Revised Working Together guidance introduces checks on local safeguarding boards

Neil Puffett
Thursday, March 21, 2013

An independent panel of experts will be created to vet the decisions of local safeguarding children board chairs under revised safeguarding guidance published today.

Children’s minister Edward Timpson said the guidance will help professionals to keep children safe. Image: Alex Deverill
Children’s minister Edward Timpson said the guidance will help professionals to keep children safe. Image: Alex Deverill

The overhauled Working Together guidance, which comes into effect on 15 April, reveals that the new national panel will advise local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs) on when a serious case review should take place and when they are required to publish reports.

The guidance says LSCBs should “have regard” to the panel’s advice when making decisions about serious case reviews.

Meanwhile, local authority social workers will be expected to conduct an assessment of a child and make a decision about the type of response that is required within one working day of a referral being received.

The guidance also removes the requirement to have separate initial and core assessments and the 10-day timescale for completing initial assessments.

However, it retains the timescale of 45 working days as the maximum time for an assessment to be completed.

The government has said that removing the requirement for separate initial and core assessments will make assessment a “continuous process”, rather than “stop start”.

Children’s minister Edward Timpson said the guidance will support professionals to take the “right decisions and the right action to promote the welfare of children and keep them safe”.

“Today’s guidance makes absolutely clear the core legal requirements on all organisations and individuals working with children to promote their welfare and keep them safe,” he said.

“We expect professionals to use the guidance, along with their expertise and judgment, to tailor support to individual children and families."

Eileen Munro, whose review of child protection prompted the revision of the guidance, said the changes mark an “important step” in reforming the “confusing, prescriptive culture that has ruled professionals working with children”.

"One of the most important recommendations in my report – to have guidance focusing on the core legal rules – was so those working to protect the welfare and needs of children can start to regain control of their practice while working within a clear framework so that different agencies know what to expect of each other.

"Today's announcement should give all those reforming frontline work with children the clarity and confidence to take those reforms forward.”

Debbie Jones, president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, said returning decision making to those who are professionally accountable, rather than following process and prescriptive procedures, is the right thing to do.

However she expressed concerns over the plan for an expert panel to monitor LSCBs, describing it as “an unnecessary bureaucratic intervention” that could interfere with the independence of LSCB chairs.

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