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As the country begins to open up after the COVID-19 pandemic, this newsletter focusses on the follow-up analysis to our practice briefing about safeguarding children during the pandemic. The analysis was conducted earlier this year and we hope the findings are useful to all those working with children as the restrictions lift.
We would also like to thank everyone who attended the webinar on our Annual Report in June. There was overwhelming feedback that safeguarding partners and practitioners would like more steer on conducting Local Child Safeguarding Practice Reviews (LCSPRs). Therefore, we have developed some LCSPR key messages for this newsletter which we hope will assist Safeguarding Partners in further developing work in this area. 
Finally, the Department for Education (DfE) published its Serious Incident Notification (SIN) data last week. In this newsletter, we offer some reflections on these trends and how these link to the rapid reviews considered by the Panel.

In This Issue

  • COVID-19 analysis follow-up
  • Key messages on conducting LCSPRs
  • Advice for safeguarding partners’ yearly reports
  • Reflections on the DfE SIN data
  • Published LCSPRs
  • Panel updates
  • Stakeholder news
COVID-19 Analysis Follow-up 

In December 2020, we shared a thematic analysis of rapid reviews reported to the Panel during the early COVID-19 pandemic (March to September 2020). The positive response to this, our first Practice Briefing, was welcomed and we were pleased to meet over 100 colleagues at our webinar on 28 January 2021 to discuss the findings. 

The Panel found the initial analysis very useful in understanding some of the impacts of the pandemic on safeguarding practice.  We therefore commissioned a further thematic analysis on cases from October 2020 to March 2021. Utilising our analytical framework for evaluating how COVID-19 has been affecting vulnerable children and families from the first phase of analysis, we audited a further 105 rapid reviews which cited COVID-19 as a factor against a control group of 41 rapid reviews.

As in the original analysis, the data from rapid reviews shows COVID-19 continues to have a high impact on cases of non-accidental injury including abusive head trauma and sudden unexpected death in infancy. Yet in this round of analysis, we found a higher incidence of cases of suicide and self-harm, particularly children who may have autism and/or ADHD.  The Panel is currently working with the National Child Mortality Database to explore the issue of suicides further. Also, we have seen more instances where children have suffered significant neglect, including examples where parents have cited shielding or self-isolation as a rationale for limiting the family’s visibility to professionals.
We noted that, when conducting rapid reviews, there is sometimes a need for greater reflection and critical thinking about the contribution of the pandemic to changing risk and need, and its impact on the daily life of children and families. In our sample, we found that many rapid reviews contained rather limited analysis of the impact of the pandemic, so whilst it was cited as a contributory factor, this was sometimes presented without supporting evidence.  Where there has been analysis, this tended to focus on impact of COVID-safe adaptations, such as virtual working rather than exploring more broadly how COVID-19 may have affected family life.
When thinking about the impact of this follow-up analysis for practice, it was apparent that many of the earlier findings still hold true and we would urge practitioners to read our original practice briefing.
Key messages on conducting LCSPRs
We have received overwhelming feedback that safeguarding partners and practitioners would like more steers on conducting LCSPRs. Therefore, we have developed some LCSPR key messages for this newsletter and will update our guidance to reflect these.
  • When considering whether to conduct an LCSPR, safeguarding partners need to be clear from the outset what the added value is to a good rapid review. Rapid reviews should always set out a very clear rationale for doing an LCSPR; they should be explicit about the key questions that the LCSPR would seek to answer.
  • It is for safeguarding partners to determine whether an LCSPR is appropriate, taking into account that the overall purpose of a review is to identify improvements to practice and wider systems. Just because an incident meets the criteria in Working Together 2018 does not mean there is an automatic expectation to carry out an LCSPR.
  • Partnerships should consider using their own capacity to author LCSPRs, as appropriate and provided the person has suitable skills to undertake reviews and is independent of the case (with no real or perceived conflict of interests).
  • We know that sometimes safeguarding partnerships propose undertaking an ‘alternative learning review’, implying use of different methodologies which had hitherto generally been associated with SCRs. We support and encourage different approaches, but the finished review is still an LCSPR; it should therefore be labelled and published as such.
  • The best LCSPRs start with the key questions they are seeking to answer, providing evidence and analysis of what the focus should be. This should be accompanied by a concise summary of the circumstances and background of the case in order to lend appropriate context to the reflection and learning of the LCSPR that will follow.
  • An LCSPR should not necessarily be limited to review the specifics of one family and a specific incident but rather be used to also explore broader aspects of practice, to ascertain whether there are systemic practice weaknesses to be addressed. Where systemic weaknesses are identified, then improvement work should not wait until the conclusion of criminal matters.
  • Too many LCSPRs are written in the style and approach of SCRs; they often have overly long chronologies, use ‘old style SCR’ methodologies and approaches that do not engage in sufficient depth with system problems, nor do they explore why issues and practice problems may have occurred and what therefore needs to change as a result.  This approach often leads to unacceptable delays in completion and publication.
Final reports and publication
  • The Panel wants to see LCSPRs which have clear recommendations that address both practice and system leadership issues.
  • LCSPRs and accompanying action plans need to be owned and signed off by the three safeguarding partners.
  • The expectation is that unless there are compelling exceptional circumstances, all LCSPRs will be published. LCSPRs should be written in such a way so that what is published avoids harming the welfare of any children or vulnerable adults involved in the case.
  • There is an expectation that all reviews will be completed and published within six months, circumstances such as ongoing criminal or other investigations are not, of themselves, a reason to delay completion, and any likely delays beyond six months should be discussed with the Panel.
  • Changes to practice emanating from LCSPRs need to be led by safeguarding partner leaders.  Systems need to be put in place locally so that there is assurance that practitioners have adopted the required changes in practice.
Advice for Safeguarding Partners' yearly reports

Working Together 2018 (WT2018) requires safeguarding partners to publish a report at least once in every twelve-month period and send copies to the Panel and the What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care (WWCSC).
In our last newsletter, we shared a joint evaluation by WWCSC and the Panel, which found that 49 reports of the 68 reports published by January 2021 fully or partly evidenced WT 2018 requirements. The report is available on the WWCSC website, along with a blog by our Chair Annie Hudson, outlining what this analysis means for safeguarding partners. You can download the report here.

To help safeguarding partners meet the requirements set out in WT2018 for their next yearly reports, and to ensure that it is easier to share learning and experience between different local areas, we have suggested the following questions to think about when preparing reports. These are designed to be helpful prompts, developed with WWCSC, based on the reports we’ve seen to date.
  • What were your priorities for the last twelve months? How were these decided and by whom? What activities took place to take forward these priorities?
  • What was the evidence base behind these activities and interventions?
  • What was the impact of these activities on children, families and professionals (from early help to looked after children and care leavers) and how was this measured?
  • Where there has been little progress or things have not gone well, what lessons have been learnt?
  • How has learning from activities (including from rapid reviews and local or national child safeguarding practice reviews) been shared with key partners?
  • Have there been any resulting improvements from activities (including from rapid reviews and local or national child safeguarding practice reviews)?
  • What scrutiny arrangements are in place and why have these been adopted? How successful have they been?
  • What role has children and families’ feedback had in your planning and activities?
  • What training has taken place and how is the impact of training being measured (beyond the numbers of people attending)?
Reflections on the DfE SIN data 
The Department for Education (DfE) published their Serious Incident Notification (SIN) data on 22nd July.
The full report is available here and the headline statistics include:
  • There were 536 serious incident notifications during the 2020-21 financial year - an increase of 19% on FY2019-20.
  • There were 251 serious incident notifications during the second half of 2020-21 - an increase of 12% on the same period in 2019-20.
  • 35% of incidents relate to children under the age of 1.
  • The largest increases were seen amongst young children, although those 16 years and over increased by a fifth.
As a Panel, we welcome the publication of this data, and it aligns with the findings of our annual report. The publication of these as ‘experimental official statistics’ is helpful, demonstrating a commitment from Government to making sure that this information is shared across the safeguarding system in a timely and rigorous manner.

It is helpful to analyse the headline statistics, noting changes over time to help and so we can build a national picture of what is happening to children.  We must nonetheless exercise due caution when referring to increases in these type of incidents.  Firstly, these incidents provide an extremely narrow lens on the most serious incidents of abuse and neglect. Therefore, the numbers of cases are low and percentages may distort the overall picture. Secondly, an increase in reporting may not correspond to an increase incidents. Indeed, the important thing is that each incident is reported and that thorough reviews are conducted to extract the learning to prevent similar incidents from happening again.
Published LCSPRs
In our last newsletter, we introduced this section to share published LCSPRs with the sector in a timely way. These LCSPRs have been published between 1st May and 30th June 2021.
London: Camden, Child E; Merton, Jason.
North East: Middlesbrough, Fred; Redcar and Cleveland, Daniel.
South East: Southampton, Liam.
South West: Wiltshire, Family N.
Yorkshire & the Humber: Wakefield, Jason; Bradford, Emily.

We will keep this method of sharing LCSPRs under review, and you can feedback on this via the form at the bottom of this newsletter.

Panel Updates
The Panel has recently assigned its members to each of the nine English regions.
  • North West – Karen Manners
  • North East – Dale Simon
  • Yorkshire and Humber – Annie Hudson
  • West Midlands – Peter Sidebotham
  • East Midlands – Peter Sidebotham
  • East of England – Susan Tranter
  • South West – Sarah Elliott
  • South East – Dale Simon
  • London – Mark Gurrey
 The aim of this is to facilitate stronger engagement with safeguarding partners. In the first instance, we are intending to hold regional roundtables as forums to discuss issues of mutual interest. Letters have been issued to safeguarding partners in each region to facilitate these.

Stakeholder News
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Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel · Sanctuary Buildings · Great Smith Street · London, London SW1P 3BT · United Kingdom

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