Earlier this month, the iHV submitted a written response to the Department for Education’s Working Together to Safeguard Children: changes to statutory guidance consultation.

Working Together to Safeguard Children is the multi-agency statutory guidance that sets out expectations for the system that provides help, support and protection for children and their families. It applies at every level from senior leaders to those in direct practice with families, and across all agencies and organisations that come into contact with children. It gives practitioners clarity about what is required of them individually and how they need to work in partnership with each other to deliver effective services.

Updating ‘Working Together’ forms a central part of the Government’s plans to transform Children’s Social Care, set out in Stable Homes, Built on Love. The plans aim to strengthen multi-agency working across the whole system of help, support and protection for children and their families, with greater emphasis on earlier help and strong, effective and consistent child protection practice.

The Working Together consultation ran from 21 June 2023 to 6 September 2023 and views were sought from children and young people, parents and carers, and others who are ‘essential to children’s safety and welfare’. Officials at the Department for Education contacted the iHV with a direct request for a response to the proposal that health visitors might become lead professionals for children subject to Child in Need – section 17 arrangements. Our submission is therefore focused on the questions that relate to this proposal.

Our response was formulated with support from members of the iHV Working Together Safeguarding Roundtable Event that was held on 21 August 2023. The group met specifically to consider the impact of the proposed changes to the statutory guidance on health visiting practice. Further practitioner intelligence, and views on the proposed changes, were also collated from direct emails that the iHV received from members and discussions with partners during the consultation period.

What happens next?

The results of the consultation and the department’s response will be published on GOV.UK in Autumn 2023.

With special thanks to Trish Stewart, iHV Expert Advisor for Safeguarding and Associate Director for Safeguarding and Children’s Public Health Nursing at Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust; Georgina Mayes, iHV Policy and Quality Lead; and members of the iHV roundtable event for their valuable input and support with this submission.

The Institute of Health Visiting submitted its response to the Children’s social care strategy: Stable Homes, Built on Love on 10 May 2023. The Department for Education (DfE) has been seeking views on their proposals to reform children’s social care. The vision for reform of children’s social care responds to recommendations made by three[1] independent reviews. The vision is underpinned by the fundamental principle of the Children Act 1989 – that children’s welfare is paramount.

The vision aims to rebalance children’s social care away from costly crisis intervention to more meaningful and effective help for families, so that it achieves the outcomes that children deserve. Achieving this will require a major reset that puts love and stable relationships at the heart of what children’s social care does.

DfE has promised to take action across six pillars to transform children’s social care:

  • Pillar one: Family Help provides the right support at the right time so that children can thrive with their families
  • Pillar two: A decisive multi-agency child protection system
  • Pillar three: Unlocking the potential of family networks
  • Pillar four: Putting love, relationships and a stable home at the heart of being a child in care
  • Pillar 5: A valued, supported and highly-skilled social worker for every child who needs one
  • Pillar 6: A system that continuously learns and improves, and makes better use of evidence and data

The consultation focuses on  their proposed response to various recommendations including:

  • Support and protection for children and families
  • Support for kinship carers, and wider family networks
  • Reforms to the experience of being in care, including corporate parenting
  • Support for the workforce
  • Delivery and system reform

In our response, we recognised that this consultation provides an ideal opportunity for much greater collaboration and a joined-up cross-departmental approach to child safeguarding and early help between the Department for Education and the Department of Health and Social Care. Whilst there is reference to the importance of ‘close integration with the wider support system’ in the proposals, more weight needs to be given to the ‘upstream’ functions of prevention, early identification of need, and early intervention below the threshold for children’s social care. These represent a significant gap throughout the whole vision. We urged the review team to take advantage of this opportunity to develop a whole system response for babies, children and families from the heart of government to frontline practice, including a dedicated budget for prevention and early intervention to support more seamless and integrated support for families and at the scale needed to respond to growing levels of need.

You can read the iHV’s response to the Children’s social care strategy and Consultation: Stable Homes, Built on Love here.

The iHV would like to say a huge heartfelt thank you to our iHV Safeguarding Expert Advisers for their expert advice and guidance when writing this evidence submission:

  • Dr Michael Fanner – Strategic Advisor – Global Safeguarding, Specialist Research, Education and Training and Safeguarding in Health
  • Trish Stewart – Associate Director of Safeguarding for Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust

[1] The three reviews are: The Competition and Markets Authority’s Children’s Social Care market study 2022; Child Protection in England 2022; and the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care 2022.


The Secretary of State for Education has issued a notice to extend the temporary changes to the law on what provision has to be made currently for those children & young people with Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans.

The temporary changes to the law have been in force since 1 May and are now extended to 30 June. Once the notice expires, the Secretary of State can issue a further notice for a period of up to a month if it would be appropriate and proportionate to do so in the context of coronavirus.

The Department for Education (DfE) will keep this under close review.

DfE has also taken the opportunity to publish an updated version of Changes to the law on education, health and care needs assessments and plans due to coronavirus.

As part of the government’s commitment to reducing the word gap, the Department for Education (DfE) and Public Health England (PHE) are leading a joint programme of work as part of the Social Mobility Action Plan (SMAP). One element of this is that the Institute of Health Visiting has been commissioned by PHE to develop training for health visitors to:

  • promote a strengths-based approach to supporting parents and carers of pre-school children with their child’s speech, language and communication development;
  • to support early identification and appropriate signposting to speech language and communication services.

We need to establish a baseline in relation to health visitors’ current knowledge of speech, language and communication. This will help us to shape the planned training and the development of resources which we will be rolling out in 2019.

Your participation in this survey is entirely voluntary and this short survey will take no more than 10 minutes of your time.

The Institute is delighted to be part of an exciting multi-million investment to support children’s early communication skills as announced by the Department of Education this week – commissioned to deliver new training for health visitors in speech, language and communication.

The government announcement launched projects to improve children’s early language and literacy, and boost parents’ confidence with home learning. It will fund educational games, apps and text message ‘tips’ for parents and carers from disadvantaged backgrounds, helping them to interact with their children when at home or out and about, making everyday activities an opportunity for learning.

It also includes funding for additional training for health visitors which the Institute has been commissioned to deliver. The new speech, language and communication training for health visitors will help to identify speech, language and communication needs early on, helping to address and support concerns when they can have the most impact.