SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter covers the requirements within Chapter 4 of Working Together to Safeguard Children, which describes the way that professionals and organisations protecting children need to reflect on the quality of their services and learn from their own practice and that of others. It explains the requirements for an integrated local learning and improvement framework.
1.1 Learning and Improvement Framework
Working Together requires that the Local Safeguarding Children Board maintain a shared local learning and improvement framework across those local organisations working with children and families.
This local framework covers the full range of single and multi-agency reviews and audits which aim to drive improvements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. The different types of review include:
- Serious Case Review (see Serious Case Reviews Procedure);
- Child death review (see Chapter 5: Child death reviews of Working Together);
- Review of a child protection incident which falls below the threshold for a Serious Case Review;
- Review or audit of practice in one or more agencies.
1.2 Purpose of Local Framework
The aim of this framework is to enable local organisations to improve services through being clear about their responsibilities to learn from experience and particularly through the provision of insights into the way organisations work together to safeguard and protect the welfare of children.
The framework should be shared across all agencies that work with families and children. Working Together states that 'This framework should enable organisations to be clear about their responsibilities, to learn from experience and improve services as a result'.
This should be achieved though:
- Reviews conducted regularly;
- Such reviews to encompass both those cases which meet statutory criteria (i.e. Serious Case Reviews and child death reviews) and cases which may provide useful insights into the way organisations are working together to safeguard and protect the welfare of children;
- Reviews examining what happened in the case, why it did so and what action will be taken to learn from the findings;
- Learning from both good and more problematic practice about the organisational strengths and weaknesses within local services to safeguard children;
- Implementation of actions arising from the findings which result in lasting improvements to services;
- Transparency about the issues arising and the resulting actions organisations take in response to the findings from individual cases, including sharing the final reports of Serious Case Reviews with the public.
Reviews are not an end in themselves, but a method to identify improvements needed and to consolidate good practice. The LSCB and partner organisations will translate the findings from reviews into programmes of action which lead to sustainable improvements.
There is considerable local discretion as to what the Learning and Improvement Framework will look like in any area. It will need to take into account the LSCB structure and partnership arrangements and aim to be as inclusive as possible.
Local learning and Improvement framework arrangements will need to develop shared audit tools, processes for capturing the views of service users and a system for sharing learning with the wider workforce.
1.3 Principles for a Culture of Continuous Improvement
There should be a culture of continuous learning and improvement across the organisations that work together to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, so as to identify what works and what promotes good practice.
Within this culture the principles are:
- A proportionate response: According to the scale and level of complexity of the issues being examined i.e. the scale of the review is not determined by whether or not the circumstances meet statutory criteria;
- Independence: Reviews of serious cases to be led by individuals who are independent of the case under review and of the organisations whose actions are being reviewed;
- Involvement of practitioners and clinicians: Professionals should be fully involved in reviews and invited to contribute their perspectives without fear of being blamed for actions they took in good faith;
- Offer of family involvement: Families, including surviving children, should be invited to contribute to reviews and be provided with an understanding of how this will occur;
- The child to be at the centre of the process;
- Transparency: Achieved by publication of the final reports of Serious Case Reviews and the LSCB's response to the findings. The LSCB annual reports will explain the impact of Serious Case Reviews and other reviews on improving services to children and families and on reducing the incidence of deaths or serious harm to children. This will also inform inspections;
- Sustainability: Improvement must be sustained through regular monitoring and follow-up so that the findings from these reviews make a real impact on improving outcomes for children.
There is an understandable focus on Serious Case Reviews given the profile of this type of review, however it should be remembered that they are not the only process that should drive learning and improvement. LSCB's should pay equal or greater attention to the dissemination processes for learning giving consideration to:
- The need to reach a multi-agency audience;
- An understanding of adult learning;
- The on-going training and development needs of certain professional groups.
Clearly one approach will not be suitable for all learning and every agency; a range of learning opportunities should be provided that could include: inter-professional discussion forums, specific dissemination events, thematic presentations (combining the learning from several different reviews) and the uses of LSCB newsletters to produce factsheets on specific topics.