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BASW member Melanie Adegbite follows up BBC TV appearance with strong message to government

Earlier this week, at the request of the BBC, BASW arranged for member Melanie Adegbite to appear on BBC London's evening news to take part in a piece about the tragic death of Noah Serra-Morrison.

The 13-month old was found dead in Luton on 21 November 2015 after suffering 15 fractures to his body, including a 6in (15cm) wound across his skull, inflicted by his mother's partner.

A serious case review followed, which found serious failings from social workers and local authorities, and was specifically critical about a lack of communication between agencies.

Adegbite spoke briefly on the show about the wider implications of the report expressing her own views that burdensome red-tape holds social workers back from spending more time in the 'field' doing “actual social work and building relationships with other agencies”.

BASW decided to catch up with Adegbite to see what else can be learned from this tragic case.

“The lack of cohesive communication between agencies was clearly a major problem. But we need to look at the bigger picture. In essence, we need to have relationship building models to improve communication and foster partnership between inter-service agencies,” says Adegbite.

“This means we need an overarching structure that realises the importance of communication between social workers, health workers, GP services and the police, to ensure the whole caring community is better equipped to ensure these tragedies don't happen.”

It is a point that BASW CEO Ruth Allen emphasises too: “If there were more consistent, well-resourced early help, with value being given to professional relationship building and robust early efforts to understand what is really happening in families, and if social workers' views and judgements were listened to more consistently, this would improve support for children in these risky situations.”

The serious case review highlighted how the family moved around frequently between London boroughs, before ending up in Luton.

It is a pattern that Allen says is increasing due to the housing crisis, and one which unfortunately makes social work in cases such as these even more difficult.

“When people move home several times with small children, and where there are risk factors such a domestic violence, there will always be the chance of services losing touch or information being lost in translation across borders. Greater pressure on housing make moving home more likely for the poorest families – and this in turn makes follow up and continuity harder to achieve,” says Allen.For Adegbite the message to the government is loud and clear: less red-tape, more social work.

“This government has introduced more red-tape and bureaucracy, on top of overburdened caseloads, that it means social workers don't get to spend the time required with families and children to make better informed decisions,” says Adegbite.

“Doing paperwork won't stop children dying, we need to be out on the street engaging and observing families and children, as well as building relationships with schools, doctors and police.”