NSPCC, Queen's launch first ever review on child death or serious injury in Northern Ireland

Published on January 24, 2013 at 4:01 AM · No Comments

The first ever review of abuse cases related to child death or serious injury in Northern Ireland will be launched at Queen's University today (24 January 2013). The review, Translating Learning into Action, was commissioned by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) and was carried out by researchers at Queen's University and the NSPCC.

The Case Management Review (CMR) report - the first to be produced in Northern Ireland - analysed 24 case reviews relating to 45 children which resulted in death or serious injury in the period between 2003 - 2008. While the rate of non-accidental child deaths in Northern Ireland continues to fall as a consequence of having a strong child protection system, the findings from the review offer important opportunities for strengthening the system.

Of the 24 cases reviewed, 18 dealt with the death of a child - four children who died as a result of a physical or sexual assault; six infants who died unexpectedly, for which there was no cause established; and eight young people who died by suicide or accident. The remaining six case reviews involved a range of issues, including the serious injury of a child, the standard of care of children by their carers, and how professionals worked together.

As of 31 March 2012, 2,127 children were listed on child protection registers in Northern Ireland, a decrease of 11% (274) from 2011 (2,401) but an increase of 18% (322) since 2007.

The report drew a number of conclusions:

  • The rate of non-accidental child deaths in Northern Ireland continues to fall as a consequence of having a strong child protection system;
  • The majority of the 24 case reviews commented positively on the dedication and professionalism of individual staff working with the families subject to review;
  • The children in these reports were amongst hundreds living in very similar circumstances and who were known to professionals, and the reviews concluded that it was unlikely that the children who died or were seriously injured could have been identified as being at heightened risk;
  • There is a need for services to become involved at an earlier stage with families before problems became entrenched and harder to improve;
  • Services need to stay involved for longer with some families to ensure that improvements in parenting are consolidated in the longer term;
  • Alongside providing services to reduce the risk that children may be at from physical or sexual abuse, therapeutic services to children should be provided to address the psychological harm of poor parenting;
  • Professionals should be provided with opportunities to meet together more frequently to co-ordinate assessments and interventions with children and families;
  • Senior managers across organisations must take greater responsibility for ensuring that workloads of individual professionals are manageable and commensurate with their level of experience;
  • The interface between services working with children and services working with adults who are parents (for issues such as poor mental health or substance misuse) must be improved;
  • Senior managers should ensure that staff receive regular support and supervision in dealing with what is often highly complex and emotional work.

As a result of the CMR review process public agencies have made a number of significant improvements in the way that children and their families are supported, including:

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