Local child safeguarding practice reviews

Children and Social Work Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 15 December 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Shadow Minister (Education) (Children and Families) 2:45, 15 December 2016

I beg to move amendment 40, in clause 17, page 14, line 12, leave out subsection (6).

This amendment would remove the role of the Secretary of State in determining certain arrangements for the working practices of safeguarding partners, ensuring that they remain locally accountable.

The spirit of the amendment is much the same as that of previous amendments concerning the child safeguarding practice review panel. It relates to unacceptable levels of involvement by the Secretary of State, this time in local child safeguarding reviews. Improvements in local safeguarding reviews are much needed.

There is huge variability in the quality and usefulness of serious case reviews, and there are questions about the suitability of board members and their closeness to those who might have a role in a serious case being scrutinised. However, the fact remains that a top-down approach whereby the Secretary of State advises each local authority—familiarity with which he or she cannot possibly be expected to have—about the criteria being taken into account, the choice of reviewers and, in particular, the content of the review cannot be either wise or a productive use of the DFE’s time or the local board’s time.

If serious case reviews are to have the desired effect of improving practice and procedure in response to tragedies, it is crucial that the review be locally accountable and locally owned. The purpose should be for those involved to reflect on possible mistakes and propose ways in which they can improve. Will the Minister explain why the Government feel there is a need for the Secretary of State to have such heavy involvement in these issues?

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)

Once again, I am grateful to the hon. Lady for the amendment. Clause 17 sets out the requirement on safeguarding partners for a local authority area to identify and, where appropriate, carry out local child safeguarding practice reviews. Subsection (6) of proposed section 16F of the Children Act 2004, inserted by clause 17, sets out a list of provisions on which the Secretary of State may make regulations in order to assist local safeguarding partners to identify appropriate cases and carry out reviews where they consider appropriate, as set out in subsection (1).

It is important that the Secretary of State has the power to make regulations to help safeguarding partners in the process of local reviews. Subsection (6)(a) will enable the setting of criteria to be taken into account by the safeguarding partners in determining which cases raise issues of importance in relation to the area. That will not remove or reduce the local accountability of the safeguarding partners to make decisions. It will promote a more even and balanced consideration of the issues across the country, so that we get consistency.

The safeguarding partners will be responsible for appointing the reviewer for each review they commission. They will also be responsible for removing the reviewer if need be. Subsection (6)(b) will enable the regulations to provide for reviewers to be appointed from a list provided by the Secretary of State.

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education)


If such a list was provided, safeguarding partners would still be accountable for decisions taken on whom to appoint, taking into account the experience of the reviewer concerned and their independence from the local area, among other factors. The aim of a list will be to improve the overall quality of reviews, given that many have acknowledged that as being deficient in the current serious case review system, as have Members on both sides of the Committee today.

Subsection (6)(c) allows for regulations to specify when a report should be provided to the Secretary of State or the child safeguarding practice review panel and published. In receiving copies of all local reviews, the panel would be in an ideal position to review both the quality and timeliness of reports and the learning that emerges from them. Regulations would enable timescales to be set for that process.

Subsection (6)(d) refers to the procedure for a review, which may include the establishment of terms of reference. Finally, subsection (6)(e) allows regulations to make provision about the form and content of the reports. It should be noted that such provisions would not be unduly prescriptive as they would be entirely about promoting the overall quality of reviews.

I want to reassure hon. Members that, in making regulations, we will consult on their content widely before bringing them before Parliament, which will give the hon. Lady an opportunity to scrutinise them in more detail. Indeed, we have already begun to talk to a range of interested parties about some of these important issues. I hope that, with those clarifications, the hon. Lady feels able to withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Shadow Minister (Education) (Children and Families)

I do feel able, thank you, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 18 to 21 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 22