By Perdeep Gill, social care and safeguarding consultant
We often bandy around the term ‘toxic trio’ without really thinking about what it means for our practice when domestic violence, mental ill-health and substance misuse are all present in a case.
Community Care Live London 2016.
Perdeep Gill will be speaking about what serious case reviews reveal about working with the ‘toxic trio’. Her session will cover:
• Practical steps for exploring and better understanding the level of risk
• Making meaningful assessments and interventions in cases involving the ‘toxic trio’
• What lies beneath the practice failings identified by serious case reviews
Toxicology usually focuses on a known toxin – the dose and/or level of exposure – or an interaction of ingredients that together creates a toxin.
The challenge when safeguarding children is how to make sense of the ingredients that are present: the type, the amount, the dimensions, the context and the impact on different families.
Serious case reviews can offer us a chance to reflect on what we do in practice and why we do it (analysis and reflection that is often missing from the actual reviews themselves!).
The Daniel Pelka SCR, for example, throws up some interesting questions for our social work practice. For example:
- There were many shared reports of domestic abuse and parental intoxication. Yet the assessments were often lamentably superficial with a singular focus on presenting incidents and shallow solutions. Why? Does this activity reveal our unconscious helplessness in dealing with these issues? Do we often do something, anything, to give ourselves a false sense of security rather than face the more difficult task of unravelling what is happening behind closed doors?
- The SCR shows that professionals failed to explore the history, family functioning and dynamics both within and without the context of domestic and alcohol abuse. Why? Were professionals desensitised? Were danger signs normalised and minimised in our minds? What impact did that have on the children?
- Daniel had a spiral fracture and multiple bruising and the explanation given was of an accidental injury. Although the original medical opinion said the injury involved significant twisting we gave more weight to the parent’s account when it was verified by a child. Did we ask ourselves simple questions at the time? If there was abuse, how probable was it that a child interviewed through mum’s friend would disclose? What is the likelihood, if abused, that children may be groomed not to disclose?
Once we discard the possibility of abuse then it is all too easy to create a mindset that in all likelihood means we will then later fail to recognise the later signs of it.
It’s not enough to see things, we must constantly ask ourselves if we understand what we see.
Community Care Inform Children subscribers can use our Learn on your Lunch resources to run group sessions or for individual CPD, reflecting on the learning from serious case reviews. The session on the Blake Fowler (Child K) SCR explores how practitioners approach complex domestic violence cases and how to avoid some of the traps that professionals involved in this case fell into.
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