Social workers should be cautious if an abused child seems to be making unusually good progress, according to a serious case review into the murder of a 34-year-old woman by a 13-year-old boy she was fostering.
But the review of the circumstances leading up to her murder concluded her death could not have been predicted or prevented.
There was nothing in the boy’s demeanour at the time to indicate he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosis or other mental health conditions in the months or even hours before the attack.
In fact, most staff believed the boy was “flourishing” and looking forward happily and hopefully to a positive future.
In view of a history of significant abuse at the hands of his parents, however, “the fact that he (D) appeared relatively unscathed should probably have rung alarm bells, although given the huge workload pressures on social work and health services in Glasgow, it is understandable that it did not,” the authors concluded.
The review criticised Glasgow council for inadequate social care staffing, inexperienced staff, shortages of resources and disruption to supervisory and management structures at the time.
“This is a strategic and political issue because providing social work services adequate to meet the needs of vulnerable children requires sufficient resource to be allocated, which needs to be argued for even more strongly at times of budgetary constraint.”
The review was told the council’s children’s services department was undergoing a significant restructure at the time.
While there was evidence of a great deal of good social work done in the case, one council social worker failed to visit D in his placement for two months after he had been moved there.
There was also a lack of structured reflective supervision and little use of chronologies and graded care profiles.
However, the review said it had been assured that many of these issues had been resolved in the years since the foster carer’s death.
The report also found some practice concerns around social workers and children’s panel members over identifying with the boys birth mother and losing a “child at the centre” focus. This led to care systems and care planning, particularly those pursuing a permanence option, becoming “engaged and distracted and losing clarity”.