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

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter outlines the immediate 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.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in December 2017 in line with the requirement to notify Ofsted of any serious childcare incident using the Ofsted Notification Form for Serious Childcare Incidents.


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


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

Where information about the suspicious death of a child, 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 their 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 The line manager will immediately inform the Designated Manager (Death or Serious Injury to a Child) 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 local authority members as necessary;
  2. Ascertain as full details as possible from the Police and any other source;
  3. Request their 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 in the correct office location;
  5. Arrange through the administrative staff how 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's Inter Agency 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 Ofsted is submitted online and the contents entered must be reviewed by the Designated Manager before it is submitted. The form requires a range of information and is set out clearly in sections. A copy of the completed form should be saved and printed out for the records.

In urgent situations, the Deputy Director or Director of Children’s Services should telephone Ofsted on 0300 123 1231 and then complete the form.
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's Inter Agency 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 their 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.
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.
2.3

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

  1. Inform the Director of Children's Services, who will come to a decision about whether to notify the local authority 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's Inter Agency Procedures, including the need to hold a Serious Case Review;
  4. Inform Ofsted using the Notification Form for Serious Childcare Incidents.
2.4

The report to Ofsted is the same as the previously outlined online report above.

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

When a serious incident such as the death of a child occurs there is a two fold duty i.e. to ensure the effective management of any investigation alongside a duty of care to employees. This can be a difficult balance to manage as it is important to ensure that an investigation is carried out freely whilst at the same time ensuring that individual members of staff's needs are fully considered. Directors and managers will need to ensure that any investigation required can be carried out unimpeded whilst at the same time ensuring that people are neither left in, nor placed in, a potentially stressful situation. It is particularly important to be aware that there is a risk of increased stress if a member of staff is left isolated at such a vulnerable time.

Managers and/or other employees may also be deeply upset but be striving to appear strong for the sake of their colleagues or their teams. Conversely, they may not be feeling upset and can be confused by this. Dealing with a serious incident is often unknown territory and therefore it is important to provide opportunities for people to discuss how they are feeling and not to assume that another person's feelings can be known.

Roles and Responsibilities

Direct Line Manager

Managers are responsible for deciding which cases require notification to their Service Manager, Assistant Director and Director, and for deciding how to communicate with their staff in accordance with the serious incident reporting protocol.

In most cases, the direct line manager will be responsible for communicating with an employee throughout the process unless an alternative contact is more appropriate. They should inform the member of staff involved at the earliest possible time following the incident.

It may be necessary to consider disciplinary action but before any action can be taken an appropriate investigation must be carried out in line with Chapter 4.5.8 SCIP procedures which addresses the death or serious injury to a child.

The line manager should ensure that Human Resources advice is sought whenever a serious incident occurs.

Providing support when a Serious Incident is reported

Immediate Support: Individuals react differently in these situations and, depending on the circumstance, it may be necessary to arrange immediate professional counselling for an individual. Frequent contact between the employee and their manager/contact person is vital. Ideally this should be for a few minutes daily either in person or by phone, perhaps at the end of the day. If more direct contact is difficult, a short personal note is better than no contact at all.

Managers must remember that any decision must take into account any equality and diversity considerations. For example, does the employee have a disability or is the employee pregnant? These are only two of the protected characteristics that mean that managers will need to support a member of staff in a particular way.

Equally it may be important to arrange professional help for a team.

Where possible, a means of monitoring the take up and effectiveness of the support without compromising confidentiality or trust should be sought.

Managers should agree with Human Resources how information will be shared and contact maintained with the member of staff e.g.

  • Who the main point of contact will be for the employee i.e. whether it will be the manager or another named person;
  • How support and counselling are to be offered;
  • If and how an employee can remain in work and whether alternative work should be considered;
  • Whether or not suspension is appropriate.

Human Resources

The role of Human Resources is to advise and support managers to ensure that they carry out their duty of care to staff when a serious incident occurs.

Depending on the facts as they are known at the time, it may be necessary to suspend the individual if no alternative course of action can be found. Arrangements for the suspension of staff are set out in the PCC disciplinary procedure. The decision to suspend will have a significant impact on an individual; therefore it is essential that considerations be given to:

  • How the member of staff will be kept updated about the progress of an investigation;
  • How they will be informed of any feedback from an investigation;
  • How links will be maintained with the team so that the staff member is kept informed of other matters occurring within the team/unit.

Returning to Work: It is often useful to arrange a visit back to the office before the employee returns to work. For some people, returning on a part-time basis for the first few days can be helpful. It is natural for the employee to be less productive at first, and the manager should ensure that any health and safety and equality and diversity considerations are dealt with in situations where reduced powers of concentration could put the employee or others at risk.

Managers and Personnel should consider the impact on other people, including themselves. It can be particularly distressing to be involved in a serious incident such as the death of a child so support should be made available if appropriate.

Longer term monitoring: Depending on whether or not the employee has any personal support outside work, contact may taper off over time but it should be remembered that coping with the trauma of a serious incident can be long term.

Upon completion of all investigations the manager must ensure that members of staff receive feedback and debriefing in advance of the completion of the overview report of the PSCB.

The following Peterborough City Council policies relate to this guidance:

  • Special Leave Policy;
  • Work-life Balance Policy and Procedure;
  • Sickness Management Guidance;
  • Health and Safety Policy;
  • Equality and Diversity Policy.

End