Policy briefing

Safeguarding partners: what children’s nurses need to know

How will the new safeguarding partners differ from local safeguarding children’s boards?

Local safeguarding children’s boards are being replaced by new safeguarding partners. So what are they, what will they do and how do they differ from their predecessors?

Picture of a child alone on a park bench
Picture: iStock

Essential information

Major child safeguarding reforms are under way across healthcare, local authorities and the police.

The Department for Education’s 2018 document Working Together to Safeguard Children set out the changes needed to support the new system of multi-agency safeguarding arrangements.

These arrangements were established by the Children and Social Work Act 2017 following a critical review of local safeguarding children’s boards by Alan Wood in 2016.

What’s new?

Local safeguarding partners are being set up to improve safeguarding and child-protection agreements in local areas, and to promote the welfare of children, in England.

The partners replace local safeguarding children’s boards, and bring together the local authority, clinical commissioning groups and the chief officer for police for each area.

As they are designed locally to meet each area’s safeguarding needs, their implementation varies across the country.

They are intended to:

  • Protect children from maltreatment.
  • Prevent impairment of children’s health and development.
  • Ensure children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care.
  • Take action to enable all children to have the best outcomes.

The child safeguarding reforms are meant to ensure that partners adopt a child-centred approach when working with children and their families, and making decisions about children’s lives.

The ways in which need is assessed and help is provided are also being changed and new organisational responsibilities are being taken on.

In addition, there is a new system for local and national child safeguarding practice reviews and reviews of child deaths.

Responsibility for learning lessons from serious child safeguarding incidents lies at a national level with the child safeguarding practice review panel and at local level with the safeguarding partners, according to a National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children guidance update.

Expert comment

Liz BalfeLiz Balfe is national safeguarding children reforms facilitator and a consultant to the Department of Health and Social Care

‘Under the new arrangements, the three statutory partners of local authority, clinical commissioning group and the police have equal accountability and responsibility for child safeguarding in their local area for the first time. This requires a culture shift, but is an opportunity for healthcare organisations to ensure that their voice is heard.

‘Another major change is in how serious cases will be reviewed and the introduction of the rapid review process. This requires local safeguarding partnerships to submit a review of each case to the national panel within 15 days and make a judgement on whether a local safeguarding practice review is required.

‘This is a move away from the former serious case review process and should ensure that learning can be implemented more quickly. It is important that front-line staff are aware of the new arrangements and how they can work with them, and I am keen to ensure that information is shared as widely as possible.’

Implications for nurses

Where a child and family would benefit from co-ordinated support from more than one organisation or agency, there should be an inter-agency assessment. This assessment should be evidence-based, and clear about the actions to be taken and services to be provided.

Assessment should be a dynamic process involving analysis and response to the changing nature and level of need or risk of each child.

Every assessment should be focused on outcomes, and involve making decisions about which services and support can improve welfare for the child.

The timeliness of an assessment is a critical element of its quality and outcomes.

Anyone who has concerns about a child’s welfare should make a referral to social care. If there is a concern that the child is experiencing, or is likely to experience, significant harm, they should refer immediately.

Fears about sharing information must not stand in the way of the need to promote the welfare, and protect the safety, of children.

Policies and procedures on safeguarding should be updated to include the new safeguarding partners as the point of contact if there is a safeguarding incident. Reference to local safeguarding boards should be removed from materials and training.

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