New Working Together to Safeguard Children December 2023
Happy New Year! I hope you all had a great break and have returned to work with renewed energy and purpose. As a great way to focus your mind on safeguarding in 2024, the news is that ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’, the main statutory safeguarding guidance for the children’s workforce, has experienced a major update, it’s first major iteration since 2018.
Here is a link to the new guidance: Working together to safeguard children 2023: statutory guidance (publishing.service.gov.uk)
And, helpfully, here is the NSPCC guide to the major changes that have been made:
Working together to safeguard children 2023 | Summary of changes | NSPCC Learning
A few things have caught my eye that I’m planning to speak to on my safeguarding training for the next year. I usually talk extensively in my training about what I describe as key safeguarding values, which steer our practice in the right direction, and are crucial in underpinning effective safeguarding. Unless we have a keen regard for these values, the likelihood may be that our safeguarding practice is weak and that the children we seek to safeguard may not be helped or protected.
The sort of values that I highlight include those of professional curiosity, child-centred practice, and the belief that safeguarding is everybody’s business.
The new guidance contains now includes newly formatted values which relate to multi-agency working, working with parents and the provision of early help.
- Multiagency expectations
There are now clear ‘multi-agency expectations’ specifically for strategic leaders, middle managers, and direct practitioners which are very useful. According to the new guidance, the common elements of good multiagency practice are: Collaborate, Learn, Resource, Include, and Mutual Challenge.
And this is how practitioners for example (there is different detail within the expectations for leaders and managers) should exhibit these expectations:
- ‘Collaborate: practitioners working with the same child and family share information to get a complete picture of what life is like for the child. Collectively, they ensure the child’s voice is at the centre and the right support is provided
- Learn: practitioners learn together by drawing on the best available evidence from their individual fields and sharing their diverse perspectives during regular shared reflection on a child’s development, experiences, and outcomes
- Resource: practitioners build strong relationships across agencies and disciplines to ensure they support and protect the children with whom they work
- Include: practitioners recognise the differences between, and are confident to respond to, circumstances where children experience adversity due to economic and social circumstances and acute family stress, and situations where children face harm due to parental abuse and neglect
- Mutual challenge: practitioners challenge themselves and each other, question each other’s assumptions, and seek to resolve differences of opinion in a restorative and respectful way’
(Source: Working Together to Safeguard Children 2023 Paragraph 27 page 18)
These clearly stated expectations help to clarify how we should be working together efficiently and in a child centred way.
- Working with Parents
Another part of the guidance sets out how we should be working with parents, which are set out in terms of four principles of effective partnership working with them:
- ‘building strong, positive, trusting and co-operative relationships
- respectful, non-blaming, clear and inclusive verbal and non-verbal communication that is adapted to the needs of parents and carers
- empowering parents and carers to participate in decision making by equipping them with information, keeping them updated and directing them to further resources
- involving parents and carers in the design of processes and services that affect them’
(Source: Working Together to Safeguard Children 2023 Paragraph 18 page 14)
- Early help
Finally, I think it’s important for everyone to make a note of how the guidance gives considerable import to early help and the detail it supplies on how practitioners should approach this service. Effective provision of early help should include considering carefully which families may need early help, assessing their different needs in terms of their education health, health, financial stability, housing etc., taking into account the specific needs of those families who may be especially vulnerable such as those with disabilities and who whose first language isn’t English, and focussing on interventions that aim at improving family functioning, establishing positive routines and solving problems. This detail on how to approach early help reflects recommendations (amongst others) made by the safeguarding review that took place last year on safeguarding services (‘Stable Homes Built on Love’) which said that early help and child in need services should be strengthened and integrated to provide more ‘meaningful support’ to families at the point of need, usually well before concerns reached statutory thresholds, where support was high risk, expensive and much more challenging.
Are you considering safeguarding training for your setting? If so, I may be able to help. My training puts no maximum limit on the number of participants I can train at once, which makes it extremely cost effective, particularly if your setting is able to collaborate with other settings to share the cost. I can also offer engaging online training, which means that organisations who have workers across a variety of settings can work together easily without having to travel or find a venue. I can also adapt my training to address the needs of your setting, including offering training at an advanced level for your safeguarding leaders. Perhaps most importantly, my training is fully up to date and reviewed constantly in the light of feedback and nationally and locally recognised effective practice.