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BASW: “Uncomfortable” truth that sometimes it can be impossible to predict risk to children

The tragic death of the six Philpott children in Derby underlines the “uncomfortable” truth that sometimes it can be impossible to predict risk to children, BASW’s Chief Executive Bridget Robb said.

A Serious Case Review into the deaths published today concluded that the deaths of the children in a fire deliberately started by their father Mick Philpott, his wife and a friend “could not have been predicted or prevented”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5Live Morning Reports programme, Ms. Robb said: “This is a terrible tragedy and one that everyone looks back on thinking how can this have been prevented?

“What’s really hard to hear through the serious case review is that it could not have been predicted and sadly wasn’t predicted.”

Asked if knowledge of Mick Philpott’s seven year prison sentence in 1978 for attempted murder and grievous bodily harm would have affected social work assessments, Ms. Robb replied: “The family presented to everyone who saw them as friendly, there were good relationships, the children were being well cared for, there really were no alerts and that makes it even more of a shock.

“To find out that Mick Philpott had a violent past does make you query if people had known that, would they have been asking more questions, would they have delved a bit more deeply? But there is no evidence at the time of the death of the children that his violent past was being shown and certainly not within the family, so it’s difficult to know.

“It would have given a more rounded picture of him and maybe the relationship he had with the women in his life, but would it have prevented the tragedy? Probably not. It makes uncomfortable hearing for us all.”

Ms. Robb added there was also no evidence that closer inter-agency working could have prevented the deaths.

“We always look back and say there are opportunities that have been missed for greater collaboration and greater share of information between agencies and that’s what serious case reviews show consistently.

“I think what’s different in this particular situation, is that for all of the professionals who were working with the family, in the schools, social workers who visited the family and health services, is that no one was seeing the evidence of that manipulation.”

However, Ms. Robb said there was a need for greater awareness of the impact of domestic violence on children and families.

Interviewed on BBC Radio WM, Ms. Robb said: “There will be many people who are in that situation or who have family members who are concerned about them and it is something we need to talk about much more. People need to seek help and we must try to stop the levels of domestic violence because it is very, very concerning.

“This particular situation led to an absolute tragedy that has devastated everybody by the fire and the death of the children.

“Whether domestic violence leads to that extreme result or not, it has to be taken extremely seriously and we all have to be much more concerned and more aware of the impact it has.”