Barnardo’s urges flexibility on serious case review trials

Government criticised for not allowing pilots to test alternatives to serious case reviews on most complex incidents.

The government has come under fire for preventing organisations that are testing out alternative methods of reviewing cases of child abuse and neglect from including the most serious of cases.

Barnardo’s is currently working alongside the Social Care Institute for Excellence, trialling a “systems-based approach” to serious case reviews, as recommended in Professor Eileen Munro’s review of child protection.

But the charity’s head of safeguarding, Jenny Myers, told CYP Now that none of the pilots have been permitted to use the proposed system on deaths, where a serious case review must take place, as in the cases such as Peter Connelly. Instead, the method is being tested on “near-miss” cases, where a serious case review is not currently mandatory, but local authorities are advised to undertake one at their discretion.

Myers said that while a lot is being learned from the pilots, the exclusion of the most serious and complex cases would limit their impact.

“The Department for Education has not allowed the pilots to model serious case reviews,” she said. “If this is to take off as a viable alternative, there has to be some flexibility from government. Local authorities should be given a dispensation from Ofsted evaluations to pilot a systems methodology with a serious case review and see if we have a better outcome.”

The government has said the pilots will “inform the transition to systems review methodology”.

But Myers added that a replacement for serious case reviews is unlikely to be brought in until at least 2013, when all pilots have been completed and reported on.