Supporting vulnerable children and families during Covid-19: Great resilience and adaptability

By Annie Hudson, Chair of the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel and SCIE trustee

Annie Hudson, Chair of the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel and SCIE trustee

Every day multi-agency services and practitioners are successfully safeguarding children, but it only takes one devastating tragedy to call into question whether services designed to keep young people safe are working as effectively as they need to be.

In December 2020, I took up the role as Chair of the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel. The Panel’s central purpose is to make sense of, and enable learning from the most serious incidents of abuse and neglect, when children have died or been seriously harmed. Such learning is crucial if we are to do all that we can to prevent or reduce the likelihood of such tragic incidents recurring.

Today, we are publishing our second Annual Report (for 2020) and hope that this will stimulate reflection and discussion about a range of practice matters, including learning from rapid and local safeguarding practice reviews. It highlights how safeguarding practitioners and leaders have demonstrated great resilience and adaptability in the way that they have the supported vulnerable children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A central theme of the Annual Report is that a number of very stubborn issues continue to beset some contemporary practice. For example, there is still too often a lack of appropriate and timely sharing of information between agencies, and risk assessment and management is sometimes weak. This is why the Panel is prioritising risk assessment and decision-making in its 2021 work programme. These are complex matters that reflect, amongst other things, broader issues about culture, history as well as the intrinsic nature of child safeguarding practice. They cannot be tackled by individual agencies, departments or sectors working in isolation so we will work closely with all stakeholders to see how these perennial problems might be best addressed.

The Annual Report highlights six crosscutting practice themes. These themes are not new, but they are the most urgent, and often the most difficult to get right. The six themes are:

  • Understanding what the child’s daily life is like
  • Working with families where their engagement is reluctant and sporadic
  • Critical thinking and challenge
  • Responding to changing risk and need
  • Sharing information in a timely and appropriate way
  • Organisational leadership and culture for good outcomes.

The Panel is also today publishing two other reports. These are firstly an analysis with the What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care of safeguarding partners’ yearly reports and, secondly a commissioned report on Local Child Safeguarding Practice Reviews and Rapid Reviews undertaken by the University of East Anglia and Birmingham University. Taken together, these three reports provide a great deal of analysis and information which we hope will prompt everyone to reflect on how well we are safeguarding children and what more we need to do.

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