Working Together to Safeguard Children sets out in detail new processes for reviewing child deaths. The Department commissioned Warwick University to undertake a study to inform the introduction of the new child death review processes by Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs).
The research team investigated the experience of LSCBs in implementing the child death review processes. The study aimed to determine the degree to which LSCBs across the country had developed local procedures, and to explore in detail the experiences of nine Early Starter sites, selected to represent a wide demographic spread, a range of ethnic groups, and a mix of metropolitan, urban and rural areas.
The final report, Preventing childhood deaths: A study of 'Early Starter' Child Death Overview Panels in England, contains a number of important findings that will inform LSCBs policy and practice when undertaking the child death review processes set out in Working Together.
The key findings are laid out below.
Of 60 LSCBs sampled in October 2006, 84 per cent either had developed, or were in the process of developing, a rapid response protocol, although a proportion of these only related to infant deaths rather than all unexpected child deaths. In contrast, only five per cent had already established a Child Death Overview Panel (CDOP), with a further 60 per cent in the process of developing one. These results suggested a significant gap, at that stage, in progress towards achieving the requirements for child death review laid out in Working Together.
There was a general sense of enthusiasm within the nine study sites for developing the child death review processes, and teams were keen to develop something that they saw as being worthwhile. Crucial to the success of these processes appeared to be the engagement of motivated individuals from a range of agencies, and good working relationships between those individuals. In contrast, one of the major barriers to developing these processes has been a lack of understanding or commitment from some professionals.
The purposes for child death review, set out in chapter seven of Working Together, were reflected in the expressed purposes of the developing panels. Those interviewed were clear that they did not want this to be seen as a blaming exercise, but rather as an opportunity to learn lessons and improve outcomes for children.
Despite the differing origins of child death overview panels, all were clear that accountability should go through to the LSCB as set out in Working Together. Boundary issues generated concerns in a number of areas, but were not perceived as being insurmountable.
Different models of collaboration between LSCBs were being considered, although at the time this study ended, how these would work in practice had not been clarified. Although audit and governance were seen as crucially important, none of the study sites had got very far with establishing such systems.
A copy of the printed report has been sent to all LSCBs, and further printed copies can be obtained by emailing Prolog, quoting reference RR036.
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