To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent assessment his Department has made of the impact of covid-19 lockdowns on the ability of local authorities and partner organisations and agencies to safeguard children.
23 February 2022
Individuals who work to support children and families must be clear of what is expected of them, and how they need to work together in partnership with others. ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children (2018)’ is the statutory guidance on inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and respond to their needs. This guidance is available here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/942454/Working_together_to_safeguard_children_inter_agency_guidance.pdf.
Targeted area inspections, carried out jointly by Ofsted, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Probation for England and Wales, and the Care Quality Commission, provide a rigorous assessment of the quality of these multi-agency arrangements in a local area.
We know that lockdown has been a difficult time for safeguarding partners and appreciate all that they have done to safeguard vulnerable children in challenging circumstances. However, the statutory duty to work together and provide quality safeguarding services remained unchanged.
The department has been in close contact with all safeguarding partners throughout the COVID-19 outbreak to ensure they continued to identify and risk assess children in their areas. There is no doubt that the COVID-19 outbreak added challenges to services’ ability to identify and work with families, especially those intent to deceive them.
The department launched the See, Hear, Respond programme aimed to support vulnerable children and young people whose usual support networks were impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak and national restrictions. The government provided over £11 million to the programme which was delivered between June 2020 and March 2021 by a consortium of over 70 national and local organisations.
In April 2020, the government made £1.8 million available to the NSPCC to expand and promote its national helpline for adults to report concerns. While schools, social workers and the police remain at the forefront of work to protect vulnerable children, expanding the NSPCC helpline will mean many more adults know how and where to raise concerns and seek advice or support about the safety and wellbeing of any child or young person they are worried about.