The latest triennial analysis of serious case reviews was published this week and, while generally positive about the role played by services in protecting children, it also identified several “pressure points” on the system.
It looked at 293 serious case reviews relating to incidents from 2011 to 2014, and these were also considered in the context of learning from SCRs over the 10-year period since the first triennial analysis of incidents in 2003-2005.
Here, we highlight some of the main messages from the report:
Cases are being closed too soon
- The report identified how, while less than half of children involved in serious case reviews were involved with children’s social care at the time of the incident or abuse, almost two-thirds had at some point been involved with children’s social care.
- “It is apparent that many of these children’s cases had either been closed too soon or lacked the ongoing support services and monitoring that the children and families needed.”
- It said this showed the need for long-term planning and support where children have known risks or vulnerabilities. (pg 11 & 179)
Social workers should be more authoritative
- The report highlighted using authoritative practice as an appropriate response to complex issues.
- “Principles of authoritative practice include allowing professionals to exercise their professional judgement in light of the circumstances of particular cases.”
- The style of practice also encourages professional curiosity and taking responsibility for their own role in the safeguarding process, the review said. (pg 17/18 & 200)
Uncertainty about thresholds
- Difference in perceived thresholds could lead to frustration, or even a breakdown in effective working, the report said.
- “Assessments may be needed at the point of early help, not just once child protection risks have been identified,” it said.
- It added that where the threshold for social work involvement is not met, there could be “little analysis of risks of harm”.
- As a result of this, “support plans may be unclear and easily drift”. (pg 15 & 242)
The voice of the family can become lost
- The report stresses that “hearing the voice of the immediate and wider family” is as crucial as hearing the voice of the child. Hearing children is dependent on “safe and trusting environments” so children can be seen individually and speak freely.
- Adolescent voices are equally important to younger children’s, the report said, “but they may struggle to express their needs or feelings”. It also added that there is a risk of adolescents being lost between child and adult services. (pg 14 & 68 & 131)
Professionals can have a “narrow view of their responsibility”
- Often professionals involved in cases “hung back expecting others to act”, the report said.
- Sometimes people involved in case would pass on information and consider their responsibility ended. (pg 16 & 177)
Workloads are challenging services
- “High and unmanageable” workloads had resulted in delays to services, high thresholds or lower quality, the report found.
- It said it was important for leaders to “think creatively about how their systems and structures can effectively support front-line workers”. (pg 17 & 190)
The government has recently announced that it will scrap serious case reviews and replace them with a centralised framework based on a mixture of national and local reviews, which it believes will bring greater consistency.