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1.5.1 Death or Serious Injury to a Child (Looked After and Child In Need)

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

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

These steps are in addition to the carrying out of the Local Safeguarding Children Board Procedures in relation to the need to hold a Serious Case Review and the work of the Child Death Overview Panel.

This chapter uses the expression Designated Manager (Death or Serious Injury to a Child). This person should also be notified in circumstances where there is a serious injury to a child.

RELATED CHAPTER

Cumbria LSCB, Multi-Agency Guidance - Response to Unexpected Death in Infants, Children and Young People Procedure

AMENDMENT

In August 2016, Section 4, Role of Fostering Support Worker… focus on carers, Section 5, Role of Fostering Team Manager, Section 6, Managing any Inquest, and Section 7, Managing Publicity, were added.


Contents

  1. Death of or Serious Injury to a Child in the Community
  2. Death of or Serious Injury to a Child in Care
  3. Needs of Social Worker / Team / Manager / Carer
  4. Role of Fostering Support Worker… focus on carers
  5. Role of Fostering Team Manager
  6. Managing any Inquest
  7. Managing Publicity


1. Death of or Serious Injury of a Child in the Community

Where information comes to notice of the suspicious death or serious injury to a child living in the community, the following tasks are required.

1.1

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 injury and pass this to the line manager.
1.2 In this circumstance the Need to Know Policy will be used. The line manager will immediately inform the Designated Manager (Death or Serious Injury to a Child) (see Documents Library, Appendices) by telephone and provide follow up information in writing as soon as possible afterwards.
1.3

The Designated Manager (Death or Serious Injury to a Child) will:

  1. Inform the Director of Children's Services, who will notify members as necessary;
  2. Ascertain as full details as possible from the Police and any other source;
  3. Request his or her administrative staff to check Children's Services records on the child and family and print out any information held;
  4. Collect any files held on the child and family and secure them at his or her office;
  5. Arrange through his or her administrative staff to inform the other relevant agencies about the death/serious injury and remind them to secure their files;
  6. Arrange to consider the circumstances of the death/serious injury, in accordance with the Local Safeguarding Children Board Procedures, including the need to hold a Serious Case Review or referral to the Child Death Overview Panel;
  7. Inform Ofsted using the Notification Form for Serious Childcare Incidents.
1.4

The report to the Secretary of State will include the following information and must be approved by the Designated Manager (Death of a Child) before it is sent:

  • Local authority;
  • Child's name;
  • Parents' names;
  • Date of birth;
  • Date of death/serious injury;
  • Child's legal status;
  • Child's ethnicity, religion, language, disability;
  • Cause of death as on Death Certificate;
  • Dates if any when child was subject to a Child Protection Plan;
  • The date and findings of the Post Mortem, Inquest and any criminal proceedings initiated. It may be necessary to notify these details at a later date;
  • Brief details of the case;
  • Local authority duties in respect of the child;
  • Policy and practice issues raised and intended local authority action (to follow later if necessary).
1.5 Where a Serious Case Review is to be held, this must be conducted in accordance with Chapter 4: Working Together to Safeguard Children and the Local Safeguarding Children Board Procedures.
1.6 If a decision is made not to hold a Serious Case Review by the Chair of the Local Safeguarding Children Board, this will be notified to Ofsted and the National Panel of Independent Experts on Serious Case Reviews in accordance with the Local Safeguarding Children Board Procedures.


2. Death of or Serious Injury to a Child in Care

Where information comes to notice of the death of or serious injury to a child in care, the following tasks are required.

2.1

The child's Social Worker will:

  1. Immediately inform his or her line manager;
  2. Notify the parent(s) immediately and in person, if possible;
  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 a serious injury to the child, arrange with the parent(s) to visit the child in hospital;
  5. Obtain as much information as possible on the circumstances surrounding the cause of death/serious injury 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;
  8. Identify any sibling needs in relation to funeral or bereavement responses;

  9. Maintain regular telephone or face-to-face contact (daily in initial stages) with Social Worker Fostering as determined by Childcare/Fostering planning meetings to share information and coordinate direct support contacts with carers and relevant children;

  10. Maintain frequent contact with any siblings, birth parents and carers;

  11. Meet with carers and Social Worker Fostering on frequent basis (at least in the initial stages) as guided by child care planning meetings until the role of the victim support police, other professionals e.g. GP, and other personal support of choice e.g. vicar/close friends is clear. It is recognised in the early stages this will be immediate loss and grief trauma and many immediate practicalities that may need support. A couple of weeks after the funeral the social worker should consider children’s needs for counselling or other supports in the medium term and make, arrangements or recommendations to the Childcare/Fostering planning meeting as needed.

2.2

The line manager will:

  1. Immediately inform the Designated Manager (Death of a Child) by telephone and provide follow up information in writing as soon as possible afterwards;
  2. Advise Legal Services initially by telephone, then confirm details in writing; and
  3. Contact the Insurance Section of the Finance Department, initially by telephone and then in writing;
  4. Chair a “Childcare/Fostering” meeting that day (or at least within 24 working hours) between the child’s Social Work Team and the Fostering Team, including the fostering manager to coordinate immediate planning and support for carers and relevant children. This will be followed by a joint visit to the carers by the childcare and fostering social workers;

  5. Record a likely timeline of events from date of death, notifications to different parties, through to funeral, death certificate issuing, and any inquest in order to plan in follow up meetings;

  6. Chair follow-up meetings (see above) at frequency to be determined as required to coordinate ongoing planning and support for carers and relevant children;

  7. Contact carers and offer to visit so the carers understand there is an offer from the line manager in addition to that of the social worker. Keep in touch with carer on a monthly basis in order to check how satisfied they are with the coordinated support arrangements;

  8. Convene meetings as and when required or in response to specific significant issues/concerns/difficulties and in advance of any up and coming inquest. This should include Team Manager from Childcare and Fostering, carers (where agreed between Team Managers) and others as appropriate;

  9. Review and authorise resources needed by any siblings affected, or the circumstances of the birth parents, and ensure the social worker has obtained and provided relevant information and guidance depending on the age and understanding of children and adults;

  10. The lead team manager has responsibility for reporting back to the designated manager for final authority on more complex matters.

2.3

The Designated Manager (Death or Serious Injury to a Child) (see Documents Library, Appendices) 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. Arrange, in consultation with the Safeguarding Manager, appropriate meetings under the Local Safeguarding Children Board Procedures, including the need to hold a Serious Case Review;
  4. Inform Ofsted using the Notification Form for Serious Childcare Incidents;
  5. Receive feedback and from the lead Team Manager and Team Manager fostering as required where decisions cannot be mutually agreed and determine action as needed.
2.4

The report to the Department for Education will include the following information in the order shown:

  • Local authority;
  • Child's name;
  • Parents' names and support being offered to them;
  • Date of birth;
  • Date of death/serious injury;
  • Child's legal status;
  • Child's ethnicity, religion, language, disability;
  • Cause of death as on Death Certificate;
  • Dates if any when child was subject to a Child Protection Plan;
  • The date and findings of the Post Mortem, Inquest and any criminal proceedings initiated. It may be necessary to notify these details at a later date;
  • Brief details of the case, including type of placement;
  • Local authority duties in respect of the child;
  • Intention of the local authority to hold an independent management review;
  • Policy and practice issues raised and intended local authority action (to follow later if necessary).

In the event of a Serious Case being required, the steps outlined in Section 3, Needs of Social Worker/Team/Manager/Carer should be followed.


3. 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 ongoing 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.


4. Role of Fostering Support Worker… focus on carers

  • Maintain regular telephone or face-to-face contact (daily initial stages) with childcare Social Worker as determined by Childcare/Fostering planning meetings to share information and coordinate direct supportive contacts with carers and relevant;
  • Maintain frequent contact with carers (daily on initial basis);
  • Meet with carers and childcare social worker on frequent regular basis (at least in the initial stages);
  • Ensure on line resources or other known helpful bereavement guides for emotional support of foster carers is made available in the early and later stage;
  • Where there is an identified need for independent emotional support specific to the role of carer as opposed to generic NHS counselling then request access to ‘emotional wellbeing specialist or independent agencies like ‘fostertalk’ to provide talking support independent of the supervising social work role.


5. Role of Fostering Team Manager

  • Make contact with carers in the initial stages, offer to visit, be available, keep in touch with carers so the carers understand there is an offer from the line manager in addition to that of the fostering support social worker;
  • Ensure continuity of fostering support to carers;
  • Keep in touch with the social work Team Manager on a monthly basis in order to check and adjust coordinated support arrangements as needed;
  • Ensure timely ‘independent fostering emotional support' is authorised and made available in a timely way;
  • Attend arranged child care/fostering joint meetings as needed.


6. Managing any Inquest

The Social Worker and/or the Fostering Officer as soon as they are aware of the child’s death should notify Corporate Legal Services, Senior Legal Officer or Group Solicitor and Manager by email of the child’s death. They will be the point of contact with the coroner and will be the point of contact with regard to any inquest.

Should any member of the Children and Families department have any queries or be contacted by the Coroner, they should immediately let legal know and they will deal with any response. They will also assist with what is required for the inquest or support staff that may be required to attend an inquest.


7. Managing Publicity

The Team Managers childcare and fostering should consider any possible publicity issues that may affect the children, carers, or reputation of the department and liaise with the designated senior manager and a designated member of the County Council Communications Team.

The designated senior manager will determine what matters can be placed in the public domain, speak with the press and resolve any disputes arising from any conflicts of interests.

Please see, Cumbria LSCB, Multi-Agency Guidance - Response to Unexpected Death in Infants, Children and Young People Procedure

End