Local Safeguarding Children Boards: learning and improvement processes A research study on how LSCBs review, analyse and develop practice

Staff in discussionThe NSPCC carried out a study of Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) in England and Wales to explore their learning and improvement processes and experiences.

We interviewed business managers from 12 LSCBs about how they identify learning opportunities and drive improvement. This report discusses the findings of the research, with practice examples. It includes a review of the literature on learning and improvement within the child protection system.

This research is relevant in light of the government's response to Alan Wood's independent review of the role and functions of LSCBs in England, which was published in May 2016.

Authors: Dr Aisling McElearney and Caroline Cunningham
Published: 2016

Key insights from the research include:

  • A significant volume of learning and improvement activity was identified by participants, with Ofsted described as the key driver for LSCBs in England.
  • Learning and improvement activity was taking place within a difficult context of increasing budgetary pressures on services.
  • Key enablers of effective learning and improvement were identified as:
    • effective partnership-working
    • a strategic approach to managing the full range of knowledge available to the LSCB
    • effective engagement with frontline staff and service users and their families
    • well-functioning board subgroups and mechanisms
    • strong leadership to drive the 'challenge' function.
  • Resourcing was a key factor in terms of identifying, targeting and driving learning and improvement across the LSCB, including:
    • the capacity and skills of the LSCB business unit
    • resources available across agencies of the LSCB
    • access to support, including peer support from other LSCBs.

Key learning points from the research include:

  • The process of developing and maintaining a learning and improvement framework provides significant opportunity to formalise good partnership working and embed a learning culture across the partnership. LSCBs are at different stages in this development.
  • Greater emphasis on engaging child service users and their families in strategic learning and improvement processes is needed, as well as reviewing, recognising and sharing practice that works well.
  • LSCBs find it challenging to make effective use of multi-agency data and performance information to identify learning and target improvement. They require support to build capacity and specialist capability in analysing multi-agency data.
  • LSCBs reporting most success at driving improvement managed strong, positive relationships with partner agencies to secure strategic representation of the board and resourcing the work of its subgroups.
  • Leadership from the chair and board members is critical to building the culture of mutual challenge and scrutiny necessary to identify learning and drive improvement.
Acknowledgements 4
Foreword by David N Jones, Chair, Association of Independent LSCB Chairs 5
Foreword by Glenys Johnston, Interim Independent Chair of the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland 7
Key learning points 8
Chapter 1: Introduction 9
Chapter 2: Background and literature – Learning and improvement within the child protection system: what does the evidence tell us? 11
Chapter 3: Methodology 24
Chapter 4: Findings 26
Chapter 5: Discussion 44
Key learning points 48
Appendix: Key developments in England and Wales: 1973-2016 49
References 54

Please cite as: McElearney, A. and Cunningham, C. (2016) Exploring the learning and improvement processes of Local Safeguarding Children Boards: a research study. London: NSPCC.

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