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2021 Year in Review by Aileen Buckton, Independent Person

Date: Friday, 17th Dec 2021 | Category: Blogs, General

Here we are at the end of another challenging year! I want to take the opportunity, from the start, to thank everyone for their tireless work in serving our most vulnerable children in Merton during these difficult times. As a Partnership, we have continued to feel the strain that Covid-19 has put on the system and on demand. It certainly feels relentless at times.

I am sure that I am not alone in being deeply saddened by the recent murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes. His horrific death has caused an outpouring of public shock and I wanted to echo recent comments by Isabelle Trowler and Lyn Romeo in their letter of support to social workers. There can be no doubt about the important part practitioners play in supporting and protecting the country’s most vulnerable children and families and the positive difference this makes every single day. I join the Chief Social Workers in condemning those targeting abuse towards the social work profession or any other professionals working with children and families. We very much recognise across the partnership the very challenging circumstances in which so many professionals are operating and will continue to look at how we can best support joined up working and best practice.

Annie Hudson, the chair of the National Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel, will work with leaders in Solihull to deliver a single, national, independent review of Arthur’s death, and determine any improvements that are needed by agencies. For more information regarding this review, please click on this link

In my first few months as Independent Chair, I have witnessed the huge amount of vital work taking place across the Merton Safeguarding Children Partnership (MSCP), including the completion and publication of the Child H and Baby Grace learning reviews, the development of a multi-agency audit programme, and the launch and implementation of the Contextual Safeguarding Strategy

It was great to see partners come together and discuss important issues affecting us all at September’s Full Partnership meeting. I was particularly struck by a sexual violence presentation given by Alison Jerrard, the MSCP’s secondary school representative. In it, she discussed the impact of the “Everyone’s Invited” website on the school’s safeguarding practice in response to the uncovering of abuse that has become so common amongst young people. She also highlighted how traumatic the content on the website had been to read and the desire to create a culture in schools where everyone respects boundaries, for themselves, and for others. In the new year, our Scrutineer and Young Scrutineer will be working with us to look at what more safeguarding partners can do to come together with education colleagues and tackle sexual violence and harassment in schools, colleges and in the community.

It was also a privilege to be a part of the Early Help Summit in November which focused on the impact of Covid-19 on Early Help services. Lots of helpful, informative practice and learning was shared at the summit and you can read more about my reflections on this here.

I am pleased to announce that the Executive has just signed off the refreshed Partnership Agreement that sets out the safeguarding arrangements for Merton. We were keen to respond to feedback from our partners who felt that the new MSCP arrangements had dismissed wider partner engagement in the Partnership. Schools, voluntary sector and wider health partners, in particular, fed back that they sometimes felt disconnected to the MSCP’s core business. The new partnership agreement introduces more regular Full Partnership meetings and introduces structures that allow us to really focus on the core priorities we have set ourselves. I furthermore hope you will see improvements to the way in which we communicate with you all, and I would encourage you all to get in touch with your agency’s safeguarding representatives if you have any feedback or comments on the MSCP’s work.

You can find a link to the refreshed Partnership Agreement here.

Following the cancellation of last year’s annual conference due to Covid-19, we know that many of you will be looking forward to our joint conference with Merton Safeguarding Adults Board next year. I am delighted that we will be working together across children and adults safeguarding systems to share learning and good practice. Please keep an eye on the website for further details of this event to be published in due course.

I began this post by acknowledging the challenges we have all faced in this current climate, but it is also evident that many good things have been achieved this year as a partnership to help safeguard our local children. May I take this opportunity now to thank you for your work. I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a restful, peaceful New Year and send my well-wishes to all those members of staff who will be working during the festive season. I look forward to picking up the work with you all again in 2022.