The ITV report, dated 15.07.15, highlighted that…
“January 5, 2011: Daniel suffers a broken arm at Krezolek’s hands and is not taken to hospital for at least 12 hours despite being in pain each time the broken bones grind together. Luczak and her partner tell doctors, police and social services the injury was sustained accidentally when Daniel fell off a sofa. They also enlist the help of Daniel’s sibling to lie to the authorities about the incident. Daniel’s weight is recorded at 14.8 kg”
“October 11, 2011: A school nurse and a school health support worker make a home visit and are told that Daniel is eating excessively every night. The school nurse refers Daniel to a community paediatrician after being told that he has punched Luczak when not given food.”
“Tuesday February 28 2012: Daniel is said to appear “pasty” and was not interacting with other pupils. He is also observed to be pale and his eyes were sunken.”
“Thursday March 1 2012: Daniel attends school, where he is seen to take a half-eaten piece of fruit out of a bin, and to eat play jelly which other children were making shapes with.”
The accounts of what happened to Daniel raises some obvious questions about how Daniel could be seen by so many professionals and nobody notices the severe deterioration in his health? How could the Social Worker and Police have missed the indications of child abuse? How could the Health Visitor and school support worker not make a referrals to Children’s Services; even if it meant re-referring?
It can be easy to think that one would pick up on the ‘clues’ and ‘indicators’, but that is only because you have the privilege of hindsight.
During our time working in Children’s Services departments, schools and with health professionals, AAF have noticed how easy it is for staff to miss ‘obvious’ clues, which leads to failure to make quick and necessary referrals to the right authorities; as well as the premature closure of a family’s case when it is already known to Children’s Services.
There can be a number of reasons why reports to Children’s Services are not made by professionals. Here are just a few:
- Professionals have a ‘good’ relationship with parents and they don’t want to damage the relationship. This makes it difficult or impossible for them to consider the ‘unthinkable’; I.e. Abuse,
- Professionals find it very difficult and often feel intimidated about having ‘difficult’ conversations around the harm of children, so they just avoid it,
- A child may be unable to verbalise their experiences, perhaps due to disability, language development or age,
- Staff are busy rushing from one duty to the other, leaving scope for ‘obvious’ signs to be missed and not reported in a timely manner to the relevant authorities,
- Professionals can feel put off by referring families to Children’s Services, especially when they feel ‘nothing will be done’ to help the family because of Social Workers being too busy.
There are also a number of reasons why families already known to Children’s Services are not given the right level of support or input to address the risk and need for support. Here are just a few reasons:
- Social Workers have very high case loads with little or no supervision and support themselves,
- Many Social Workers can not effectively advocate for themselves, let alone, the children and families they work for,
- Thresholds for families being referred to Children’s Services vary from borough to borough; and they are often too high, meaning families need to be at crisis point before they receive proper input,
- Assessments by Social Workers are of poor quality, not being comprehensive enough, analytical and fail to provide creative and expert recommendations,
- Social Workers are too busy to prepare for visits with family members, which impacts on the quality of their engagement and therefore the quality of information they receive in order to make an accurate risk and needs assessment,
- Social Workers can sometimes misuse their power to get families to engage, instead of focusing on rapport building which yields far greater success.
When ‘obvious’ signs of child abuse and neglect are missed, it is usually always involving poor communication between all the professionals who are working with the family and too great a focus on one aspect of the circumstance, for example in Daniel’s case there may have been too great a focus, by all professionals involved, on the need for support for Daniel’s parents, instead of professionals remaining focused on what Daniel had experienced and the possible risks that he would have suffered.
These clips show just how easy it can be to miss the ‘obvious’:
Thinking the unthinkable is what practitioners must do in order really safeguard children. The result can be fatal…
“After being collected from school by Luczak Daniel was beaten about the head at his home, at about tea-time, suffering a fatal brain injury. He is then left to die alone in a box room.”
AAF is on a mission to help Schools, Health Visitors, Children’s Centres and Social Workers increase their safeguarding awareness, risk assessment skills and engagement with families in order to better protect and help children and their families.
Contact us to attend our training.