Children’s minister Tim Loughton is to write to local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs) reminding them of their duty to publish serious case reviews in full in the near future.
Speaking to Community Care at the National Children and Adults Services Conference he said: “It’s not an issue yet but we’re now starting to get serious case reviews, commissioned after 1 June last year, coming through and they need to be published in full.
“We’ve had a steady trickle so far, but a few have yet to indicate whether they will be publishing in full. Some areas seem to think it’s discretionary and it’s not. So I’m going to be writing to all LSCBs as a gentle reminder that it is only in very exceptional circumstances that a serious case review would not be published in full.”
He said the experience of those who had already done so, including Bristol and Havering, showed that it was possible to do so without any major problems.
He also admitted that the government’s attempts to put in place an alternative serious case review system, as recommended by Professor Munro in her review of child protection systems in England, would take some time.
Jeanette Pugh, head of safeguarding for the Department for Education agreed and said they had just funded SCIE to more rigorously test its systems-learning model.
“It’s not yet been tested in serious case review circumstances yet and we think we need to do that to better understand how it might work.”
Pugh said she was aware of issues raised by many LSCBs around the resources required and the cost of the SCIE model of serious case reviews. There were other concerns about how it would fit with ongoing civil and criminal court proceedings “and also how we align the system with the need for transparency and accountability”.
“We are also aware that the SCIE model is not the only one out ther and we are looking at some of those as well.”
She said although the Ofsted evaluations of serious case reviews would be scrapped, as recommended by Munro, there would still need to be some “objective quality assurance” in any new serious case review system. However, this would not necessarily be external evaluation, she added.
SCIE was currently in the process of training up a pool of independent reviewers of serious case reviews, another Munro recommendation, and they estimated they would have 20 in place by the end of the year, she said. “However, we need two reviewers for each serious case review so I will leave you to do the math.”
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