10 Minute Brief - The Wood Review

A quick briefing note on the Wood Review of Children's Safeguarding arrangements and the Government's response.

What is it?

In December 2015, Alan Wood CBE, the Director of Children’s Services for the London Borough of Hackney, was asked by the government to review Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards (LSCBs). The question was whether arrangements for LSCBs, which have now been in place for more than 10 years, remained fit for purpose. The review, which included over 70 meetings, and more than 600 comments or submissions was completed in double-quick time; reporting in March 2016 with the government’s response being published in May.

What did the Review find?

The review found that the framework for LSCBs needs fundamental reform. As service delivery arrangements have become more complex the function of LCSBs, and accountability for them, has become less clear. The public sector ‘Duty to Co-operate’ is not delivering the close collaboration that is needed and the detailed guidance on the composition of LSCBs leads to unnecessary bureaucracy. Furthermore, the review questions whether it is possible for the LSCB model (which was designed for child abuse in families) to ‘co-ordinate services and ensure effectiveness across a spectrum encompassing child protection, safeguarding and well-being’ (Wood Review p.7).

What should happen?

The Review’s proposals, which have been accepted in full by Government, will set out a new statutory framework which makes named senior leaders of local authorities, police and the health service responsible for designing and shaping multi agency arrangements for an area (including considering relationships with combined authorities and other devolution arrangements). This means that these three named officers will responsible in law for the success or failure of local safeguarding arrangements. Unlike the current system the statutory framework will not set out the composition of the multi agency body or its working practices but local governance arrangements will need to show: · 
  • The area or region which should be covered under joint arrangements;
  • How they will involve and work with agencies who have a key role in protecting children;
  • A plan setting out details of the arrangements, which they will publish;
  • Resourcing for the arrangements;
  • How will they ensure a strong degree of independent scrutiny of the arrangements (Government Response, p. 6)

This last point means that while the new body might be constituted with an Independent Chair there will be no requirement to have one. For instance the new multi agency body might choose to have an independent audit and scrutiny function instead (or as well).

The Review does not suggest new resources for Safeguarding arrangements. Rather, it will be the responsibility of the three lead bodies (Children’s Services, NHS and Police), working with other partners, to ensure that the correct resources are in place to support the new arrangements.

What else does the review say?

The review also looks at Serious Case Reviews (SCR) and Child Death Overview Panels. In particular, it recommends that learning from SCRs should be collated and reviewed nationally and that local bodies are more robust in seeking out and sharing learning from cases. Government has committed up to £20 million to support the development of the new centralised SCR system and the What Works Centre to share learning.

What is going to happen in Leeds?

These are really radical proposals for reform but there is not going to be any immediate change. Firstly, legislation will need to be brought forward to create the statutory framework which will do away with LSCBs and replace them with locally defined alternatives. Secondly, different places will choose different approaches, keeping things that work for them from the current arrangements; so it will take time for the Authorities in Leeds to decide what changes (if any) they need to make to form the successor to its LSCB. In short, this work is important for the how the statutory framework safeguarding arrangements will change in the future, but the effect of it won’t be seen at ground level for some time yet!

You can read the Wood review and the government's response here.