Westminster Education Forum

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Priorities for child protection in England - learning from the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting service recovery and responding to rising demand going forward

December 2020

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***
This conference is examining priorities for child protection policy, bringing together key stakeholders and policymakers.

The discussion is bringing together stakeholders with key policy officials who are due to attend from the DfE; Ofsted; the Home Office; DHSC; HMPPS; DCMS; the Government Legal Department; the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office; and the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation.

The discussion at a glance:

  • the COVID-19 lockdown - the challenges that were experienced, the way services adapted and responded, and lessons for the second lockdown
  • policy and support - assessing key developments and government measures implemented during the crisis
  • learning for the future - from the performance of children’s services, and system capacity for supporting disadvantaged and vulnerable children amid heightened pressures, to inform future practice
  • new challenges - next steps for service recovery and coping with increased demand as the immediate pressures of the pandemic recede
  • extra support - what may be required going forward for:
    • child protection service recovery and coping with rising demand following COVID-19
    • the workforce, partner organisations, and the children and households that they serve
  • joint working - implementation so far of new child safeguarding arrangements and next steps for improving multi-agency working in child protection settings
  • online safety - latest thinking in the context of continued remote learning

Relevant background and developments:

  • Child protection at heart of courts review - recently launched by the Ministry of Justice to consider how the current approach to parental access made in the family courts impacts child safety
  • The impact of COVID-19 on education and children’s services - the Education Committee’s inquiry
  • The Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 - emergency legislation that has relaxed local authority responsibilities towards children in care during the pandemic
  • Tackling Child Sexual Abuse strategy - the recent commitment from the Safeguarding Minister to publish the strategy by the end of the year
  • Record numbers contact the NSPCC with concerns during lockdown - increases in reports of child abuse and children living in homes with domestic abuse, maltreatment and neglect across England
  • new working arrangements for safeguarding - with Local Safeguarding Children Boards replaced by Safeguarding Partners consisting of local authorities, CCGs, and police forces
  • 'It's frustrating': UK social workers say they lack time and resources to do their job - findings from the Guardian Jobs Social Lives survey
  • the Online Harms White Paper - setting out plans for online safety measures to make companies more responsible for users’ safety, especially vulnerable groups such as young children

The discussion in detail:

  • COVID-19:
    • the experience - assessing safeguarding children during the lockdown and the effectiveness of Government measures put in place for supporting vulnerable children during this time
    • what can be learned - how the exceptional circumstances during lockdown can inform future policy on tackling root causes of child abuse, neglect and maltreatment and help improve the support network for children
  • service recovery:
    • rising demand - with increasing concerns over the impact of emergency legislation relaxing local authorities’ duties during lockdown leading to some children in care possibly falling through the cracks of social support networks, and child abuse being hidden
    • support - what do local authorities need so as to enable them to best fulfil their child social care duties post-COVID-19:
    • funding pressures - against the background of local authority budget reductions and growing numbers placed on child protection plans prior to the pandemic
    • spending policy - with preparations being made for the expected 2020 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) this autumn
  • new working arrangements - assessing progress following reforms to child protection which were introduced last September:
    • response - assessing improvement in timely access to support across the agencies, and reduction in services working in silos
    • resources - best practice and outstanding issues in children’s services departments effectively utilising resources, including sharing services and using technology
    • widening collaboration - how bodies outside of the statutory local authorities, the police, and CCGs can contribute to effective multi-agency working - including the role for schools
  • links with wider policy - how safeguarding of children can be taken into account in the wider discussions and policy developments around domestic abuse and family court procedures, including:
    • court reform - priorities for child protection during legal proceedings as the MoJ moves forward with family court reforms, including a review of the presumption of parental involvement
    • new courtroom technology - planned for every Crown Court to allow vulnerable witnesses such as children to pre-record their evidence to alleviate stress and improve memory recall
    • the Domestic Abuse Bill - with the amendment to include children as victims of domestic abuse, as the Bill is currently being debated in the House of Lords
  • safeguarding children online
    • learning from lockdown - informing future policy priorities for keeping children safe online with increased reports of online access of child sexual abuse and child pornography
    • the Online Harms White Paper - and options for an Online Harms Bill following proposals a new legally-enforced duty of care towards users that can hold companies to account for tackling online harms, overseen by a new independent regulator, and securing increased investment by companies in safety technologies to improve users safety online
    • support for parents and households - priorities for guidance to help ensure that children know how to stay safe with increasing internet use, including due to use of EdTech during the lockdown

The agenda:

  • Policy priorities for child protection following COVID-19
  • Safeguarding vulnerable children during COVID-19 and priorities moving forward - tackling abuse, remote social work and family court hearings, and the impact of emergency legislation
  • Keeping children safe online - the effect of lockdown, engaging parents and children, and lessons learned
  • Supporting the capacity of local authorities to fulfil their child protection responsibilities post-pandemic
  • Policy priorities for child social care service recovery - funding, staff training, coping with rising demand, and next steps for improving multi-agency working
  • The national picture for vulnerable children and key policy priorities going forward

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons, and officials from the Department for Education; Ofsted; the Home Office; HMPPS; the Office of the Children's Commissioner; the DCMS; the DHSC; the Government Legal Department; the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office; and the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

This pack includes

  • Dropbox video recording of the conference
  • PDF transcript of the discussion, including all speaker remarks and Q&A
  • PDFs of speakers' slide material (subject to permission)
  • PDFs of the delegate pack, including speaker biographies and attendee list
  • PDFs of delegate articles