Role of child death inquiries for policy development

The purpose of this assignment is to show a critical understanding of the role of as a vehicle for policy development. This assignment will explore the purpose of child death inquiries. It will show a critical understanding of the complex relationship between family and the state, the tensions between the duty to safeguard children, the parents and childs rights and when the state should intervene. The types of child death inquiries will be investigated examining their purpose, limitations and values. The assignment will examine the impact of changing child welfare policy on organisational structures with reference to multi disciplinary teams. This assignment will show reference to critical evaluation and the bias that may precede it. Finally concluding given the weight of evidence how useful child death inquiries are as a vehicle for policy development.

Recently the benefits of child death inquiries and serious case reviews have come under particular scrutiny, this assignment will use evidenced based information and practice to find other approaches or how to improve the form of the inquiry so its benefits outweigh its limitations.

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Role of child death inquiries for policy development
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The United Nations estimate that every week two children in the United Kingdom die from abuse or neglect (UNICEF, 2003). The United Nations Convention, article 3 on the rights of the child places a duty on countries to protect children from abuse or neglect, the best interests of the child must be the primary concern when making decisions which may affect them, article 6 focuses on the importance of safeguarding their right to life (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1992).

There are two types of child death inquiries; serious case reviews and public inquiries. A serious case review takes place when a child dies and abuse or neglect is suspected. They also take place in other circumstances where serious situations have occurred for example where a child has suffered from serious sexual abuse. The purpose of child death inquiries according to Working Together, 2010 is for agencies and individuals to learn where problems have arisen and to learn from these to improve their practice. The lessons learnt should be given to all individuals who work in this area to ensure they safeguard children in the correct way. When agencies already know where certain problems lie they should improve upon them before the serious case review is finished. A public inquiry for example The Colwell Report (1974), The Climb inquiry (2003) is a inquiry ordered by the government to review events, in this case child deaths. To conclude where practice could be improved upon, recommendations can be given and lessons can be learnt.

Under regulation 5 of the local safeguarding childrens board requires that the local safeguarding children board undertakes reviews of serious cases. Serious case reviews must establish lessons to be learnt, identify which lessons are within agencies and which between and how long they have to act upon the changes to be undertaken. The reviews must also improve upon inter and to promote and safeguard the wellbeing of children (chapter 8, Working Together, 2010). Laming (2009) states that serious case reviews are an important tool for learning lessons. Currently there is debate regarding the approach used in serious case reviews some believe that there are different approaches to take to learn lessons from social work practice. Effective safeguarding practice is an approach considered, to learn from what is already proven to work.

The obvious aim of child death inquiries is to try and avoid future tragedies. There is a repetitive circle within child protection. Families collide with professionals and most of the outcomes involve protection. The tensions involved between families and professionals involve competition of rights. The Human Rights Act, 1998 article 8 stipulates the familys right to a private family life and to be able to conduct their lives according to their culture and understanding. The opposite to this argument is to ensure all children are protected. When should professionals become involved? Parton (1991) describes the dilemma of how can the state establish the rights of the child and still promote the family to be an independent body in which to raise their children how they see fit and not intervene in all families and consequently reduce its autonomy.

Depending on the theoretical viewpoint the professionals and current Government takes would impose when the state should intervene. A laissez-faires government would have little intervention, the professionals would only intervene when abuse or neglect had taken place. However State paternalism is a perspective which favours more involvement of state intervention to protect children from abuse. This theory regards the childs welfare as more important than family autonomy. This perspective was reflected in the Children Act, 1989 as it introduced the expression likely for the child to be in significant harm. If there is a likelihood of significant harm there are possibilities of child protection orders being produced, and in other extensions of state power.

Tensions between the duties that social workers have to safeguard children, the familys right to a private family life, the rights of the child, working in partnership with the parents and understanding when the state should intervene cause problems within social work practice. Knowing when to intervene has always been a problem for social workers within this area. Malcolm Hill (1990) found that published child abuse inquiry reports identified working with parents as a common problem. He found that papers noted access difficulties, in a number of cases parents didnt cooperate when the social worker needed to see the child at risk. Hill (1990) concluded that papers found social workers were too ready to believe parents. Hill (1990) concluded that the Colwell report (1974) found that social workers should focus on parents demonstrating their parenting skills and not to assume all was well because the parents said so.

Social workers also need to look at the care the child is receiving holistically not focus on single areas of the family where they are showing positive steps, for example social workers may be satisfied as the family are participating in counselling but they need to still look at their parenting at home whilst this continues. Thus depending on the theoretical viewpoint the social worker takes decides when they should intervene. This assignment will adopt a state paternalism perspective, this perspective although draws conclusions that the child is likely to suffer significant harm which may affect the family relationships and autonomy its better to intervene now then wait until abuse or neglect has taken place and then safeguarding the child. This perspective takes a view that children have a high priority in society, they have rights to high standards of care and using this approach ensure that they are protected at all costs by the force of the law (Fox Harding, 1997).

are seen as an important tool used to improve local practice, also implementing wider community health approaches to improve upon infant mortality rates. Bunting and Reid (2005) found that there numerous benefits to serious case reviews taking place these included more effective multi agency working, improved communication between agencies, they found that death certificates had become more informative they also found that from participating in serious case reviews practitioners had more knowledge surrounding child death and the causes of them ensuring a further focus on preventative measures of child death rather than focusing on child abuse.

Corby, Doig and Roberts (1998) have found that there is a great concern on the impact of child inquiries on professionals especially social workers, they found that over the there has been a continual criticism of social workers. The Maria Colwell case made social work practice public and put it under great scrutiny. Professionals within this case became points of focus of criticism, their work was scrutinised in incorrect contexts focusing on training of social workers affecting their morale significantly (Corby et al, 1998).

The impact of child death inquiries on social workers and other professionals in this area can be psychological and emotional. Corby et al (1998) argues both sides of the case although child death inquiries highlights poor practice and the need for the public to know why children already known to social services and other departments can still go on to be abused and killed. However the emotional and psychological effects on social workers can be so detrimental because of the scrutiny they are under, their work will be affected, and affecting further work they do.

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