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Transition period for child safeguarding boards reform announced

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The transition period for the replacement of local safeguarding children boards will begin in May, a Department for Education document has revealed.

A review published last year by former Hackney LBC director of children’s services Alan Wood found the boards were “inflexible and too often ineffective”.

In an attempt to “ensure collective accountability across the system”, the government said it would create a more flexible statutory framework.

A new requirement has been placed on councils, the police and the NHS as ‘key partners’ to decide how boards are organised and what area they cover, while statutory functions will not change for individual agencies.

A document released by DfE to chair of the Public Accounts Committee Meg Hillier (Lab) includes a timeline for the implementation of key reforms in children’s social care.

It says new regulations for multi-agency safeguarding, which were included in the Children and Social Work Act 2017, will be put in place by May 2018, with councils required to have their new arrangements up and running by September 2019.

Under the plan the requirement for local areas to have boards with set memberships will be removed. Legislation will also give power to education secretary to intervene when the key agencies cannot reach an agreement on how they will work together, or where arrangements are deemed inadequate.

In response to Mr Wood’s report, the government also said it will replace the current system of serious case reviews being led by local safeguarding children boards and create an independent national panel. Mr Wood found data on child deaths was “incomplete”, leading to gaps in knowledge across the child protection system. The national panel will be responsible for commissioning reviews and publishing findings.

Following the publication of the Wood review, past president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services Dave Hill said he welcomed the “broad recommendations”, but added that boards must retain a statutory function within wider safeguarding arrangements.

“The current system of serious case reviews presents serious barriers, is too costly and time consuming and often, by the time the review publishes, local practice and sometimes policy has moved on significantly,” he said.

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