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BASW urges end to SCR "confusion" as minister slams Hamzah Khan report

BASW has responded to the Government's strong criticism of the serious case review (SCR) into the death of four-year-old Bradford boy Hamzah Khan by insisting that confusion over the purpose of such documents must be resolved before more time and money is wasted in future cases.  

Children's minister Edward Timpson said the report from the Bradford Safeguarding Children Board featured "glaring absences" and "fails to explain sufficiently clearly" what actions social workers took when problems in the Khan family were brought to their attention. Hamzah was found in his home in 2011, two years after his death from starvation. His mother Amanda Hutton, 43, was jailed for 15 years last month (October 2013) after being found guilty of manslaughter.

Professor Nick Frost, Chair of Bradford Safeguarding Children Board, said the review was "very clear that Hamzah's death could not have been predicted".

He said it found that systems – "many of them national systems" – let Hamzah down "both before and following his death".

He added: "I cannot give assurance that a tragedy like this will never happen again."

The Government published Mr Timpson's letter just as a press conference got underway in Bradford following publication of the SCR findings. Mr Timpson's letter highlighted developments in the course of Hamzah's life, as well as the two years after his death, and questioned why the document fails to give detailed answers to the specific interventions that did or didn't take place over that time.

BASW Chief Executive Bridget Robb said the dispute would do nothing to aid learning from SCRs. “There is often confusion and lack of agreement on the purpose and format of serious case reviews. This has to be resolved before more time and effort is put into the creation of documents that may ultimately be meaningless.

“Equally, unless the recommendations made in all serious case reviews are acted upon, they will not be worth the paper they are written on.”

BASW has previously expressed concern that SCRs are not properly shared with all child protection professionals, following a recent survey of members which found that too many social workers are not being given the opportunity to use the findings to improve their practice.

The survey of BASW members revealed:
• 25% of respondents never get to read SCRs when they are published (just 27% always get to read them)
• 67% say they “only sometimes” get to read the actual recommendations from any SCRs (17% say they never get to read them)
• An overwhelming 97% of the 238 respondents said they wanted to see all SCRs stored in one central location so there is continuous, easy access, prompting the Association to publish reports on a designated area of its website

One social worker told BASW: “I often hear about serious case reviews in the press before I am informed by my local authority”.

Another said: “Staff have so little time to read a serious case review given all the competing priorities and information being sent”.

Commenting at the time Ms Robb stressed there was a need for better use of SCR recommendations. She said:  “Serious Case Reviews have a dual purpose, as a learning opportunity for professionals and as a means of public accountability for a public service.

“We can understand the public perception that when serious case reviews are published there is a surge of publicity, but then nothing much seems to be done with the findings.

“Rather than the current ad hoc distribution of SCRs, where hard pressed staff are expected to read and interpret findings on their own and in their own time, we’d like to see structured briefing podcasts for professionals produced by the authors of the SCRs so that professionals can hear the common messages, and where possible opportunities for professionals from a range of disciplines to come together to discuss the key messages and also to share good practice.”

The Association urged that every SCR report should contain key lessons for all professionals involved with children’s services, as opposed to specific recommendations for the organisations involved in a single case.