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A summary of "Working together to safeguard children" (2013)

NSPCC current awareness briefing

March 2013

This briefing offers a quick overview of the new statutory guidance for adults working with children and families in England: Working together to safeguard children: a guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (HM Government, 2013).

The new guidance came into force on 15 April 2013.

Chapter 1: Assessing need and providing help
Chapter 2: Organisational responsibilities
Chapter 3: Local Safeguarding Children Boards
Chapter 4: Learning and improvement framework
Chapter 5: Child death reviews
Related content
Further reading


The new Working together to safeguard children (2013) streamlines previous guidance documents to clarify the responsibilities of professionals towards safeguarding children and strengthen the focus away from processes and onto the needs of the child.

It replaces:

  • Working together to safeguard children (2010)
  • Framework for the assessment of children in need and their families (2000), and
  • Statutory guidance on making arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children under section 11 of the Children Act 2004 (2007).

Most of the responsibilities and procedures in the new 2013 Working together remain the same as the 2010 guidance, but the guidance is presented in a much more succinct and less detailed way.

There are 5 chapters in the new 2013 guidance.


The guidance seeks to emphasise that effective safeguarding systems are those where:

  • the child's needs are paramount, and the needs and wishes of each child, should be put first, so that every child receives the support they need before a problem escalates;
  • all professionals who come into contact with children and families are alert to their needs and any risks of harm that individual abusers, or potential abusers, may pose to children;
  • all professionals share appropriate information in a timely way and can discuss any concerns about an individual child with colleagues and local authority children's social care;
  • high quality professionals are able to use their expert judgement to put the child's needs at the heart of the safeguarding system so that the right solution can be found for each individual child;
  • all professionals contribute to whatever actions are needed to safeguard and promote a child's welfare and take part in regularly reviewing the outcomes for the child against specific plans and outcomes;
  • local areas innovate and changes are informed by evidence and examination of the data.

Effective safeguarding arrangements in every local area should be underpinned by two key principles:

  • safeguarding is everyone's responsibility: for services to be effective each professional and organisation should play their full part; and
  • a child-centred approach: for services to be effective they should be based on a clear understanding of the needs and views of children.

Chapter 1: Assessing need and providing help

Contains guidance on:

  • providing early help
  • information sharing
  • undertaking assessments under the Children Act 1989
  • focusing on the needs and views of the child
  • focusing on outcomes
  • timeliness of assessments
  • commencing child protection proceedings (strategy discussion, section 47 enquiries, initial child protection conference, child protection plan, child protection review conference).

Changes from previous guidance

LSCBs should publish a threshold document that includes: the process for the early help assessment and the type and level of early help services to be provided; and the criteria, including the level of need, for when a case should be referred to local authority children's social care for assessment and for statutory services under section 17 (child in need), section 47 (risk of significant harm), section 31 (care orders), section 20 (duty to accommodate) of the Children Act 1989.

Within one working day of a referral being received, a local authority social worker should make a decision about the type of response that is required and acknowledge receipt to the referrer. There will no longer be a requirement to conduct separate initial and core assessments but the maximum timeframe for the assessment to conclude, such that it is possible to reach a decision on next steps, should be no longer than 45 working days from the point of referral. Depending on the needs of the individual child, and the nature and level of any risk of harm faced by the child, the assessment may need to be done more quickly.

Local authorities, with their partners, should develop and publish local protocols for assessment.

Chapter 2: Organisational responsibilities

Contains guidance on:

  • section 11 of the Children Act 2004 (duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children)
  • specific safeguarding duties placed on schools and colleges, early years and childcare, health services, police, adult social care services, housing authorities, British Transport Police, Prison Service, Probation Service, secure estate for children, Youth Offending Teams, United Kingdom Border Agency, CAFCASS, armed services, voluntary and private sectors and faith organisations.

Chapter 3: Local Safeguarding Children Boards

Contains guidance on:

  • statutory objectives and functions of LSCBs
  • LSCB membership
  • LSCB chair
  • accountability and resourcing; and information sharing.

Changes from previous guidance

Every LSCB should have an independent chair.

Chapter 4: Learning and improvement framework

Contains guidance on:

  • serious case reviews including requirements around publication
  • other case reviews
  • local learning and development framework
  • a national panel of independent experts on serious case reviews.

Changes from previous guidance

Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) should maintain a local learning and improvement framework which is shared across local organisations who work with children and families.

Reviews should be conducted regularly, not only on those cases which meet statutory requirements but also on other cases which can provide valuable lessons about how organisations are working together to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

The different types of review include:

  • Serious Case Review - where abuse or neglect is believed to be a factor (statutory requirement)
  • child death review - a review of all child deaths up to the age of 18 (statutory requirement)
  • review of a child protection incident which falls below the threshold for an SCR; and
  • review or audit of practice in one or more agencies.

A national panel of independent experts on Serious Case Reviews will advise LSCBs about the initiation and publication of SCRs.

The guidance emphasises that a Serious Case Review should always be carried out if a child dies by suspected suicide (and abuse or neglect was believed to be a factor).

LSCBs may use any learning model which is consistent with the principles in this guidance, including the systems methodology recommended by Professor Munro.

Although the review process must include appropriate representation from other organisations, and these organisations may be required to submit written information about their involvement with the child who is subject to the review, there is no longer any requirement for organisations to undertake Individual Management Reviews (IMRs).

Final reports of SCRs findings must be published on the LSCB's website for a minimum of 12 months. The reports should provide a sound analysis of what happened in the case, and why, and what needs to happen in order to reduce the risk of recurrence; be written in plain English and in a way that can be easily understood by professionals and the public alike; and be suitable for publication without needing to be amended or redacted.

Chapter 5: Child death reviews

Contains guidance on:

  • responsibilities of the LSCB
  • responsibilities of relevant bodies in relation to child deaths
  • responsibilities of Child Death Overview Panels
  • definition of preventable child deaths; action by professionals when a child died unexpectedly
  • involvement of the coroner and pathologist.

Appendix A: Glossary

Includes definitions of: children; safeguarding; types of abuse; young carers.

Appendix B: Statutory framework

Includes legislation relevant to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.

Appendix C: Further sources of information

Includes a list of supplementary guidance on particular safeguarding issues published by: the Department of Education; other government departments and agencies; and non-governmental organisations.


HM Government (2013) Working together to safeguard children: A guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (PDF). London: Department for Education (DfE).

Children Act 1989

Children Act 2004

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Further reading

The following gudiance has been replaced by the new Working together 2013:

Department of Health (DH), Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) and Home Office (2000) Framework for the assessment of children in need and their families (PDF). London: The Stationery Office (TSO).

HM Government (2010) Working together to safeguard children: a guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (PDF). London: Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF).

HM Government (2007) Statutory guidance on making arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children under section 11 of the Children Act 2004 (PDF). London: Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF).

Contact the NSPCC Information Service with any questions about child protection and safeguarding.

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