Children’s referrals should be multi-agency assessed, says review

A serious case review into a cot death in Stoke-on-Trent has backed a push to have multi-agency teams assess all referrals to children's services.

A serious case review into a cot death in Stoke-on-Trent has backed a push to have multi-agency teams assess all referrals to children’s services.

Professor Eileen Munro, in her interim report on child protection published in February, said her review would consider endorsing the implementation of the practice across England.

The multi-agency teams, which include social workers, police and NHS staff, work in the community alongside universal services and help to accurately identify at-risk children and young people. A few councils, including Devon, Cornwall, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Haringey, already have them.

The SCR investigated the death of a three-month-old child, from a family known to social services and police, after being found face down on a sofa, co-sleeping with the father.

Although the SCR concluded the death may not have been preventable, the executive summary stated that much of the practice regarding the family was poor. In a series of cases, a family member made contact with either health, police or children’s services but information was not shared. This could have pinpointed the family as being at higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to recent research.

The model has also gained backing among sector experts. Liz Davies, senior lecturer of children and families social work at London Metropolitan University, said its use in Haringey enabled an immediate investigative response to be implemented without the delays involved in awaiting the outcome of an assessment process.

“Police are involved at the level of actual or likely significant harm and not only at the higher threshold of crime and are willing to share information in order to facilitate accurate decision making in the initial stages,” she said.

“In the current climate, this represents a brave and important return to effective multi-agency working.”

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