In December 2015, the Department for Education (DfE) asked Alan Wood (CBE) to lead a review of the role and functions of Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) in England within the context of local strategic multi-agency working. As part of the review he also looked at Serious Case Reviews (SCRs) and Child Death Overview Panels (CDOP) and consideration of how he intended centralisation of Serious Case Reviews could work effectively at local level. The DfE has now published the Wood report along with the government response to the review with explanations of how the proposed new arrangements will be implemented.
To read the full report go to: Wood Report: review of the role and functions of Local Safeguarding Children Boards.
To read the Governments response please go to: Review of the role and functions of Local Safeguarding Children Boards: the government’s response to Alan Wood CBE.
The review took place between January 1st 2016 until 31st March 2016.
The Executive Summary in the comprehensive report of 147 pages, states that ‘this report sets out a new framework for improving the organisation and delivery of multi-agency arrangements to protect and safeguard children.’
It outlines a series of recommendations that suggest that appropriate steps should be taken to revise the statutory framework that underpins the model of LSCBs, SCRs and Child Death Overview Panels (CDOPs).
In order to gain information from a wide range of sources and evidence, Alan Wood took part in over 70 meetings, conversations and events and received over 600 sets of comments and other submissions in response to his questionnaire. He also considered a range of research findings, evidence from the DfE Innovation Programme and findings from the Cabinet Office Implementation Unit.
Alan Wood’s case for fundamental change is based on a ‘widely held view that LSCBs, for a variety of reasons, are not sufficiently effective’.
Summary of recommendations
Multi-agency arrangements for protecting children
- To replace the existing statutory arrangements for LSCBs and introduce a new statutory framework for multi-agency arrangements for child protection.
- To require all areas to move towards new multi-agency arrangements for protecting children within a prescribed period. Local areas/regions would need to establish a plan which would describe how services would:
- meet the new statutory framework;
- be coordinated;
- be led by senior officials;
- be evaluated for their effectiveness;
- involve a role for independent scrutiny;
- engage with children and young people; and
- be held to account.
The existing legislative framework underpinning LSCBs should cease to operate as new arrangements come into being.
- To require the three key agencies, namely health, police and local authorities, in an area they determine, to design multi-agency arrangements for protecting children, underpinned by a requirement to work together on the key strategic issues set out in this report and referenced in recommendation 2.
- For new statutory arrangements to require health, local authorities and the police to make clear their leadership responsibility for multi-agency arrangements, to include the identification of a chief officer in each of the agencies to have responsibility and authority for ensuring full collaboration with those statutory arrangements.
- For government to provide guidance on:
- Drawing up a local proposal to provide strategic multi-agency arrangements to protect children.
- The meaning of the terms Child Protection, Safeguarding and Wellbeing, clarifying the part of this spectrum to be covered in multi-agency statutory arrangements.
- For government departments (Department of Health, Department for Education, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Home Office) to provide a clear, joint statement explaining their commitment to multi-agency arrangements and explaining how all local partners will be supported and required to play a full and committed role.
- The Department for Education should review what approaches to early cross agency intervention and intelligence gathering to identify children and young people at risk are most effective, including considering whether the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs model offers an effective approach.
- NHS (England) should consider how their Accountability and Assurance Framework for Safeguarding Vulnerable People could be amended to place greater emphasis on how local health agencies fully participate in multi-agency practice.
- Keeping Children Safe in Education should be reviewed to ensure it covers child protection and safeguarding issues in respect of unregistered school settings, independent schools and home education. There should also be clearer guidance on the role played by the police and the NHS in that process. Keeping Children Safe in Education should make clear what role, if any, academy chains will carry out in respect of child protection and safeguarding children.
- The role of schools in providing early help to children and young people should be included in the Department for Education’s review of the role of a local authority in education. This should include the role of the police and health services.
- To consider whether the statutory guidance in relation to Directors of Children’s Services and Lead Members is necessary in light of the new White Paper and recommendations made by this review.
- To consider issuing new guidance on the responsibilities of a chief officer nominated by each of health, the police and local government to agree the multi-agency arrangements and processes in an area.
- The Care Quality Commission, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation should review their inspection frameworks to ensure they focus on child protection practice without being burdensome on service providers. Their inspections should be proportionate and always assess the contribution the agency they inspect makes to successful multi-agency working.
- There are too many separate inspections of local authority children’s services: this is over burdensome, costly and needs urgent attention. In replacing the Single Inspection Framework (SIF), Ofsted should be encouraged to develop a model that is not burdensome, is unannounced, short in duration (five days), and focuses on the child protection practice. It should identify strengths and areas for development in the local authority.
- The Joint Targeted Area Inspection (JTAI) should not replicate the inspection of the child protection front door. That should be a discrete inspection. The JTAI should concentrate on key themes in the life and experience of children and young people e.g. domestic violence, child sexual abuse, children with a disability, missing children, youth violence, gangs and neglect. In carrying out these thematic inspections the focus would be on the multi-agency approach and the outcomes for children achieved by it.
- The review of an LSCB as part of the SIF should be discontinued at the earliest possible time.
- For the Home Office and Departments of Communities and Local Government, Health, and Education to issue joint advice and guidance on the critical importance of effective and speedy sharing of information and data in relation to protecting and safeguarding children. This should focus on the expectation that unless there is specific legal impediment information must be shared.
- To incentivise all applicants for devolution deals to include in their proposals arrangements for establishing multi-agency arrangements for protecting children.
- Government departments should review the range of Boards and guidance (e.g. Health and Wellbeing Boards, Local Family Justice Boards, Community Safety Partnerships) with a view to reducing the burden and therefore cost, on the health agencies, the police, local government and other agencies.
Serious Case Reviews
- To emphasise in all national guidance that the main purpose of inquiring into an event is to improve the systems we provide to protect children.
- To discontinue Serious Case Reviews and to establish an independent body at national level to oversee a new national learning framework for inquiries into child deaths and cases where children have experienced serious harm.
- For the Department for Education to set out the key tasks for the new body to determine. These should include:
- the creation of a new national learning framework;
- the process by which the notification of an event takes place;
- the process for establishing a National Serious Case Inquiry (NSCI);
- best practice guidance on delivering a proportionate approach at local level to conduct a Local Learning Inquiries (LLIs);
- providing new guidance to cover best practice in undertaking
- single and multi-agency inquiries, including the importance of a rapid response and transparency in publicising how an area has learned for the event and what has changed in local practice; and
- advising how learning can be reported through existing local accountability structures so as to ensure transparency and promote learning.
- Once established, the new body to carry out consultation on the introduction of this new model.
- For the new body to be required to report to the Secretary of State, identifying the lessons for government from learning derived for LLIs and NSCIs.
- On the creation of the new body, to end the national panel of independent experts on SCRs.
- To require the new body to be responsible for overseeing a new model for learning from serious events affecting children.
- To ensure that this model is driven by proportionate LLIs, whose reports should be published and sent to the national body.
- To ensure the new body has the capacity to commission and or carry out NSCIs.
- To amend as appropriate the legislative framework to introduce this new model of inquiry.
Child Death Overview Panels (CDOPs)
- That the national sponsor for CDOPs should move from the Department for Education to the Department of Health. It should consider how CDOPs can best be supported and sponsored within the arrangements of the NHS.
- If the national study recommends the introduction of a national database for CDOPs, the Department of Health should consider expediting its introduction.
- The Department of Health should determine how CDOPs can be organised on a regional basis with sub-regional structures to promote learning and dissemination. They should also give consideration to the membership of CDOP to ensure appropriate representation from both health and non-medical agencies.
- In considering a common national standard for high quality serious incident investigations for child death the Health Safety Investigation Branch of the NHS should consider the role CDOPs will play in this process.
- The Department of Health should consider the role that Health and Wellbeing Boards and the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment play in dealing with child deaths and the role of a CDOP.
The Government’s Response
The Government published a response to the Wood Review on the same day. Their response sets out what the proposed new arrangements will look like and how they will be implemented.
The arrangements set out in the recent Children and Social Work Bill do not at present cover local reviews or any provisions relating to LSCBs, but the aim is for further provisions to be introduced during the Bill’s passage, taking into account the findings from the Wood Review.
To summarise the key points, the Government plans to:
- Place a new requirement on three key partners (LA, police, health) to make arrangements for working together in a local area, in order to ensure engagement of key partners in a better coordinated, more consistent framework for protecting children;
- Place an expectation on schools and other relevant agencies to cooperate with the new multi-agency area;
- Remove the requirement for local areas to have LSCBs with set memberships. Key partners will take decisions around membership and be afforded greater flexibility in developing arrangements that respond to local need and in which agencies are better invested;
- Bring forward legislation to underpin new arrangements, supported by statutory guidance and working with inspectorates to establish suitable review arrangements;
- Require the three key sectors to establish governance arrangements, including area covered, agencies involved, a published plan for the arrangements, resourcing and independent scrutiny and provide the Secretary of State with the power to intervene where the three key agencies cannot reach agreement or where arrangements are seriously inadequate;
- Replace the current system of Serious Case Reviews with a system of national and local reviews and legislate for an independent National Panel responsible for commissioning and publishing reviews and investigating the most serious/complex cases relating to children in circumstances which the Panel considers will lead to national learning;
- Use the planned What Works Centre for children’s social care to analyse and disseminate lessons from both local and national reviews – £20m has been announced to fund both the What Works Centre and the centralisation of serious case reviews;
- Put in place arrangements to transfer national oversight of Child Death Overview Panels from Dept of Education to the Dept of Health, whilst ensuring the focus remains on distilling and embedding learning within the necessary child protection agencies.