Working Together to Safeguard Children (WTTSC) 2023
In December 2023, the Department for Education (DfE) released the latest version of its statutory guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children (WTTSC) 2023. This update replaces Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018. The guidance provides comprehensive instructions for various organisations and agencies to take mandatory and recommended actions to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people under 18 in England. No statutory roles or functions have been removed from the previous guidance.
This updated version of Working Together to Safeguard Children 2023 – A guide to multi-agency working to help, protect and promote the welfare of children is a key component in fulfiling the objectives outlined in the Government’s plan for how children and young people’s social care can work more harmoniously, called Stable Homes, Built on Love: Strategy and consultation.
The WTTSC updated statutory guidance includes:
- Principles for working with parents and carers that highlights the importance of building positive, trusting and co-operative relationships to deliver tailored support to families.
- Expectations for strong multi-agency partnership working together and applies to all individuals, agencies and organisations working with children and their families, across a range of roles and activities.
- New national multi-agency child protection standards that set out actions, considerations and behaviours for improved child protection practice and better outcomes for children.
This article highlights the key revisions in the WTTSC 2023 statutory guidance, focusing on areas such as:
- Legislation and National Framework statutory guidance that supports a child-centred approach.
- Multi-agency expectations for all practitioners.
- Working with parents and families.
- The roles and responsibilities of safeguarding partners.
- The role of education and childcare providers.
- Multi-agency practice standards.
- Organisational responsibilities.
- Support for disabled children.
- Tackling harm outside the home.
- A framework for the three local safeguarding partners (local authorities, Integrated Care Boards and the police).
- Updated guidance and terminology on the management of child deaths.
- Early Help System Guide – A toolkit to assist local strategic partners responsible for their early help system in their area to work together.
- Includes Domestic Abuse Act 2021 legislation
- Useful links to resource packs and different topic areas (Appendix B)
Other Government documents that have been published alongside WTTSC 2023
- An updated WTTSC Statutory Framework details the legislation for safeguarding.
- The Children’s Social Care National Framework outlines the roles and expectations for senior leaders, practice supervisors and practitioners in local authorities.
- Guidance titled Improving Practice with Children, Young People, and Families offers advice for local areas on how to integrate the “Working Together” guidance and the “Children’s Social Care National Framework” into everyday practice.
Updated areas in the WTTSC 2023
Chapter 1 – A Shared Responsibility
The new chapter of the statutory guidance unifies new and existing guidance and emphasises the crucial role of effective multi-agency partnership working across the whole system of help, support and protection in achieving positive outcomes for children. It introduces a comprehensive set of expectations for all practitioners involved in safeguarding and child protection (including DSLs in schools), aiming to:
- Collaborate – Align practitioners towards the same shared goals.
- Learn – Learn with and from each other.
- Resource – Equip practitioners with the necessary resources to support families.
- Include – Recognise and respect differences.
- Mutual challenge – Challenge each other.
These are categorised across three levels:
- Strategic Leaders such as Chief Executives.
- Senior and Middle Managers: Positions such as heads of services, team managers and headteachers.
- Direct Practice: Covering frontline professionals like social workers, police constables and teachers.
Collaboration with Parents and Caregivers
The updated statutory guidance outlines four key principles for professionals to follow when engaging with parents and caregivers:
- Establishing Effective Partnerships: Emphasising the creation of strong, positive, trusting and cooperative relationships.
- Respectful Communication: Maintaining respectful, non-blaming and inclusive verbal and non-verbal communication, tailored to meet the needs of parents and caregivers.
- Empowerment in Decision-Making: Actively empowering parents and caregivers by providing them with necessary information, regular updates and guiding them towards additional resources.
- Involvement in Design and Planning: Ensuring that parents and caregivers are actively involved in shaping the processes and services that impact them.
Chapter 2 – Multi-Agency Safeguarding Arrangements
The revised statutory guidance introduces and clarifies new roles and responsibilities for the three primary safeguarding partners: the local authority, the police and the health service; The head of each statutory safeguarding partner will be referred to as the ‘lead
safeguarding partner’ (LSP), who will in turn appoint a ‘delegated safeguarding partner’ (DSP). It also emphasises the role of education in safeguarding arrangements and there are clarified expectations for information-sharing, scrutiny, funding and reporting, to enhance accountability
Lead Safeguarding Partner (LSP)
- The LSP is the senior representative of each statutory safeguarding partner agency. For instance, in local authorities, this role would typically be filled by the Head of Paid Service or the Chief Executive.
- Responsibilities of the LSP include holding their organisation accountable, representing and making decisions on behalf of their agency and fulfilling the statutory and legislative duties of their agency.
- LSPs from different agencies should collaborate effectively, ensuring inclusive involvement of all relevant agencies and working collectively rather than solely representing their own organisation.
Delegated Safeguarding Partner (DSP) and Partnership Chair
- Each LSP appoints a Delegated Safeguarding Partner (DSP) who is charged with the operational delivery of safeguarding duties.
- One DSP in the partnership is designated as the partnership chair for multi-agency arrangements. This position can rotate among DSPs as decided by the LSPs.
- The partnership chair’s role includes facilitating discussions among partners, providing continuity, and serving as a central point of contact for the partnership.
- It’s important to note that the role of the Partnership Chair does not replace formal complaint procedures and does not offer independent scrutiny.
- This structure eliminates the necessity for a local area to have an additional or independent chair for safeguarding arrangements.
In addition, it is recommended that LSPs have a representation from the education sector present at strategic discussions and that local education and childcare providers working with children up to the age of 18 will be included in local arrangements. LSPs are encouraged to incorporate organisations from the voluntary, charity and social enterprise (VCSE) sectors, as well as childcare settings and sports clubs, into their safeguarding arrangements to improve oversight, engagement and consistency.
No statutory roles or functions have been removed from the guidance.
Chapter 3 – Providing help, support and protection
This section focuses on how organisations and agencies provide help, safeguarding and protection for children and their families within three distinct sections: Early Help, Safeguarding and Promoting the Welfare of Children and Child Protection.
Section 1: Early Help
This focuses on understanding family needs within the early help framework. It is not an individual service, but a system of support delivered by local authorities and their partners working together and taking collective responsibility to provide the right provision in their area.
- Assessments should take into account the interconnected needs of family members, including aspects like education, mental and physical health, financial stability, housing, substance use and crime.
- Special attention should be given to specific needs, such as those with disabilities, non-English speakers, fathers or male carers and LGBTQ parents.
- Early help services might concentrate on enhancing family functioning, establishing positive routines and problem-solving. In cases where family networks support the child and parents, approaches like family group conferences may be utilised.
- Early Help System Guide provides a toolkit to assist local strategic partnerships responsible for their early help system in their area to work together.
The Role of Education and Childcare Settings: It’s vital for safeguarding professionals to collaborate closely with educational and childcare settings to exchange information, identify risks and ensure timely support for children and families.
Section 2: Safeguarding and Promoting the Welfare of Children
There is further clarification included on the broad range of practitioners who can be the lead for children and families receiving support and services under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 (the Act that places duty on local authorities to safeguard children in need) and requirements for local authorities and their partners to agree and set out local governance arrangements.
Children’s social care assessments: This section covers assessments in children’s social care, considering the parenting capacity of both resident and non-resident parents and carers, as well as other adults in the household. The influence of the child’s family network, the wider community and environmental factors are also evaluated.
Lead Practitioners: Upon acceptance of a referral, a lead practitioner will be appointed by the local authority and its partners. This role varies and includes social workers, particularly for child protection enquiries. The lead practitioner is responsible for assessments, direct work with families and coordinating services.
Supporting Disabled Children and their Carers: Assessments for disabled children should be tailored to the child and the family’s specific needs, focusing on strengths and gathering effective information for the best outcomes. A Designated Social Care Officer (DCSO) role is recommended to bridge the gap between social care services and the SEND system.
Harm Outside the Home Practitioners should consider the needs and vulnerabilities of those at risk of harm outside the home, such as from criminal exploitation, sexual exploitation or serious violence. Collaboration with partner agencies to understand the influence of harm on perpetrators is crucial. Professionals should assess whether a child at risk falls under Sections 17 or 47 of the Children Act 1989.
Section 3: Child Protection
This section introduces new national multi-agency child protection standards to set out actions, considerations and behaviours for improved child protection practice for practitioners in contact with children who may have suffered or be suffering significant harm, either within or outside the home. It also clarifies multi-agency responses to all forms of abuse and exploitation outside of the home, consideration of children at risk of experiencing extra-familial harm in all children’s social care assessments and includes resources to support practitioners understanding of the response to online harm.
Chapter 4 – Organisational Responsibilities
The updated guidance highlights the importance of information exchange between prison and probation services, children’s social care and other relevant agencies. This change highlights the benefits of cross-agency collaboration for safeguarding purposes and strengthens and clarifies processes and responsibilities for child safeguarding.
Chapter 5 – Learning from Serious Child Safeguarding Incidents
This chapter clarifies the expectations for keeping in touch with care leavers over the age of 21. While not legally mandated, the guidance advises local authorities to ‘notify the Secretary of State for Education and OFSTED of the death of a care leaver up to and including the age of 24.’ This will improve learning and outcomes for these groups of individuals. Additionally, if local partners believe valuable insights could be derived from the death of a looked-after child or care leaver, even if it doesn’t meet the criteria for a serious incident, they are encouraged to conduct a local safeguarding practice review.
Child Death Reviews
The guidance has been updated with factual changes to align with the most recent legislation and guidelines in this area and it covers any changes, amendments and updates in the last 5 years.
Factual changes are listed in the Department of Education document: Working Together to Safeguard Children 2023: Summary of changes.
Includes new legislation: Domestic Abuse Act 2021 legislation.
Appendix B within Working Together to Safeguard Children: A guide to multi-agency working to help, protect and promote the welfare of children contains further sources of information/resources issued by the Department for Education.
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