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Multi-agency quality assurance

The statutory functions of local safeguarding board include to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of what is done by partners individually and collectively to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and advise them on ways to improve.

This should include as a minimum:

  • assessing the effectiveness and impact of the help being provided to children and families, including early help;
  • quality assuring practice for example through joint audits of case files involving practitioners and identifying lessons to be learned;
  • assess whether board partners are fulfilling their statutory obligations under Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 and parallel duties and asking board partners to self-evaluate.

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Why undertake multi-agency audits?

The role of the LSCB is crucial in determining the attitude of agencies towards improving practice on a multi-agency basis. Effective partnership working through the LSCB, a robust and systematic approach to quality assurance and the modelling of a cycle of continuous learning through constructive challenge will establish a culture which will permeate through to front-line practice. Multi-agency audits should be solution-focused and conducted in a spirit of open learning with the intention of further improving outcomes for children. 

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Why conduct audit?

An audit is undertaken to ensure that policy/procedure is being followed. It provides evidence of best practice and can demonstrate the quality of our work to external bodies and inspectors. It also allows areas of weakness to be identified and acted upon.

The actual process of carrying out an audit can sometimes be as beneficial as the outcomes. It provides staff with the time and space to reflect critically on practice. Where different agencies are involved in an audit, there is an opportunity to learn about different roles and responsibilities. 

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Who should be involved?

It is helpful to have people with a variety of different perspectives within the audit group. The group should therefore include staff from different levels/roles or, where appropriate, different agencies. It is best practice for an audit to be led by someone other than the manager for the area under consideration. 

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Who decides the multi-agency audit programme?

The function of the management, evaluation and effectiveness sub-group of the board is to:

  • develop a multi-agency audit tool to monitor the effectiveness of work   undertaken by partners and the impact of services on outcomes for children and young people;
  • plan and undertake themed audits in relation to relevant areas of interest or areas requiring further analysis as a result of performance information, inspection findings, the child death overview panel and serious case reviews;
  • undertake a rolling programme of multi-agency audits and lead on the development of improved systems within and across partner agencies to implement recommendations following audit findings;
  • make periodic presentations to social work teams and other relevant teams within key partner agencies on audit findings to raise awareness and understanding of core requirements and gather feedback to inform service improvement. 

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What are the local lessons from multi-agency audits?

In March 2012 East Riding Safeguarding Children Board commissioned an audit of pre-birth assessments. The team included the service manager for children’s social care, service manager for the Board, designated lead nurse, midwifery service and health visitor services. A total of 20 audits were undertaken across all the social care teams. The key findings can be downloaded here:

Key findings from the pre-birth audits (pdf 35kb opens in new window)

If this baby could talk, what would this baby say? Multi-agency briefing sessions have been delivered to cascade these key messages. A number of resources and guidance were developed to assist in undertaking pre-birth assessments which can be downloaded below:

A best practice pre-birth assessment audit (pdf 186kb opens in new window)

Practice guidance to undertaking a pre-birth assessment (pdf 39.8kb opens in new window)

Practice guidance for the inclusion of fathers (pdf 52.8kb opens in new window)

Health pre-birth assessment contact list & check list (pdf 40.1kb opens in new window) 

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What is the Section 11 audit?

The Children Act (2004) places a statutory obligation on a number of agencies to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people whilst carrying out their normal functions. One of the functions of the LSCB is to monitor the effectiveness of arrangements in a locality to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people. This includes monitoring the effectiveness of organisations’ implementation of their duties under, and in compliance with Section 11 of Children Act 2004 and Section 175 of Education Act 2002.

East Riding Safeguarding Children Board Section 11 audit is completed annually by partner agencies. The Section 11 template can be downloaded here:

Section 11 audit template (word 294kb opens in new window)

In order to add extra value to the process a challenge event is organised that is facilitated by the independent chair of the board with attendance from each agency. The purpose of this event is to offer further challenge and accountability into each Section 11 audit that is returned. This process has proved extremely successful, changing a paper based response into a dynamic, interactive process allowing both agency representatives and the board an opportunity to examine the responses on the return.

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