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Lewisham’s Safeguarding Children Partnership praised by inspectors

Inspectors have praised Lewisham’s Safeguarding Children Partnership – which includes Lewisham Council, the South East London Integrated Care System, and the Metropolitan Police – for its work supporting at-risk and vulnerable children.

Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission, His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, and Ofsted carried out their inspection in November 2022 to assess how well we and our partners work together to keep children safe and support their families.

Their report, published today, observes that ‘committed staff, managers and multi-agency teams are working proactively in a complex and multi-faceted environment’ and ‘display a resolute focus on protecting children living with neglect’.

The wide-ranging report also found that:

  • Skilled and committed frontline early help, social care and health practitioners, police officers and school staff work hard to provide effective support to vulnerable children and their families and to prevent risk and harm escalating.

  • Despite increased demand pressures, leaders’ continuous and strenuous efforts to collectively drive forward improvement are making a positive difference to the quality of front door practice with their most vulnerable children and residents.

  • Information sharing across the partnership is effective, driven by professionals who understand and share known risks for children and families.

  • Staff morale is good and working relationships across the partnership are ‘very positive’ and ‘productive’, with a ‘tangible culture of professional accountability and respectful challenge and collaboration between services in Lewisham [that] is impressive’.

  • The process of accessing the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), which is made up of representatives from a range of services that keep children safe, is swift and simple for professionals involved in safeguarding, such as school leaders.

  • Schools are valued and respected safeguarding partners.

  • There is evidence of persistent child-centred social work, and a diverse workforce that reflects the local community is a real strength.

  • The safeguarding partnership brings together groups of professionals to focus on learning from practice. These benefit from good engagement which ensures that the work of professionals is aligned with the partnership’s priorities, such as addressing child exploitation.

  • The quality of police referrals is improving, with the voice of the child and their family’s needs captured well.

  • Safeguarding children and maternity safeguarding teams provide valuable support and consultation to all health staff employed by Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust.

The positive impact of child and adolescent community mental health and youth offending services is also highlighted, and inspectors also note that children’s social workers ‘respond effectively’ to risks when children go missing from home and that there is ‘tenacious child-centred practice with children and young people by skilled practitioners’.

Inspectors conclude their main findings by observing that the partnership has ‘the components in place to drive the improvements needed to ensure that children consistently receive the right level of help and protection’.

The report also noted some areas for improvement, but acknowledges that these had already been identified by the partnership, including improving the communication between agencies.

Response from Lewisham Council

Councillor Chris Barnham, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Community Safety, said:

“I’m pleased that this report has recognised our work to keep children safe. Thanks to the hard work and commitment of our staff and partners, and by working effectively as a partnership and sharing information, we’ve been able to make great strides to ensure a timely, effective response for children who are vulnerable or at risk.

“I’m also pleased that the report has commented on our hardworking workforce and recognised the strength that comes from its diversity and reflecting the local community which, in turn, has led to better engagement by children and their families with social care services.

“Of course, we know there’s more to do. The council and our partners will continue to work effectively together to build on the strengths identified in this report and address gaps to ensure that we’re consistently supporting children to be safe, happy and healthy.”

Response from the South East London Integrated Care System

Ceri Jacob, Lewisham Place Executive Lead, South East London Integrated Care System, said:

“I welcome the findings of this report. It is positive that the improvements have been recognised. I note the areas in need of further improvement and will continue to work with our partners across health and social care to improve services for children and young people in Lewisham who need help and protection.”

Response from the Metropolitan Police:

Detective Superintendent Richard McDonagh said:

“As local police lead for public protection and the former Chair of Lewisham Children Safeguarding Partnership I take particular pride in this report. The recognition of the efforts of the partnership are paramount as safeguarding children is an enduring priority. However, I am also pleased that Met Police practises have been recognised as effective and productive.

“We have demonstrated greater evidence of professional curiosity using a child centred approach. This means officers and staff consider the wider context of any situation to better identify risk. This enables partners to prevent harm to young people.

“We know that information and intelligence sharing between appropriate services is key to safeguarding vulnerable children and their families in Lewisham. We will of course reflect on the suggestions for improvement in our drive to provide the best possible protection and safety for children.”

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