Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Learning from the Olympics

Ian Dean, the Manager of the London Safeguarding Children Board, provides an interesting account in today’s Guardian of how London Boroughs have co-operated to provide a child protection service covering the "Olympic co-ordination zone", which spans four local authority areas. http://www.guardian.co.uk/social-care-network/2012/aug/07/safeguarding-children-olympics?newsfeed=true

The interesting issue which Ian does not go on to discuss is, if this type of co-operation between local authorities is possible during the Olympics, why is it not occurring more commonly on a-day-to-day basis? In an age of central government cuts and restricted local government budgets, it makes enormous sense to consider what parts of child protection services can be provided more efficiently across a larger area. Why duplicate services and resources across the thirty-two local authorities (boroughs) which form London?

Greater co-operation would result not only in services which are more efficient, and therefore cheaper, but in higher quality services. A central point of referral would act as a central store of information. A larger group of social workers could be deployed more flexibly and more quickly. Pooling intelligence and human resources would result in a much larger pool of corporate and professional knowledge. Common systems for recording would speed the service response and ensure that information was appropriately shared. Out of hours services would benefit particularly.

I find it surprising that London Boroughs and other local authorities, especially in metropolitan areas, have not been more inventive and aggressive in trying to co-operate and share child protection services. As I understand it, legislation (Local Government Act 1972 and Local Government Act 2000) allows officers of one authority to act as officers of another and for one authority to delegate a function to another authority and for two or more authorities to jointly exercise their functions. So the legal basis seems clear, as it must be in order for this to have happened during the Olympics.

Perhaps the London Safeguarding Children Board will now take the model forward with a view to widespread co-operation in child protection across the capital?