Friday, 5 December 2014

Combined Authorities provide an opportunity for child protection

There is currently a big push in England to create ‘city regions’ based on ‘combined authorities’ -

The idea is to confer on some of the big urban areas – e.g. Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire etc. - devolved powers similar to those that apply already in Greater London. Strategic planning, transport and environmental protection are some of the areas in which the advantages of combination are recognised by many.

As in London this would result in a two-tier structure with ‘boroughs’ or ‘districts’ still existing within a single strategic framework.  

I think that child protection should also feature in discussions about the formation of combined authorities. A single Local Safeguarding Children Board and a single approach to procedures and training for the whole combined authority area seem sensible. Much greater co-operation between individual children’s services departments would then become possible.

One of the lessons that emerged from the Victoria Climbié inquiry was that the relationship between hospitals and social workers was complicated because hospitals had to accommodate different procedures and working practices of different boroughs’ children’s services whose residents used the hospitals. There is absolutely no reason why this sort of unnecessary complication should be tolerated.

Ideally I would like to see arrangements in which child protection work (especially emergency work) can be easily passed between boroughs/districts within the combined authority. That is yet to happen to any great extent in London, but in my view should be a strategic objective of the Department for Education to achieve.