Local safeguarding children boards are struggling to carry out their statutory duties due to a lack of resources, according to a government-commissioned review.
The interim evaluation of LSCBs revealed that 54% of board chairs thought their budget was not adequate and many faced difficulties in getting funding from relevant agencies, which is agreed locally.
Serious case review costs
Boards found widening their focus beyond child protection “challenging” particularly when budgets and staff time were squeezed by serious case reviews.
One board chair told researchers: “We’re losing the wider safeguarding agenda because we’re so busy concentrating on serious case reviews.”
In one case cited in the Loughborough University evaluation, an SCR could cost over £12,000, leaving the LSCB “in danger of being in deficit”.
The costs of SCRs including staff time or payment of independent authors could also influence boards’ decisions to carry them out, the report said.
Quality of serious case reviews
Boards were also finding it hard to produce high-quality SCRs – with 84% of chairs and business managers raising concerns over quality of individual management reviews, and 53% expressing dissatisfaction with overview reports.
Chairs also lacked confidence in the effectiveness of Ofsted’s evaluations of SCRs, and were “unclear” about how to meet the requirements set out by the inspectorate.
Learning from SCRs was failing to reach frontline staff within large agencies, particularly teachers and other staff in cases regarding schools.
LSCBs also faced pressures on time and resources when responding to unexpected deaths of children, including requirements to undertake “huge” amounts of paperwork.
Independence of chairs
LSCBs chairs were evenly split between independent chairs and directors of children’s services – 40 and 41% respectively, the evaluation also showed.
The findings, published last week, come after Lord Laming’s review of child protection following the Baby P case recommended that boards should be chaired by someone other than the chair of the children’s trust. On the back of this, the government said it would introduce independent chairs of LSCBs over time.
The ongoing evaluation by researchers at the Centre for Social Policy and Centre for Child and Family Research at Loughborough University is examining how effective LSCBs have been in England since they replaced area child protection committees in 2006. The interim findings were collated between January 2008-January 2009.