Page last updated at 00:29 GMT, Thursday, 8 April 2010 01:29 UK

NSPCC calls for reform of child abuse inquiries

The NSPCC says Serious Case Reviews are too costly and do not work

The NSPCC has urged a major overhaul of the system for investigating cases of child abuse and neglect, saying it is too costly, too slow and may not work.

Inquiries known as Serious Case Reviews (SCR) take place in England and Wales whenever a child is killed or harmed through suspected abuse or neglect.

The NSPCC says there is no evidence that these improve child protection.

But Ofsted, which evaluates all SCRs in England, said they were a significant contribution to child protection.

Around 200 SCRs are conducted in England and Wales every year with the aim of helping the social services and the police to learn lessons and make sure makes sure cases such as Victoria Climbie and baby Peter are not repeated.

'Too costly'

It is estimated the reviews cost between £8m to £12m annually.

But Wes Cuell, director of children and family services at the NSPCC told BBC Radio 4's The Report: "We spend a vast amount of money writing these things, preparing for them, a lot of time and effort and worry in in evaluating how good they are but we don't know whether these things are actually working.

BBC Radio 4, Thursday 8 April at 2000 BST
Or download the podcast.

"The government produces a summary every two years on the outcomes and it is like reading the same detective story over and over again."

Mr Cuell said there needed to be a simpler way of finding out what went wrong in these cases, with the ultimate goal of making children safer.

Reform plans

"Most of the major points you can learn are very elementary and basic. You probably know within days in most cases what the main elements of the failure were," said.

Ofsted director of social care John Goldup defended the reviews, citing a drop in the number of SCRs rated as "inadequate" by Ofsted.

There is already one significant change planned. The Welsh Assembly, faced with a backlog of up to 60 SCRs, has held a year-long review of its system and has recommended that investigations should be shorter and there should be fewer of them.

The Report is on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday, 8 April at 2000 BST. You can also listen via the BBC iPlayer after broadcast or download the podcast.

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