Serious case reviews ‘adding to paperwork overload’

Serious case reviews (SCRs) are adding to the overload of paperwork and bureaucracy surrounding social workers and other professionals involved in child protection, according to a study published today.

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Serious case reviews (SCRs) are adding to the overload of paperwork and bureaucracy surrounding social workers and other professionals involved in child protection, according to a study published today.

The research, commissioned by the government and carried out by the University of East Anglia and the University of Warwick, found that each SCR carried, on average, 47 recommendations. Most concerned procedures and training.

“The route to grappling with practice complexities like engaging hard-to-reach families was usually more training and the compliance with or creation of new or duplicate procedures,” said the report. “Fewer recommendations considered strengthening supervision and better staff support as ways of promoting professional judgement or supporting reflective practice.”

Also highlighted was a frequent failure to address complex matters surrounding professional judgement or the connection between issues such as deprivation and maltreatment. Wider issues tended to be thought of as beyond the scope of the review, despite government guidance inviting consideration of national policy and practice.

The study found a lack of any research evidence base behind the recommendations. SCR authors instead made assumptions that learning from a single case had wider implications.

“Local safeguarding children boards need to take responsibility for curbing this self-perpetuating cycle of a proliferation of recommendations and tasks and allow themselves to consider other ways of learning from serious case reviews. Recommendations may not be the best way to learn from these cases,” the report concluded.

The report’s conclusions follow statistics released by the Department for Education earlier this month showing council budget spending on child death reviews in England is set to increase 141% over the next year. Many sector leaders are concerned about the spiralling cost of serious case reviews and fear a new system, proposed by the Munro Review of Child Protection, will be no cheaper nor less resource-intensive.

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