There were some things I liked in the Wood Report on the role and functions of Local Safeguarding Children Boards.
I liked the idea that it is the core agencies (local authority, health and police) which have to make clear their leadership role and design multi-agency arrangements for protecting children. The old arrangements (as required by Section 13 of the Children Act 2004) were unwieldy and poorly focused.
I also liked the proposal to abolish Serious Case Reviews (SCRs). They have come to the end of their lives. Wood is right to describe the SCR approach as a “a discredited model”. He is right to argue that SCRs do not result in effective learning about what has gone wrong and how it can be put right.
And I support Wood’s recommendation to establish “… an independent body at national level to oversee a new national learning framework for inquiries into child deaths and cases where children have experienced serious harm”. It is clear that what he has in mind is something like the the Health Safety Investigations Branch (HSIB) which is proposed for the National Health Service. Wood proposes that part of the remit of the new body will be to conduct its investigations in such a way as to remove the threat of individual practitioners being blamed or scapegoated, the overriding aim being to help ensure similar mistakes are avoided in future. That is to be warmly welcomed.
So far so good. But there is also a lot missing from this report. I would have liked to see much more in the report about how new arrangements can be designed so as to foster much better day-to-day learning about how to improve service safety and service quality. Although Wood has some good ideas these don’t extend to ways in which new multi-agency arrangements could equip front-line practitioners in key agencies to analyse and understand how and why everyday things go wrong and how they can be put right. Basically there is still too much top-down management thinking in Wood’s report and not enough about empowering the people who deliver the services to do a better job.