Article updated on 17 December to include further detail’s of inspection’s scope
Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has told senior inspectors conducting an urgent safeguarding inspection into agencies involved with Arthur Labinjo-Hughes before his murder in Solihull last year to finalise their report by late February.
Zahawi wrote to Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman – and her counterparts at the Care Quality Commission, constabulary, and probation – last week instructing them to focus “sharply” on the entry point to the child protection system across all agencies, in line with ongoing updates to review methodology.
He told the inspectors to evaluate:
- How agencies work effectively individually and together to improve the wellbeing of children, including ensuring that children get the right help and protection at the right time.
- The application of appropriate thresholds, effective information sharing and timely intervention.
- How children and young people are protected through effective multi-agency arrangements at the front door.
- How leaders and managers have good oversight of practice, work effectively together, create the right conditions for effective practice and act where improvements are needed.
- How multi-agency safeguarding arrangements monitor, promote, coordinate and evaluate the work of the safeguarding partners and schools, and whether this leads to improvements in the initial multi-agency response at the front door.
Inspectors will begin off-site field work this week, with on-site work starting in the week beginning 10 January, after schools return from the Christmas break.
Ofsted will then write a letter outlining the findings of the joint targeted area inspection (JTAI), which will be published by the end of February 2022.
“The JTAI should provide a view about whether all agencies have implemented improvements as a result of the learning, by providing a clear picture of how local agencies are working together now to protect children from harm,” said Zahawi.
“Where concerns are raised, I will not hesitate to take urgent and robust action.”
Scope of investigation
DfE published further details of the JTAI’s scope and schedule on 17 December.
It said the inspection would look at the police, children’s social care, education, probation services, youth offending team, and relevant health services in Solihull.
The inspection will evaluate the multi-agency response to identification of initial need and risk including:
- Front doors of individual agencies and their identification and response to need and risk.
- Multi-agency safeguarding hub.
- Individual agencies’ contributions to the multi-agency response, including early decision-making across early help, child in need and child protection.
It said the JTAI will focus on practice within the last six months and would not include longer-term interventions with children and families.
More on Arthur Labinjo-Hughes case
A rapid review by local agencies following the death of Arthur in June 2020 has been shared with the inspectors.
Zahawi has also commissioned a national review – led by Annie Hudson, chair of the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel – into the circumstances behind Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’s murder.
This national inquiry will consider broader themes including improvements needed to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and issues requiring legislative change or changes to guidance.
In his letter to the inspectors, Zahawi wrote: “I recognise that these two reviews will take account of different timeframes; however, there may be early issues identified in the national review, that fall within the scope of the JTAI, and we will want to seek assurance on those through this inspection.
“I will ensure regular contact between the two processes, if there are any emerging lines of enquiry.”
The national reviews reflect the huge national outcry over Arthur’s murder by his stepmother – for which his father was convicted of manslaughter – amid concerns that agencies failed to effectively safeguard him.
Solihull council staff, including a social worker, had visited the boy’s home two months before his death after concerns were raised by his grandmother, but they said they found no cause for concern, according to BBC News reports.