Over the summer, we asked you for your views on the Government’s proposed changes to Working Together. Thank you to all who took some time to complete the survey. We heard from a wide range of practitioners covering ten different services in Devon. We have now submitted a collective response on behalf of the Devon Safeguarding Children Partnership.
Here is what you told us.
A Shared Endeavour
- There was agreement that the title of Working Together 2023 should be expanded to represent the importance of providing family help as well as protection from harm.
- You agreed with the principles for multi-agency working and practice with parents and carers. But some queried whether the principle of ‘Resourcing’ was realistic in the current context for local services.
- It was highlighted that the principle of ‘Mutual Challenge’ should also be about ‘Mutual Responsibility and Leadership’ where professionals work effectively together with shared intentions.
Multi-agency safeguarding arrangements
- The vast majority of respondents felt that the new guidance was right in seeking to strengthen the role of education settings and the voluntary and community sector in local safeguarding arrangements.
- Most of you felt that making Education the fourth statutory partner, alongside Police, Health, and Social Care, was the only way to secure the right level of collaboration. This is based on the critical role that education settings play in safeguarding children and the opportunities for problem-solving opportunities it would bring.
- However, there were concerns about resourcing any new arrangements and making sure education settings and the voluntary sector are appropriately and adequately supported to fully engage.
Help and support for children and families
- There was broad agreement and enthusiasm with the greater emphasis placed on whole-family working, the inclusion of online harms and missing from home and education, and reference to the benefits of Family Group Conferences.
- But the proposed changes to Section 17 (Child In Need) and flexibilities regarding who can be lead professional were met with a mixed response. 41% were supportive, with the rest either opposing or responding, ‘Don’t know’.
- Those who were supportive of the proposed change were still clear that the lead professional couldn’t just be anyone; the lead professional would need to be experienced, with a suitable level of training, guidance, and oversight.
- Concerns were raised about the changes putting unfair expectations on professionals who were not compensated, and the potential blurring of lines between therapeutic support and child protection work.
Decisive multi-agency child protection
- The proposed changes were felt to improve multi-agency child protection work, including taking greater account of harms outside the home.
- Some respondents commented on the importance of information-sharing between agencies for child protection work and hearing the voice of the child.
Please keep an eye for updates on Working Together 2023, both locally and nationally. We are expecting the publication of the final proposed guidance from the Department for Education before the end of the year. In the new year, we will be exploring locally what the changes mean for how we work together as a partnership and how they will be implemented.