A STUDY OF FAMILY INVOLVEMENT IN CASE REVIEWS: MESSAGES FOR POLICY AND PRACTICE
Commissioned by the British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (BASPCAN), this study represents an important step forward for VCF – The Victoria Climbié Foundation.
Since 2008, VCF has been calling for families to be effectively involved in child protection processes, including serious case reviews (SCRs). VCF facilitated the involvement of a number of families and extended family members within the SCR process to ensure that they were able to properly contribute to the review; the purpose of which is generally unclear and not particularly welcome at a time of mourning.
VCF supported the Ogunkoya Family Campaign for full disclosure of the SCR report into the deaths of their children, Antoine and Keniece. A 16-page executive summary report, published by City and Hackney Local Safeguarding Children Board, was condemned as ‘scandalous’ by the children’s father – amid calls for greater accountability and transparency within the process. The inquest into the tragic deaths of these two children convenes late November 2012, and will finally deliver the full SCR report to this family.
In June 2010, the coalition government introduced full disclosure of serious case reviews and editorial changes to Section 8 of the Working Together guidance. At VCF, we believe this guidance needs to go further and hope that the government will seek to provide more detail in relation to engaging families in all child death processes.
“Many of the reviews did not consider the issues sufficiently or focused on one aspect to the exclusion of others. In those reviews where race, language, culture and religion were dealt with sensitively, for example, there was increased learning from the review.” (Ofsted, 2010)
Whilst the primary purpose of case reviews is to learn lessons, many families believe that the process will help them to understand how their children came to die – what went wrong, and why – an extremely important aspect of their own grieving to achieve closure; it is important to families that their children do not die in vain.
Having worked with a number of families who have lost their children in tragic circumstances, VCF has developed a good practice model in engaging families based on our experience of facilitating family involvement in the SCR process. We call upon LSCBs to offer genuine involvement for families that engage with the process; at the beginning, towards the end and, where appropriate, post‑publication.
“There was evidence of improvement in the involvement of family members in the review process. In the best examples, the views of the family were woven into the final report and had an influence on the findings.” (Ofsted, 2010)
One father being supported by VCF who received a copy of the SCR Executive Summary; to which he still has questions, does not feel that his contribution was sufficiently reflected within the report and that a list of individuals provided by him, either in the UK or abroad, had not been contacted.
“Most of the serious case reviews identified sources of information that could have contributed to a better understanding of the children and their families. This included information about or from fathers and extended family, historical knowledge, information from other agencies, the cultural background and research findings.” (Ofsted, 2010)
Other families have been given little or no opportunity to comment on SCR reports ahead of publication and the public – through the eyes of the media – are left with no feeling as to whether a family has accepted the contents of the report, or even whether all parties in the process are in agreement with the findings.
VCF offers a staged approach to families invited to contribute to a case review which may require some adjustment to current timelines and approach, especially where aspects of culture or faith is a contributory factor.
If we want an effective child protection system that seeks to build public trust, then it is important to appropriately involve families in case reviews.
Morris, K., Brandon, M. and Tudor, P. (2012) A Study of Family Involvement in Case Reviews: Messages for Policy and Practice
To access report and additional information, see BASPCAN website: http://www.baspcan.org.uk/report.php