Children and young people are being lost in the fractured UK partnership safeguarding system and major reform is needed in how they access services in England and Wales, an inter-professional panel has warned.

A lack of communication and integrated approach between the different parts of the system, including social care workers, healthcare practitioners, the voluntary sector and police, means that many children in the UK may not have access to effective inter-professional safeguarding services.

Talking at the University of Westminster, the professionals agreed that the system could be improved by joining up communication between the bodies involved; listening to children, young people and practitioners to design and deliver care; giving a bigger weight to prevention; and simplifying the system and the language used.

Chaired by Tim Donovan, Political Editor for BBC London News, a panel discussion was held by the University of Westminster in collaboration with Nib Shared Vision, supporting its campaign the Voice of the Child, and theatre company Chickenshed on 16 November.

Complemented by a young people’s panel, the inter-professional panel was made up of Dave Hill, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services; Chief Constable Simon Bailey, Lead for National Chief’s Council on Children and Child Protection; Dr Peter Green, Chair of the National Network for Designated Health Professionals; Stephanie Brivio OBE, Assistant Director for Child Protection for the Department of Education; Westminster alumnus Rex Howling, Family Law QC at 4 Papers Building chambers; and Michelle Lee-Izu, National Director for Projects, England and Wales, Barnardo’s.

Dr Peter Green, Chair of the National Network for Designated Health Professionals, said: “I’ve seen evidence that there are fantastic people working in the system. What I don’t have is a sense that the system as whole is working well and don’t really believe that it could not do better; it could do vastly better.”

Talking about the importance of improving communications between the different parts of service provision, Ashley Williams, who led the young people’s panel, said: “You have to imagine that the professionals and the service users are all islands, rich in resources, rich in information. Communication is the bridge that holds these islands together and that’s how you send your cargo trucks of information and they send their cargo trucks back.”

Rex Howling, Family Law QC at 4 Papers Building chambers, said: “It’s about integration, it’s about comprehension, it’s about breaking down barriers. It’s about putting children first and at the end of the day we need to be solution focused. Ironically the people who often have the solutions are those who are not listened to.”

Stephanie Brivio OBE, Assistant Director for Child Protection for the Department of Education, said: “The people [service providers] need to have the flexibility to do things that respond to the child as a unique individual. Child protection work is unpredictable – of course it is because we are dealing with very difficult and challenging issues. Therefore we need to be able to allow those individuals who work with children and families to flex their response according to the needs of the individual.”

Michelle Lee-Izu, Barnardo’s National Director for Projects, said: “It was a privilege to be part of this interesting debate. It is clear the social care system is still failing some of the most vulnerable children and young people in England and Wales. Young people need to be at the heart of discussions about the future of the care system and a collaborative approach needs to be taken by organisations, like Barnardo’s to ensure children and young people do not slip through the net.”

The debate started a discussion that is aimed to feed into an advisory position paper which is due to be published in March 2017. The recommendations for the inter-professional delivery of services are expected to be presented to Parliament subsequently.

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