Local Government Education and Children's Services Research Programme
LG G ro u p r
safeguarding children – literature review
Available in the Local Government Education and Children's Services Research Programme
Implementing outcomes based accountability in children’s services: an overview of the process and impact
Tamsin Chamberlain, Sarah Golden and Fiona Walker
ISBN 978 1 906792 61 9, free download
Local authority approaches to the schools admissions process
Peter Rudd, Clare Gardiner and Helen Marson Smith
ISBN 978 1 906792 64 0, free download
Children and young people’s views on web 2.0 technologies
Peter Rudd and Matthew Walker
ISBN 978 1 906792 60 2, free download
Local authorities’ experiences of improving parental confidence in the special educational needs process
Richard White, Shona Macleod, Jennifer Jeffes and Mary Atkinson
ISBN 978 1 906792 53 4, free download
The impact of the Baby Peter case on applications for care orders
Shona Macleod, Ruth Hart, Jennifer Jeffes and Anne Wilkin
ISBN 978 1 906792 56 5, free download
Safeguarding post-Laming: initial scoping study
ISBN 978 1 906792 49 7, free download
Supporting local authorities to develop their research capacity
Clare Southcott and Claire Easton
ISBN 978 1 906792 47 3, free download
The Sustainable Communities Act: analysis of proposals submitted by councils
Monica Hetherington, Gill Featherstone, Gill Bielby and Rowena Passy
ISBN 978 1 906792 42 8, free download
Provision of mental health services for care leavers: transition to adult services
Emily Lamont, Jennie Harland, Mary Atkinson and Richard White
ISBN 978 1 906792 38 1, free download
Collaborative good practice between LAs and the FE sector
Tami McCrone, Clare Southcott and Kelly Evans
ISBN 978 1 906792 37 4, free download
Mapping the terrain: 16–19 funding transfer
Tami McCrone Gill Featherstone Tamsin Chamberlain
ISBN 978 1 906792 34 3, free download
safeguarding children – literature review
K. Martin J. Jeffes
How to cite this publication:
Martin, K., Jeffes, J. and MacLeod, S. (2010). Safeguarding Children – Literature Review. Slough: NFER.
Published in December 2010 by the National Foundation for Educational Research, The Mere, Upton Park, Slough, Berkshire SL1 2DQ
www.nfer.ac.uk © National Foundation for Educational Research 2010 Registered Charity No. 313392
ISBN 978 1 906792 72 5
Executive summary v
1 Introduction 1
1.1 Background 1
1.2 Methodology 1
1.3 About this report 2
2 Safeguarding practice: how have things developed? 2
2.1 Training and professional development 3
2.2 Capacity and recruitment 6
2.3 Relationships and understanding 9
2.4 Interagency working 12
2.5 Quality assurance and monitoring 16
2.6 SCRs 18
2.7 Referrals and assessments 21
3 Conclusion 24
We would like to thank the LG Group for providing the NFER with the opportunity to undertake this research, and particularly Jess O’Brien for her direction. Our thanks also extend to Jenny Hudson and Lynne Harris at the NFER for their contributions.
This literature review refers to documentation published before the UK’s new Coalition Government took office in May 2010. As a result, some of the practice outlined may not reflect current government policy or guidance, and may make reference to the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), which has now been replaced by the Department for Education (DfE).
iv safeguarding children – literature review
In March 2009, Lord Laming published the findings of a review investigating the progress being made across the UK to implement effective arrangements for safeguarding children. The review was commissioned by the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families in response to the case of Peter Connelly, known as Baby Peter, being made public in November 2008. It stated the need for ‘a step change in the arrangements to protect children from harm’ (DCSF, 2009, p.4).
In June 2010, Professor Munro was commissioned by the new Coalition Government to conduct an independent review of child protection in England. In the review’s first report, published in October 2010, Munro sets out the review’s intended approach and the features of the child protection system that need exploring in detail (Munro, 2010). Following initial feedback from a wide range of stakeholders, Munro suggested that ‘good practice thrives’ (p.42) in many parts of the country despite the numerous system-level challenges that are yet to be resolved.
Aims of the study
The purpose of this study is to identify any evidence of changes and improvements in safeguarding practice since the Laming review. It distils current learning about the challenges and identifies factors which are supporting improvements in safeguarding work. This literature review builds on learning from an initial scoping study carried out by the NFER for the LG Association earlier in 2010, which set out relevant literature on safeguarding practice published since the Laming review in 2009 (Atkinson, 2010). It should be noted that this review provides an indication of some of the developments in safeguarding practice rather than a comprehensive research evaluation of progress in safeguarding activity per se.
Training and professional development
Training and professional development of social workers
Ofsted’s first annual survey of social work practitioners across local authorities in England suggested that the training and professional development of social workers has progressed considerably since the Laming review (Ofsted, 2010a). The survey found that, in general, social work practitioners are positive about their training experiences in relation to safeguarding. The majority of respondents also reported that such training helps them to understand and meet the needs of children and young people.
Supervision of social workers
Ofsted (2010a) offered a positive view of line management arrangements for social work practitioners. The majority of respondents reported that their line manager supports them to manage risks arising in their casework, access appropriate training and manage their workload. However, improvements in providing high-quality supervision may not be widespread. Hunter (2009), cited in Burton (2009), for example, reported that levels of appropriate supervision are the same as they were following the first Laming review in 2003 and, in some cases, the provision has actually worsened.
Training and development of other professionals
An Ofsted survey (2010b) found that third-sector organisations are positive about the safeguarding training available from their local safeguarding children board (LSCB). Improved training for and development of health professionals is also evidenced in a review of the four NHS trusts involved in the Baby Peter case. In other areas, however, the provision of safeguarding training for health workers appears less encouraging,
safeguarding children – literature review v
particularly in relation to the allocation of safeguarding training budgets, and the provision of safeguarding training at levels 1 and 2 (Care Quality Commission, 2009).
The challenges associated with training and professional development in relation to safeguarding include the need to encourage critical reflection. Social workers can then increase their capacity to make effective decisions by critiquing their own judgement when considering cases (Burton, 2009). In addition, Barlow and Scott (2010) reported that specific safeguarding training is required to support professionals working in multi-disciplinary teams.
Capacity and recruitment
Capacity and recruitment of social work practitioners
There is a range of evidence to suggest that, following the publication of the Laming review in 2009, commitments have been made across both local and central government to further support professionals in safeguarding children, through greater investment in resources, training and professional supervision. At a policy level, for example, the previous government responded to the recommendations of the Social Work Taskforce (SWT) (HM Government, 2009, p.2) by saying it would undertake wide-ranging and sustained reform of the social work profession.
Capacity of other professionals
There have been developments at a policy level to support other professionals who work with children. For example, the Department of Health has committed to the Action on Health Visiting Programme in response to Laming’s recommendation that the numbers of health visitors should be increased (Ly, 2009). However, there is concern that, at ground level, the necessary resources are not always available for implementing policy recommendations.
Perceptions about social workers and the public profile of social work result in negative professional morale
(Barlow and Scott, 2010) and impact on the recruitment and retention of social workers. Other challenges relate to high workloads, which have implications for the quality and timeliness of social workers’ work (MacLeod et al., 2010). These are compounded by bureaucracy constraints imposed by electronic recording systems, management information systems and the Integrated Children’s System (ICS).
Relationships and understanding
Methods used to develop relationships and understanding
A recent report by the Children’s Commissioner (2010) highlighted social care professionals’ qualities and skills conducive to building relationships with children and families. These include good communication skills and being caring. However, the report also highlighted that many social care staff feel that, given the short-term nature of their work and being part of a system where families are moved on following the completion of an assessment, they do not always have the time required to invest in and achieve good relationships.
Developing good relationships and understanding with parents is paramount. A number of sources identify the challenges practitioners face when trying to engage with families who are resistant to social care support or are otherwise hard to reach. Challenges were also identified when trying to engage with vulnerable children and young people and children, thus placing them at increased risk of harm.
Interagency communication and information sharing
The findings of Holmes et al. (2010) suggested that agencies are continuing to develop and improve their information sharing. However, the same study also suggested this can be improved further. Ofsted’s (2010a) survey of social work practitioners found that fewer than half of respondents agree that communication and information sharing is effective both within their local authority and with other
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organisations contributing to safeguarding children. Within the health sector, the Care Quality Commission (2009) found that just over a third of applicable acute trusts do not have a policy in place for joint working between maternity services and social services.
Barlow and Scott (2010), based on findings from their literature review, reported that universal services1 are ideal for assessing families, particularly during pregnancy and the postnatal period. As such, they argued that there is a need to establish trans- disciplinary teams, which place social workers within the heart of teams working in children’s centres, schools and perinatal services. Barlow and Scott identify local examples of the development of such teams.
The review found that effective interagency working could be limited by historical and cultural differences between professionals and disciplines. Accountability issues arise if there is a lack of understanding of the roles and responsibilities of different agencies.
Quality assurance and monitoring
Tools used for quality assurance and monitoring
Fish (2009) concluded that increased significance is being given to local auditing. Whilst there does not appear to be a great deal of literature about local auditing after the Laming review was published, Fish drew attention to a number of local examples where audit tools are being used effectively. Such tools include self-audits, case file reviews, questionnaires for professionals, volunteers and members of the public, and consultations with those using the services.
Application of quality assurance procedures
Some agencies are not applying quality assurance procedures in a satisfactory way. The Care Quality Commission’s (2009) report on NHS arrangements for
safeguarding children found, for example, that the frequency with which boards monitor compliance with their safeguarding responsibilities varies, but this usually takes place on an annual basis or when they are notified about serious incidents (Care Quality Commission, 2009). The report also found omissions within the processes covered by child protection policies, and was particularly concerned by the absence in many NHS trusts of follow-up procedures for children who have missed outpatient appointments.
Role of performance indicators
Fish (2009) says, following the publication of the Laming review, many local authorities have put into place plans for adapting their systems for measuring performance in order to monitor the quality of safeguarding practices. Many local authorities, according to Fish, defend the use of performance indicators as a tool for ensuring their accountability, indicating that they remain a ‘necessary measure of the quality of decision-making and organisational supports’ (p.11).
Serious case reviews (SCRs)
Ofsted (2009) reported that SCRs are being carried out more speedily and LSCBs are becoming more rigorous in their scrutiny of individual management reviews and overview reports. The Ofsted survey (2010a) of social work practitioners also indicated that, since the Laming review, learning from SCRs is being communicated more effectively. Within the health sector, the Care Quality Commission (2009) found that two-thirds of reviews are completed and signed off within one to three months, and that, in most cases, action plans and recommendations arising from SCRs are given to the responsible service managers.
Challenges relate primarily to communication and collaboration between professional agencies involved in working with children. For example, there were instances where health practitioners had noted the signs and symptoms of potential abuse, but had not communicated these to other professionals or agencies. Amongst education professionals, the use of the
safeguarding children – literature review vii
Common Assessment Framework (CAF) is not always fully embedded and where SCR panels need to examine the childhood histories of teenage parents, they are often hindered due to school records being unavailable as they have been destroyed in accordance with local record retention policies.
Referrals and assessment
The development of referrals and assessments
The changes made to local authorities’ referral, assessment and supervision processes after the Laming review include greater managerial overseeing of cases, strengthened audit systems, and developments or changes to supervision policies. However, in an evaluation of SCRs conducted between 1 April and 30 September 2009, Ofsted (2010c) found that ‘referrals, primarily by health and social care professionals, were not always followed up sufficiently rigorously’.
The significant increase in the number of referrals and demands for placements received by social care teams in the wake of the Baby Peter case has increased the pressures on social care teams. There are concerns that a great deal of staff time is spent signposting to other agencies and responding to initial contacts which are below the threshold for statutory intervention (MacLeod et al., 2010). There are also concerns that, as a result of the Laming review, attention is focused on cases similar to Baby Peter’s, thus inadvertently diverting attention away from other groups of vulnerable children (Garboden, 2010a).
Evidence of changes and improvements in safeguarding practice after the Laming review
A reasonable amount of evidence of changes and improvements in safeguarding practice is identified in this review. However, given the relatively short amount
of time since the Laming review (approximately 18 months), it is perhaps unsurprising that published literature setting out specific developments in safeguarding practice, as a result of Laming’s recommendations, is fairly limited.
A further issue in exploring changes and improvements in safeguarding practice since the Laming review is that it is very likely that many of the shifts in local authority practice are documented in internal (unpublished) plans and procedures. Others may be less tangible, such as cultural changes, and, therefore, are more difficult to record. Similarly, any formal evaluation of changes in safeguarding practice at a local level is likely to be currently ongoing and yet to be published.
Evidence of challenges and supporting factors in making improvements in safeguarding practice
The evidence reviewed here highlights the many challenges that remain in implementing Laming’s recommendations. These findings will be used to inform the research framework for the next study in this series of reports on safeguarding children to be conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) for the LG Association. It will evidence key learning from five English local authorities that have improved their performance in safeguarding children, according to recent inspections. This work is due to be published in spring 2011.
1 The key universal services for children and young people are GPs, health visitors, midwives and school nurses, early education and childcare, primary and secondary education.
viii safeguarding children – literature review
safeguarding children – literature review 1
set out the review’s intended approach and the features of the child protection system that need exploring in detail (Munro, 2010). Following initial feedback from a wide range of stakeholders, Munro suggested that ‘good practice thrives’ in many parts of the country despite the numerous system-level challenges that are yet to be resolved (Munro, 2010, p.42).
It is clear that there are numerous challenges to be addressed if the demands of government policy and the realities of working practice are to be balanced and the best possible outcomes for children realised. As such, further understanding is required to ensure that professionals are well equipped to respond to the needs of children and young people. This means having streamlined practices, effective working relationships with other agencies, and the autonomy to make professional judgements without undue bureaucracy.
The purpose of this review is to identify any evidence of changes and improvements in safeguarding practice since the Laming review. It distils current learning about the challenges and identifies factors which are supporting improvements in safeguarding work.
This literature review builds on learning from the initial scoping study carried out by the NFER for the LG Association early in 2010. It set out relevant literature on safeguarding practice published since the Laming review in 2009 (Atkinson, 2010). This present review identifies subsequent publications (from March 2010 to October 2010). Both studies implemented the same search strategy. Documents were gathered via three separate exercises:
strand 1: search of relevant research databases
strand 2: search of a selection of local authority, government and relevant national organisations’ websites
In March 2009, Lord Laming published the findings of a review investigating the progress being made across the UK to implement effective arrangements for safeguarding children. The review, which was commissioned by the (then) Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families in response to the case of Baby Peter Connelly being made public in November 2008 set out to evaluate progress since Laming’s first report, published in 2003 in response to the death of Victoria Climbie. The review stated the need for ‘a step change in the arrangements to protect children from harm’ (DCSF, 2009, p.4). The response to the Laming review prompted the previous Labour Government to increase national leadership and accountability in respect of child protection. It wanted to extend accountability beyond the remit of the social work profession to encompass a growing role for other agencies such as the police, education and health professionals. Supporting the reform of child protection services across England, a cross-departmental National Safeguarding Delivery Unit (NSDU) was established in July 2009 to support the safeguarding system nationally, regionally and locally.2
At a local level, there has been a mixed response to the Laming review. Previous research by the NFER for the LG Association has shown, for example, that local authorities are broadly supportive of the principles underpinning Laming’s review. However, the degree to which they are likely to be able to make changes is contingent upon a range of workforce developments and resolving resourcing issues (MacLeod et al., 2010). Research by Loughborough University, also on behalf of the LG Association, similarly indicated that there are capacity issues when implementing Laming’s recommendations. In particular, there are capacity issues relating to the recommendation that all referrals into social care should lead to an initial assessment (Holmes et al., 2010).
In June 2010, Professor Munro was commissioned by the Government to conduct an independent review of child protection in England. In October 2010, Munro
2 safeguarding children – literature review
other, relevant (but less accessible) evidence. For example, some shifts in local authority practice may only be documented in internal or confidential plans, and procedures and other changes may have resulted in less tangible differences such as cultural changes, which are potentially more difficult to verify across a range of service areas.
• Discerning whether noted changes in safeguarding practice are a direct response to the Laming review. It may be that changes are a result of ongoing efforts to achieve improvements (such as those determined by priorities at the local level).
• The short period of time in which to demonstrate impact. The time elapsed between March 2009 and October 2010 is a relatively short period in which to observe and document impact of any changes introduced since the Laming review. This reduced the likelihood that relevant evidence would simultaneously document practice changes and an analysis of associated impacts.
Given these limitations, it should be noted that this report provides an indication of developments in safeguarding practice rather than a comprehensive research evaluation of progress in safeguarding activity per se.
2 The NSDU was disbanded by the Government in June 2010. The Safeguarding Group within the Department for Education retains lead responsibility for the Government’s child protection policy.
strand 3: direct request for additional documents sent to a small number of key contacts with relevant expertise and practice knowledge.
Documents from the earlier scoping study were combined with those in the present review and assessed for relevance to the research aims. A total of 36 sources were included in the review. They comprise research literature, official publications (for example, government reports) and publically available local authority documentation. Further details of the methods used in this research are provided in Appendix 1.
1.3 About this report
This report presents an analysis of evidence that documents changes and improvements in safeguarding practice since the Laming review in March 2009. A broad range of literature was identified through the search for relevant sources. The report also draws upon the first report of the Munro review of child protection, to identify the next steps in improving safeguarding practice.
In conducting a review of such practice-based developments, identifying sufficient and relevant evidence presented a number of specific issues.
• Access to literature focusing on changes in safeguarding practice since 2009. It is likely that there have been numerous developments in safeguarding practice across England and Wales following the Laming review. However, access to relevant evidence for this review was restricted to changes documented in publically available literature, or that which could be shared with the research team, which may have prevented the inclusion of
This chapter presents evidence from recently published literature on the changes and improvements in safeguarding practice since the Laming review. It also explores some of the supporting factors that have helped to facilitate these changes, as well as some challenges in the ongoing development of safeguarding work.
Examples of approaches to develop safeguarding practice (as identified in the literature) are categorised into seven key areas. They include:
• training and professional development
• capacity and recruitment
• relationships and understanding
• interagency working
• quality assurance and monitoring
• referrals and assessment.
Each of these seven key areas is discussed in detail. They highlight relevant findings in the Laming review and provide an analysis of the literature related to each area.
2.1 Training and professional development
2.1.1 What did the Laming review say about training and professional development?
The review highlights the importance of staff being trained and supported so that they are appropriately attuned to the needs of a child. It draws attention to how the challenges and opportunities created by the complexity of children’s social care impact on providing appropriate professional development. Laming argued that ‘social work [should be] carried out in a supportive
learning environment that actively encourages the continuous development of professional judgement and skills’ (Laming, 2009, p.32).
With this in mind, some examples of approaches taken to develop training and support for social workers and other professionals working with children and families are highlighted. These include some of the issues and challenges involved and cover:
• training and professional development of social workers
• supervision of social workers
• training and support for other professionals.
2.1.2 What does the recent literature tell us about the training and professional development of social workers?
Ofsted (2010a) carried out its first annual survey of social work practitioners across local authorities in England on the subject of …