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UWE lawyers contribute to rethinking child protection strategy

Date:15 JUN 2015
Researchers from Bristol Law School at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) are releasing the first Evidence Briefing to Ministers today from an ESRC funded project entitled 'Rethinking Child Protection Strategy'.

UWE Bristol researchers Dr Lauren Devine and Mr Stephen Parker have completed the first phase of the project that is funded by ESRC's Transformative Research Call. Their work takes a fresh look at aspects of child protection and safeguarding processes and their effectiveness.

The research is investigating the costs (financial, social and economic) of child protection intervention, a multi-billion pound per annum industry. The research will include evaluation of the harms caused by interventions as well as the benefits. The project is particularly interested in researching how rationed services mean requests for support are mixed with allegations of child abuse, making it difficult to separate one from the other.

Dr Lauren Devine said, 'We can see that the mixing of referrals for support services with referrals for suspected child abuse is problematic. We recommend fewer low-level assessments and wider availability of universal support services.'

The first phase of the project involved an analysis of child protection and safeguarding referrals and social work assessments. The data demonstrates a 311 percent increase in referrals over the 22 years studied, but no corresponding increase in the detection of child abuse.

The results raise questions about the policy towards year on year increased referrals and the resultant pressure on social workers and Children's Services Departments to make decisions about which cases should continue onto assessment and beyond, and which should not.

The next stage of the project investigates the impact of Public Inquiries and Serious Case Reviews, undertaken when a child dies, is seriously harmed and where there are systemic cases of abuse or of over-intervention.

Over the summer period two symposia will be organised at UWE Bristol to discuss the questions raised by the research.

The project's home page can be accessed here.

The Evidence Briefing is available at http://www.esrc.ac.uk/news-and-events/publications/evidence-briefings/index.aspx