiveness of Boards and Chairs. The footprint over which this is organised, the exact structure of meetings and sub-groups, even the configuration of business units, etc., are means to an end – not the goal, which must remain ensuring that children and young people are safe and have their wellbeing promoted by working well together.

Secondly – don’t panic. Although a few places are starting to examine innovative ways of reorganising safeguarding functions, and will be devising new structures as a result, these changes will take time to work through. Colleagues are already keen to share thinking and test new possibilities across our membership’s unique combination of skills and knowledge, experience and leadership. We will make sure that we circulate and make this developing body of learning and exemplars available. But new proposals will take some time to emerge, and it will take time to negotiate revised leadership of partnerships with police, health and local authorities. There are likely to be substantial issues over footprint, resourcing and representation to be worked through. New guidance in a revised Working Together has still to appear. 

So, neither assume that nothing will change, or that it all has to be done tomorrow. In the face of austerity, competing priorities, and a lowest common denominator approach to safeguarding, we need to take the time over the next few months to encourage local authority, police and health partners to be bold and ambitious in their aspirations for future safeguarding plans, and to use the new flexibilities to do it better, rather than to do less. Replacing LSCBs with something better is a job that needs to be done carefully and building on what we know works – not in a reductionist ‘what can we do away with’ manner. I hope that the revised guidance in Working Together will make the minimum requirements both clear and challenging.

Thirdly, all these changes will mean that the Association itself will need to consider how we evolve for the future, and whether and how we form new relationships with others interested and responsible for safeguarding and for children’s welfare. No decisions have been made, but we are assuming that we will have a key role to play through the period of transition, and that we do not want to lose the collective contribution we can make. The AILC Board will be developing some ideas so that we can have an informed and inclusive debate, and if necessary make decisions and changes from our November conference ready for next year. In the meantime we are determined to continue to offer members practical peer support; to collate evidence and knowledge about working well together; and to use the capacity of our staff and directors to assist member chairs and partnerships, and to influence policy and raise issues of concern.

Thank you to the several members who have made a point of contacting me about local arrangements and issues. I am reliant on your information and feedback to shape our future – and my personal sense of the moment is that we should be cautiously optimistic!

April 2017

The start of another Financial Year – and you will have received from me a letter to Chairs and to Partnerships asking for your continuing commitment to membership for the Association. There is no increase in our subscription level this year, and we all know the acute pressure on budgets, but the sooner you can confirm your membership the better we can plan our work together for the coming year. Our collective voice is essential in this period of transition and change and only with your support can we attempt to argue strongly for effective multi-agency safeguarding arrangements for the future. We are listened to on policy issues, and can raise topics of concern to Boards, because we can say that we have the overwhelming majority of Chairs and Boards in membership – please help us to keep that influence effective.

I am delighted that we have confirmed the national conference dates and venue: 21 and 22 November 2017 at Crewe Hall, Cheshire. Planning is now proceeding on the detailed agenda. If you wish to suggest ideas please contact policy@lscbchairs.org.uk.

We are planning to conduct a short survey of members to gauge current views on safeguarding arrangements and to identify what are the issues of greatest concern and uncertainty for chairs and boards. We would like to understand what stage, if any, local discussions on future arrangements have reached. Details will follow shortly.

In terms of my own activity in the past few weeks, I have attended a seminar by the Independent Inquiry of Child Sexual Abuse, with whom we are seeking more regular links. I have met with Ofsted, CQC, HMIP and HMIC, and with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children, SCIE and the Department for Education. Some of the issues we have raised after your representations include the safeguarding implications of elective home education, the future for inspection arrangements of multi-agency partnerships and the future funding of local partnerships. I also attended the Children’s Improvement Board at LGA which met recently with representatives from Rotherham to discuss how they are tackling the challenges of intervention and looking at new models for the delivery of services.

This is also the season for many boards to be conducting their Section 11 audits and challenge sessions with partners. We have just completed our robust process in Norfolk that also involves our lay member and LSCB monitoring officer. This is an important area which tests how well partners’ own safeguarding arrangements stand up to scrutiny. I know that many chairs and boards have developed innovative and effective ways of carrying this out – it is an essential mechanism for holding agencies to account. I hope we can collate some good examples of how this works well.

For many members, the changes to IR35 will have been a dominant factor over the past month. We continue to hear that some members have argued successfully that IR35 is not applicable to the contracted work that they undertake, but some are finding that local authorities, citing HMRC, maintain that the role qualifies as an office holder. The general advice offered to consultants and contractors in this position of a change to payroll from a service contract is that you should seek an uplift in the day rate (an average of 25-30% appears to be the suggested level) to maintain the equivalent position. But as last month, I would stress that the Association cannot provide formal advice on this issue, and you should seek the appropriate financial and professional support for your own circumstances. We are concerned, however, about what these changes may do to the overall market and to the value and recompense that is regarded as fair and reasonable for those undertaking the complex and demanding work of leading local safeguarding partnerships. This will continue to be an issue with the implementation of the post Wood Review changes.

As we go to press, Children and Young People Now have just published a positive article specifically on LSCBs, in which I say ‘While only a couple of LSCBs have achieved outstanding ratings, they are not the only ones doing excellent work…. However (Ashcroft) fears that focus on safeguarding could become increasingly fragmented without a body responsible for keeping up momentum. Click here to see the article on the “Members only” page.

March 2017

This month’s newsletter aims to keep you up-to-date with several fast-moving issues. These reinforce why it is important that we continue to be a strong network of chairs and partnerships, and can support each other, and work constructively as change happens.

The Children and Social Work Bill now looks very different from when first introduced – with changes to social work regulation; compulsory sexual and relationship education included; the removal of the exemption clauses. But the safeguarding arrangements have still not been effectively scrutinised and leave a great deal to be worked out through subsequent regulation and guidance. A lot rests on the courage and capacity of existing local partnerships to face up to the challenges for the future. We believe that chairs, individually and collectively, must lead this debate and set out the essential requirements if we are not to create a fragmented and weakened system of multi-agency working.

The AILC Board – representing our networks across the regions – met at the end of February and is determined to make sure that we sustain the Association to support all members as effectively as possible through to at least 2019; that we engage actively with and seek to influence the changes to local safeguarding arrangements; and that we continue to be a loud, proud voice for keeping children safe. We will need to change and adapt as new arrangements become clearer but never has it been more important that there is an influential voice for safeguarding expertise, and that individual chairs and partnerships are supported in practical and well-informed ways.

We will be writing soon to all Chairs and Partnerships asking you to renew your membership for the coming year and setting out again why this is important and what boards and chairs get for their support. Without your continuing commitment and contributions, we cannot fulfil the role you want. The paid-up membership of chairs and partnerships gives us the influence and authority to speak truth to power on safeguarding issues. I want the Association to be able to concentrate on active and positive work, not spend its time chasing funding. We therefore need your early commitment to continue to support each other through the Association. It will be easier now to process subscriptions through our website (for example by payment by credit/debit/payment cards). Thank you to those chairs and partnership who have already made commitments for the coming year.

We are working to improve the benefits of membership through sharing experience and evidence of what works, strengthening the support for regional and local networks, as well as maintaining our influence with others.

Our National Conference will be held this year at Crewe Hall, Cheshire on 21 and 22 November. Full details will be circulated shortly. We have listened to the feedback about last year’s conference and hope that this year’s event will be even more useful and valuable. The venue is close to rail and road connections, and is accessible from all parts of the country. A London venue is prohibitively expensive. Sally Lewis is the AILC Director leading our working group to plan the conference. Volunteers to join this group from chairs or business managers are always welcome. Please let us know by emailing info@lscbchairs.org.uk.

AILC is working with other key partners to develop some practical guidance on how partnerships can create new local arrangements within the framework of the CSW Bill. Please continue to keep us informed of local discussions. In the East of England region Chairs will working with Directors to develop some models and core questions to frame these discussions. As these ideas progress we will provide information via the website on developing models, key questions, and the minimum requirements for safe and effective local arrangements. We are working to ensure that these minimum requirements are strongly set out in the relevant regulations and guidance.

Please remember that current legislation and obligations for LSCBs remain in force, and that the Bill will not remove the obligations on agencies for safeguarding in Section 11 of the Children Act and elsewhere. We are arguing strongly to the Department and partners that we cannot have a ‘cliff edge’ which leaves safeguarding arrangements uncertain or fragmented, even where there are positive reasons to update and improve these. This is why testing future proposals against our key propositions and lobbying to get clear regulations and guidance and a comprehensively revised Working Together is so important.

February 2017

I am pleased to introduce AILC’s regular monthly Newsletter, I do hope you find this useful – your views are always welcome.
We compile this information through our staff and Board members gathering pertinent matters during each month; when you send us any suggested contributions from your LSCB or regarding national news we are delighted and include these so that it’s truly your Newsletter. May I urge all Chairs and Business Managers send their local news to either their regional directors, or to policy@lscbchairs.org.uk.

January 2017

A very Happy New Year to all Chairs, Board Managers and Partners.

This will be an exciting year for safeguarding – with changes in legislation, inspection, and funding all likely to affect most Boards. The Association is determined to represent multi-agency safeguarding effectively where and whenever we can. Whatever changes may come, we also need to ensure that existing safeguards for children and young people are working well – and that we continue to hold all partners to account for their work. The Association continues to be viable, active and passionate about our work – and we want to make sure that all Boards are supported in their critical work. Please help us develop our regional and local networks by working together, giving feedback, using our website and helping us to prioritise the most critical issues.

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