Friday, 11 June 2010

Should Serious Case Reviews be published in full?

As some-one who once wrote an article about the value of anonymous reporting of errors in child protection practice, I ought to be very reluctant to embrace the Government's decision to mandate the publication of the full reports of Serious Case Reviews (SCRs). There are strong arguments that people are more willing to co-operate with an anonymous inquiry process and there will always be risks that details contained in the reports will identify surviving children and other family members.

However, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the Government is doing the right thing. The current system of releasing only an Executive Summary of the report simply isn't working to produce widespread knowledge of what has gone wrong. Some recent executive summaries have been so uninformative that I defy anyone to learn anything from them, let alone important lessons about how to protect children  more effectively.

And I don't think that publishing the full report will necessarily harm the interests of the professionals involved. I have a strong suspicion that if we were able to see the whole SCR report, then we might be more likely to see the actions of individual professionals in context. We might see how their actions are often the product of systems and working environments rather than individual failings, slips and lapses. It might even make it more difficult for some of the more irresponsible elements in the media to target individual scapegoats, because organisational influences will be more apparent.

There will have to be careful redaction to protect the identities of third parties, but on-balance I think this is a step in the right direction.