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SASW: Dawn McKenzie SCR shows social workers need to be given time to use their skills

As a Significant Case Review into the murder of Glasgow foster carer Dawn McKenzie is published, the Scottish Association of Social Work (SASW – part of BASW) stressed the need for social workers to be given time and support to use their skills.
 
Ms McKenzie was stabbed to death by a 13-year-old boy she was fostering in June 2011. She was employed by agency Foster Care Associates [now Core Assets], which accepted the placement from Glasgow City Council.
 
The boy’s trial heard that he had experienced physical abuse from his natural parents, which had led to a dissociative state in which he was unable to properly distinguish between reality and fiction.
 
The SCR, published by Glasgow Child Protection Committee (GCPC), was highly unusual in its focus on a case involving the death or serious injury of an adult rather than a child who may have experienced significant harm. In Ms McKenzie’s case, the SCR focussed on whether the boy’s reaction which led to her death could have been “anticipated and avoided”.
 
The SCR Panel found “no evidence to suggest that the tragic circumstances which led to the death of D’s foster carer could have been anticipated or prevented”, but did identify a number of concerns, including the boy not having had a visit from a Glasgow City social worker until he had been in the placement for two months, and that social workers did not have the time to properly assess the complexity of the boy’s case. The SCR also found that "Inadequate staffing, inexperienced staff, shortage of resources and disruption to supervisory and management structures all had an impact, not only at the time but in the longer term.”
 
Commenting on the publication of the Significant Case Review, SASW Manager Ruth Stark MBE said: “This is a very complex case. The SCR illustrates that in working with young people and those who care for them social workers need to be supported by their employers. The SCR describes people who are skilled and able to do life changing work. But it also acknowledges that this can only be done when the social workers have time to use their skills.
 
“There is evidence in this report that managers failed to support their staff with preoccupation with organisational change that interrupted the flow and consistency of work that should have been possible.
 
“Social workers need time to analyse the many factors that influence how people react and behave when they experience major events in their lives. They need to be alert when people naturally try to hide their true feelings, such as anger, which stem from loss.
 
“They need time to work with people, this includes meeting with people to work with them for positive change in their lives. The recommended actions need to be implemented if more tragedies like this are to be prevented.”
 
Read the Significant Case Review here