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Norfolk learning child abuse lessons

PUBLISHED: 10:31 19 October 2009 | UPDATED: 15:20 03 July 2010

Child protection bosses say Norfolk is learning the lessons from the most serious cases of child abuse, despite concerns over the way the county handles official investigations.

Child protection bosses say Norfolk is learning the lessons from the most serious cases of child abuse, despite concerns over the way the county handles official investigations.

Serious case reviews must be carried out when a child's death or injury is suspected to be the result of abuse or neglect, to see what lessons can be learned.

Watchdog Ofsted carried out a detailed examination of these reviews in the year to March and found that in Norfolk two reviews had been carried out adequately, but a third failed to meet the standards required.

Caroline Ball, the chairman of the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Board, said the serious case review in question had been judged adequate for its overarching recommendations, which had since been learnt from. However two agency reports which fed into it were deemed inadequate and the time it took to conduct the review had been unacceptably long.

She said: “The fact that it has been judged by Ofsted as inadequate on the process was not unexpected given the time that it took us to produce the report. What we are much more concerned about is that we learn the lessons very thoroughly and they are disseminated among the agencies concerned.

“There were serious failings identified in the review and they have been addressed in the action plan that followed from it.

“No one likes to be judged inadequate and we are working hard to improve the process of compiling the case reviews.”

Dr Ball also said the case had been an extremely complex one and Ofsted agreed with the board that it was one of the rare cases where not even the usual executive summary could be published, as it could potentially identify the child involved and

lead to further abuse.

The board, which is in the process of structuring its review group, will also be providing training to the people at each agency who have to compile reports, as well as offering to cast a critical eye over the reports while they are being put together.

Throughout the country, Ofsted judged 34pc of the reviews nationwide to be inadequate, largely because they lacked rigour. This compared with 40pc last year.

Ofsted looked at 173 serious case reviews carried out in 2008-09, but found just 23pc to be “good” and 43pc to be “adequate”.

Just one serious case review in Suffolk was looked at by Ofsted and deemed to be adequate.

Christine Gilbert, the regulator's chief inspector, said: “Agencies and local authorities are looking more rigorously at their processes and practices to learn lessons from tragic incidents. Learning these lessons will help protect more children from harm.

“However, much more work needs to be done to address the remaining weaknesses and to ensure that lessons lead to improved outcomes for children and young people.

“It is of great concern that over a third of reviews are still judged inadequate.”

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