2.2 Agency Roles and Responsibilities
An awareness and appreciation of the role of your own and of other organisations is essential for effective collaboration and partnership between organisations and their practitioners.
This chapter outlines the main responsibilities in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children of all statutory organisations, voluntary and third sector agencies, private organisations and professionals/practitioners who work with children.
It should be read in conjunction with the details set out in Working Together to Safeguard Children: March 2018, Chapter 2: Organisational Responsibilities, Individual Organisational Responsibilities.
2. Statutory Duties
While the local arrangements fall to three statutory partners – the Local Authority, Police and the Integrated Care Board – all organisations that work with children share a commitment to safeguard and promote their welfare. For many organisations, this is underpinned by statutory duties.
Local authorities with responsibilities for Children’s Social Care have a number of specific duties to organise and plan services for children. In some circumstances it may be necessary for Children’s Social Care to work in conjunction with the Police to undertake a section 47 Enquiry under the Children Act 1989.
As well as County Councils and District Councils, NHS organisations, Police, British Transport Police, the National Probation Service, and Governors/Directors of Prisons and Young Offender Institutions, Youth Justice Service and, Secure Training Centres and Colleges all have duties under Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 to ensure that their functions are discharged with regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. This includes services that they contract out and commission, as well as those that they provide directly.
Local authorities also have duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in relation to its functions under section 175 of the Education Act 2002.
As well as the education service provided by the local authority, schools (both maintained and independent) and Further Education institutions, including 6th form colleges, have duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of their pupils who are under 18. Statutory Guidance about these education duties is contained in Keeping Children Safe in Education published by the DfE in September 2022.
The governing bodies, management committees or proprietors of the following schools have duties in relation to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of pupils:
- Maintained schools (including maintained nursery schools), further education colleges and sixth form colleges, and pupil referral units; Further Education and Higher Education Act 1992. Section 175, Education Act 2002 – for management committees of pupil referral units, this is by virtue of regulation 3 and paragraph 19A of Schedule 1 to the Education (Pupil Referral Units) (Application of Enactments) (England) Regulations 2007;
- Independent schools (including academy schools, free schools and alternative provision academies) Under the Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2014; and
- Non-maintained special schools. Under the Education (Non-Maintained Special Schools) (England) Regulations 2011.
In addition, boarding schools, residential special schools and FE Institutions that provide accommodation for pupils under 18 must have regard to the relevant National Minimum Standards for their establishment.
The responsibility of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), as set out in the Children Act 1989, is to safeguard and promote the welfare of individual children who are the subject of family court proceedings. It achieves this by providing independent social work advice to the court.
Cafcass also has a duty under section 12(1) of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 to safeguard and promote the welfare of children involved in family proceedings in which their welfare is, or may be, in question.
Local authorities have the statutory responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the children of service families in the UK. When service families or civilians working with the armed forces are based overseas the responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of their children is vested in the Ministry of Defence.
3. Infrastructure and Governance to deliver Safeguarding Responsibilities
Under Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 Local Authorities, NHS organisations, police, British Transport Police, the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies, Governors/Directors of Prisons and Young Offender Institutions and Secure Training Centres and Colleges and Youth Justice Services should have in place arrangements that reflect the importance of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, including:
- A clear line of accountability for the commissioning and/or provision of services designed to safeguard and promote the welfare of children;
- A senior board level lead to take leadership responsibility for the organisation’s safeguarding arrangements;
- A culture of listening to children and taking account of their wishes and feelings, both in individual decisions and the development of services;
- Clear whistle blowing procedures, which reflect the principles in Sir Robert Francis’s Freedom to Speak Up review and are suitably referenced in staff training and codes of conduct, and a culture that enables issues about safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children to be addressed;
- Arrangements which set out clearly the processes for sharing information, with other professionals and with the Local Safeguarding Children Partnership (LSCP);
- A designated professional lead (or, for health provider organisations, named professionals) for safeguarding. Their role is to support other professionals in their agencies to recognise the needs of children, including rescue from possible abuse or neglect. Designated professional roles should always be explicitly defined in job descriptions. Professionals should be given sufficient time, funding, supervision and support to fulfil their child welfare and safeguarding responsibilities effectively;
- Safe recruitment practices for individuals whom the organisation will permit to work regularly with children, including policies on when to obtain a Disclosure and Barring Service check;
- Appropriate supervision and support for staff, including undertaking safeguarding training:
- Employers are responsible for ensuring that their staff are competent to carry out their responsibilities for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and creating an environment where staff feel able to raise concerns and feel supported in their safeguarding role;
- Staff should be given a mandatory induction, which includes familiarisation with child protection responsibilities and procedures to be followed if anyone has any concerns about a child’s safety or welfare; and
- All professionals should have regular reviews of their own practice to ensure they improve over time.
Clear policies in line with those from the LSCP for dealing with allegations against people who work with children. An allegation may relate to a person who works with children who has:
- Behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child;
- Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child; or
- Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates they may pose a risk of harm to children.
- County level and unitary local authorities should ensure that allegations against people who work with children are not dealt with in isolation. Any action necessary to address corresponding welfare concerns in relation to the child or children involved should be taken without delay and in a coordinated manner. Local authorities should, in addition, have designated a particular officer, or team of officers (either as part of multi- agency arrangements or otherwise), to be involved in the management and oversight of allegations against people that work with children. Any such officer, or team of officers, should be sufficiently qualified and experienced to be able to fulfil this role effectively, for example qualified social workers. Any new appointments to such a role, other than current or former designated officers moving between local authorities, should be qualified social workers. Arrangements should be put in place to ensure that any allegations about those who work with children are passed to the designated officer, or team of officers, without delay;
- Local authorities should put in place arrangements to provide advice and guidance on how to deal with allegations against people who work with children to employers and voluntary organisations. Local authorities should also ensure that there are appropriate arrangements in place to effectively liaise with the police and other agencies to monitor the progress of cases and ensure that they are dealt with as quickly as possible, consistent with a thorough and fair process;
- Employers and voluntary organisations should ensure that they have clear policies in place setting out the process, including timescales, for investigation and what support and advice will be available to individuals against whom allegations have been made. Any allegation against people who work with children should be reported immediately to a senior manager within the organisation. The designated officer, or team of officers, should also be informed within one working day of all allegations that come to an employer’s attention or that are made directly to the police;
- If an organisation removes an individual (paid worker or unpaid volunteer) from work such as looking after children (or would have, had the person not left first) because the person poses a risk of harm to children, the organisation must make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service. It is an offence to fail to make a referral without good reason.
4.Specific Roles and Responsibilities
The following detailed account of the roles and responsibilities of the agencies listed is taken from Chapter 2 of Working Together to Safeguard Children, 2018.
4.1 Adult Social Care Services
Local authorities provide services to adults who are themselves responsible for children who may be in need. These services are subject to the section 11 duties set out in this chapter. When staff are providing services to adults they should ask whether there are children in the family and consider whether the children need help or protection from harm. Children may be at greater risk of harm or be in need of additional help in families where the adults have mental health problems, misuse drugs or alcohol, are in a violent relationship, have complex needs or have learning difficulties.
Adults with parental responsibilities for disabled children have a right to a separate parent carer’s needs assessment under section 17ZD of the Children Act 1989. Adults who do not have parental responsibility, but are caring for a disabled child, are entitled to an assessment on their ability to provide, or to continue to provide, care for that disabled child under the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995. That assessment must also consider whether the carer works or wishes to work, or whether they wish to engage in any education, training or recreation activities.
Adult social care services should liaise with children’s social care services to ensure that there is a joined-up approach when carrying out such assessments.
4.2 Housing Services
Housing and homelessness services in local authorities and others such as environmental health organisations are subject to the section 11 duties set out in this chapter. Practitioners working in these services may become aware of conditions that could have or are having an adverse impact on children. Under Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004, authorities must take account of the impact of health and safety hazards in housing on vulnerable occupants, including children, when deciding on the action to be taken by landlords to improve conditions. Housing authorities also have an important role to play in safeguarding vulnerable young people, including young people who are pregnant, leaving care or a secure establishment.
4.3 Health Services
Clinical commissioning groups are one of the three statutory safeguarding partners as set out in chapter 3. NHS organisations and agencies are subject to the section 11 duties set out in this chapter. Health practitioners are in a strong position to identify welfare needs or safeguarding concerns regarding individual children and, where appropriate, provide support. This includes understanding risk factors, communicating and sharing information effectively with children and families, liaising with other organisations and agencies, assessing needs and capacity, responding to those needs and contributing to multi-agency assessments and reviews.
A wide range of health practitioners have a critical role to play in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children including: GPs, primary care practitioners, paediatricians, nurses, health visitors, midwives, school nurses, allied health practitioners, those working in maternity, child and adolescent mental health, youth custody establishments, adult mental health, sexual, alcohol and drug services for both adults and children, unscheduled and emergency care settings, highly specialised services and
secondary and tertiary care.
All staff working in healthcare settings – including those who predominantly treat adults – should receive training to ensure they attain the competences appropriate to their role and follow the relevant professional guidance:
- Safeguarding Children and Young People: roles and competences for health care staff, RCPCH (2014).
- Looked-after children: Knowledge, skills and competences of health care staff, RCN and RCPCH, (2015).
- Protecting children and young people: the responsibilities of all doctors, GMC (2018)
- Safeguarding Children and Young People: The RCGP/NSPCC Safeguarding Children Toolkit for General Practice, RCGP (2014).
Within the NHS:
- NHS England is responsible for ensuring that the health commissioning system as a whole is working effectively to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. It is also accountable for the services it directly commissions, including primary care, and healthcare services in the under-18 secure estate (for police custody settings see below in the policing section). NHS England also leads and defines improvement in safeguarding practice and outcomes and should also ensure that there are effective mechanisms for safeguarding partners and Health and wellbeing boards to raise concerns about the engagement and leadership of the local NHS. Each NHSE region should have a safeguarding lead to ensure regional collaboration and assurance through convening safeguarding forums;
- Clinical commissioning groups are one of the statutory safeguarding partners and the major commissioners of local health services. They are responsible for the provision of effective clinical, professional and strategic leadership to child safeguarding, including the quality assurance of safeguarding through their contractual arrangements with all provider organisations and agencies, including from independent providers;
- Clinical commissioning groups should employ, or have in place, a contractual agreement to secure the expertise of designated practitioners; such as dedicated designated doctors and nurses for safeguarding children and dedicated designated doctors and nurses for looked-after children (and designated doctor or paediatrician for unexpected deaths in childhood);
- In some areas, there will be more than one clinical commissioning group per local authority, and they may consider ‘lead’ or ‘hosting’ arrangements for their designated health professionals, or a clinical network arrangement with the number of designated doctors and nurses for child safeguarding equating to the size of the child population. Designated doctors and nurses, as senior professionals, clinical experts and strategic leaders, are a vital source of safeguarding advice and expertise for all relevant organisations and agencies but particularly the clinical commissioning group, NHS England, and the local authority, and for advice and support to other health practitioners across the health economy. The NHS commissioners and providers should ensure that designated professionals are given sufficient time to be fully engaged, involved and included in the new safeguarding arrangements;
- All providers of NHS funded health services including NHS Trusts and NHS Foundation Trusts should identify a dedicated named doctor and a named nurse (and a named midwife if the organisation or agency provides maternity services) for safeguarding children. In the case of ambulance trusts and independent providers, this should be a named practitioner. Named practitioners have a key role in promoting good professional practice within their organisation and agency, providing advice and expertise for fellow practitioners, and ensuring safeguarding training is in place. They should work closely with their organisation’s/agency’s safeguarding lead on the executive board, designated health professionals for the health economy and other statutory safeguarding partners;
- Clinical commissioning groups should employ a named GP to advise and support GP safeguarding practice leads. GPs should have a lead and deputy lead for safeguarding, who should work closely with the named GP based in the clinical commissioning group; and
- Other public, voluntary and independent sector organisations, agencies and social enterprises providing NHS services to children and families should ensure that they follow this guidance.
4.4 Criminal Justice Organisations
4.4.1 The Police
The police are one of the three statutory safeguarding partners as set out in chapter 3 and are subject to the section 11 duties set out in this chapter. Under section 1(8)(h) of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) must hold the Chief Constable to account for the exercise of the latter’s duties in relation to safeguarding children under sections 10 and 11 of the Children Act 2004.
All police officers, and other police employees such as Police Community Support Officers, are well placed to identify early when a child’s welfare is at risk and when a child may need protection from harm. Children have the right to the full protection offered by criminal law. In addition to identifying when a child may be a victim of a crime, police officers should be aware of the effect of other incidents which might pose safeguarding risks to children and where officers should pay particular attention. Harm may be indirect and non-physical as, for example, in the case of some domestic abuse which may involve controlling and coercive behaviour and economic abuse. An officer attending a domestic abuse incident should be aware of the effect of such behaviour on any children in the household. Children who are encountered as offenders, or alleged offenders, are entitled to the same safeguards and protection as any other child and due regard should be given to their safety and welfare at all times. For example, children who are apprehended in possession of Class A drugs may be victims of exploitation through county lines drug dealing.
The police will hold important information about children who may be suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm, as well as those who cause such harm. They should always share this information with other organisations and agencies where this is necessary to protect children. Similarly, they can expect other organisations and agencies to share information to enable the police to carry out their duties. All police forces should have officers trained in child abuse investigation.
The police have a power to remove a child to suitable accommodation under section 46 of the Children Act 1989, if they have reasonable cause to believe that the child would otherwise be likely to suffer significant harm. Statutory powers to enter premises can be used with this section 46 power, and in circumstances to ensure the child’s immediate protection. Police powers can help in emergency situations, but should be used only when necessary and, wherever possible, the decision to remove a child from a parent or carer should be made by a court.
Restrictions and safeguards exist in relation to the circumstances and periods for which children may be taken to or held in police stations. PCCs are responsible for health commissioning in police custody settings and should always ensure that this meets the needs of individual children.
4.5 British Transport Police
The British Transport Police (BTP) is subject to the section 11 duties set out in this chapter. In its role as the national police for the railways, the BTP can play an important role in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, especially in identifying and supporting children who have run away, are truanting from school or who are being exploited by criminal gangs to move drugs and money.
The BTP should carry out its duties in accordance with its legislative powers. This includes removing a child to a suitable place using their police protection powers under the Children Act 1989, and the protection of children who are truanting from school using powers under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. This involves, for example, the appointment of a designated independent officer in the instance of a child taken into police protection.
4.6 Probation Service
Probation services are provided by the National Probation Service (NPS) and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs). The NPS and CRCs are subject to the section 11 duties set out in this chapter61. They are primarily responsible for working with adult offenders both in the community and in the transition from custody to community to reduce reoffending and improve rehabilitation. During the course of their duties, probation staff come into contact with offenders who:
- have offended against a child;
- pose a risk of harm to children even though they have not been convicted of an
offence against a child;
- are parents and/or carers of children;
- have regular contact with a child for whom they do not have caring responsibility.
They should ask an offender at the earliest opportunity whether they live with, have caring responsibilities for, are in regular contact with, or are seeking contact with children. Where this applies, a check should be made with the local authority children’s services at the earliest opportunity on whether the child/children is/are known to them and, if they are, the nature of their involvement.
Where an adult offender is assessed as presenting a risk of serious harm to children, the offender manager should develop a risk management plan and supervision plan that contains a specific objective to manage and reduce the risk of harm to children. The risk management plan should be shared with other organisations and agencies involved in the risk management.
In preparing a sentence plan, offender managers should consider how planned interventions might bear on parental responsibilities and whether the planned interventions could contribute to improved outcomes for children known to be in an existing relationship with the offender.
4.7 Prison Service
The Prison Service is subject to the section 11 duties set out in this chapter. It also has a responsibility to identify prisoners who are potential or confirmed ‘persons posing a risk to children’ (PPRC) and through assessment establish whether the PPRC presents a continuing risk to children whilst in prison custody. Where an individual has been identified as a PPRC, the relevant prison establishment:
- Should inform the local authority children’s social care services of the offender’s reception to prison, subsequent transfers, release on temporary licence and of release date and of the release address of the offender;
- Should notify the relevant probation service provider of PPRC status. The police should also be notified of the release date and address;
- May prevent or restrict a prisoner’s contact with children. Decisions on the level of contact, if any, should be based on a multi-agency risk assessment. The assessment should draw on relevant risk information held by police, the probation service provider and the prison service. The relevant local authority children’s social care should contribute to the multi-agency risk assessment by providing a report on the child’s best interests. The best interests of the child will be paramount in the decision-making process.
A prison is also able to monitor an individual’s communication (including letters and telephone calls) to protect children where proportionate and necessary to the risk presented.
Governors/Directors of women’s establishments which have Mother and Baby Units (MBUs) should ensure that:
- There is at all times a member of staff allocated to the MBU, who as a minimum, is trained in first aid, whilst within the prison there is always a member of staff on duty who is trained in paediatric first aid (including child/adult resuscitation) who can be called to the MBU if required;
- There is a contingency plan/policy in place for child protection, first aid including paediatric first aid and resuscitation, which should include advice for managing such events, and which provides mothers with detailed guidance as to what to do in an emergency; and
- Each baby has a child care plan setting out how the best interests of the child will be maintained and promoted during the child’s residence in the unit.
This also applies to MBUs which form part of the secure estate for children.
4.8 The Secure Estate for Children
Governors, managers and directors of the following secure establishments are subject to the section 11 duties set out in Chapter 2 of Working Together 2018:
- A secure training centre;
- A young offender institution and
- A secure college/school.
Each centre holding those aged under 18 should have in place an annually reviewed safeguarding children policy. The policy is designed to promote and safeguard the welfare of children and should cover all relevant operational areas as well as key supporting processes, which would include issues such as child protection, risk of harm, restraint, separation, staff recruitment and information sharing. A manager should be appointed and will be responsible for implementation of this policy.
Each centre should work with their local safeguarding partners to agree how they will work together, and with the relevant YJS and placing authority (the Youth Custody Service), to make sure that the needs of individual children are met.
4.9 Youth Justice Services
Youth Justice Service (YJS) are subject to the section 11 duties set out in this chapter. YJS are multi-agency teams responsible for the supervision of children subject to pre-court interventions and statutory court disposals. They are therefore well placed to identify children known to relevant organisations and agencies as being most at risk of offending and the contexts in which they may be vulnerable to abuse, and to undertake work to prevent them offending or protect them from harm. YJS should have a lead officer responsible for ensuring safeguarding is embedded in their practice.
Under section 38 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, local authorities must, within the delivery of youth justice services, ensure the ‘provision of persons to act as appropriate adults to safeguard the interests of children and young persons detained or questioned by police officers.
4.10 UK Visas and Immigration Enforcement and the Border Force (formerly UK Border Agency)
Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 places upon the Secretary of State a duty to take account of the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in discharging its functions relating to immigration, asylum, nationality and customs. These functions are discharged on behalf of the Secretary of State by UK Visas and Immigration, Immigration Enforcement and the Border Force, which are part of the Home Office. See Statutory Guidance to the UK Border Agency on Making Arrangements to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of Children (November 2009).
4.11 Schools and Colleges
The following have duties in relation to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of
- governing bodies of maintained schools (including maintained nursery schools), further education colleges and sixth-form colleges;
- proprietors of academy schools, free schools, alternative provision academies and non-maintained special schools. In the case of academies and free school trusts, the proprietor will be the trust itself;
- proprietors of independent schools;
- management committees of pupil referral units.
This guidance applies in its entirety to all schools.
Schools, colleges and other educational settings must also have regard to statutory guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education, which provides further guidance as to how they should fulfil their duties in respect of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in their care.
4.12 Early Years and Childcare
Early years providers have a duty under Section 40 of the Childcare Act 2006 to comply with the welfare requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage. Early years providers should ensure that:
- they are alert to any issues of concern in the child’s life;
- they have and implement a policy and procedures to safeguard children. This must include an explanation of the action to be taken when there are safeguarding concerns about a child and in the event of an allegation being made against a member of staff. The policy must also cover the use of mobile phones and cameras in the setting, that staff complete safeguarding training that enables them to understand their safeguarding policy and procedures, have up-to-date knowledge of safeguarding issues, and recognise signs of potential abuse and neglect;
- they have a practitioner who is designated to take lead responsibility for safeguarding children within each early years setting and who must liaise with local statutory children’s services as appropriate. This lead must also complete child protection training.
4.13 Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS)
The responsibility of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), as set out in the Children Act 1989, is to safeguard and promote the welfare of individual children who are the subject of family court proceedings. This is through the provision of independent social work advice to the court.
A Cafcass officer has a statutory right in public law cases to access local authority records relating to the child concerned and any application under the Children Act 1989. That power also extends to other records that relate to the child and the wider functions of the local authority, or records held by an authorised organisation that relate to that child.
Where a Cafcass officer has been appointed by the court as a child’s guardian and the matter before the court relates to specified proceedings, they should be invited to all formal planning meetings convened by the local authority in respect of the child. This includes statutory reviews of children who are accommodated or looked-after, child protection conferences and relevant adoption panel meetings.
4.14 The Armed Services
Local authorities have the statutory responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the children of service families in the UK. In discharging these responsibilities:
- Local authorities should ensure that the Ministry of Defence is made aware of any service child who is the subject of a child protection plan and whose family is about to move overseas;
- Each local authority with a United States (US) base in its area should establish liaison arrangements with the base commander and relevant staff. The requirements of English child welfare legislation should be explained clearly to the US authorities, so that the local authority can fulfil its statutory duties.
4.15 The Voluntary and Private Sectors
Voluntary organisations and private sector providers play an important role in delivering services to children. They should have the arrangements described in Chapter 2 of Working Together in place in the same way as organisations in the public sector, and need to work effectively with the LSCP. Paid and volunteer staff need to be aware of their responsibilities for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, how they should respond to child protection concerns and make a referral to local authority children’s social care or the police if necessary.
4.16 Faith Organisations
Churches, other places of worship and faith-based organisations provide a wide range of activities for children and have an important role in safeguarding children and supporting families. Like other organisations who work with children they need to have appropriate arrangements in place to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
5. Organisations without Statutory Duties
All organisations, which do not have statutory duties under Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 but which have involvement with children and young people, directly or indirectly, have a responsibility to ensure that their employees, volunteers and service users are aware of these procedures and know where to access them.
Everybody who works with children, parents and other adults in connection with children should be able to recognise indicators of concern about a child’s welfare or safety. A staff member or volunteer who may encounter concerns about the safety and well-being of a child should know:
- Who in their organisation can offer support and guidance;
- When and how to make a referral to Children’s Social Care under the Referrals Procedure;
- What other services are available locally and how to gain access to them;
- How to access and receive appropriate training.
Further support for these organisations is available through the NSCP’s Safer Programme.