CHILDREN at risk of abuse in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent will be protected through improved partnerships between councils, local police and health services.
Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent have been announced as one of the government’s ‘early adopters’ of new safeguarding reforms, which will see local authorities, the police and health services working closer together on joint safeguarding decisions.
Currently, Staffordshire County Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council have separate independent Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs).
Under the new arrangements being developed, it is anticipated that a better aligned and more integrated approach to safeguarding will be achieved across both Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, and will bring together six Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and numerous acute, community and mental health providers.
The agencies would work across geographical and organisational boundaries to ensure that local services meet the needs of local children and families, and protect children from abuse and neglect, while also considering how to give appropriate focus to specific issues in particular areas.
Each organisation will work with the National Children’s Bureau to begin formal consultation on the plans, with a view to beginning the new arrangements in 2019.
Mark Sutton, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Children and Young People, said: “Protecting children and young people from harm and neglect is our number one priority, and anything we can do to remove barriers will be of benefit to them and their families.
“Families in need don’t see geographical or organisational boundaries, and very often issues arise that affect both Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.
“By working to remove these barriers, strengthen our already strong multi-agency safeguarding arrangements and improve scrutiny and accountability, we can help more families, and protect more children from harm.”
Cllr Janine Bridges, cabinet member for Education and Economy at Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said: “The Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire safeguarding children boards already work together, but considering the formation of one board, with appropriate local arrangements to supplement that, will help make the safeguarding arrangements that are already in place, even stronger.
“Safeguarding concerns are not bound by location, and this means that the board can share resources, specialist knowledge and build stronger relationships with partners on either side of the border.
“Our priority is always to protect children from harm and offer families support when they need it. Looking at how we could bring together the two boards will help to make sure the support we give to children and families is even better.”
Marcus Warnes, Accountable Officer for the Staffordshire CCGs, said, “Health services have a key role to play in identifying child protection issues and I am pleased that Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent will be one of the 17 areas to develop new and innovative approaches to set up multi-agency safeguarding processes.
“It is important that health practitioners who come into contact with young people have the best and easiest tools in their tool kit to take appropriate and effective action.
“The CCGs and Councils also have an additional responsibility under the new legislation to carry out reviews of child deaths where there are safeguarding issues and we will be working closely with all the organisations who can help to prevent such tragic circumstances.”
Detective Superintendent Jennie Mattinson, of Staffordshire Police, said: “This is an exciting opportunity to strengthen our partnerships to ensure we continue to do all we can to protect children from harm.
“All agencies in Staffordshire are eager to work together to remove barriers and embed good practice across the county. Being awarded ‘early adopter’ status recognises the good work already done by the partnership and that we are able to embrace and embed the new ways of working quickly. Not only will this put Staffordshire at the forefront of the national work it will help in keeping our children safer.”