DfE plans 15-month transition period to replace LSCBs

By Neil Puffett

| 25 October 2017

Councils and their safeguarding partners will be given up to 15 months to replace outgoing local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs) under plans that have gone out for consultation.

A consultation on proposed transitional safeguarding arrangements will run until 31 December. Picture: Janaki Mahadevan

On the back of recommendations made in Alan Wood's review of LSCBs last year, the current system of serious case reviews (SCRs) is set to be scrapped and replaced with a new way of investigating child deaths.

The review's key recommendations have been made law through the Children and Social Work Act 2017, which received Royal Assent in April 2017, but have yet to be formally enacted.

Once the legislation is triggered, the requirement for councils to have LSCBs will be replaced with a requirement on three partners - local authorities, the police and the health service - to make arrangements for working together on child protection in a local area.

A consultation launched by the Department for Education today reveals that safeguarding partners will have up to 12 months to agree the arrangements for themselves, and any other relevant agencies they consider appropriate, to work together to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in their area.

Following publication of local arrangements, safeguarding partners will have up to three months to implement the changes. Once the arrangements have been published and implemented, the LSCB for the local area will cease to exist.

Revisions to Working Together to Safeguard Children - the statutory guidance which sets out what is expected of organisations, individually and jointly, to safeguard and promote the welfare of children - have also gone out to consultation to reflect the legislative changes introduced through the Children and Social Work Act 2017.

Concerns have previously been raised that the changes could risk "confusing and distracting" the sector.

David Ashcroft, chair of the Association of Independent LSCB Chairs, said that while his organisation welcomes the opportunity for more flexible and proportionate local safeguarding arrangements being introduced, it is concerned that the new draft of Working Together is not specific enough about the functions that such arrangements need to deliver.

"We are not yet convinced that the three partners will easily and readily share the same commitments on footprint, functions and funding that are essential if these new arrangements to work," he said.

He added that under the proposals there is risk that valuable oversight of the system, which he said the best of LSCBs and individual chairs provide, is lost, and there is a risk that danger that the new arrangements "become the minimum that agencies can afford, rather than the best we can do for children".

"The [revised guidance] leaves open important issues such as the role of lay members, the link to health and wellbeing boards, the role of elected lead members in local authorities, and the oversight by local authority chief executives.

"It is not strong enough on the requirements of independent scrutiny which could be no more than an occasional check on processes rather than the facilitation and leadership of complex partnership arrangements that we believe it should be."

Jenny Coles, chair of the Association of Directors of Children's Service's families, communities and young people policy committee, said the 15-month transition period appears reasonable to allow for new systems to be put in place.

"This seems like a sensible period of time for local areas to develop their new arrangements and to ensure that they are properly and safely implemented so as not to risk weakening existing safeguards for children and young people or, most importantly, children's outcomes," she said.

"ADCS will be responding formally to the consultation following discussions with our members."

A date for when the legislation is set to be triggered is yet to be given. The consultation is set to run until 31 December.

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