Following the Children and Social Work Act 2017, local safeguarding children boards are to be dissolved and instead safeguarding partners will work together on a local level to oversee safeguarding arrangements in their area. The police, health and the local authorities will be the three main partners responsible for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.
One concern voiced by some respondents replying to the consultation was that schools should be included as the fourth safeguarding partner. The government’s response acknowledges this concern that schools may not be given a sufficiently high profile. They state that they ‘will seek to give greater emphasis to the role of schools’ in guidance documents.
However, this may still fall short of what some schools would hope for, as guidance cannot change what is already established in law. It is generally acknowledged that schools are at the front line and they should be key partners in the safeguarding process. It is your school’s responsibility to ensure that your staff training and policy documents enable you to do this.
Schools have often requested more guidance on what thresholds should be for referrals. The expectation is that the safeguarding partners will continue to issue criteria for action, although views are mixed on whether this is a good idea or not.
It is wise to be cautious with threshold documents. Every case is different and what is most important is that individuals also use their judgment to decide when referrals should be made. When partners do release such a document, time should be taken to establish its place within your overall safeguarding policy.
Safeguarding partners will be expected to make explicit reference to how local schools will be given a voice. Amendments will be made to the final safeguarding guidance to ensure that this includes Early Years settings, and greater prominence will be given to sports and religious organisations.
The next step is for an updated version of Working Together to Safeguard Children to be published. Following this, local areas will have twelve months to develop and publish their arrangements and an additional three months to implement them fully.
- Changes to statutory guidance: Working Together to Safeguard Children; and new regulations: Government consultation response, February 2018: http://bit.ly/Changes2Safeguarding