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Partnership working in child protection: improving liaison between acute paediatric and child protection services

This study was carried out by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) as part of the programme of work of the Policy Research Unit in the Health of Children, Young People and Families (CPRU), funded by the Department of Health. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Department. The aim was to understand how acute paediatric and local authority statutory child protection services work together in cases of suspected child maltreatment. In particular, the study looks at what is viewed locally as good practice in staffing, identifying cases where child maltreatment should be considered, referring cases to social care and information sharing, and to explore what supports interface arrangements that professionals deem most effective.

The report draws on:

  • an online survey of acute trusts, mostly completed by Named Nurses for Child Protection, focusing on arrangements and cases within Emergency Departments (EDs). A total of 55 trusts responded (a response rate of 33%), and the response base for individual questions varied between 40 and 55.
  • 12 qualitative research case studies (10 involving the local authority and acute trust; two involving the acute trust only), which looked at joint work and both the ED and maternity service. A total of 28 interviews took place involving 29 individuals, 17 of them trust staff and 12 local authority staff. Sites selected as case studies were those where there was evidence to suggest more effective joint work. They represent, therefore, local areas with more advanced liaison arrangements.
  • a Call for Practice, based on SCIE’s established ‘Good Practice Framework’ format, asking for examples of effective local practice: eight examples were submitted and five are summarised in this report.

The mixed-method approach aimed to obtain data that illustrated both the broad picture of joint-working in cases of suspected child maltreatment, as well as detailed insights that could help improve practice. There are strengths and limitations inherent in the study methods. The survey sought to gather data from a wide range of trusts, i.e. offering the breadth of evidence for the study. It also comprised predominantly closed questions, which reduced the time investment required by participants, although the 33% response rate limits generalisability of findings. The case study and good practice examples were intended to understand, in-depth, the issues relevant to the particular local context but are necessarily few in number.