Working Together to Safeguard Children: An important consultation

+++ Note this consultation closes on 6th September so don’t delay ++

A strong sense of despair and hopelessness comes over me whenever I am asked to respond to (yet another) Government Consultation.  So please forgive me for urging you to complete the Government’s consultation on proposed reforms to its Assessment and Safeguarding procedures. 

All I can promise is that it need only take a few minutes. 

Government guidance (called ‘Working Together’) describes the process to be followed when practitioners are undertaking assessments that concern ‘children in need’.  There is a general consensus that – in so far as this applies to the social care needs of disabled children and their families – the existing guidance is not fit for purpose. It is guidance that has an overwhelming focus on children considered to be at risk of abuse – and fails to require a different approach when the assessment concerns a disabled child for whom there is no evidence of such a risk.

Reforming the assessment process to ensure that it is disabled child and family-friendly’, is a relatively simple ‘ask’.  ‘Incredibly simple’ when compared to the massive challenges the Government faces in properly funding SEND provision and in reforming the staggeringly expensive ‘looked after children’ care market. 

Start with the assessment process

A reform of the assessment process could start with the assessors being ‘kind’; with assessors thinking and acting differently compared to when they are undertaking an assessment in the context of a ‘safeguarding’ investigation; and much else. Several Parent Carer Groups have recently come together to produce a blueprint (pdf) for how such assessments should be undertaken.

Responding to the consultation is, I believe, really important and need take no more than a few minutes.  You don’t have to answer all the questions it asks.

Luke Clements has white hair and a white beard
Prof. Luke Clements

A guide to responding to the consultation

What follows is a step-by-step guide to responding but – of course – it is essential that anyone who responds does so expressing their own views in their own words.

  1. Click here for a link to the consultation;
  2. Questions 1, 2, 3, 4. 5 and 6 need to be answered. They don’t require you to give any private or personal information – they are simple and should only take a minute or two at most.
  3. You can then choose which questions you want to answer. 

If you only answer two questions – I strongly suggest that they be questions 26 and 29 – namely question 26:

Do you agree with the proposed changes to strengthen assessment and support for disabled children?

For what it is worth here are a few thoughts.  My basic answer will be:

No

I would then skip to question 29 and in the comment box state words to the effect:

In relation to my answer to question 26 above, the proposed changes will not result in any practical change in the way disabled children and their families are assessed.  

The ‘Working Together’ guidance needs be revised to:

  • require councils to develop separate assessment procedures for disabled children and their families in cases where there is no evidence to suggest neglect / abuse.  The current ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to assessments adopted by most Children’s Services departments is unacceptable (an approach that treats parents of disabled children who seek support, in the same way that it treats parents suspected of neglect / abuse);
  • ensure that the separate local disabled children’s assessment procedures are co-produced with local parent carers and local parent carer support groups / forums;
  • incorporate the blueprint guidance developed by Parent Carer Groups namely ‘Draft Guidance Assessing the Needs of Disabled Children and their Families (2023).

For my more detailed commentary on the Consultation, click here.

Luke Clements is the Cerebra Professor of Law & Social Justice at the School of Law. The University of Leeds.

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Professor Luke Clements

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