Too many serious case reviews are “failing to present clear findings” and are burdened with too much detail that may or may not be relevant.
That was the verdict of the Department for Education’s panel on serious case reviews, which published its second report today.
“There still appears to be too great an emphasis on the methodology of report writing rather than on the production of a report which succinctly and clearly encapsulates what happened, why and what should be done to prevent a recurrence,” the panel said.
It added: “The panel remains concerned, however, about the variability of quality in SCRs and the apparent failure of some of them to capture clearly and succinctly what went wrong, and why. Too many are still burdened with detail, whether relevant or not, whilst failing to present clear findings.”
Between July 2014 and June 2015, the panel was advised on decisions to initiate 168 reviews. It also considered 107 notifiable incidents where the decision was made not to an initiate a review, and agreed in 80% of these cases.
This was an improvement on the previous year, when the panel only agreed with 53% of the decisions not to advance 66 notifiable incidents into serious case reviews.
The panel recommended that ministers should consider whether the definition of ‘serious harm’ should include serious harm in the womb which results in a still birth. Similarly, ministers should also consider whether the definition of ‘serious harm’ should include harm caused to a considerable number of young people in a particular area.
The Department for Education should also monitor the impact of the review’s publication and report to the panel any verifiable incidents of direct and serious consequences for individuals as a result of it.
The Association of Independent Local Children’s Safeguarding Board (LSCB) chairs told the panel that “publication of [serious case reviews] increasingly sees LSCBs challenged in new ways, for instance by professional bodies, threatened litigation from families and victims, or aggressive media attention”.
However, there had been no clear evidence on whether a review had had direct and serious consequences.
The panel said LSCBs must appoint reviewers with strong analytical skills, and that the Department of Education should act to ensure LSCBs are adequately funded by local partners to support the serious case review process.