Last updated: 06.01.16

Can't see the 'Wood for the trees?' what the Wood Report really means for LSCBs

The government has welcomed the recommendations of The Wood Review, but underlined that LSCBs will still be given the freedom to organise themselves.

The publication of Alan Wood's review of local safeguarding children's boards (LSCBs) set out recommendations designed to make these organisations more effective.

It set out that the most locally engaging and responsive groups are strong, effective, multi-agency arrangements.

Furthermore, it uncovered widespread agreement from those it consulted that the system should be transformed to a new model that will see those within it take collective accountability.

In the wake of the report's publication, LSCBs have raised concerns about the level of change that would be required to transform the system to the extent that Alan Wood recommended.

However, it has been suggested that the changes detailed in the report could take between 18-months and two years to implement.

Additionally, the government's response to the report suggests that LSCBs may not have to change as much as they initially thought.

It did agree that the system needs to change in favour of a new model, explaining: "Current arrangements are inflexible and too often ineffective. Meetings take place involving large numbers of people, but decision-making leading to effective action on the ground can be all too often lacking."

The government vowed to introduce a 'stronger but more flexible' statutory framework in a bid to support local partners and help them work together more effectively. It also wants to embed improved multi-agency behaviours and practices in organisations.

According to the document, the framework will set out clear requirements for key local partners. However, it underlined, it will give them the freedom to choose how to organise themselves in order to meet said requirements and improve outcomes for children locally.

Government plans for change

In order to ensure the engagement of key partners in a more consistent and better coordinated framework, the government intends to put a new requirement on three key partners – specifically local authorities, the police and the health service – who must make arrangements for working together in a local area.

While this would not change the existing statutory functions or duties for any individual agencies, it would call for stronger and clearer arrangements in a bid to promote effective joint working, according to the government.

Furthermore, in order to push ahead with the multi-agency approach, the government detailed its plans to place an expectation on schools and other relevant agencies surrounding child protection to cooperate with the new multi-agency arrangements.

To simplify and strengthen the current statutory framework surrounding multi-agency working, the Department for Education said it will eliminate the requirement for local areas to have LSCBs with set memberships, which it hopes will decrease the number of 'large and unwieldy' boards.

Local areas that already boast strong and effective arrangements for multi-agency co-operations delivered through their LSCB will be permitted to keep them as long as they meet the new requirements.

New legislation will be brought in to underpin the new framework, and in cases where local arrangements fail to work effectively the Secretary of State will have the power to intervene.

The Wood Review also contended that a fundamental change is needed when it comes to serious case reviews, with the current system being replaced with a new national learning framework for inquiries into child deaths and incidences in which children have experienced serious harm.

The government agreed with this and vowed to replace the current system of SCRs and miscellaneous local reviews with a system of national and local reviews.

To ensure the effectiveness of a centralised system, it will establish an independent National Panel, responsible for commissioning and publishing national reviews as well as investigating the most serious cases relating to children where the Panel believes an incident can be learned from.

Meanwhile, LSCBs and their successor systems will be required to publish lessons from local reviews.

The government also agreed with the Wood Review on the subject of child death overview panels. It was suggested that the gathering of data on this is incomplete and leads to gaps in knowledge.

To combat this, the government will put in place arrangements to transfer national oversight of CDOPs from the Department for Education to the Department of Health. It will focus on making sure the distilling and embedding of learning is happening within child protection agencies.

The Department for Education noted that this is 'the beginning of a time of considerable change'.

"It is essential that partners continue to work together in LSCBs as we take forward the work to make that change happen," the document noted.

"We know that there is good practice in the system and the review has shown that there is much openness to change. The new arrangements will enable good practice to continue and improve further, as well as support deeper and longer-term reform."

Source: Government response to the Wood Report