The Children and Social Work Act 2017 introduced significant changes to local and national safeguarding arrangements, comprising:
the replacement of Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) with local safeguarding partners and 'relevant agencies', which include independent schools
the establishment of a new national Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel
the transfer of responsibility for child death reviews from Local Safeguarding Children Boards to new Child Death Review Partners
The 2017 Act follows the publication of the Wood Report last year on the role and functions of LSCBs which, in one form or another, have been a feature of local child protection mechanisms since 1974. The Wood Report suggested a need for greater strategic focus and ownership of local safeguarding issues, noting the wide membership of LSCBs and commenting that “an issue which belongs to everybody round the safeguarding board table, effectively belongs to nobody”.
In place of LSCBs, therefore, the 2017 Act legislates for three local safeguarding partners (local authorities, chief officers of police and clinical commissioning groups) who are each under a duty to make arrangements for themselves and 'relevant agencies' whose involvement they consider may be required to work together to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in their area.
Independent schools are listed in the draft Local Safeguarding Partner (Relevant Agencies) (England) Regulations as one of the relevant agencies and will be under a duty to cooperate with the arrangements for their area.
Safeguarding partners have flexibility to determine which relevant agencies they should work with and how safeguarding arrangements will work in their area. They are expected to consult with relevant agencies in developing these safeguarding arrangements and it is proposed that the arrangements will contain explicit reference to how the safeguarding partners plan to involve, and give a voice to, all local schools in their work. And as the current draft version of Working Together to Safeguard Children indicates, “relevant agencies must co-operate with the safeguarding arrangements as far as they can do so consistently within the exercise of their other statutory functions. The legislation does not allow relevant agencies to disagree with their inclusion, or decline to participate”.
In relation to funding, local safeguarding partners must agree the level of funding that is required from each partner and each relevant agency to support the local safeguarding arrangements. This is pursuant to the new section 16I of the Children Act 2004, which explicitly envisages that relevant agencies "may make payments towards expenditure incurred" in connection with the work of the local safeguarding partners. It is expected that funding across safeguarding partners and relevant agencies will be "equitable and proportionate … to support the local arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children" in the area.
Schools will need to engage and comply with the new multi-agency safeguarding arrangements in their local area when the changes come into force and are encouraged to read the consultation. Schools may wish to respond to the consultation if they have concerns about any aspects of the proposed new arrangements, in particular the extent and oversight of funding of local safeguarding partners. There is also a specific consultation question regarding local arrangements for 'criteria for action' (ie: referral thresholds) with which schools may wish to engage.
The consultation was launched on 25 October 2017 and will close on 31 December 2017. It is anticipated that the proposed changes will come into force in April 2018.
Newsflash - At the time of going to print we have learned that the DfE will be publishing new advice about peer on peer abuse this term and will also be launching a consultation on updates to Keeping Children Safe in Education. We will report further on this in the next edition.