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Terms of reference and constitutions

Most SABs, prior to the Care Act 2014, had developed a formal agreement to underpin their governance and activity. These agreements varied in length and complexity and took several forms:

  • constitutions
  • terms of reference
  • memoranda of understanding.

The Care Act does not make any specific requirements of SABs with regard to governance, infrastructure and links to other local multi-agency partnerships. The Statutory Guidance (14.114) states that ‘local SABs decide how they operate but they must ensure that their arrangements will be able to deliver the duties and functions under Schedule 2 of the Care Act’ In effect, this means that SABs need to seek cooperation and collaboration from their member agencies in implementing their strategic plan.

In order to achieve this, a SAB will need to agree its governance and structure in documentation such as terms of reference and/or a constitution, which could include:

  • primary purpose
  • mission statement, safeguarding vision, or equivalent
  • membership in terms of:
    • agencies, organisations and communities of interest
    • the seniority, experience, expertise and knowledge of agency representatives, organisations and communities of interest
    • expectations of attendance and deputising arrangementsarrangements for the chairing of meetings
  • arrangements for the frequency and duration of meetings
  • resource base: whether in terms of financial contribution or in kind, and by which agencies or organisations
  • support processes/systems (i.e. administrative support to the SAB and its infrastructure)
  • decision-making processes
  • management and sharing of information between partners
  • escalation policy for problematic issues/agencies
  • minimum number of members needed at meetings to conduct core business
  • arrangements for involvement of groups and communities that are not members
  • arrangements for the SAB and its chair to obtain independent legal advice
  • arrangements for declarations of interest
  • a code of conduct for members, including a confidentiality statement
  • ensuring that each member agency or organisation, where appropriate, has arrangements in place to identify a designated adult safeguarding manager
  • infrastructure (e.g. subgroups, task-and-finish groups and their membership)
  • arrangements for people with care and support needs and carers to be active participants in the SABs work
  • role descriptions for members at all levels of infrastructure
  • strategic objectives
  • review processes.

The SAB should seek legal advice on the content and structure of its governance documentation. The source of this advice should be clearly identified as it might be seen as a conflict of interest with the SAB’s independence from its membership.

Issues to consider include:

  • Can a common approach to governance be agreed with other local multi-agency partnerships given that many will have members in common?
  • Which type of governance document is most appropriate for the SAB?
  • At what level within member organisations will any constitution or equivalent be ratified?
  • How will members’ responsibilities, in addition to attending meetings, be agreed, recorded and updated?
  • Will all members at every level of a SAB, subgroup and task-and-finish group have to sign the agreement?
  • Will agencies and organisations that operate across SAB boundaries have to sign more than one formal agreement, and could they be contradictory?
  • Would it be more effective for the local authority to join with another to establish a single SAB?
  • How will the SAB ensure that its subgroups continue to work in accordance with the strategic plan?