LGA: councils picking up child protection costs

15 Jun 15

Councils are footing the bill for local child protection initiatives because the police, NHS and schools do not contribute a fair share of funding, the Local Government Association has claimed today.

A report commissioned by the LGA examining the work of Local Safeguarding Children Boards found they did not have a realistic remit or funding structure to undertake their work.

The boards, established under the Children Act 2004, bring together councils, the police, health services, schools and other organisations to monitor and coordinate activity to keep children safe and oversee reviews of serious cases.

However today’s report, carried out by Research in Practice, found costs were not shared equitably by all partners. As a result, a “disproportionate burden” was being placed on local authorities.

The study, which took in the views of board chairs and partner agencies, found the original purpose of the boards – to coordinate local safeguarding work and ensure the effectiveness of local activity to keep children safe – was being undermined.

They were now being given expanded responsibilities, such as oversight of early intervention schemes and clarifying thresholds for services, but without being given the necessary more powers or resources.

Although the report acknowledged significant progress had been made in building a joint approach to safeguarding across local areas, a number of barriers still remained in addition to funding.

These included what it called a “dysfunctional” Ofsted regime, which means inspectors too often judged success on a board’s ability to correct failings of other organisations, even though boards do not have the powers to do this.

The increasing independence of schools through the government’s free schools and academies programme had also made it harder to engage the education sector in the work of LSCBs. Local authority schools were regularly represented at board meetings, the report found, but there was “hardly any” attendance from academies.

In a joint statement, the LGA, the Association of Directors of Children's Services and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers said “greater clarity” was urgently needed around the expectations on the boards.

“Local safeguarding children boards are central to an effective child protection system, bringing together all the agencies working across a local area with the common goal of keeping children safe.

“It is clear from this research that a great number of dedicated and enthusiastic people are committed to making LSCBs work, and it is vital that national activity supports rather than hinders this work.

"With councils often paying the vast majority of LSCB costs despite clear government guidance that partners should contribute fairly, it is clear that society and the government's expectations of LSCBs will remain hard to fulfil."

Dr David N Jones, chair of the Association of Independent LSCB Chairs, added a “clear and focused mandate and sufficient resources to do the job” were essential to the work of their work.

“This extensive review provides a helpful overview of the current position of LSCBs and the challenges in safeguarding children arrangements across England. We recognise the picture revealed in the survey and call on all with responsibility for safeguarding children and young people to receive and respond to the key messages.”

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