Journal Article

Inquiring into Non-Accidental Child Deaths: Reviewing the Review Process

John Devaney, Anne Lazenbatt and Lisa Bunting

in The British Journal of Social Work

Volume 41, issue 2, pages 242-260
Published in print March 2011 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online May 2010 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Inquiring into Non-Accidental Child Deaths: Reviewing the Review Process

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There is significant public and professional interest in the non-accidental death of children where abuse and neglect are suspected of being contributory factors. Systems for reviewing these deaths have been developed in each of the four jurisdictions within the UK. The main aims are to ensure that individuals and professionals are held to account if practice falls below the expected standard, whilst also seeking to strengthen the systems for protecting children through reflecting on what lessons, if any, can be learnt from the death of a child through abuse or neglect. Recently, the benefit of such inquiries and the quality of serious case reviews have come under scrutiny. In this paper, the authors report the findings of a Delphi study that sought to explore how the process of conducting reviews following the death of a child could be improved through seeking the views of experienced professionals responsible for child protection in Northern Ireland. The authors conclude that the system does command professional support, but could be improved through greater attention to process issues and a stronger emphasis on translating learning into action. In common with research looking at other recent practice developments, there is a need to focus on process indicators as a means to ensuring that well intentioned policies are translated into workable and functioning practices.

Keywords: Child death; fatal child abuse; inquiry; child protection; serious case review

Journal Article.  7350 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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