VCF opts out of consultation for multi-agency safeguarding guidance

VCF opts out of consultation for multi-agency safeguarding guidance

6 September 2023

VCF – The Victoria Climbié Foundation UK has opted not to formally submit a response to the consultation on proposed new multi-agency safeguarding practice guidance. As an organisation that supports children and young people, families, communities and practitioners, the draft consultation does not, in our view, offer a meaningful opportunity to share our respective concerns.

There is a significant gap between the proposed Working Together to Safeguard Children 2023 guidance and current delivery, and whilst we agree and share the stated principles (not dissimilar to those already in existence), there is little confidence that they will be reflected in practice.

20 years on from the Victoria Climbié inquiry into child protection, the lack of implementation at operational level has been shocking, as is the extent to which increasingly hostile policies and practices have been applied across children’s statutory services with the introduction of safeguarding in the Children Act 2004 which over time has become a tool for blame, with an increase in cases linked to neglect, emotional and future harm.

In the intervening time, we have seen yet more preventable child deaths and frontline teams disempowered under management instruction; leading to incompetent, unlawful and unethical practice. Senior managers that have failed to support or protect frontline staff have found to their cost that they are no longer immune to being similarly scapegoated, and also unsupported by their peers and professional bodies.

Thus, the challenge ahead is more than can realistically be achieved in a timely manner without considering the guiding principles and outcomes under the Every Child Mattersframework, already acknowledged, accepted and understood by  professionals and reflected in Working Together guidance prior to 2010. Nor without significant funding to remedy the damage to children and families, for whom [often legally required] support has not been forthcoming, nor prioritised to prevent escalation to child protection measures, resulting in unprecedented numbers of children in state care.

Uppermost in our minds, is that the guidance is based on a set of principles that many would find hard to disagree, and appears to serve as a renaming and re-framing exercise, to support the recent government commissioned practice reviews and recommendations, yet the more nuanced content could be easily overlooked by anyone not familiar with every day processes or the potential consequences of the proposed changes.

Whilst the Department for Education (DfE) is consulting on Working Together to Safeguard Children for a wide set of perspectives, albeit within a narrow scope, a further consultation, namely ‘Draft Information Sharing Advice for Practitioners…’ offers limited perspectives, particularly from children, young people, and parents/carers, arguably the most impacted by the changes. Yet again, the voice of our communities has been excluded from policy decision-making which may yet prove to be less-than-positive to a largely unsuspecting public.

We recognise that we still have a duty to share concerns and advocate on behalf of the children and families that we serve in our quest to improve child protection policies and practices, and to engage with services set up to support families to safeguard and protect their children. In light of the move away from adopting a holistic approach across children’s services, advocacy in all its forms becomes ever more challenging, and important in its necessity.

With the proposed changes set to limit statutory roles and responsibilities, who will deliver required and timely support, and in accordance with children’s rights? How will individuals seek redress when legal or otherwise stated obligations have not been met, or changed? it is difficult to comprehend why information sharing is being extended beyond ‘risk of significant harm’, and how professional services are able to share information, without parental or informed consent.

A rights-based system set up for the education, care and protection of children has been rejected for a more punitive approach towards children, young people and families, formalising the poor practice that we’ve seen in recent years, led by those who were in unaccountable positions of power now leading on the ‘foundation’ of the next era.  

We believe families are right to be concerned.  We understand and share concerns for their children

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