Voluntary agencies: learning from case reviews Summary of risk factors and learning for improved practice with voluntary agencies

Two women and a teenage girl sat at a tableSerious case reviews tend to fall into two categories: cases where a family's problems are known to local services and where a number of different agencies are involved in supporting the parents and/or children; and cases where local services are not aware of any particular problems. Cases that involve the voluntary sector almost always fall into the first category: highly complex cases, often with long-standing problems where multiple agencies are providing services to the family.

Most of the findings from our series of briefings on "learning from case reviews" are relevant to practitioners in voluntary agencies. This briefing focuses on learning that specifically relates to the voluntary sector.

Published: July 2014


Authors

This briefing summarises the learning from case review reports. It is an analysis by the NSPCC Information Service, highlighting risk factors and key learning for improved practice.

Reasons case reviews were commissioned

This briefing is based on case reviews published since 2011. It pulls together and highlights the learning contained in the published reports.

The children in these case reviews became the subject of reviews following:

    • sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and sexually harmful behaviour
    • infant death following head injury in family living with domestic abuse
    • chronic neglect over a period of years.

Key issues for voluntary agencies in case reviews

Voluntary agencies are often providing services to adults who are parents. The focus from practitioners on the parents’ issues sometimes meant the impact on their children was overlooked.

When statutory services refer children and/or adults to services provided by the voluntary sector, this may or may not be part of a formal care or support plan. But professionals are not always familiar with the specific referral criteria of other organisations’ individual services. This can lead to inappropriate referrals being made or inappropriate services being provided. 

Case reviews highlight that there was often confusion, misunderstanding or assumptions about which agencies were involved with a family and what services were actually being provided to different family members.

Voluntary agencies often have different relationships with their clients than statutory agencies. This difference in culture can mean that practitioners do not always prioritise a child’s safeguarding needs over the wish to maintain good relationships with the parents. 

Learning for improved practice

  • Voluntary agencies providing services to adults who are parents must consider the impact of a parent’s problems on their ability to care for and safeguard their children.
  • Always report concerns about a child’s safety or welfare to the relevant agencies. 

 

Serious case reviews often highlight the good practice of voluntary agencies in sharing their concerns with statutory agencies. There are many examples of the persistence of individual practitioners in making referrals.

  • Whilst telephone and face to face conversations can be more immediate, they should always be followed up with formalised referrals of concerns to relevant services.
  • If it seems that no action has been taken, practitioners should follow-up to check that the referral was received and appropriately dealt with by the relevant team.

 

  • Clarify with the referrer exactly what services will be provided by voluntary agencies and to which family members.
  • Clarify which organisations are taking which roles. Do not rely on implicit understandings or assumptions.
  • Continue to report concerns to all relevant agencies. Do not assume that other agencies are sharing information between themselves. 

 

  • Tell the referrer if the client is not engaging with the service (including refusing to attend or missing appointments).
  • Consider how to overcome barriers to client engagement, such as clients not having the bus fare to get to the service. 

 

  • Information about families, safeguarding concerns, services provided and action taken should be recorded in detail.
  • Information about family arrangements should be gathered so that it can be used to inform risk assessments. (This includes where children live and information about any men visiting, staying or living in the home).
  • Robust and timely assessments should be undertaken and progress and developments recorded. 

 

  • Information about safeguarding concerns should be shared with relevant agencies even if the clients do not consent to this. 

 

  • All staff should receive relevant training around safeguarding including understanding the risks that are related specifically to the work they undertake and client group they work with.

 

  • All staff should receive relevant training around safeguarding including understanding the risks that are related specifically to the work they undertake and client group they work with.

 

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Working together with the Association of Independent LSCB Chairs to make finding the learning from case reviews published in 2014 and 2013 easy to find.

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The services and process in place across the United Kingdom to protect children at risk of  abuse, neglect or harm.

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