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Doncaster SCR prompts BASW to set out cornerstones for improvement

BASW has set out the four cornerstones for improving the effectiveness of serious case reviews, following sharp government criticisms of the serious case review (SCR) into the case of two boys who violently assaulted two other boys in Doncaster in 2009.

Responding to education secretary Michael Gove’s dismissal of the full SCR as indicative of how the “current model of SCRs is failing”, BASW said improved reviews should address “what happened, why did it happen, what should have happened and what can be done to prevent it happening again?”

Mr Gove was commenting after a redacted version of the full SCR into the case was published, more than two years after the executive summary emerged in January 2010. The publication of the fuller version follows a pre-election pledge by the Conservative party to issue more details of SCRs in order for more information about service underperformance to be publicly available.

The SCR debate followed the conviction of two brothers, then aged 11 and ten, for the violent assault of two other boys, then 11 and nine, near Edlington in Doncaster in April 2009. It reveals that between 1995 and 2009 various agencies missed 31 opportunities to intervene with the boys’ family that might have reduced the harm suffered by both the brothers and their victims. It also found that the child protection plans employed made no impact in addressing the underlying difficulties in the family and did not focus on the children but on the mother.

Doncaster’s director of children’s services said the findings demonstrate the extent to which the town’s provision was “broken” in 2009, since when the council has driven “forward urgent, significant and sustained improvements”.

Commenting on the SCR and the education secretary’s criticisms, BASW professional officer Sue Kent said: “BASW has in the past welcomed the sensitive publication of serious case reviews but there are questions as to how helpful in developing practice this can be.

“The publication of this latest SCR report may not be helpful. Written in the past by a professional for professionals using professional jargon, it contains a huge amount of descriptive information. The recommendations are general, at no fault of the author, and the terminology complex. Why not produce the action plan for public viewing and clarify how actions will be implemented and measured?

“To be successful in developing multi-agency child protection services and learning from serious case reviews, four vital questions should be asked: what happened, why did it happen, what should have happened and what can be done to prevent it happening again. Who better to answer this than practitioners involved in this work?”

Ms Kent said she supported the ‘Learning Together’ model, developed by the Social Care Institute for Excellence, as a better system than the current approach. “Using the SCIE model practitioners from all agencies examine, analysis and construct a learning action plan as a more productive method of reviewing a serious case. This model in turn supports the recommendation from Professor Eileen Munro in her review of child protection last year, who declared the need to learn from such reviews rather than just report facts.”