How effective is employers' support for social workers who have suffered a traumatic event at work?
- Not very (44%, 271 Votes)
- Not at all (41%, 249 Votes)
- Very (8%, 52 Votes)
- Quite (7%, 41 Votes)
Total Voters: 613
A social worker and her colleagues are receiving support after the “tragic” death of two-year-old Bronson Battersby.
The toddler was found dead with his father, Kenneth, at their home in Skegness, Lincolnshire, on 9 January, almost two weeks after the last known contact with them.
Bronson was on Lincolnshire County Council children’s social care caseload and the authority has launched a rapid review into the case.
Kenneth is believed to have died from a heart attack, no earlier than 29 December, 12 days before the pair were found.
Bronson’s social worker had last had contact with Kenneth on 27 December. This was also the last known contact to have taken place with him.
No response to scheduled visit
She went to the home for a scheduled visit on 2 January but got no response. Lincolnshire has said that Bronson’s was the sort of case where the child would normally be seen once a month.
The social worker then went to other addresses to find Bronson without success before contacting the police.
She tried the house again on 4 January before gaining entry on 9 January after being given access by the landlord. She then found Bronson and Kenneth’s bodies.
The social worker has taken time off because of her experience.
Social worker receiving support
“The social worker, obviously, is incredibly upset,” Lincolnshire’s director of children’s services, Heather Sandy, told the BBC’s World At One on 17 January. “She had worked with Bronson and his family over a period of time and cares very deeply about the work that she does.”
In a subsequent statement to Community Care, Sandy said: “We really value the support our staff provide to children and families across Lincolnshire, and we make sure that they are supported too. This was a devastating experience for those working with the family, and all have been given an opportunity to take time off.
“There is regular contact from managers, supervisors and colleagues, and a range of trauma-informed support is available to them. This is in addition to the council’s wider health and wellbeing support for staff, which includes a counselling service.”
When asked about whether the council and other agencies could have gained entry to the property earlier, Sandy told the BBC: “To be really clear, social workers cannot force entry, they have to gain the consent of the homeowner.”
The police do have powers of entry, under section 17 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. This permits entry to a property without a warrant in order to arrest someone for a serious offence or for the purposes of preventing serious damage to property or saving life or limb.
However, Sandy told the BBC that Kenneth’s death was unexpected.
Police force refers itself to watchdog
Lincolnshire Police has referred itself to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC), the police complaints watchdog, which has now begun an investigation into the case.
The IOPC’s regional director, Derrick Campbell, said: “The harrowing circumstances in which Kenneth and Bronson Battersby died are truly shocking. Our sympathies go out to everyone affected by their sad deaths.
“It is appropriate we carry out an independent investigation to consider the police response to any prior welfare concerns that were raised. We will be examining whether there were any missed opportunities by police to check on Mr Battersby and Bronson sooner.”
For the county council, Sandy added: “This was a tragic incident, and we are supporting the family at this difficult time.
“We are currently carrying out a review of the case alongside partner agencies to better understand the circumstances, and we await the results of the coroner’s investigations as well. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those involved.”
What is a rapid review?
Under the Children Act 2004, if a council England knows or suspects that a child has been abused or neglected, it must notify the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel if the child dies or is seriously harmed in its area or, while normally resident in its area, the child dies or is seriously harmed outside England.
The panel’s guidance states that, whenever a council makes such a serious incident notification, it and its fellow safeguarding partners must carry out a rapid review and submit this to the panel within 15 working days of the notification. This guidance for safeguarding partners is non-statutory, however, the statutory Working Together to Safeguard Children guidance states that partners should have regard to the panel’s document.
Working Together also states that partners may review a case where the criteria for a serious incident notification is not met, if it raises issues of importance for the local area.
In its guidance for safeguarding partners, the panel states that the purpose of a rapid review is to gather the facts, consider immediate action and potential for improvements, and decide whether to proceed to a more in-depth local child safeguarding practice review (LCSPR). The rapid review should include, at a minimum:
- Basic information about the child, such as their ethnicity, whether they are male or female and whether they have a disability.
- Family structure and relevant family background, including on other children beside the one harmed and on parents and any other significant adults. This could be done through a genogram.
- Immediate safeguarding arrangements of any children involved.
- A concise summary of the facts, so far as they can be ascertained, about the serious incident and relevant context.
- A clear decision as to whether the criteria for an LCSPR have been met and on what grounds, and if not, why not.
- Any immediate learning already established and plans for its dissemination.
- Which agencies have been involved, explaining the omission of any agency whose involvement would be usually expected.
It says important issues to consider in the rapid review include:
- What was the child’s true lived experience and how can their voice be heard in the review?
- How was the race, culture, faith, and ethnicity of the child and/or family considered by practitioners and did cultural considerations impact on practice?
- How did any disability, physical or mental health issues, and any identity issues in the child and/or family impact on the child’s lived experience and on practice?
- Were any recognised risk factors present or absent and did they play a significant part in the child’s lived experience?
There is no expectation to involve families in a rapid review, though partners should consider whether and how findings should be shared with family members.