Serious case reviews (SCRs) ought to focus on child deaths rather than children who have suffered serious harm, according to a government review of SCRs over the past seven years.
The review found a 77% increase in the number of SCRs conducted since 2003 – including a 43% increase in deaths and a 111% rise in the number of serious harm cases. There were 161 undertaken during 2003-5 compared with 268 in 2007-9.
The authors said there were several possible explanations for these increases, including a lower threshold for holding a review, as well as the Department for Education’s improved access to SCRs.
However, given the expense of conducting SCRs and the resources they took away from other areas of child protection, the authors said questions should be raised over whether there was any benefit in conducting reviews in cases of serious harm.
“This would be in line with most other countries’ enquiry processes into child death though abuse. This would not preclude the possibility of other kinds of review taking place for serious harm cases,” the review concluded.
The report found that, in 2007-9, 16% of the children subject to SCRs were on a child protection plan while a further 13% had been the subject of a plan. Nearly a quarter of these plans recorded multiple categories of abuse, while nationally only 8% of child protection plans in England record more than one category.
Overall themes and trends remained consistent with previous years with domestic violence, substance misuse and mental health problems and neglect frequent factors in such cases.
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