[Dawn Williams, Head of Safeguarding, to present report]
Dawn Williams, Head of Safeguarding, gave a PowerPoint presentation on plans to abolish Wolverhampton Safeguarding Board and replace it with a new organisation Wolverhampton Safeguarding Together. The Head of Safeguarding advised the panel that this would be final time that the annual safeguarding board report would be presented in the format detailed in Agenda item. The Head of Safeguarding outlined the original aims behind the setting up of Safeguarding Boards. The Head of Safeguarding outlined the reasons highlighted during a review about the limited effectiveness and impact of the current structure and working arrangements. The Head of Safeguarding advised the panel that Children Safeguarding Boards were established in 2006 and Adults Safeguarding Boards in 2014. A key issue highlighted from a local review was that the current arrangements were considered to be too bureaucratic and that there was a lack of ownership of the issues and the delivery of priorities. As a result of new national guidance, a number of changes were required to be made to local safeguarding arrangements to improve their effectiveness. The Head of Safeguarding outlined the new structure and the aims of the Wolverhampton Safeguarding Together.
The Head of Safeguarding outlined the benefits of the new working arrangements. The change is considered to be positive and will create an environment which offers the right level of challenge to partner agencies and support the move to adopting a whole family approach to the issue of safeguarding. The plan is to have the new working arrangements fully embedded by the end of March 2020.
The Head of Safeguarding listed the members of the Wolverhampton Safeguarding Together Integrated Executive Working Group. The Head of Safeguarding outlined the role and membership of the Wolverhampton Safeguarding Together Integrated Scrutiny and Assurance Group. A key part of the role was to embed learning and support improvement in the effectiveness of the service. The panel discussed the safeguarding role of schools in supporting safeguarding agenda.
The Head of Safeguarding explained the reasons for removing the role of Independent Chair. A new Independent Scrutineer would be appointed at no cost and role would be very different. The expectation is that the person would commit to 10 – 12 days year to check on progress and to offer challenge about the progress towards achieving the priorities. An independently facilitated stakeholding event is being planned to review progress against key priorities. The scrutiny role of the independent scrutineer would be supported by case file audits, peer reviews and external partnerships to provide an independent review.
The panel queried the line of authority for safeguarding matters in the new structure. The Head of Safeguarding advised that findings and recommendations of the work of sub-groups would be reported to the Executive Group who have lead responsibility for safeguarding.
An issue of concern can be escalated to the Executive Group which is part of the changes introduced to support partner organisations to be more dynamic, flexible and responsive. The effectiveness of the work of the Executive Group would be appraised by the Independent Scrutineer.
The panel queried what would happen if the current arrangements don’t deliver the expected improvements. The Head of Safeguarding advised that the progress would be reviewed by the Independent Scrutineer.
The new approach safeguarding is based on national learning from some of the early adopters and has involved taking the best from these examples to make changes to current arrangements in Wolverhampton. The progress will be reviewed at the end of March 2020 to look what further immediate changes are needed.
The panel queried if the changes would help to reduce the risk of silo working between different agencies. The panel queried if the new working arrangements would identify and address any example of silo working among the key agencies leading on safeguarding matters. The Head of Safeguarding offered the panel reassurance and added that an important part of the new approach is to continue to integrate both children’s and adults safeguarding practice, supported by a much more simplified management structure.
The Director of Adult Services added that there is a lot of duplication in current partnership arrangements and the changes represent an opportunity to improve the effectiveness of safeguarding provision. This would be supported by a reduction in the numbers of organisations involved at meetings and meetings themselves will also be reduced. The creation of dedicated working groups would add value.
The Head of Safeguarding commented on the impact of the new working arrangements on the financial contribution to the budget made by partner organisations as a result of a reduction of the number represented on the new executive board. The Council contributes the majority share to the budget, followed by the police and benefits from being co-terminus with the areas covered by partners such as the police and CCG. The situation is complicated in other areas who do not have this coterminous arrangement where changes in safeguarding structure could lead to requests for increased funding contributions from West Midlands Police in other areas without this arrangement, at a time when the police finances are under pressure.
The panel queried what the safeguarding situation would look like in 12 months’ time from changes introduced. The Head of Safeguarding would expect to see more challenge, better partnership working arrangements and improved relationships with the community.
The Head of Safeguarding advised that March 2021 would be a good time to report back to the panel progress against the key aims and priorities. The suggested that a briefing from the independent scrutineer would also be helpful. The panel agreed to add the item on Wolverhampton Safeguarding Together to the panel work programme.
1. The panel welcomed the report and supported the aims for Wolverhampton Safeguarding Together arrangements in Wolverhampton.
2. The panel to receive a progress report from a representative of the executive working group on the impact of the Wolverhampton Safeguarding Together in March 2021 in achieving its stated aims.
3. The panel to receive a briefing from the Independent Scrutineer on the effectiveness of the partnership in meeting its stated aims and priorities in March 2021.