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Derby CityChildren's Social Care Procedures

4.10 Death of or Serious Harm to a Child

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter outlines the steps to be taken in the event of the suspicious death of/serious harm to a child living in the community or the death of/serious harm to any child in care (Looked After).

These steps are in addition to any actions carried out under the Derby and Derbyshire SCB Procedures in relation to the need to hold a Serious Case Review and the work of the Child Death Overview Panel.

See also Serious Incident Policy.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in November 2015 to reflect publication of Working Together to Safeguard Children (2015).

Contents

  1. Notifiable Incidents
  2. Death of or Serious Harm to a Child in the Community
  3. Death of or Serious Harm to a Child in Care
  4. Needs of Social Worker / Team / Manager / Carer
  5. Appendix 1: Children considered for Notification to Ofsted following Serious Incidents (Form)
  6. Appendix 2: Serious Case Review (SCR) Criteria

1. Notifiable Incidents

A 'notifiable incident' is an incident involving the care of a child which meets any of the following criteria:

  • A child has died (including cases of suspected suicide), and abuse or neglect is known or suspected;
  • A child has been seriously harmed and abuse or neglect is known or suspected; 
  • A Looked After Child has died (including cases where abuse or neglect is not known or suspected); or
  • A child in a regulated setting or service has died (including cases where abuse or neglect is not known or suspected).

Seriously harmed includes, but is not limited to, cases where the child has sustained, as a result of abuse or neglect, any or all of the following:

  • A potentially life-threatening injury;
  • Serious and/or likely long-term impairment of physical or mental health or physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development.

This definition is not exhaustive. In addition, even if a child recovers, this does not mean that serious harm cannot have occurred (Working Together to Safeguard Children, 2015)

Regulated settings and services includes: Childcare on domestic premises; Childcare on non-domestic premises; Home child carer; Child minder; Children's Homes (including secure children's homes); Adoption Support Agencies; Voluntary Adoption Agencies; Independent Fostering agencies; Residential Family Centres and Holiday Schemes for Disabled Children.

2. Death of or Serious Harm to a Child in the Community

Where information comes to notice of the above to a child living in the community, the following tasks are required.

2.1

The child's social worker or, if unallocated, the duty worker receiving the information will:

  1. Immediately inform his or her line manager;

  2. Obtain as much information as possible on the circumstances surrounding the cause of death/serious harm, usually by liaison with the Police, and pass this to the line manager;

  3. Take any necessary action, in consultation with their manager, Police and Health partners, to safeguard any surviving child or siblings.

2.2

The line manager will immediately inform the relevant Service Director by telephone. The form Appendix 1: Children considered for Notification to Ofsted following Serious Incidents (Form) should be completed and emailed to the Service Director as soon as possible afterwards (copied into the  Deputy and Head of Service and Head of Quality Assurance)

Where there is any uncertainty about seriousness or cause, the need to involve the Service Director and next steps should be discussed with the relevant Head of Service and HoS QA or a Child Protection Manager.

2.3

If the threshold for a Serious Case Review (see Appendix 2: Serious Case Review (SCR) Criteria) is most likely met, the Relevant Service Director will:

  1. Inform the Director of Children's Services, who will notify members and Chief Executive as necessary;

  2. Liaise with the Head of Service to give and receive information;

  3. Agree with the HoS when and how to inform partner agency lead officers as necessary and ascertain as full details as possible from the Police and any other source;

  4. Consider the need to secure the electronic file allowing access by Service Director, Head of Service, Head of QA, Careline and other identified individuals only;

  5. Arrange to consider the circumstances of the death/serious harm with the Head of Quality Assurance, including the need to notify Ofsted / Department for Education (DfE), hold a Serious Case Review (SCR) or make a referral to the Serious Case Review Panel;

  6. Agree information for the Secretary of State for Education; and

  7. Complete the notification to Ofsted using the Notification Form for Notification Form for Serious Childcare Incidents. This should be done WITHIN 5 WORKING DAYS OF THE INCIDENT, saving a copy before submission to add to the child's file and send to HoS QA and DSCB Board Manager;

    N.B. On completing the Ofsted Online Form, the Service Director must ensure they personally download the PDF form before submission as this will be checked as part of the Inspection of the Local Authority and LSCB;

  8. Complete the internal Children considered for Notification to Ofsted following Serious Incidents form (Appendix 1: Children considered for Notification to Ofsted following Serious Incidents (Form)) and put on the file of the child and any other children in the household;

  9. Consider any media considerations and liaise with media officers as necessary.

2.4

The Head of Quality Assurance will:

  1. Liaise with Service Director regarding notification / Serious Case Review criteria / response;

  2. Liaise with Head of Service to give / receive information;

  3. Review case file as necessary;

  4. Liaise with relevant agency safeguarding leads as necessary;

  5. As applicable inform the Independent Chair of DSCB and the Board Manager, and liaise with the Chair of the SCR panel with regard to the need for a SCR or extraordinary meeting of the SCR panel.

2.5

Head of Service will:

  1. Liaise with Service Director and Head of Service Quality Assurance to give / receive information, providing regular up-dates;

  2. Follow up with staff to give / receive information;

  3. Request his or her staff to check Children's Services records on the child and family; and

  4. Ensure any necessary support is made available to staff;

  5. Take responsibility for any on-going safeguarding issues and liaise with other agency staff at operational level;

  6. Review the case file and agency involvement.

Contact details and notification forms for notifying incidents to Ofsted are available on the Ofsted website

2.6

For potentially notifiable incidents, where the criteria for a Serious Case Review do not appear to be met, the Service Director and Head of Service and HoS QA should liaise in person or by phone, following exchange of information on the internal Children considered for Notification to Ofsted following Serious Incidents form by e-mail, to agree if the criteria for notification to Ofsted are met.

The Service Director will then complete the notification WITHIN 5 WORKING DAYS OF THE INCIDENT, saving a copy before submission to add to the child's file and send to HoS QA and DSCB Board Manager. These will then be submitted to the next SCR panel for scrutiny and challenge. Consideration will also be given to whether a Learning Review would be appropriate.

See Serious Case Reviews and Learning and Improvement Procedures in the Derby / Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedures.

The relevant team manager should notify managers in other agencies involved in the case as to the decision by the Local Authority with regards to notification and/or referral to SCR panel. Where there is any disagreement this should be discussed between the relevant managers and escalated as necessary through safeguarding leads.

Any other agencies, Child Protection Managers and IROs who consider that a child should be notified to Ofsted because they fall within the definition above, should in the first instance raise the matter with the team manager responsible for the child or the First Contact Team manager if the child is not an open case to the CYP department. If agreement cannot be reached about whether a notification should be made, the matter should be escalated urgently to a more senior manager within the Children and Young People's department. Team managers should immediately discuss any request from other agencies to notify a child to Ofsted in these circumstances with their line manager whether or not there is agreement. The Service Director will always request an internal 'Children considered for Notification to Ofsted following Serious Incidents' form is completed by the TM/DHOS/HOS and then she /he will make a final decision recording the rationale on the form. See Appendix 1: Children considered for Notification to Ofsted following Serious Incidents (Form).

Any agency may refer a case to SCR panel for discussion.

There will be regular discussion within the HoS/DHoS Team, with Challenge from the HoS QA, about incidents which may meet the threshold for notification to Ofsted, to ensure consistency.

3. Death of or Serious Harm to a Child in Care

Where information comes to notice of the death of or serious harm to a child in care, the following additional tasks are required. Where abuse, neglect or self-harm is suspected or if there are any suspicious circumstances around the death, the procedure above must be followed in the first instance.

3.1

The child's social worker will:

  1. Immediately inform his or her line manager the placement supervisor/agency and the IRO;

  2. Notify the parent(s) immediately and in person;

  3. In the event of a child's death, discuss with the parent(s) and reach agreement regarding the arrangements for the funeral (in the event of sudden, unexplained deaths arrangements for the funeral may need to be delayed);

  4. In the event of serious harm to the child, arrange with the parent(s) to visit the child in hospital if appropriate;

  5. Obtain as much information as possible on the circumstances surrounding the cause of death/serious harm and pass this to their line manager; and

  6. Discuss with the line manager any necessary expenditure including reasonable travel expenses to assist the family in attending the funeral or visiting the child in hospital where it appears there is financial hardship;

  7. Where the child was in a long term foster placement, discuss with the line manager any possible conflict between the carers and the parents regarding arrangements for the child's funeral.

3.2

The line manager will:

  1. Immediately inform the Relevant Service Director by telephone and provide follow up information on the form Children considered for Notification to Ofsted following Serious Incidents by e-mail as soon as possible afterwards, cc to Head and Deputy Head of Service and Head of Quality Assurance;

  2. Liaise with HoS Residential Services or Adoption & Fostering with regard to any safeguarding issues for other children in placement, and with regard to the needs of the carers and other children;

  3. Advise Legal Services initially by telephone, then confirm details by e-mail; and

  4. Contact the Council Insurance Section by e-mail.

3.3

The Relevant Service Director will:

  1. Inform the Director of Children's Services, who will come to a decision about whether to notify Members;

  2. Ensure that the parents' wishes concerning the funeral are discussed (by the social worker or the team manager), that any possible conflict with the wishes of the carers are also ascertained and addressed, and that any appropriate associated costs are met;

  3. Where a review is to be conducted, consider the need to secure the electronic files;

  4. Agree with the HoS when and how to inform other relevant agencies about the death/serious harm and whether a review is likely to be required;

  5. Consider, in consultation with the Chair of DSCB and Head of Quality Assurance, appropriate meetings under the Derby and Derbyshire SCB Procedures, including the need to hold a Serious Case Review;

  6. Come to a decision about the need for an internal review of the case and if so, the appropriate person to conduct the review, in consultation with the Chair of DCSB SCR panel;

  7. Inform the Department for Education; and

  8. Inform Ofsted using the Notification Form for Serious Childcare Incidents.

4. Needs of Social Worker / Team / Managers / Carer

During the implementation of this procedure consideration must be given to the needs of those staff and carers involved in the case.

The impact of a child death on social worker/team/manager/carer needs to be addressed in terms of:

  • The need for counselling for those involved;
  • The manner in which such support is offered;
  • The provision of access to legal and professional advice about the on-going conduct of the case;
  • The provision of a clear explanation of the process of a Serious Case Review;
  • Support for staff in the event of Police investigation/interviews;
  • The need to inform and keep informed any relevant Trades Unions;
  • The need for team debriefing whilst observing confidentiality. This must be discussed with the Service Manager;
  • The need to acknowledge that a child death can impact on the productivity of any team and its ability to function; and the need to agree strategies to manage workloads.

Appendices

Appendix 1: Children considered for Notification to Ofsted following Serious Incidents (Form)

Appendix 2: Serious Case Review (SCR) Criteria