Legal Update: Multi-agency safeguarding arrangements

New guidance sets out what organisations and agencies must do to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people.

The 2018 revised version of Department for Education statutory guidance Working Together To Safeguard Children follows a consultation in 2017 which set out the changes needed to support the new system of multi-agency safeguarding arrangements established by the Children and Social Work Act 2017.

Multi-agency safeguarding arrangements

Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) will be replaced by "safeguarding partners" (local authorities, chief officers of police, and clinical commissioning groups) who must make arrangements to work together with relevant agencies to safeguard and protect the welfare of children in their area. The partners should agree on ways to co-ordinate their safeguarding services; act as a strategic leadership group in supporting and engaging others; and implement local and national learning including from serious child safeguarding incidents. They all have equal and joint responsibility for local safeguarding arrangements.

Relevant agencies are those organisations and agencies whose involvement the safeguarding partners consider is required to safeguard and promote the welfare of local children. The safeguarding partners must set out in their published arrangements which organisations and agencies they will be working with to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

Child safeguarding practice reviews

In England, child safeguarding practice reviews (previously known as serious case reviews) should be considered for serious child safeguarding cases where abuse or neglect of a child is known or suspected and a child has died or been seriously harmed. This may include cases where a child has caused serious harm to someone else.

The Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel is responsible for identifying and overseeing reviews of serious child safeguarding incidents that raise complex issues or become nationally important. The panel is responsible for deciding how the system learns lessons on a national level, while local responsibility will land with the safeguarding partners.

The safeguarding partners should undertake a rapid review of the case to identify any immediate action to ensure a child's safety, consider the potential for identifying learning and help inform a decision about whether to undertake a child safeguarding practice review. They should then send a copy of the rapid review to the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel along with their decision about whether to carry out a local child safeguarding practice review and whether they think a national review may be more appropriate.

All child safeguarding practice reviews should reflect the child's perspective and the family context; focus on potential learning and establish and explain the reasons why the events occurred as they did. The final report should include a summary of recommendations and an analysis of any systemic or underlying reasons why actions were taken or not taken.

Child death reviews

The guidance replaces the requirement for LSCBs to ensure that child death reviews are undertaken by a child death overview panel (CDOP) with "child death review partners" (consisting of local authorities and any clinical commissioning groups for the local area). The guidance specifies that "child death review partners may, if they consider it appropriate, model their child death review structures and processes on the current Child Death Overview Panel (CDOP) framework". There should be reviews of all deaths of children normally resident in the local area and, if considered appropriate, for any non-resident child who has died in their area, and reviews should have "the intention of learning what happened and why, and preventing future child deaths" and that "the information gathered…may help child death review partners to identify modifiable factors that could be altered to prevent future deaths". This replaced previous wording that set out that CDOPs should look to determine "whether the death was deemed preventable".

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