Last reviewed 6 November 2017

Safeguarding children is everyone’s responsibility. Liz Hodgman, Childcare Consultant looks at how Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) comply with their duty to assess the effectiveness of safeguarding arrangements using a Section 11 Self-Assessment Tool.

All early years providers have a duty under s.40 of the Childcare Act 2006(1) to comply with the welfare requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). They also need to have regard for the Working Together to Safeguard Children’ 2015(2) guidance.

Section 11 of the Children’s Act 2004(3) requires LSCBs to ensure that organisations have safeguarding arrangements in place. This covers all those who work with children including teachers, nurses, midwives, GPs, health visitors, youth workers, early years practitioners, police, social workers and voluntary community workers.

Who does the Section 11 Audit apply to?

Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015 identifies that Section 11 applies to the following agencies and organisations.

  • Local authorities and district councils that provide children’s and other types of services, including early years services and schools, children’s and adult social care services, public health, housing, sport, culture and leisure services, licensing authorities and youth services.

  • NHS organisations, including the NHS Commissioning Board and Clinical Commissioning Groups, NHS trusts and NHS foundation trusts.

  • The police, including police and crime commissioners and the chief officer of each police force in England and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in London.

  • British Transport Police.

  • The Probation Service (now the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Company).

  • Governors/Directors of Prisons and Young Offenders’ Institutions.

  • Directors of Secure Training Centres.

  • Youth Offending Teams/Services.

  • Private and voluntary organisations who are commissioned or contracted to provide services on behalf of the bodies listed above.

The LSCBs have a statutory duty to assess whether agencies in their area are fulfilling their statutory obligation to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. They use what is known as a Section 11 Self-Assessment Tool to gather information from agencies.

The process of a Section 11 Audit and self-assessment

Most LSCBs carry out this audit every other year. It varies from area to area how this is done; some LSCBs have online self-assessment tools for agencies (including early years provisions) to complete, others supply documents in different formats (Word or Excel normally) for completion and return, and most continue to offer a paper version to ensure it is accessible to all agencies. Some will red, amber, green (RAG) rate the answers to questions automatically (green: fully complaint, amber: some areas of weakness (partially met), red: serious concerns (not met)). The assessment asks the agency to submit evidence to support their rating. The tool should provide a template to develop an agency action plan from the audit. The more technically computerised tools automatically complete this for the agency as they move through the assessment.

The assessments are based on nine standards.

  1. Senior management commitment to the importance of safeguarding and promoting children’s welfare.

  2. A clear statement of the agency’s responsibilities towards children is available for all staff.

  3. A clear line of accountability within the organisation for work on safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.

  4. Service development takes account of the need to safeguard and promote welfare and is informed, where appropriate, by the views of children and families.

  5. Staff training on safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children for all staff working with or, depending on the agency’s primary functions, in contact with children and families.

  6. Safer recruitment.

  7. Effective inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

  8. Information sharing.

  9. Wider promotion of safeguarding, working with children and families.

Within each standard there will be a set of questions. For example, under Standard 1 regarding senior leadership there will be questions regarding the designated person and deputy and what arrangements the agency has in place to monitor practice and manage staff performance in relation to safeguarding.

Early years providers may find that their funding agreement with their LA also includes a statement regarding the completion and return of the Section 11 Self-Assessment Tool.

Each LSCB will have different approaches to the Section 11 Audit. Some invite agencies to meet with the board and discuss responses and help develop action plans, some will conduct monitoring visits to ensure that agencies are completing the self-assessments accurately. The board will compile a report on their findings and put together their own action plan for the local area.

Early years and the Section 11 Audit

For early years providers the Audit will:

  • ensure that early years providers are meeting the requirements of the EYFS

  • help to assess the quality of providers’ safeguarding practice

  • support the monitoring, review and evaluation of safeguarding policies and procedures

  • support providers in completing their Self Evaluation Form (SEF) and during their Ofsted inspection

  • ensure that any gaps within safeguarding practice are identified and prompt action is taken to rectify

  • ensure that safeguarding is effective in safeguarding children in all providers

  • support the LA in planning and delivering effective safeguarding training for their providers

  • fulfil the LSCBs duty to ensure that all children are safeguarded and their welfare promoted.

Early years managers should ensure that they are aware of when their LSCB will be carrying out the audit and how often so that it can be included in the provision’s management timetable. They should also consider who needs to be involved in the completion of the assessment and how the information will be shared with the whole staff team, volunteers, governors or management committee. It is good practice to involve parents in the completion of the assessment, in particular Standard 4. Managers should check if their LSCB is offering any training or workshops to support the completion of the audit. The action plan will need to be monitored and reviewed to ensure that tasks are being completed. Previous Section 11 Audits should be held on file and can be used to demonstrate that the provision has improved its policies, procedures and practice over an extended period.

Managers should consider making their completed assessment and action plan available to parents alongside their safeguarding policy.