Universal services fail to protect Sheffield siblings

A serious case review into five siblings in Sheffield who suffered neglect has highlighted the failure of local education and primary care services to understand and fulfil their role in safeguarding children.

The review by Sheffield area child protection committee said the information accumulated by the family’s GP surgery – including the youngest children’s premature births and subsequent non-attendance of neonatal appointments – should have been recognised as “a cause for concern”.

The school attended by the two oldest children, meanwhile, was criticised for its narrow focus on school attendance which meant it missed the opportunity to work with other agencies and intervene earlier. Although referrals were made to education family support and social services, these were neither properly recorded nor followed up.

“If the universal services had been more effective, it is likely that this family’s needs would have been more effectively assessed and met,” the review concludes.

It argues that the introduction of the Common Assessment Framework, with its holistic approach to the assessment and care of children and families, will provide the opportunity for organisations to develop “cultural, structural and multi-agency practices to meet the needs of vulnerable families in society such as the W family”.

However, the ACPC warns that the pace of implementation of the CAF is slow, and is being hindered by the increasing independence of organisations in health and education. 

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