Ages of concern: learning lessons from serious case reviews: a thematic report of Ofsted’s evaluation of serious case reviews from 1 April 2007 to 31 March 2011

Document type
Corporate author(s)
Great Britain. Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (England)
Date of publication
26 October 2011
Children and Young People
Social welfare
Material type

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This thematic report covers evaluations of 482 serious case reviews carried out between April 2007 and the end of March 2011. The main focus is on reviews that concerned babies less than one year old and young people aged 14 or above as previous reports have identified that a large proportion of cases concerned these two groups. The reviews on young people aged 14 or above show a wide diversity of reasons for the serious case reviews and explore their different vulnerabilities. This report does not focus on the Ofsted evaluation of these reviews or the data behind them, instead providing an opportunity to explore the lessons learnt in relation to specific age groups of children in more depth and drawing out practice implications for practitioners and Local Safeguarding Children Boards.

In the reviews that concerned babies less than one year old some common recurring errors were seen. These included shortcomings in the timeliness and quality of pre-birth assessments; the risks resulting from the parents’ own needs were underestimated, particularly given the vulnerability of babies; there had been insufficient support for young parents; the role of the fathers had been marginalised; there was a need for improved assessment of, and support for, parenting capacity; there were particular lessons for both commissioning and provider health agencies, whose practitioners are often the only agency involved with the family in the early months; and practitioners underestimated the fragility of the baby.

The cases about young people over the age of 14 were notable for the wide diversity of incidents that resulted in serious case reviews. Although the lessons learnt tend to be quite specific to the particular cases, the reviews found that too often agencies had focused on the young person’s challenging behaviour, rather than trying to understand the causes of the behaviour and the need for sustained support; young people were treated as adults rather than being considered as children, because of confusion about the young person’s age and legal status; and a coordinated approach to the young people’s needs was lacking.

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