Local safeguarding children boards: one year on

Children’s minister Beverley Hughes writes exclusively for Community Care on why local safeguarding children boards matter

Every Child Matters set out a vision for the future of children and young people and an ambitious programme of reform to deliver this. Central to the vision were five outcomes that we wanted to secure for all children: to be healthy; to stay safe: to enjoy and achieve; to make a positive contribution and to achieve economic well-being.

Enabling every child to stay safe requires everyone working with children to see safeguarding as part of their core business. Safeguarding is, of course, about child protection and tackling neglect and child abuse. That is critically important. But it is more than that.

We need to take a wider view of keeping children safe – on their way to and from school, for instance, or when they are using the internet. One director of children’s services put it very well when he said that safeguarding should be a golden thread that runs through everything we do for children and young people.

Everyone who works at the frontline, whatever their role, needs to understand what safeguarding means and to be able to undertake with confidence the responsibilities that come with it.

Local safeguarding children boards should bring leadership to this area, bringing different local partners to work together to keep children safe. It is now one year since LSCBs were established in every local authority. This anniversary provides a good time to take stock and ask how well they are doing, which is why my department organised a conference for all LSCBs this week.

Our vision is for LSCBs to have an overarching role that gives safeguarding and child protection issues the gravitas they need across children’s services. LSCBs are vital in creating a focal point for agencies to come together to ensure there is an integrated and co-operative approach to promoting the welfare of all children and young people in the area.

Organisations in local areas are making good progress establishing their LCSBs and making the appropriate links to the children’s trust. They are aligning their priorities and agreeing clear responsibilities to avoid duplication and bureaucracy.

We know these boards are starting to reinforce local understanding of safeguarding and all that comes with it.

But, there is still much more to do.

Communication is crucial to make safeguarding a success. When professionals fail to share information, it could end in tragedy such as the unnecessary death of Victoria Climbié.

Social workers have difficult and pressured jobs, and I admire their commitment, but we still need to do more to get the basics right. Recent high profile cases have shown the absence of crucial procedures and the lack of someone with a clear handle on the detail of a case.

There have been cases where social workers make home visits but didn’t spot anything wrong because they don’t see, speak to – or listen to – the child in question: the simplest, most basic requirement.

Children respond to adults who work with them, and their perspective, their experience should be the focus in all we do.

Children will only be safe when the key agencies start working properly together and when basic, thorough child-centred practice becomes second-nature. We are not there yet, as many serious case reviews demonstrate. But I know the determination is there and every day I meet people who are passionately committed to keeping children safe and are doing what is necessary to ensure that this happens.

We are moving in the right direction, but there is still much to do to secure our vision – ensuring that every child stays safe.

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