Countdown to Reservations End Date
This conference will bring together key stakeholders and policymakers to discuss priorities for child protection policy.
Discussions are expected to focus on challenges brought about by the COVID-19 lockdown, and key developments and government measures implemented during this time.
Delegates will consider what has been learned that can be taken forward, and the next steps for services as the immediate pressures of the pandemic recede.
Keynote speakers will include Graham Archer, Director, Children’s Services Policy, Department for Education and a senior representative confirmed from Ofsted, as well as contributions from Barnardo’s, Cheshire East Council, the Internet Watch Foundation, King’s College London, SafeToNet, St Christopher’s Fellowship, the University of Birmingham, and Warrington Safeguarding Partnerships. Chairing is Tim Loughton MP, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children.
Areas for discussion include:
• the extra support that 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
• what can be learned from the performance of children’s services and the system’s capacity to support disadvantaged and vulnerable children amid heightened pressures during the crisis
• implementation so far of new child safeguarding arrangements and next steps for improving multi-agency working in child protection settings
• keeping children safe online.
Developments that are relevant to the discussion:
• The Education Committee’s into the impact of the pandemic on education and children’s services and their capacity for protecting vulnerable children
• Emergency legislation that has relaxed local authority responsibilities towards children in care during the pandemic and is set to be in force until September 2020
• Support packages from the Government towards safeguarding vulnerable children through the pandemic, including for children suffering domestic abuse and projects supporting vulnerable youth
• Increases in reports of child abuse, maltreatment and neglect across England during the lockdown, with abuse and child protection charities receiving of record numbers of helpline calls
• Implementation of new working arrangements for safeguarding - with Local Safeguarding Children Boards replaced by Safeguarding Partners consisting of local authorities, CCGs, and police forces
• Recent research on child abuse during the COVID-19 lockdown highlighting how the risk factors for child maltreatment may be exacerbated by lockdown conditions, including:
◦ increased stress on parents and care caused by financial insecurity, changes in routine, and juggling multiple responsibilities
◦ children being more vulnerable due to increased time spent socially isolating at home, and away from friends and trusted adults and wider community support
◦ decrease in interactions with social services and institutions that normally act as safeguards for flagging and acting on concerns over child maltreatment
• Early findings from the Strategic Review of Policing in England and Wales, which show a sharp increase in online child sexual abuse in the four years to 2019
• 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:
Supporting and safeguarding vulnerable children through COVID-19 and lessons learned
• the experience of safeguarding children during the lockdown and the effectiveness of Government measures put in place for supporting vulnerable children during this time
• how the experience of 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.
Supporting service recovery post-COVID-19 and next steps for multi-agency working and improving child protection
• priorities for supporting local authorities to enable them to best fulfil their child social care duties post-COVID-19:
◦ with preparations being made for the expected Comprehensive Spending Review this autumn
◦ against the background of local authority budget reductions and growing numbers placed on child protection plans prior to the pandemic
• implementation of the new working arrangements for child protection which were introduced last September, including:
◦ examining progress so far in improving response times across the agencies for access to support, and reducing services working in silos
◦ ways in which children’s services departments can most effectively utilise resources - including sharing services and using technology
◦ how bodies outside of the statutory local authorities, the police, and Clinical Commissioning Groups can contribute to effective multi-agency working - including the role for schools
• how child social care services can be supported in catching up on 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
• how safeguarding of children can be taken into account in the wider discussions and policy developments around domestic abuse and family court procedures, including:
◦ the recently announced family court reforms, which followed an expert-led review finding adversarial processes in family courts to often re-traumatise victims and children
◦ the recent amendment to include children as victims of domestic abuse in the Domestic Abuse Bill, currently being debated in the House of Lords.
Improving the safeguarding of children online
• how the experience of the lockdown can inform future policy priorities for keeping children safe online with increased reports of online access of child sexual abuse and child pornography
• options for an Online Harms Bill, following the Online Harms White Paper, with discussion expected on key proposals, including:
◦ 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
◦ securing increased investment by companies in safety technologies to improve users safety online.
• policy priorities for ensuring that parents and families have adequate guidance for ensuring that children know how to stay safe with increasing internet use, including due to use of EdTech during the lockdown.
• 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:
These 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; the Home Office; DCMS; the Government Legal Department 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.
Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference.