Tuesday, 9 August 2011

A Critical Incident in Hull

I found the report, published today, of the Local Government Ombudsman into child protection failures at Hull City Council very interesting. Apparently, an aunt and another local authority referred two teenagers to Hull saying that there was a likelihood of significant harm to them because the mother’s new partner had mental health problems and had been violent. Hull, it seems, chose not to undertake a formal child protection inquiry (a Section 47 inquiry) and assigned the case to a trainee social worker for support.

What I found most worrying was that the response to the report from a spokesman for Hull City Council, as quoted in the Guardian, seemed to focus exclusively on improved guidance around “the process for placement of children within extended family” while the real safety issue is that the council appears to have failed to respond to a clear child protection referral.

The short, informative and very clear report by the Local Government Ombudsman contrasted favourably with many Serious Case Review Executive Summaries I have read.

However, its conclusions focused too narrowly on issues of blame and responsibility and did not explore ways in which a repeat of these mistakes could be avoided in the future. That is because the Local Government Ombudsman is charged with investigating a complaint, not improving child protection systems.

I would like to see much more open reporting of child protection ‘critical incidents’, like this one made suitably anonymous. I think there is considerable value in looking at cases where things have gone wrong without resulting in serious injury or death, because such cases are far more representative of the type of errors that occur everyday. To find out more see an article I co-authored on this approach.