Sunday, 24 January 2010

Edlington - the Serious Case Review

I've always been a bit hesitant when I hear calls for the full serious case review report to be made public. Clearly the privacy of children and members of the public needs to be protected and I can see sense in the argument that some measure of confidentiality is necessary in order to persuade professionals and practitioners to be open and frank.

But having read the Executive Summary of the serious case review report in the Edlington case I feel some sympathy for those who advocate making the full report public. This Executive Summary is much more "summary" than it is "executive". It contains hardly any descriptive detail of the case and devotes most of its eleven pages to eighteen recommendations to the Doncaster Local Safeguarding Children Board and Doncaster Children's Services. I doubt whether members of the public are likely to make much sense of these. They are largely concerned with the detail of management and bureaucratic process and expressed in what I call "local government speak".

The guts of the report are in Section 8: five short paragraphs amounting to about a page or 500 words in all. These fail to provide:
  • any sort of chronology
  • any account of the nature of the involvement of various agencies (a list is all that is provided)
  • any details of mistakes, departures from procedure or service failings
  • an explanation of why the boys were with foster parents
  • an analysis of why there was apparently no assessment of their needs, given that they were in the care of the local authority
  • why what appear to have been a number of incidents of physical and emotional abuse were not responded to
  • any details of section 47 inquiries, planning meetings, child protection conferences, opportunities for legal action - if there were any
  • what decisions were taken and why
In the absence of this sort of information it is impossible even for some-one who understands the system to gain a rudimentary idea of what happened.

An executive summary of this sort is of little value; it must have been possible to have produced a more detailed document without breaching confidences. Rather than blandly resisting calls for the full report to be published, Ed Balls should order that the executive summary be re-written as an informative document.