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Quality Assurance Framework

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Introduction and Principles

Working together to keep children safe is the primary aim of the Devon Children and Families Partnership (DCFP) and it is essential that both professionals and organisations learn lessons and share good practice to improve children’s safety and outcomes.

DCFP is resolute in its commitment to fostering a culture of restorative practice, with learning and continuous improvement at the heart of all we do, sharing responsibility that enables all Safeguarding Partners (Devon County Council, NHS Devon CCG and Devon and Cornwall Police) and partner communities and agencies to:

  • Identify, prevent and share concerns early regarding safety and welfare of children
  • Highlight commonly recurring themes that require further investigation to address gaps in practice
  • Share learning, including best practice, from across the safeguarding system for continual improvement

Fostering a Culture of Learning:

  • It is clear we all value staff
  • There is transparency and openness
  • Key people are absolutely focused on children
  • Everyone has a ‘can do’ attitude and we make things happen
  • We are clear about the value of scrutiny
  • We are tenacious and ambitious
  • We follow problems, we don’t pass them on

This Quality Assurance framework underpins our work and describes our overarching approach to learning and improvement

  • To be clear about what we are seeking to achieve and outcomes we will achieve for children and young people as a Partnership and plan accordingly
  • To share common ownership and work collaboratively in both delivering our services and judging their progress
  • To deliver our plans with rigor, measuring impact against goals, targets and standards
  • Using a wide range of tools to help us measure our progress, including listening to children and families and practitioners, interrogating need data and learning from audit
  • To use information and intelligence actively and to carry out appreciative inquiries that promote a culture of curiosity, questioning and analysis
  • To welcome scrutiny of activity and impact to challenge ourselves and each other
  • To be focused on continuous improvement of services and better outcomes for children

The Voices of Devon’s Children and Families

The partnership promotes a culture where children’s voices and lived experiences are at the core of safeguarding duty. All services and practitioners are expected to hear the voices of children and young people, address their concerns and advocate on their behalf when there is a need for wider system change.

Hearing the voices and experience of children and families is the most important way we can measure outcomes and assess the extent to which children feel safer and families feel better able to care for their children. This helps us understand need and measure impact for children. We have a broad and coordinated range of engagement, that seeks the views of parents and carers as well as children and young people.

The Partnership leads a cycle of auditing. The themes for audit are guided by knowledge arising from children and families’ experiences covered in; Rapid Reviews and Local Safeguarding Practice Reviews; quantitative data that identifies possible practice issues and feedback from children, young people and families. A variety of different methodologies are employed. All audits seek the views and experience of children and their families where possible/appropriate.

There is a key role for the voluntary and community sector within the partnership, especially through the Connecting, Communicating and Engaging Group, which provides a place for scrutiny. They are often much closer to the experience of children and families and some exist to advocate on their behalf.

Find out more about what this means for children and families.

Leadership and Culture

Partnership Approach to learning and Improving

This framework is designed to underpin and facilitate a culture of continuous learning and improvement across the whole children’s safeguarding system in Devon. It is based on:

  • locally agreed priorities set out in the Annual Report
  • knowing our strengths, what we do well and do more of it
  • knowing what children and young people say
  • learning from national research
  • an outcomes-based accountability methodology which asks:
    • how much did we do?
    • how well did we do it?
    • what difference did it make to outcomes for children and young people?
  • a shared commitment to implementing and embedding improvement actions
  • a shared commitment to focus and learn from good practice as well as those cases meeting statutory criteria
  • learning from a number of established reviewing processes in Devon, including Local Safeguarding Practice Reviews, Local Learning Reviews, Domestic Homicide Reviews, SIRIs, s175, Safeguarding Adult Reviews, Child Death Overview Panel, Serious Violence Reviews, Suicide Reviews or other single agency reviewing processes

Operation of the framework requires trust between partners that:

  • provides a high level of mutual support, sets ambitious expectations, and enables effective, constructive challenge that leads to impactful change
  • fully involves professionals to contribute their perspectives without fear of blame

Learning and improvement activity must be able to assure partners about the effectiveness of safeguarding arrangements and demonstrate improvements.


Independent Scrutiny

The fundamental rationale for independent scrutiny of safeguarding arrangements is to provide assurance of their effectiveness both to the Safeguarding Partners and to the public. This involves judgements being made in three key areas – the leadership and governance of the arrangements; the extent to which the arrangements protect and safeguard children and the capacity of the arrangements to improve and develop services. The partnership welcomes external review to maintain continuous improvement for children and young people.

The Role of the DCFP Executive

The DCFP Executive brings together our accountable partners. They represent the 3 statutory partners of Devon County Council, NHS CCG and the Police, to share leadership responsibility for the Safeguarding Arrangements and for improving outcomes for children (see Appendix 1: Devon Children and Young People’s – Outcomes 2021-2022).

The Role of the Practice Development Group

The learning from across the partnership is presented to the Practice Development Group, which is the ‘hub’ of the Partnership’s change programme, performance management and quality assurance system. In addition to directing the work of the sub-groups; the Quality Assurance Delivery Group, which has the role of undertaking multi-agency audits and thematic ‘deep dives’ and the Workforce Development Group, the Practice Development Group monitors and analyses the products of the whole range of assurance tools used across the partnership.

The group is key to embedding a learning culture within the safeguarding partnership with responsibility for disseminating regular reports on safeguarding practice issues for practitioners (what is being taught is being delivered) and for commissioning an annual safeguarding learning and development programme through the strategy developed by the Workforce Development Group.

By its nature, the group maintains close links with other parts of the partnership structure, in particular with the Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review Group and the Connecting, Communicating and Engaging Group, as well as with any Independent Scrutineer.

The group meets monthly and reviews performance and quality issues at each meeting. Through its senior membership, the group resolves the majority of issues, minimising escalation to the Executive Group. Where it is necessary to engage the highest level strategic decision makers on practice and service issues, the group make recommendations to the Executive.

The group is responsible for providing the Safeguarding Partners, via the Executive Group, with regular balanced assurance reports based on its analysis of all assurance activity in a period. Although the primary focus of this report is always to alert the Executive to declining or poor performance requiring immediate decisions, it will also include highlighting emerging risks and issues, unresolved or recurring concerns, areas for improvement as well as examples of good practice and particular strengths.

Sub-Group Chairs/Project Leads produce bi-monthly reports to the DCFP Executive detailing impact and outcomes and formalising any barriers and escalations they wish to raise. The DCFP Quality Assurance Lead provides a six-monthly scrutiny session to chairs/leads focusing in on the group/project’s outcomes and the impact that their work to improve the lives of children and families has had. Also, the session considers if the group needs to continue, ensuring a clear plan for an ending where relevant. It is important that groups and projects link to the priorities of the partnership.

The Role of the Quality Assurance Delivery Group

The Quality Assurance Delivery Group (QADG) is a multi-agency, operational group of the Practice Development Group.

A yearly programme of themed reviews is carried out under the direction of the PDG. Reports on findings and recommendations from thematic reviews is shared with the PDG and helps to guide the work of the partnership through exploring the effectiveness of safeguarding work across the partnership, and highlighting not only what is working well, but also gaps in provision or areas of concern.

The group has a rolling plan of challenge sessions to assess the impact of the group’s review activity, findings and recommendations. Challenge sessions form an important part of the ambition of the partnership to close the loop on practice learning.

The QADG utilises a range of methods as described below to oversee the implementation of the DCFP Quality Assurance Framework.

Data

  • Review data which is collected on behalf of the partnership. (This may include reflecting on child protection conference performance, attendance, outcomes and impact.)
  • Review the data and identify and question possible anomalies or unexplained local data trends. In addition, considers whether to follow up specific lines of enquiry, possible themes, trends and lines of enquiry for future multi-agency audits, single agency audits, “spot” audits etc.
  • Considers new and relevant national research and data to inform appropriate audit activity

Audit

  • Develops an audit forward plan
  • Manages the agreed audit cycle, using a consistent standard and framework for auditing
  • Refers findings from audit to the Practice Development Group
  • Quality assures the multi-agency service provision for children and families in Devon through: Appreciative Inquiries (AIs), table-top audits, surveys, forums and other activities as required
  • Quality assures audit activities and outcomes from single and multi-agency audits
  • Ensures that audit outcomes and the learning arising from them are effectively shared across partnerships, under the guidance of the PDG
  • Analyses, questions and challenges the findings of multi-agency audit reviews
  • Considers conducting case reviews where the criteria for rapid review is not reached but the partnership consider some learning could be excavated and shared
  • Links into Locality Partnerships and in-so-doing gathers local intelligence and frontline information around emerging themes and current risk

Continuous Learning

  • Assesses commitment to safeguarding as measured by attendance at and engagement with multi-agency meetings, other meetings and learning and development activities and uses evaluations to assess impact on practice
  • Through the spectrum of work, the Quality Assurance Delivery Group reports to the Practice Development Group regarding agency effectiveness and highlights effective working, gaps or areas of concern
  • In order to close the learning loop from audit and work across the partnership; provides feedback and learning from audits and reviews to the Locality Partnerships

The Role of the DCFP Business Team

The Partnership business team identifies and appoints reviewers (with the agreement of the safeguarding partners and their delegates) and supports facilitators in carrying out their role by:

  • Ensuring all relevant agencies participate as required
  • Giving the reviewer access to appropriate documentation
  • Helping internal reviewers develop the relevant skills to successfully undertake the role
  • Overseeing the end-to-end to process to ensure deadlines are met
  • Reporting back to stakeholders and managing media relations

The Partnership have responsibility for ensuring that recommendations arising from reviews and audits are considered and actions identified and agreed as appropriate. Any improvement work is drawn into themed work streams to avoid duplicative action plans. Using the Practice Development Group’s Action Plan alongside the Review Action Tracker, the DCFP Business Team and the Quality Assurance Lead coordinates the work.

Individual Agency Contribution and Section 11

Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 places duties on a range of organisations, agencies and individuals to ensure their functions, and any services that they contract out to others, are discharged having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.


Working Together 2018 requires that there must be an assessment of the internal performance management arrangements in relation to safeguarding activities within each agency and assurance there is a culture of challenge and scrutiny evident in the process.

Our approach triangulates a number of interrelated areas which offer a more rounded and accurate picture about agency contributions. To do this, the Partnership gathers information captured about individual agency activity, for example, numbers of contacts to the MASH made, their conversion to referrals, involvement in the s47 process (where appropriate), attendance and contribution at child protection conferences and core groups and referrals to the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO).

In addition, we analyse the membership of Partnership Sub-Group meetings (those invited and attended), training courses committed to and attended, sub-group membership and contribution, evidence of contribution to multi-agency case assessment and practice review recommendation implementation.

Where possible, walkabouts can be conducted. These involve taking a professionally curious look at agency’s performance management arrangements with the added value of being able to speak with practitioners, managers and families directly.

All agencies and commissioners are responsible for ensuring that services follow safeguarding procedures and guidance and train their staff and volunteers accordingly. Assessment of these arrangements are the responsibility of the individual services.

To support this, the DCFP’s short, focused and agency specific organisational safeguarding assessment online form (Section 11) sets out what ‘good’ safeguarding activity would look like in that specific agency. Agencies are asked to measure (RAG) themselves against a standard relevant to their contribution rather than complete a universal assessment form. The online submissions are coordinated by the DCFP Business Team on behalf of the Practice Development Group.

Where there are common themes and gaps arising, these are highlighted, and action identified. The Practice Development Group requests annual updates and evidence of progress where needed.

A judgement about the development of individual staff in each agency is measured by looking at recruitment and retention data, use of agency staff, in-house training offered and taken-up, quality and quantity of supervision available to staff.

Operational Partnership Working

Quantitative Measures

A large part of the agreed Framework Data Measures (Appendix 2) focuses on measures that give some indication about the strength and effectiveness of partnership working. The Practice Development Group expects individual agencies to focus on their own performance issues as revealed by the data, the job is to analyse it to offer commentary on how the safeguarding system is working.

‘Spot’ Audits

These are case audits designed to help understand in more detail any anomalies or odd trends in the data. These are not comprehensive multi-agency audits; they are focused examinations of certain critical moments in the lives of children and their families that might be being highlighted by the data. These are carried out by the Quality Assurance Lead and/or other sub-groups of the DCFP.

Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH)

Multi-agency thematic audits will involve those agencies working in the MASH and will look at how the partnership responds to concerns about children, the quality of the information gathered to support decision making and the ability in the MASH to resolve differences and challenge thinking and judgements in the interest of the child.

MASH undertake a programme of quality assurance activity. We will ask MASH to provide a quarterly summary reporting on their practice evaluations, supervision, meeting observations, senior manager walkabouts and practice weeks.

Child Protection Conferences

Child protection conferences sit at the heart of much of the child protection work carried out in the system. They are independently chaired, and they offer a window into core issues such as risk management, inter-agency functioning, the nature and quality of work with children at risk and the extent to which families, including extended families are engaged in the process. In particular, we ask conference chairs to provide a quarterly summary that covers:

  • A summary of their QA questionnaires completed after each conference
  • Analysis of the implementation of a restorative approach in assessment, plans and work
  • An overview of the risks faced by children in the county
  • An overview of the quality of direct work with children and young people and the extent to which it has helped them respond to the risks they are facing and to build resilience and fortitude
  • An overview of the work with parents, carers and extended family members and the extent to which it is building on strengths and assets and can be judged to be reducing risk to children
  • An overview of all matters escalated by meeting chairs to any of the partner agencies

Closing the Learning Loop

Embedding good practice, what works well and learning from when things go wrong is an important part of supporting a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

We feedback learning direct to practitioners through a range of different multi-agency methodologies:

Events

  • ‘SafeFest’ Conferences
  • Best Practice Practitioner Workshops

Partnership Activity

  • Partnership Annual Safeguarding Report
  • Dissemination through Sub-Group and Locality Group structure

Reviews

  • Rapid Review Process
  • Appreciative Inquiries and the 6 Ds approach
  • Publication of Local Child Safeguarding Practice Reviews and other reviews

Audits

  • Case Conversations
  • Examples of Exceptional Good Practice
  • Storyboards
  • Learning Briefings

Website and social media

  • Communication via Partnership Website / Newsletter / News flashes / Twitter
  • Learning Podcasts and Videos

Training

  • Partnership Multi-Agency Training Programme
  • Single Agency Training

Agency Activity

  • Learning Circles
  • Single Agency Briefings
  • Mentoring/Shadowing
  • Supervision
  • Inspections

Monitoring the Impact of Change

In order to ensure that changes are embedded, sustainable over time and have the desired effect, monitoring is undertaken through the following processes:

Performance Analysis

  • QA Framework Data Measures (Appendix 1)
  • Outcomes Framework

Quality Assurance and Audit Activity

  • Quality Assurance Delivery Group’s Multi-Disciplinary Thematic Audit Programme and Challenge Sessions
  • Spot Audits carried out by the DCFP Quality Assurance Lead

Survey Activity

  • Children, young people and their families
  • Practitioners and line managers

Feedback

  • Practitioners and line managers on the impact on practice of learning and development activity
  • Children, young people and their families on the impact of Early Help services and statutory intervention

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