Speed and co-operation at heart of Suffolk’s new child protection rules

A spate of child abuse cases in Suffolk,
including three child deaths, has prompted new child protection
guidance in the region.

Interim guidance covering the NHS eastern
region was issued last week to ensure a consistent approach to the
commissioning of Working Together part eight reviews,
under which children’s deaths or serious injuries are investigated
if there is a suspicion of child abuse.

Between April 2000 and February 2001, eight
part eight reviews were triggered in Suffolk. None of the children
who died or were seriously injured were on the child protection
register, but five were known to either social care or health
services. The Social Services Inspectorate is monitoring the
department’s response.

Peter Tempest, Suffolk’s acting director of
social care services, said: “It is right the SSI focuses on how we
respond to the spate of part eights that came through in early
2000. We are being scrutinised quite rightly and in the right

Tempest said changes had been made following
the reviews, three of which would be submitted to Suffolk area
child protection committee this month.

These included faster and improved
communication between agencies to ensure midwives, health visitors,
GPs and teachers contact social care services immediately they have

Agencies have also reinforced measures to
detect the early warning signs of abuse across agencies and in
adult social care services. Access to the child protection register
has been made easier and improvements to joint investigations with
the police and to single agency training have been instigated.

Tempest said the area child protection
committee took a “far more broad-brush approach to learning from
serious cases of child abuse” and often commissioned part eight
reviews where others would not.

The interim guidance for the whole of the NHS
eastern region mirrored Suffolk’s approach, Tempest said.

Suffolk social services department accepted
that in some of the five cases known to it “suffering may have been
avoided” if it had acted differently.

Suffolk area child protection committee has
also acknowledged there were delays in completing the part eight
reviews and that the new process it has set up should ensure the
SSI’s four-month timescale for completing reviews is met.

– Durham Area Child Protection Committee is
due to publish a part eight review this week into allegations of
extreme physical abuse at Windlestone Hall special school in
Rushyford Newton Aycliffe.

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