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Working Together to Safeguard Children 2023 – what might it mean for us?

SFE Safeguarding Adviser, Jo Perrin, discusses the main updates to Working Together to Safeguard Children 2023, and how they might affect your work in education.

You are probably aware that an updated version of Working Together to Safeguard Children was published in December 2023… although there wasn’t exactly a huge fanfare about its release.

Given that the previous version was five years old (granted there were some factual amendments made in 2020), and safeguarding is constantly evolving, you might have thought that an update would be bigger news than it was.

There was consultation prior to the new version, and one thing that was widely talked about – indeed had been for years – was about whether or not to make Education a fourth statutory safeguarding partner.

The new version doesn’t go that far, for solid practical reasons, as whilst a police force is one police force and a local authority is one local authority, education is vast and varied with academies, maintained schools, private schools and free schools for example, never mind where non-statutory school age establishments would fit in – but education does get a good mention.

So I’ve put together a few of the key updates and changes alongside some questions you might ask yourself and your team about how this new version affects practice in your setting.

Point made in WT2023 

Reflection point 

1. Reference made to a government document “Stable homes, built on love” 2023  Has at least one person in your setting had a read of this?  Is your Early Help offer robust and inclusive to support the government in its wish to support each child to grow up in a safe, stable and loving home? 
2. Reference made to a Working Together Statutory Framework  Has at least one person in your setting had a read of this?  Do you know which legislation is relevant to safeguarding children?  Do you use this knowledge where appropriate to hold other professionals to account? 
3. Key Focus is on multi-agency working and the requirements and responsibilities of all professionals  Do you have a list of key professionals in your locality?  Are you in contact with you local Safer Schools Officer/PCSO for example? 
4. WT talks of practitioners from different settings having a shared responsibility and learning from each and challenging where appropriate Respect and challenge are key features here.  Think across your DSL/DDSL team – are all professionals comfortable with initiating professional challenge to other professionals or is there a training need? 
5. WT talks of the support disabled children might need and talks of harms to children away from home You might be the best agency to discuss daily competencies and areas of support needed for a child.  When did you last gather the child’s view?  What is their lived experience – both positive and negative?

Extra-familial harm and wider notions of child criminal exploitation are topics your staff should have an understanding of.  You work in the local area, you know (or can find through the voice of the child) what is going on.  Do you share that information, as a social worker might not be from a local area? 

6.  Working with parents and carers to build positive, trusting and collaborative relationships is discussed   Think about the skills your staff possess in verbal and non-verbal communication.  You are used to adapting language to the needs of parents and carers and can play a strong role in empowering parents to be involved in decisions made about their family. 

As you might see parents more often than other professionals – do you take a lead in providing information to parents and directing them to research and resources to empower them? 

7.  WT has changed terminology about Statutory Safeguarding Partners The terminology changes  are about organisational change – the lead for each of the 3 SSPs is the one that can hold their own organisation to account and will be at the top of the organisation’s hierarchy and should work with other LSPs as a team. 

The DSP is responsible for operational delivery of targets.  One of the DSPs will facilitate partner discussions and so on. 

WT repeats what was stressed previously that it is expected education will be included in local arrangements. 

So, would all of your DSL team have the confidence to speak up, if representatives from other statutory partners made a decision that didn’t seem “right” for the child in your care?  How do we train our staff to have confidence to do this? 

8.  Three stages of help are discussed – Early Help, Safeguarding and Promoting the Welfare of Children and Child Protection Given that a real key to the document, referenced time and again in Child Safeguarding Practice Reviews, is the issue of information sharing, how confident are your team of DSLs around what can and can’t be shared at an Early Help level (and therefore can only be shared with consent of parents/carers)? 

This is a sticking point in the system at times – for example a parent might have shared a concern with a health practitioner, which doesn’t meet threshold for statutory intervention.  The health practitioner might think others involved around the child would benefit from knowing but the parent refuses consent to share. 

Discuss in your teams, what should and could that health practitioner do?   

In your next DSL team meeting, you might choose to focus on some of the reflection points aboveIf there are any sticking points, or you identify any training need, remember that we have expert advisers who can offer training and support.

Need more support with this topic?

If you would like support with how to deal with concerns regarding safeguarding, please feel free to contact our safeguarding team at safeguarding@servicesforeducation.co.uk

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About the Author

Jo PerrinJo Perrin - Adviser, Services For Education

Jo Perrin taught PSHE in schools for over a decade and held the role of Designated Safeguarding Lead and pastoral lead. She currently works as an Education Adviser for Services For Education which allows her to combine her experience in schools with a personal knowledge of childhood trauma as a former foster carer.

In addition, Jo worked as a West Midlands’ Adviser for a national PSHE resource, has delivered a presentation to the Sex Education Forum National Members’ Event and has created a variety of RSE resources as part of her role for Services For Education.

Jo’s advisory experience is not limited to training school staff as she works with non-education based organisations to support them in safeguarding and emotional health and well-being aims and is an affiliated trainer for Mental Health At Work.

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