Heads of local safeguarding children boards (LSCB) must inform a new panel of experts within two weeks if they decide not to conduct a full serious case review (SCR) following a serious incident.
The new panel will scrutinise LSCB decisions on serious case reviews. Image: Alex Deverill
Operating guidelines for the new independent panel of experts on serious case reviews, which launches today, state that LSCB chairs must also provide an explanation to the panel of why a SCR has not been ordered.
The experts will then look into the details of the case and can ask for a meeting with the LSCB chair to discuss the case.
It will also scrutinise any decisions not to publish SCRs.
The launch of the four-person panel – made up of family law barrister Elizabeth Clarke, air accident investigator Nicholas Dann, journalist Jenni Russell and NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless – comes just three months after it was announced in revised Working Together guidance, published in April.
The idea of an expert panel came out of Lord Carlile’s call for a rethink of the independence of LSCBs following his inquiry into the Edlington case in November.
There have also been concerns that some councils are not ordering SCRs unless they are absolutely necessary. In February 2011, an investigation by CYP Now found that the number of official probes into child abuse, neglect and deaths has dropped sharply since the controversial policy of publishing SCRs in full was introduced.
A document outlining how the panel will operate also reveals that over the coming year the Department for Education is planning to review the process used by LSCB's to notify Ofsted of serious incidents.
Mor Dioum, director of the Victoria Climbié Foundation, said that while a panel is “a positive step forward”, his organisation wants government to go further and mandate the process of serious case reviews.
"Without a legislative framework in place for SCRs, we are left wondering how this panel will sufficiently influence and affect change within the sector to bring about the necessary learning to enhance the child protection system," he added.
Local authorities are duty-bound to order an SCR for every case where abuse or neglect is known or suspected and a child dies, or a child is seriously harmed.
However, current guidance also outlines circumstances in which SCRs should be considered but are not mandatory.