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Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018

As the name suggests, Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 is a document with the sole aim of better protecting and safeguarding children in the UK. Safeguarding is a term that is regularly used in both the United Kingdom and Ireland to refer to measures that have been put in place to protect the health, well-being and human rights of individuals. The primary role of safeguarding is to protect people and ensure that they live free from neglect, abuse, and physical or mental harm.

But what is the Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 legislation? How does this apply to individuals who work with children? And why was this document updated in 2018? Here’s everything you need to know:

What is Working Together to Safeguard Children?

Commonly abbreviated to ‘Working To Safeguard Children’ the full title of this child protection document is ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children: A guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children’. This is statutory guidance released by the UK government with the sole aim of protecting and safeguarding children. The guidance is aimed at all organisations and agencies who work with or carry out work related to, children in the United Kingdom. This includes, but is not limited to schools, youth clubs and youth centres, after-school activities, and voluntary organisations such as the Scouting movement or youth church groups. Social workers and health care professionals who may come into contact with children, as well as police officers and adult and children’s services employers are also subject to the guidance contained within this document.

The term guidance can be misguided, as it can imply that the document is not enshrined in law. Statutory guidance is issued by law, and you must follow it unless you have a good and demonstrable reason not to. In child protection terms, no organisation should be viewed as an island: all bodies engaged with children must be able to work together and communicate in order to provide a fuller picture of a child’s welfare needs. For this reason, one of the most significant elements of ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ is establishing goalposts for inter-agency working, as well as promoting the welfare of children from all backgrounds, in all settings, and ensuring that no child is missed out or left behind.

Why was it Updated in 2018?

The Working Together to Safeguard Children concept and framework was first introduced in 1999, however, these guidelines were found to be not fit for purpose following the death of Victoria Climbie and an updated document was released in 2006. The death of 8-year-old Victoria Climbie was both horrific and tragic, but it could have been prevented if a policy like Working Together to Safeguard Children, allowing interdepartmental sharing of information and data about children, had been in place.

Victoria Climbie’s death was the result of multiple injuries, ultimately leading to hyperthermia, found to be caused by abuse by her great aunt Marie-Therese Kouao and her great-aunt’s partner, Carl John Manning. Before her death in London, Victoria had briefly lived in France, but after a relatively short period of time, her school raised concerns and reported a Child at Risk Emergency. When this report was raised Victoria was removed from France and taken to London. Soon after she arrived in London, a distant relative that she was staying with made 2 anonymous phone calls to social services, raising safeguarding concerns. Victoria’s abuse was both extreme and horrific. Throughout her time in London, several organisations were involved with her family and her care, but because each organisation kept their report and their findings private, there was no opportunity for a bigger picture of abuse to be created. After her death, the pathologist reported that it was “the worst case of deliberate harm to a child he had ever seen.” It is as a direct result of the avoidable horror of Victoria Climbie’s death that the government ordered a review into the way we safeguard children in the UK, and the Working Together statutory guidance was overhauled.

In 2018 the guidance was updated again. The reason for the 2018 update was a direct result of a consultation that began in October 2017. This consultation aimed to establish what would need to change as a result of the new Children and Social Work Act 2017 multi-agency safeguarding arrangements, ensuring that the safeguarding of children was always the primary concern. Like all government guidance, Working Together comes under review regularly, and the guidance is refreshed periodically. These updates are usually only minor, but it is important to keep up to date with any changes that may impact you, and to know exactly when the new guidance comes into effect.

If you need or want to undergo safeguarding training for a role working with children then it is important to ensure that the Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 guidance is included in this course, as this should form the basis of your knowledge on the subject.

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What Were The Changes?

The main changes that were introduced when the Working Together to Safeguard Children document was updated in 2018 were organisational. The most significant of these was the replacement of Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) with Safeguarding Partners. This will have a direct impact on the way in which you report any safeguarding or welfare concerns.

The Safeguarding Partners framework consists of three agencies: local authorities, clinical commissioning groups, and chief officers of police. The role of these Safeguarding Partners is to work with relevant, appropriate agencies within their locality to safeguard and protect children. All three Safeguarding Partners have equal responsibility for fulfilling the role, and therefore all three partners should take responsibility for any failure to safeguard a child.

The role of the Safeguarding partners framework is to introduce transparency into how children are safeguarded and protected. The safeguarding partners will select the relevant agencies to work alongside them to protect children within their local area, and each of these agencies should be clearly published and identified.  Schools, colleges, and educational providers are also expected to be listed as responsible safeguarding partners, and their role in promoting the safety and welfare of children in the area, and fully fulfilling their statutory duties should not be underestimated.

Sadly, no system can completely prevent occurrences of child abuse or welfare issues. And for this reason, the Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 document also introduced a Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel that is responsible for identifying and overseeing reviews of serious child safeguarding incidents that raise complex issues or become important on a national scale. The primary role of this panel is to determine which safeguarding issues are of particular concern and that any lessons learnt from failures are shared across the whole safeguarding network on both a local and national level.

Not all cases will be subject to a national review in the way that the death of Victoria Climbie was. Instead, a copy of the reviews that have been undertaken by local Safeguarding Partners will be sent to the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel for a decision to be made about whether or not a review needs to be made on a national level. In order to maintain transparency and accountability, a list of all reviewers who sit on the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel must be made public.

People in Positions of Trust

A particularly significant section of Working Together 2018 focuses on the safeguarding responsibilities of those working within what are considered to be positions of trust, and what should happen if that trust is breached. On this subject, the guidance clearly states that  “Organisations and agencies working with children and families should have clear policies for dealing with allegations against people who work with children.” Whilst these changes are of particular relevance to professional environments that work with children, such as schools, Early Years settings, child carers, healthcare professionals, and children’s homes, they are also of particular relevance to voluntary, charity, social enterprise, faith-based organisations, and private sectors who run groups for or otherwise support or interact with children.

Effectively, if you are involved in any situation where your role brings you into contact with children (whether on a paid or voluntary basis) then it is your responsibility to keep those children safe, protect them from harm, and raise any concerns you have about wider safeguarding issues. Working Together to Safeguard children 2018 is statutory guidance for multi-agency working. It exists to highlight the expectations of working with agencies in your local area, and on a national level, to keep children safe. It aims to ensure that, if you do have a safeguarding concern about a child, you know where to turn and you can follow that investigation as it is dealt with in a transparent nature.

Child Death Reviews

The death of every child that has been involved in the care system, or otherwise subject to safeguarding concerns, should be investigated. The Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 framework changed who would be responsible for this investigation. Local Safeguarding Children Boards were removed in 2018, so the responsibility for ensuring that child death reviews were undertaken with a Child Death Overview Panel was passed on to Child Death Review Partners. This is a panel that should be made up of local clinical commissioning groups and local authorities.

The new guidance states, “Child death review partners may, if they consider it appropriate, model their child death review structures and processes on the current Child Death Overview Panel (CDOP) framework.” A child death review should be carried out for the deaths of all children residing in the local area, and it may also be appropriate for a review to be carried out in the event of the death of a non-resident child who dies in the local area. Jurisdiction for this report should be discussed with other local authorities, including that where the child normally resided.

2022 updates

In 2022 the ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ guidelines were updated, though the title and main context of the statutory guidance have not changed. This update was made to reflect recent legislative changes that have been passed in the UK and will directly impact the care of children in the country. Four changes comprised this update, and these are:

  • Integrated Care Boards. As a result of the Health and Care Act 2022, from the 1st of July 2022 clinical commissioning groups have been decommissioned and replaced by integrated care boards. This means that any mention of clinical commissioning groups, and their role, within the original document has been updated to reflect the role of integrated care boards instead
  • Public Health England. Like the clinical commissioning groups mentioned above, Public Health England now no longer exists. It has been replaced by The UK Health and Security Agency and office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID). This new department is part of the Department of Health and Social Care, which in turn is part of the UK health Security Agency. The Chief Public Health Nurse role has transferred to being a part of the OHID. The main impact of this is on the reporting hierarchy if you have any welfare concerns, rather than having an impact on how you should care for or safeguard children
  • Domestic Abuse Act 2011. The ways in which we protect victims of domestic abuse, as well as the instances that can be considered domestic abuse in the UK, have changed. For this reason, any reference to the Domestic Abuse bill within Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 has been changed to reference the Domestic Abuse act 2011 instead
  • UK GDPR. Since the UK left the EU, they are no longer permitted to retain reference to EU law, even if they have retained the EU law version of the law. For this reason, any references to GDPR within Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 should be changed to read UK GDPR instead. The UK GDPR legislation sits alongside the Data Protection Act 2018
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