Northamptonshire’s body responsible for safeguarding children is being scrapped and replaced with a new partnership that will mean ‘key agencies can work more closely together’.
The move to replace the Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Board (NSCB) with the Northamptonshire Children Safeguarding Partnership comes in the wake of serious case reviews published last week into the deaths of two county children who were murdered in December 2017 and April 2018 by the violent drug dealers they were living with.
Both families had been known to social services and mistakes were made in how the authorities safeguarded the children and opportunities to better protect them were missed.
All safeguarding boards have been required to review their arrangements by government in response to new guidance set out in the Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018.
The Northamptonshire review took place earlier this year but its findings have not been made public.
Out of it, however, has come the new partnership which will include the county council, police and the county’s two clinical commissioning groups responsible for the partnership arrangements. An independent scrutineer will also be appointed who will challenge the work of the new partnership. There will be audits, training data and peer to peer challenge.
A key priority of the new board will be taking early action.
In the recently published 2019-21 plan for the new partnership director of children’s services Sally Hodges, who joined the county council in February, said the authority welcomed the new arrangements.
She said: “Safeguarding children and young people is a complex issue, and success can only be achieved if all parties work closely together. This new arrangement will enable key agencies to work more closely in developing and delivering services and in encouraging everyone to play their part in the protection of children.”
The chairman of the NSCB Keith Makin, who had chaired the board for five years and has now stood down, admitted last week that the partnership between key players such as the local authority, police, health organisations, youth offending and probation services had not been working properly.
He said some of the partners had lost confidence in the county council’s understaffed children’s social services department and said he thought an improvement board set up in 2013 after the department had been rated by Ofsted as inadequate had been disbanded too early when it was closed in 2016.
Former Northampton MP Sally Keeble has questioned whether the new partnership will improve things.
She said: “The proposal for an independent scrutineer is bizarre. It looks like the person will be sucked into the bureaucracy, part of the board, chairing a subgroup etc, and won’t be independent at all. The council’s track record on scrutiny is desperately weak and is part of the problem. There’s nothing in the structure that indicates where “the voice of the child” will be heard, which is the most crucial missed voice in the recent tragedies.”
It has been decided that a third serious case review looking at the case of a boy who was locked in a room by his family and severely neglected will not be published because of the ‘potential damage it could cause to the children involved.’