SCRs: Boards driving improvements and learning lessons

Local safeguarding children’s boards (LSCBs) are driving improvements in serious case reviews Ofsted’s second report, ‘Learning lessons from serious case reviews: Year 2’, has found.

Ofsted recently published figures from its latest quarter of SCR evaluations, which revealed one fifth of SCRs were inadequate. The watchdog’s second annual report into the quality of SCRs, published today, is based upon 173 SCRs evaluated between April 1 2008 and March 31 2009. Of these 34% were judged to be inadequate, down from 40% the year before, 43% adequate and 23% good.

The watchdog found improvements in the “robust” approach taken by local safeguarding children’s boards (LSCBs) and found that most had addressed the backlog of historic cases. 

Inadequate SCRs were due to problems such as weak management, staff inexperience and a lack of effective information sharing between agencies. But inspectors were also encouraged that, while the numbers of children killed or seriously injured through suspected abuse or neglect, have remained stable, more LSCBs are carrying out SCRs into a greater number of cases. In 2008-09, 96 LSCBs submitted SCRs for evaluation, compared with 33 in 2007-08.

Christine Gilbert, head of Ofsted, said there were “encouraging” signs of improvement identified in the report but she was still concerned that over a third of reviews were judged inadequate.

The report highlighted where LSCBs had used lessons from SCRs to improve local practice. One example included involved a LSCB in the North West which carried out a domestic violence audit as a result of a review. When it revealed a lack of clarity about thresholds for referrals, the local authority developed a successful domestic violence project with a specialist team responsible for assessing referrals and drawing up safety plans with children and their carers.    

Gilbert said she hoped local authorities would make use of such examples of good practice in their own reviews or when drawing up improvements for child protection services.

“It is crucial that those involved in child protection use the serious case review process to deliver change and improvement.”

Commenting on the report, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, Councillor Shireen Ritchie, said although Ofsted’s inspection regime was helpful in improving systems, “the process needs to be two-way”. “There should be some help and guidance on how to make the necessary improvements”.

“Ofsted has a great opportunity to show it is using properly experienced inspectors who can draw on their own skills and knowledge to advise councils,“ she added.

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