Child protection chiefs warn officials over full serious case review plans

Representatives at councils involved in England’s most high-profile child protection cases are urging civil servants to proceed with utmost caution in carrying out government plans to publish serious case reviews (SCRs) in full.

They are seeking assurances that the full reports are properly redacted to avoid any possibly identification of vulnerable siblings.

Their intervention comes after Tim Loughton, minister responsible for child protection, revealed the government would publish retrospectively the SCRs of Peter Connelly, Khyra Ishaq, Shannon Matthews and the Edlington brothers in a bid to maximise learning.

Graham Badman, independent chair of Haringey’s local safeguarding children board, confirmed he had liaised with senior officials at the Department for Education regarding the full review of Peter Connelly. He said he had been reassured all necessary steps would be taken to prevent any breach of confidentiality and prejudice to family matters and that the views of the family court judge would be of utmost significance.

He said it was important in the process to go back to authors of the individual management reports from each service that contributed to the SCR “so that they would not feel compromised”.

But Badman said: “Our view is that the executive summary we published contained the salient information. It has been used extensively in the training of social workers and staff from other services.”

Other councils argue that once the full reviews are redacted to protect siblings and other vulnerable parties from being identified, the whole process will yield little worthwhile information beyond the executive summary already available, and at considerable financial cost.

A senior source at one council involved in another highly publicised case, told CYP Now: “By the time you’ve taken out what you can’t publish, what you’re left with is pretty much the executive summary.” The source added the exercise involved “tens of thousands” of pounds in legal costs, in order to ensure other vulnerable parties cannot be identified.

At last week’s Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) annual conference, ADCS president Marion Davis criticised the move.

Also at the conference, England’s children’s commissioner Maggie Atkinson said: “We must be at the least very careful if we make this move to full publication of serious case reviews. Their content needs to be so securely anonymised that nobody can pull the threads that would reveal the life circumstances of the vulnerable siblings of Peter Connelly, Khyra Ishaq, Shannon Matthews – all of whom are out there.”

But she added the existing executive summaries of SCRs “remain variable in quality, transparency, clarity and robustness. The worst of them, often in the most exquisitely tooled language avoid honest shared ownership and a proper exploration of the lessons to be learned.”

While the government has stated its intention to publish anonymised SCRs in full, it has asked the Munro review of child protection to look at how SCRs can be strengthened.