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2.2 Agency Roles and Responsibilities


  1. Introduction
  2. Statutory Duties
  3. Infrastructure and Governance to deliver Safeguarding Responsibilities
  4. Specific Roles and Responsibilities of Agencies
  5. Organisations without Statutory Duties

1. Introduction

An awareness and appreciation of the role of others is essential for effective collaboration between organisations and their practitioners.

This chapter outlines the main responsibilities in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children of all statutory organisations, voluntary and third sector agencies and professionals and practitioners who work with children.

It should be read in conjunction with the details set out in Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015, Organisational Responsibilities.

2. Statutory Duties

All organisations that work with children share a commitment to safeguard and promote their welfare. For many organisations, this is underpinned by statutory duties. 

Local authorities with responsibilities for Children’s Social Care have a number of specific duties to organise and plan services for children. In some circumstances it may be necessary for Children’s Social Care to work in conjunction with the Police to undertake a Section 47 Enquiry under the Children Act 1989.

As well as County Councils and District Councils, NHS organisations, Police, British Transport Police, the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies, Governors/Directors of Prisons and Young Offender Institutions, Youth Offending Teams and, Secure Training Centres and Colleges all have duties under Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 to ensure that their functions are discharged with regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. This includes services that they contract out and commission, as well as those that they provide directly.

In 2013, NHS England published an Accountability and Assurance Framework for Safeguarding Vulnerable People in the Reformed NHS. The framework sets out clearly responsibilities for safeguarding children in the future NHS and seeks to improve safeguarding practice.

Further information on roles and competences for health care staff in relation to safeguarding children can be found in the inter collegiate document Safeguarding Children and Young people: Roles and Competences for Health Care Staff published by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health 2014 in March 2014.

Local authorities also have duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in relation to its functions under Section 175 of the Education Act 2002. 

Statutory Guidance about these education duties is contained in Keeping Children Safe in Education, the latest version of which was published by the DfE.

The governing bodies, management committees or proprietors of the following schools have duties in relation to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of pupils:

  • Maintained schools (including maintained nursery schools), further education colleges and sixth form colleges, and pupil referral units; Further Education and Higher Education Act 1992. Section 175, Education Act 2002 – for management committees of pupil referral units, this is by virtue of regulation 3 and paragraph 19A of Schedule 1 to the Education (Pupil Referral Units) (Application of Enactments) (England) Regulations 2007;
  • Independent schools (including academy schools, free schools and alternative provision academies) Under the Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2014; and
  • Non-maintained special schools. Under the Education (Non-Maintained Special Schools) (England) Regulations 2011.

In addition, boarding schools, residential special schools and FE Institutions that provide accommodation for pupils under 18 must have regard to the relevant National Minimum Standards for their establishment.

Cafcass also has a duty under Section 12(1) of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 to safeguard and promote the welfare of children involved in family proceedings in which their welfare is, or may be, in question.

Local authorities have the statutory responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the children of service families in the UK. When service families or civilians working with the armed forces are based overseas the responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of their children is vested in the Ministry of Defence.

3. Infrastructure and Governance to deliver Safeguarding Responsibilities

Under Section 11 of the Children Act 2004, local authorities, NHS organisations, Police, British Transport Police the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies, Governors/Directors of Prisons and Young Offender institutions and Secure Training centres and colleges and Youth Offending Teams/Services should have in place arrangements that reflect the importance of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, including:

  • A clear line of accountability for the commissioning and/or provision of services designed to safeguard and promote the welfare of children;
  • A senior board level lead to take leadership responsibility for the organisation's safeguarding arrangements;
  • A culture of listening to children and taking account of their wishes and feelings, both in individual decisions and the development of services;
  • Clear whistle blowing procedures, which reflect the principles in Sir Robert Francis’s Freedom to Speak Up review and are suitably referenced in staff training and codes of conduct, and a culture that enables issues about safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children to be addressed;
  • Arrangements which set out clearly the processes for sharing information, with other professionals and with the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB);
  • A designated professional lead (or, for health provider organisations, named professionals) for safeguarding. Their role is to support other professionals in their agencies to recognise the needs of children, including rescue from possible abuse or neglect. Designated professional roles should always be explicitly defined in job descriptions. Professionals should be given sufficient time, funding, supervision and support to fulfil their child welfare and safeguarding responsibilities effectively;
  • Safe recruitment practices for individuals whom the organisation will permit to work regularly with children, including policies on when to obtain a criminal record check;
  • Appropriate supervision and support for staff, including undertaking safeguarding training:
    • Employers are responsible for ensuring that their staff are competent to carry out their responsibilities for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and creating an environment where staff feel able to raise concerns and feel supported in their safeguarding role;
    • Staff should be given a mandatory induction, which includes familiarisation with child protection responsibilities and procedures to be followed if anyone has any concerns about a child's safety or welfare; and
    • All professionals should have regular reviews of their own practice to ensure they improve over time.
  • Clear policies in line with those from the LSCB for dealing with allegations against people who work with children. An allegation may relate to a person who works with children who has:
  • Behaved in a way that has harmed a child, or may have harmed a child;
  • Possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child; or
  • Behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates they may pose a risk of harm to children;
  • In addition:
    • County level and unitary local authorities should ensure that allegations against people who work with children are not dealt with in isolation. Any action necessary to address corresponding welfare concerns in relation to the child or children involved should be taken without delay and in a coordinated manner. Local authorities should, in addition, have designated a particular officer, or team of officers (either as part of multi-agency arrangements or otherwise), to be involved in the management and oversight of allegations against people that work with children. Any such officer, or team of officers, should be sufficiently qualified and experienced to be able to fulfil this role effectively, for example qualified social workers. Any new appointments to such a role, other than current or former designated officers moving between local authorities, should be qualified social workers. Arrangements should be put in place to ensure that any allegations about those who work with children are passed to the designated officer, or team of officers, without delay;
    • Local authorities should put in place arrangements to provide advice and guidance on how to deal with allegations against people who work with children to employers and voluntary organisations. Local authorities should also ensure that there are appropriate arrangements in place to effectively liaise with the police and other agencies to monitor the progress of cases and ensure that they are dealt with as quickly as possible, consistent with a thorough and fair process;
    • Employers and voluntary organisations should ensure that they have clear policies in place setting out the process, including timescales, for investigation and what support and advice will be available to individuals against whom allegations have been made. Any allegation against people who work with children should be reported immediately to a senior manager within the organisation. The designated officer, or team of officers, should also be informed within one working day of all allegations that come to an employer’s attention or that are made directly to the police;
    • If an organisation removes an individual (paid worker or unpaid volunteer) from work such as looking after children (or would have, had the person not left first) because the person poses a risk of harm to children, the organisation must make a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service. It is an offence to fail to make a referral without good reason.

4. Specific Roles and Responsibilities of Agencies

Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015, Organisational Responsibilities also sets out the specific roles and responsibilities of the following:

4.1 Adult Social Care Services

Local authorities provide services to adults who are responsible for children who may be in need. When staff are providing services to adults they should ask whether there are children in the family and consider whether the children need help or protection from harm. Children may be at greater risk of harm or be in need of additional help in families where the adults have mental health problems, misuse substances or alcohol, are in a violent relationship or have complex needs or have learning difficulties.

Adults with parental responsibilities for disabled children have a right to a separate carer's assessment under the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995 and the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000. The results of this assessment should be taken into account when deciding what services, if any, will be provided under the Children Act 1989.

4.2 Housing Services

Housing and homelessness services in local authorities and others at the front line such as environmental health organisations are subject to the duties set out in Working Together 2015. Professionals working in these services may become aware of conditions that could have an adverse impact on children. Under Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004, authorities must take account of the impact of health and safety hazards in housing on vulnerable occupants, including children, when deciding on the action to be taken by landlords to improve conditions. Housing authorities also have an important role to play in safeguarding vulnerable young people, including young people who are pregnant or leaving care.

4.3 Health Services

Health professionals are in a strong position to identify welfare needs or safeguarding concerns regarding individual children and, where appropriate, provide support. This includes understanding risk factors, communicating effectively with children and families, liaising with other agencies, assessing needs and capacity, responding to those needs and contributing to multi-agency assessments and reviews.

A wide range of health professionals have a critical role to play in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children including: GPs, primary care professionals, paediatricians, nurses, health visitors, midwives, school nurses, those working in maternity, child and adolescent mental health, adult mental health, alcohol and drug services, unscheduled and emergency care settings and secondary and tertiary care.

All staff working in healthcare settings - including those who predominantly treat adults - should receive training to ensure they attain the competences appropriate to their role and follow the relevant professional guidance:

Within the NHS:

NHS England will be responsible for ensuring that the health commissioning system as a whole is working effectively to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. It will also be accountable for the services it directly commissions including health care services in the under-18 secure estate and in police custody. NHS England will also lead and define improvement in safeguarding practice and outcomes and should also ensure that there are effective mechanisms for LSCBs and health and wellbeing boards to raise concerns about the engagement and leadership of the local NHS;

Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will be the major commissioners of local health services and will be responsible for safeguarding quality assurance through contractual arrangements with all provider organisations. CCGs should employ, or have in place, a contractual agreement to secure the expertise of designated professionals, i.e. designated doctors and nurses for safeguarding children and for looked after children (and designated paediatricians for unexpected deaths in childhood). In some areas there will be more than one CCG per local authority and LSCB area, and CCGs may want to consider developing 'lead' or 'hosting' arrangements for their designated professional team, or a clinical network arrangement. Designated professionals, as clinical experts and strategic leaders, are a vital source of advice to the CCG, NHS England, the local authority and the LSCB, and of advice and support to other health professionals; and

All providers of NHS funded health services including NHS Trusts, NHS Foundation Trusts and public, voluntary sector, independent sector and social enterprises should identify a named doctor and a named nurse (and a named midwife if the organisation provides maternity services) for safeguarding. In the case of ambulance trusts and independent providers, this should be a named professional. GP practices should have a lead and deputy lead for safeguarding, who should work closely with named GPs. Named professionals have a key role in promoting good professional practice within their organisation, providing advice and expertise for fellow professionals, and ensuring safeguarding training is in place. They should work closely with their organisation's safeguarding lead, designated professionals and the LSCB.

Model job descriptions for designated and named professional roles can be found in the intercollegiate document Safeguarding Children and Young People: Roles and Competences for Health Care Staff (2014).

4.4 Criminal Justice Organisations

4.4.1 The Police

Under Section 1(8)(h) of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 the police and crime commissioner must hold the Chief Constable to account for the exercise of the latter's duties in relation to safeguarding children under Sections 10 and 11 of the Children Act 2004.

All police officers, and other police employees such as Police Community Support Officers, are well placed to identify early when a child's welfare is at risk and when a child may need protection from harm. Children have the right to the full protection offered by the criminal law. In addition to identifying when a child may be a victim of a crime, police officers should be aware of the effect of other incidents which might pose safeguarding risks to children and where officers should pay particular attention. For example, an officer attending a domestic abuse incident should be aware of the effect of such behaviour on any children in the household. Children who are encountered as offenders, or alleged offenders, are entitled to the same safeguards and protection as any other child and due regard should be given to their welfare at all times.

The police can hold important information about children who may be suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm, as well as those who cause such harm. They should always share this information with other organisations where this is necessary to protect children. Similarly, they can expect other organisations to share information to enable the police to carry out their duties. Offences committed against children can be particularly sensitive and usually require the police to work with other organisations such as local authority children's social care. All police forces should have officers trained in child abuse investigation.

The police have emergency powers under Section 46 of the Children Act 1989 enter premises and remove a child to ensure their immediate protection. This power can be used if the police have reasonable cause to believe a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm. Police emergency powers can help in emergency situations but should be used only when necessary. Wherever possible, the decision to remove a child from a parent or carer should be made by a court.

4.5 British Transport Police

The British Transport Police (BTP) can play an important role in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, especially in identifying and supporting children who have run away or who are truanting from school.

The BTP should carry out its duties in accordance with its legislative powers. This includes removing a child to a suitable place using their police protection powers under the Children Act 1989 and the protection of children who are truanting from school using powers under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. This involves, for example, the appointment of a designated independent officer in the instance of a child taken into police protection.

4.6 Probation Service

Probation services are provided by the National Probation Service (NPS) and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs). The NPS and CRCs are subject to the Section 11 duties. They are primarily responsible for working with adult offenders both in the community and in the transition from custody to community to reduce reoffending and improve rehabilitation. They are, therefore, well placed to identify offenders who pose a risk of harm to children as well as children who may be at heightened risk of involvement in (or exposure to) criminal or anti-social behaviour and of other poor outcomes due the offending behaviour of their parent/carer(s).

Where an adult offender is assessed as presenting a risk of serious harm to children, the offender manager should develop a risk management plan and supervision plan that contains a specific objective to manage and reduce the risk of harm to children.

In preparing a sentence plan, offender managers should consider how planned interventions might bear on parental responsibilities and whether the planned interventions could contribute to improved outcomes for children known to be in an existing relationship with the offender.

4.7 Prison Service

The Prison Service has a responsibility to identify prisoners who pose a risk of harm to children (see the HMP Public Protection Manual). Where an individual has been identified as presenting a risk of harm to children, the relevant prison establishment:

  • Should inform the local authority children's social care services of the offender's reception to prison and subsequent transfers and of the release address of the offender;
  • Should notify the relevant probation service provider. The police should also be notified of the release address;
  • May prevent or restrict a prisoner's contact with children. Decisions on the level of contact, if any, should be based on a multi-agency risk assessment. The assessment should draw on relevant risk information held by police, probation service provider and prison service. The relevant local authority Children’s social care contribute to the multi-agency risk assessment by providing a report on the child’s best interests. The best interests of the child will be paramount in the decision-making process. A prison is also able to monitor an individual's communication (including letters and telephone calls) to protect children where proportionate and necessary to the risk presented.

Governors/Directors of women's establishments which have Mother and Baby Units should ensure that:

  • There is at all times a member of staff on duty in the unit who is proficient in child protection, health and safety and first aid/child resuscitation; and
  • Each baby has a child care plan setting out how the best interests of the child will be maintained and promoted during the child's residence in the unit.

4.8 The Secure Estate for Children

Governors, managers and directors of the following secure establishments are subject to the Section 11 duties set out in Chapter 2 of Working Together 2015:

  • A secure training centre;
  • A young offender institution;
  • Secure children’s homes, namely children’s homes approved by the Secretary of State for accommodating children and young people who require the protection of a secure setting; and
  • A secure college.

Each centre holding those aged under 18 should have in place an annually reviewed safeguarding children policy. The policy is designed to promote and safeguard the welfare of children and should cover issues such as child protection, risk of harm, restraint, recruitment and information sharing. A safeguarding children manager should be appointed and will be responsible for implementation of this policy.

Detailed guidance on the safeguarding children policy, the roles of the safeguarding children manager and the safeguarding children committee, and the role of the establishment in relation to the LSCB can be found in Prison Service Instruction (PSI) 08/2012 'Care and Management of Young People'.

4.9 Youth Offending Teams

Youth Offending Teams (YOT’s) s are multi-agency teams responsible for the supervision of children and young people subject to pre-court interventions and statutory court disposals. (The statutory membership of YOTs is set out in Section 39 (5) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.)

They are therefore well placed to identify children known to relevant organisations as being most at risk of offending and to undertake work to prevent them offending. YOTs should have a lead officer responsible for ensuring safeguarding is at the forefront of their business.

Under Section 38 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, local authorities must, within the delivery of youth justice services, ensure the 'provision of persons to act as appropriate adults to safeguard the interests of children and young persons detained or questioned by police officers'.

4.10 UK Visas and Immigration Enforcement and the Border Force

Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 places upon the Secretary of State a duty to take account of the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in discharging its functions relating to immigration, asylum, nationality and customs. These functions are discharged on behalf of the Secretary of State by UK Visas and Immigration, Immigration Enforcement and the Border Force, which are part of the Home Office. See Arrangements to Safeguard and Promote Children’s Welfare in the United Kingdom Border Agency.

4.11 Schools and Colleges

Section 175 of the Education Act 2002 places a duty on local authorities (in relation to their education functions and governing bodies of maintained schools and further education institutions, which include sixth-form colleges) to exercise their functions with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children who are pupils at a school, or who are students under 18 years of age attending further education institutions. The same duty applies to independent schools (which include Academies and free schools) by virtue of regulations made under Section 157 of the same Act.

In order to fulfil their duty under Sections 157 and 175 of the Education Act 2002, all educational settings to whom the duty applies should have in place the arrangements set out in paragraph 4 of this chapter. In addition schools should have regard to specific guidance given by the Secretary of State under Sections 157 and 175 of the Education Act 2002 namely, Keeping Children Safe in Education.

4.12 Early Years and Childcare

Early years providers have a duty under Section 40 of the Childcare Act 2006 to comply with the welfare requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (EYFS), Section 3, The safeguarding and welfare requirements. This includes:

  • A practitioner must be designated to take lead responsibility for safeguarding children in every setting. Childminders must take the lead responsibility themselves. The lead practitioner is responsible for liaison with local statutory children's services agencies, and with the LSCB. They must provide support, advice and guidance to any other staff on an ongoing basis, and on any specific safeguarding issue as required. The lead practitioner must attend a child protection training course that enables them to identify, understand and respond appropriately to signs of possible abuse and neglect;
  • Providers must train all staff to understand their safeguarding policy and procedures, and ensure that all staff have up to date knowledge of safeguarding issues.

See also Ofsted Guidance: Inspecting Safeguarding in Early Years, Education and Skills Settings (2016), Section 5.2, Inspecting how leaders and governors create a safeguarding culture.

This includes:

During term time, or when the setting is in operation, the designated safeguarding lead or an appropriately trained deputy should be available during opening hours for staff to discuss safeguarding concerns.

4.13 Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS)

The responsibility of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), as set out in the Children Act 1989, is to safeguard and promote the welfare of individual children who are the subject of family court proceedings. It achieves this by providing independent social work advice to the court.

A Cafcass officer has a statutory right in public law cases to access local authority records relating to the child concerned and any application under the Children Act 1989. That power also extends to other records that relate to the child and the wider functions of the local authority, or records held by an authorised body that relate to that child.

Where a Cafcass officer has been appointed by the court as a child's guardian and the matter before the court relates to specified proceedings, they should be invited to all formal planning meetings convened by the local authority in respect of the child. This includes statutory reviews of children who are accommodated or looked after, child protection conferences and relevant Adoption Panel meetings.

4.14 The Armed Services

Local authorities have the statutory responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the children of service families in the UK (when service families or civilians working with the armed forces are based overseas the responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of their children is vested in the Ministry of Defence).

In discharging these responsibilities:

Local authorities should ensure that the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Families Association Forces Help, the British Forces Social Work Service or the Naval Personal and Family Service is made aware of any service child who is the subject of a child protection plan and whose family is about to move overseas

Each local authority with a United States base in its area should establish liaison arrangements with the base commander and relevant staff. The requirements of English child welfare legislation should be explained clearly to the US authorities, so that the local authority can fulfil its statutory duties.

4.15 The Voluntary and Private Sectors

Voluntary organisations and private sector providers play an important role in delivering services to children. They should have the arrangements described in Chapter 2 of Working Together in place in the same way as organisations in the public sector, and need to work effectively with the LSCB. Paid and volunteer staff need to be aware of their responsibilities for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, how they should respond to child protection concerns and make a referral to local authority children's social care or the police if necessary.

4.16 Faith Organisations

Churches, other places of worship and faith-based organisations provide a wide range of activities for children and have an important role in safeguarding children and supporting families. Like other organisations who work with children they need to have appropriate arrangements in place to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

5. Organisations without Statutory Duties

All organisations, which do not have statutory duties under Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 but which have involvement with children and young people, directly or indirectly, have a responsibility to ensure that their employees, volunteers and service users are aware of these procedures and know where to access them.

Everybody who works with children, parents and other adults in connection with children should be able to recognise indicators of concern about a child’s welfare or safety. A staff member or volunteer who may encounter concerns about the safety and well-being of a child should know:

  • Who in their organisation can offer support and guidance;
  • When and how to make a referral to Children’s Social Care Services under the Referrals Procedure;
  • What other services are available locally and how to gain access to them;
  • How to access and receive appropriate training.