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Working together

At the time of writing, ADCS members across the children’s sector will be reflecting on the government’s response to the independent review of children’s social care. There is a lot to unpack amongst the three consultations that have been launched. The proposals could have real implications for the children’s workforce and how they support families and I encourage you all to respond. As a former director of children’s services, I know all too well the value of early help services, so it is positive that the implementation strategy has a focus on supporting families earlier. However, if the government is serious about this, it needs to be met with dedicated, long-term funding.

Inevitably, the response will lead to a further review of the important ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ regulatory guidance. This guidance, first published in 2006 following the Children Act 2004, has been through a number of iterations since. I have seen the guidance change subtly over the years and it will now change again following the government’s commitment to consult on changes to the guidance within the next few months. I encourage ADCS members to give as much attention when reflecting on the review of this guidance as we will do in responding to the other aspects of the implementation strategy. Its core purpose is to ensure that children and young people remain safe from harm.

In 2003, prior to the implementation of the Children Act 2004, I was fortunate to be leading a London Borough which was asked to pilot some ideas for the Act. This was in terms of interagency working. The concept was not fully incorporated into the final legislation as we were testing a more integrated team at local level, via a formally structured Children’s Trust. This was to include the secondment of a large number of children’s health workers into the Trust, including community paediatricians. We did not proceed, and it was not until 2019 when, as the Director of Children’s Services (DCS) in an authority that adopted the highly successful ‘Family Safeguarding’ concept as a practice model, that I had the opportunity to welcome health staff into our formal operational structure in order to support families better and to collaborate more fully with other partners.

So, what am I hoping for in the new Working Together guidance? A significant focus on the responsibilities of all our partners in protecting children, some real clarity about the role of DCSs in the leadership of place, and the enhanced responsibility of partners from all agencies to assure the right resources in the right place to achieve the best outcomes for children and their families.

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