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Children: Protection

Volume 704: debated on Wednesday 22 October 2008

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Keeping children and young people safe is a top priority for this Government. We will do all we can to make the safeguarding system as robust as possible.

One of the commitments informing the Government’s Staying Safe: Action Plan published earlier this year was to carry out a stocktake of local safeguarding children boards, which play a vital statutory role in safeguarding children and young people. This is part of our continuing programme of work to support these boards and identify further ways of improving their effectiveness. I am today announcing the terms of reference for this stocktake, which will be conducted in close collaboration with local authority and other partners and will report in spring 2009.

Alongside this stocktake, we will also carry out a study to examine the processes of commissioning, conducting and implementing serious case reviews. The overarching objective of this study is to establish what more can be done to improve the quality, consistency and impact of serious case reviews as part of the overall system for safeguarding children and young people. In particular, the study will seek to identify ways in which the learning from these reviews can be acted on more effectively to strengthen local arrangements to protect children and inform national policy. This study will report in summer 2009.

I have also asked Sir Roger Singleton, chair of the Independent Safeguarding Authority, to lead a review of safeguarding arrangements in independent schools, non-maintained special schools and boarding schools. The current arrangements for independent schools have been in place for several years and we believe a review now would be helpful to establish whether any further improvements are needed. The review will examine the practical operation of the current statutory and non-statutory safeguarding arrangements that apply to independent schools, non-maintained special schools and boarding schools in the maintained, non-maintained and independent sectors in England. Sir Roger expects to conclude his work in February 2009.

I am placing in the House Library copies of the terms of reference for the local safeguarding children boards stocktake, the serious case review study and the review of safeguarding arrangements in independent schools, non-maintained special schools and boarding schools. The reports resulting from these pieces of work will be made public and I shall report to Parliament in due course on any recommendations arising and our response to them.