ADCS issues warning over blurred safeguarding accountability

New statutory guidance on the responsibilities of directors of and lead members for children’s services could muddy the lines of accountability on child protection, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services has warned.

ADCS said the guidance, published last week, created overlaps between the responsibilities of DCSs and lead members and failed to distinguish between political and professional roles.

It also criticised increased responsibility for chief executives and council leaders in assuring safeguarding provision and said this could cause further confusion over accountability.

The guidance gives chief executives responsibility for ensuring that the relationship between the children’s trust board and the local safeguarding children board is effective and that clear responsibility has been assigned within the local authority and among children’s trust partners for improving outcomes for children.

‘Too many cooks’

Speaking at its annual conference last week, ADCS president Kim Bromley-Derry said: “Of course there has to be sufficient checks and balances to reassure the public that children are as safe as they can be, but we are worried that this will create a situation where there are “too many cooks” and no-one is taking complete and final accountability when things go wrong.”

On a separate note, directors said they were “troubled” by the dominance of child protection in the guidance at the expense of universal services.

Safeguarding dominance

Bromley Derry said the percentage of the guidance focused on safeguarding was “worrying” but “not surprising” given the current context.

“One of the real benefits of integrated services is the ability to design specialist services such as child protection around universal ones like schools. If we lose sight of either end of the spectrum – universal or specialist – we risk losing that benefit,” he said.

Children’s minister Ed Balls, speaking at the conference, defended the guidance and said it provided greater clarity.

Warning against joint director posts

As in draft guidance on the role of DCSs, published last year, last week’s guidance warns councils against appointing joint directors of children’s and adult social services “without strong justification”.

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