Inaccessible language, an ethos of ‘blame’ and a lack of local attention are all hampering social work learning from serious case reviews, a government report has found.
The report, commissioned by the Department for Education and carried out by Kingston University, examined the roadblocks that social workers face when trying to learn from serious case reviews (SCRs).
It recommended that SCR models should “reset the process to promote learning rather than blame” and have more focus on reflection and analysis, rather than primarily description and judgments based on hindsight.
Researchers found policy and procedure development and implementation is “not proportionate or sensitive to the scale, locality and context of the case” when analysing SCRs, while this is exacerbated by the selectivity of media coverage.
Similarly, it found rapid policy change in the wake of SCRs impacts significantly on frontline staff and creates confusion.
“Recently serious case reviews seem to have become more of a process of allocating accountability and blame,” said Professor Ray Jones, who worked on the report.
“What the government needs to do is make the process more practical and less onerous.”
The level of regular and appropriate training across disciplines is insufficient, the report also found, while frontline staff have limited involvement in the generation of learning, and ensuring its relevance and applicability.
Communication systems were also criticised for being ineffectual in ensuring learning informs practitioners across disciplines.
The findings were informed by social care professionals across England with “considerable consistency of views across all four geographical areas of England”, the report stated.
There was also agreement about the barriers from frontline practitioners and managers, senior and strategic managers and across all agencies working in safeguarding.
The report also called for a continuing programme of training to embed learning and practice change, and for changes in policy to be discussed and tested with frontline practitioners.
The findings are, “a job for the new education secretary [Nicky Morgan MP] if serious case reviews are going to have a positive rather than a negative impact”, Jones said.