Special report about guidelines for Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards

Special report on the consultation for Local
Safeguarding Children’s Boards

As authorities continue to implement a raft of changes to
children’s services, the government has published much needed
draft guidelines on how it expects Local Safeguarding Children
Boards (LSCBs), a key plank of the reforms, to take shape,
writes Helen McCormack.

The boards, which will replace the Area Child Protection
Committees, will have a far wider remit, including a strong focus
on prevention as well as a key role coordinating and devising
policy for multi-agency training.

Added responsibilities will include a statutory obligation to
establish child death reviews by 2008, and the boards will also be
encouraged to take the lead in areas such as bullying and domestic

By providing the framework for the boards to bring together a
far broader collection of agencies and professionals than was ever
bought about by ACPCs, the government has also underlined the
extent to which they will be expected to have a far greater impact
on improving child welfare.

But with less than eight months to go before authorities are
required by statute to have the boards set up in April 2006
concerns have been expressed over how much more they are likely to
cost than there predecessors.

How the boards will take shape

The government makes clear that the boards will be expected to
provide a policy framework for all agencies involved in caring for
children to operate within, with the consultation stressing
LSCBs’ function will be about coordinating rather than
delivering services.

Although the importance of focusing on prevention is emphasised
in the paper, the government makes clear that this should be
secondary to the “core business” of protection, and
while any part of that service remains “inadequate”,
they should not focus on a “wider role”.

The boards will carry no direct powers over “partner
agencies”.  But they will have the ability to refer concerns
about the performance of any agencies services to the relevant
government department.

In a broadly welcomed move, the chair of the board will not
necessarily need to be appointed from within the ranks of the
social services department, or even within the council. The local
authority will still be responsible for appointing the chair after
taking consultations from board partners, and they will be
answerable to the director of social services.

It is recommended that a “core” or
“executive” group is formed for the day to day running
of the board, with additional working or sub groups set up to
address specific areas.

Various agencies which previously participated in ACPCs,
including CAFCASS, will now be required by statute to become
involved in establishing, operating and discharging the
boards’ functions. The paper also recommends the
participation of additional agencies, including Surestart, Further
Education Colleges and the NSPCC.

Although the boards will not be accountable for operational work
– each agency will continue to be individually regulated – 
their performance in ensuring effective coordination will be
subject to a public joint area review, drawing on the inspectorate
of individual services and concentrating on the effectiveness of
coordination, which will take place every three years. 

Main responsibilities

The importance of  ensuring that effective multi-agency training is
carried out within a boards area is made clear by the consultation.
But while the boards will be responsible for ensuring training is
provided, they are not necessarily obliged to deliver it, although
the consultation document sets out guidance for boards wishing to
take on training themselves.  

The consultation also addresses the need for national guidance
on when and how professionals should inform police about children
involved in underage sexual activity, a recommendation of the
Bichard Inquiry.

With controversy surrounding a decision taken by the London
Child Protection Committee for professionals to formally assess any
underage sexual relationship, which was criticised by Bichard as
“heavy handed”, the consultation has called for a
“wide discussion” on when intervention was considered
necessary, with a view to changing the current guidelines set out
in Working Together. 

It is hoped that the Child Death Review Process, which boards
will have to have set up by April 2008, will help to ensure that
cases such as that of Sally Clark, which led to the discrediting of
Sir Roy Meadow and has created a widespread aversion to giving
expert evidence amongst the medical profession, never reach
Child Death Overview Panels, chaired by a board
member and with a permanent core membership drawn from key
representatives from partner agencies, will be set up to ensure
that evidence on a child death is produced immediately after the
The government anticipates that on call rotas may be required to
ensure that any professional involved with a child, before or after
death, is readily available to provide information to the review
process, and states that each primary care trust should have access
to consultant paediatrician with relevant expertise into unexpected
child deaths to provide advice, and the panels can cross two
geographical areas.

Anyone involved in the care of the child before or after the
death, including the coroner, will have to submit any relevant
paperwork relating to the child to the panel,  which will oversee
the reviews. Amongst other duties, the panel will review the
“appropriateness” of professionals response to a death,
with a view to ensuring a thorough consideration of avoiding how
such deaths could be avoided in the future.

Costs and Dangers

The dangers of a “dip” in services being bought about
by the transition from ACPCs to LSCBs is pointed out by the
Department for Education and Skills in its Partial Regulatory
Impact Assessment, which accompanies the consultation.

But while there is concern about the need for greater funds
while councils are effectively running a dual operation during
preparation for rolling out the boards, Ann Baxter, Secretary of 
the Association of Directors of Social Services, is adamant
departments will not allow services to suffer.

“There absolutely can’t be a dip. I’m sure I
speak on the part of every children’s service director in the
country when I say that we will continue to prioritise child
protection it would be the most horrific irony if with all this new
legislation, child protection services actually got worse.

“But during the transition, we are looking at a double
running of services, and that will have to cost more,” she

Concerns over the costs, which will be funded in the main by the
local authorities, the police and PCTs, have been raised following
the government’s original claim that the boards should not
cost more than ACPCs.

In its RIA, the department now concedes an extra 20 per cent
more will have to be spent on the boards in the initial stages,
with LAs expected to seek extra resources from the Safeguarding
Children Grant to facilitate this. Funds for the Child Review Death
Review are likely to fall on PCTs and other health services

But the government claims that in the long term, the
boards’ focus on prevention will lead to savings, with less
requirements for Section 47 enquiries, and serious case reviews,
including enquiries into child deaths anticipated.

The ADSS’ concern over costs is echoed by Lyn Jones,
assistant director of  children and families services at Bolton
Council, who  anticipates a substantial increase in spending.  With
an increase in expectations on childrens services not only from the
government but from society as a while, the hope that savings could
be made in the medium term were a “little naïve”,
she said.


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