Mark Gurrey, Independent Chair (from January 2016)

mark-gurrey “Since qualifying as a social worker in 1981, I initially worked in London (Haringey, Newham and Hackney) before my first Assistant Director post in Thurrock. After a spell as a Deputy Director in Barnet, I started as an interim manager specialising in authorities in intervention – Haringey (after baby Peter), Birmingham, Kent and Doncaster. I was also Chair of Wiltshire’s Safeguarding Improvement Board. I have an informed sense of the systemic approach needed to keep children safe which will form the basis of my work in this county. More than anything, I am committed to ensuring that the work of WSCB makes a difference to those practitioners on the front line whose jobs it is to keep children safe and I will challenge and support partner organisations to that end”

This country has one of the best safeguarding systems in the world and the number of serious injuries and deaths to children are mercifully low because of that system and the good and dedicated people who work in it. However, it’s not a perfect system and there are some areas where it doesn’t work as well as it should. We still have not developed a family based approach to safeguarding and the gap between adults and children’s services remains too wide; we are not always able to offer the continuity of professional input that families need and we still need to develop a relationship based approach to safeguarding and develop the skills to use those relationships to drive change in families; our response to Internet safety is still a little prehistoric (especially compared to the abusers who use it to target vulnerable children); our system works better for younger children at risk at home than it does for younger people at risk in the community and the whole area of risk presented by young people to other young people needs rapidly grappling with. As always there is more work to do – that is the nature of safeguarding work, it is never finished.

I have been chair of WSCB since February 2016 and since then the Board has been trying to develop a sharper focus on “practice, challenge and impact” as our core guiding principles. LSCBs generally, including WSCB, have in my view become too far removed from day to day safeguarding practice; the evidence of their challenge had been limited and therefore so has their overall impact.   New governance arrangements have been put in place to help achieve this.

I have been to the sub groups that the Board supports and all of them are characterised by very good multi- agency involvement and all are working with a lot of energy and commitment. We have a new groups focusing on child sexual abuse – this has become something of a forgotten issue and needs to come right up our agenda again (If you haven’t seen it already, go to the Office of the Children’s Commissioner to see their report on CSA which speaks very powerfully about the extent of ‘hidden’ sexual abuse in this country); and I am really excited about a new Practitioners group being piloted in the Salisbury area and I am seeing this as a really good way of ensuring the Board gets close to front line practice.

As Chair, I have been seeking to both understand and influence the safeguarding agenda across the County:  I have visited three social work services; meet key Chief Officers (including regularly with the DCS); attended Primary Heads Forum; attended the Designated Safeguarding Lead for School’s Network; attended two Early Intervention Sub groups; met with Conference Chairs; met with the MoD; attended Wiltshire Council Improvement Boards and the Children’s Trust; met with the chair and attended WSAB; met with CAMHS; met with Designated Officer for Allegations; plans to attend  Health and Well Being Board in place . I have seen some really good work and the recent experience of the Joint Targeted Area Inspection into Domestic Abuse was largely a very positive one and spoke well of the work going on in the County.

There is still work to do to further develop WSCB and ensure it is impacting on safeguarding in Wiltshire and this will clearly be influenced by the Wood Review. My view is that the essential building blocks for developing an excellent scrutiny function are now in place or being put into place – the task now is to deliver!

WSCB Team:

Emily Kavanagh Board Manager
Sarah Russell Business Support Officer
Portia Broomfield Business Support Officer
Catherine Clark WSCB Trainer
Shelley Dagger Training Administrator
Julie Upson Quality Assurance Lead