Everyone in Devon shares a commitment to and responsibility for safeguarding children. In fact, the DCFP’s three safeguarding partners have a statutory duty to do so.
As part of our statutory duty, we are required to publish our Multi-Agency Safeguarding Arrangements (MASA) and an annual, independently scrutinised report. Mark Gurrey, an independent consultant, agreed to provide independent scrutiny for our annual review and this report – the DCFP’s first Annual Report. The review was carried out between October and November 2019.
Below is a summary of the report’s findings, but you can read/download the report in full here.
Summary of Key Findings
We have made good progress since the partnership was created in 2018. The Independent Reviewer has recognised, in lots of areas, our continuously improving practice as well as areas of innovative practice. In his view we are meeting the challenge of Working Together 2018 well.
- Good progress since inception – “hard yards completed”
- Partners describe a positive culture and clearly value DCFP
- Relationships are good and mutually supportive
- More purposeful than in the past
- Chaired by Police – spreads leadership
- Tri-partite funding
- Mirrored at locality level
- Detailed and comprehensive Children and Young People’s Plan (CYPP) produced
- DCFP becoming a recognised and valued brand
Areas for development
- The CYPP is substantial in content, and there’s a danger that the DCFP Executive could default to only monitoring its progress, processing papers and reports
- All partners must take a shared responsibility of the agenda
- The gaps in the Partnership Support Unit have had a significant impact on progress
- Resolve longer term funding base
The Independent Reviewer’s biggest reservation about the MASA is the very wide scope of the comprehensive agenda set out in the CYPP and the risk that the DCFP Executive could default to only monitoring the plan’s progress, processing papers and reports. He suggests that:
“The DCFP Executive [should] take direct ownership of and responsibility for one or two specific areas of safeguarding and ensure that their collective efforts have a demonstrable impact on front line practice. The Executive should ensure they are sighted on current practice, including examples of good work, understand what needs to happen both in terms of leadership and investment to improve practice and oversee positive changes throughout the course of 2020”.
This is agreed and will be taken forward by the partnership.
The second area of reservation for the reviewer concerns independent scrutiny of partnership working. The Reviewer recommends that:
“The DCFP [should] commission some external independent scrutiny work during 2020 with a clear focus on partnership working. It should look to build on the approach being developed within Rapid Reviews and through their appreciative inquiry work that scrutiny should be explicitly learning focussed, should include areas of good practice as well as ones of concern and should be conducted in a way that enables quick and effective dissemination to front line practitioners”.
This is agreed and will be taken forward by the partnership.
The Independent Review recognises that the DCFP is still at an early stage of development and is probably more advanced than most nationally.
What we’ve done so far
We feel confident that we are embedding a partnership system that is responsive to the complexity of Devon and the nature and scale of the safeguarding challenges locally. We have worked together to create and publish a three-year Children and Young People’s Plan (CYPP), new provider arrangements for Children’s Community Health services are operational, and we have overseen major developments in involvement (parents and young people).
Achievements and Impacts
- Over £150k has been invested and new staff brought in to bolster this crucial area of work
- The CYPP benefitted from considerable consultation with children and young people
- There is activity to further widen the scope of user participation both for children and young people
- We further strengthened Early Help, Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) and the interface between statutory services and early help, ensuring that more families, more often receive the right service at the right time
- We have responded positively to the challenge of the 2018 Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Inspection and are able to evidence impact from the actions we have taken
- We launched the Adolescent Safety Framework
- We completed development work on Sexual Abuse, impact to be tested next year
- We progressed development work on teenage suicidal ideation
Key Priorities for 2020/21
- SEND, in particular responding to autism, and corollary challenges of emotional health and well-being and mental health and speech and language development. This will incorporate learning from the 2018 Review which explored radicalisation risk and preventative interventions in relation to young people with autism.
- Further work to embed neglect practice toolkit. 2018/19 saw a lot of development work in relation to neglect. Impact was tested in 19/20. The partnership was not satisfied that the toolkit was sufficiently informing frontline practice. Activity is scheduled for January 2020 with learning dissemination for March 2020.
- From our two Rapid Reviews in 19/20 we have identified deeper understanding of coercive control and mitigating risks that arise in Elective Home Education as key development areas.
- Assessing the impact of the Adolescent Safety Framework.
The Way We Work
Governance and Leadership
The report found a positively developing culture within the partnership, with good, robust relationships at executive level. The leadership work over the last 12 months has been successful in moving the group to a more effective and purposeful position than applied in previous safeguarding initiatives.
Changes in governance are detailed on the website, and you can view a structure chart of the DCFP including all sub-groups here.
Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is an approach to improvement and change which starts with seeking out the best of what is happening at the moment and using this as the basis for working out how to get better in the future. It focuses on solutions rather than problems.
During Winter 2018/ 2019 the DCFP worked with Research in Practice to develop a practice evaluation model based on AI. The tools developed from AI work are published here. The principles of AI have underpinned the work of the Child Safeguarding Practice Review (CSPR) Group and one CSPR has been completed using an AI approach; this will be published in 2020.
However, the review noted that:
“The appreciative inquiry (AI) approach developed under the Early Adopter initiative has not progressed as was originally hoped. There are completed AI materials publicly available and it is clear that some of the underlying philosophy within them is gaining some traction across the partnership”.
Case Resolution Protocol
The DCFP has a case resolution protocol, although this is used rarely. Each agency is reporting confidence that the timely resolution of issues between agencies is well embedded with Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), the Locality Partnerships and Locality Directors, thereby creating the conditions for this to be effective both at early help and child protection.
During 2018/19 Serious Case Reviews, Rapid Reviews and Local Child Safeguarding Practice Reviews (LCSPR) were undertaken. The learning from these reviews in relation to coercive control and elective home education risk has informed work plans for 2020.
Rapid Reviews are timely reviews for serious child safeguarding cases where abuse or neglect of a child is suspected and the child has died or been seriously harmed.
The review found that:
“The Rapid Review process in Devon expects partners to go through a staged process: what has happened; what is the background to the event(s); what are the emerging lessons; what if anything, more might we need to learn about and what is the most effective way of getting to that learning. DCFP are currently producing short, well focussed and analytical Rapid Reviews, and their use and impact was spoken of positively. They are demonstrating a clear and effective understanding of the new process, and it is clear that the final reports are both well received, widely circulated and well used locally.
The key outcome envisaged within the changes set out in Working Together 2018 are that case reviews should be conducted in much quicker and more focussed ways than hitherto and that the gaps between an incident and the learning contained therein and the dissemination of that learning should be considerably narrowed. There is evidence that that is the case in Devon and will need to be sustained. The DCFP approach to Rapid Reviews and any LCSPRs should be maintained and developed and the partnership should continue to focus on quick and effective ways of identifying and disseminating learning from individual cases”.
This emerging good practice will be further supported through workshops with LCSPR Group, PDG and QADG planned for Spring 2020 facilitated by Research in Practice.
The MASA sets out a clear expectation that any independent scrutiny commissioned by DCFP must add value to that already in place and that carried out by safeguarding partners in the delivery of their statutory duties.
Since publication of the MASA, some aspects of the partnership and or individual agencies have been formally reviewed by regulators or inspectors. These are as follows:
- December 2018 SEND Area Inspection (Ofsted Care Quality Commission). Written Statement of Action approved August 2019
- May 2019 Ofsted Focused Visit Children in Need
- Summer 2019 Partners in Practice team diagnostics for social work teams
- HMICFRS inspected Devon and Cornwall Police in July 2019, report to be published January 2020
- The Atkinson Secure Children’s Home was subject to an Ofsted inspection and is rated ‘good’ in all areas
- The four short breaks residential units are also subject to Ofsted inspection. Two have been judged as ‘Good’, two as ‘Requires Improvement’
- 41 schools were inspected and only one of these was judged ineffective for safeguarding
The Partnership has continued to invest significant resources in multi-agency learning and development to complement single agency initiatives.
The priorities for workforce development set out in the MASA have been reviewed and amended in line with the CYPP. Read more about the Workforce Development Plan here.
Children’s voice and influence in the work of the partnership has been a priority development area through 2018/19. Additional investment has also been made to support a 12-month post from the DCFP to work alongside the additional resources the Council has committed to expand this team.
A number of successful events and initiatives have been staged or launched, including:
- Three “Big Lunch” workshops for care leavers were held as part of the celebration of National Care Leavers Week (October 2019)
- A Climate Change Forum organised by Members of Devon’s Youth Parliament and attended by over 100 young people aged 11-16 from across the county
- Children in Care Councils were revised and revamped moving to a locality-based model to enable more children in care to attend and participate
- Events to discuss the Maternity Strategy for Devon
- In August 2019, the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) brought together parents of children and young people with autism to hear their views on and suggestions as to how best to improve the services and support available
- The CCG commissioned a local voluntary organisation to discuss and seek views on the emotional health and wellbeing of children and young people
- National Takeover Challenge day on 29th November 2019 resulted in a range of exciting opportunities created for children and young people
The development of the forum for parents and carers of children with SEND in Devon continues to be a high priority for us as we seek to ensure meaningful engagement on matters of co-design and co-production. The forum is being supported by Somerset Parent Carer Forum as a host organisation until they are ready to set up as an independent charity in Summer 2020.
The Independent Review commended partners “for having established equal funding contributions to support DCFP. This is one of the few and possibly the only partnership in the country where this is the case.” Some question marks were raised as to the longer term sustainability of the funding arrangement. However, since the review, ongoing commitment from the three Safeguarding Partners has been secured to the costs of the partnership support. The partner’s will also make a resource available for multi-agency training and are committed to continue to do this into 2020/21.
The DCFP would like to thank Mark Gurrey, Independent Reviewer, for his observations and recommendations. The partnership is committed to independent scrutiny and welcomes the insight and experience that has informed the review, which is expected to further strengthen an already flourishing partnership.
Mark Gurrey undertook the Independent Review between October and November 2019. He interviewed:
- Lead Member Children’s Services Devon CC
- Chief Officer Children’s Services DCC
- Head of Service Education DCC
- Head of Children’s Social Care DCC
- Chief Superintendent and DCFP Executive Chair
- Head of Commissioning DCC
- Interim Deputy Chief Officer NHS Devon CCG
- Head of Safeguarding NHS Devon CCG
- Safeguarding Lead Babcock (externally commissioned school support services)
- Primary Head Teacher
- 3 of the 4 Locality Area Managers Early Help
- Manager, Quality Assurance and Reviewing Service