Reflections from the SCIE Learning Together London pilots – an interim report

Published: October 2011

The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) has been working in collaboration with the London Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) to pilot the SCIE Learning Together model for case reviews in seven London Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs). The project began in February and is scheduled to end in the autumn.

Pairs of Lead Reviewers from each participating LSCB have formed a group to receive training and support provided by SCIE. It is a practice-based model of learning whereby the Lead Reviewers proceed with putting the systems approach into practice in a live case review, coming together for training and group supervision at regular intervals throughout the process, with one individual session during the report writing stage.

A systems approach for case reviews

The SCIE Learning Together model uses a methodology known as a ‘systems approach’. This has been specifically designed to shed light on ways that the latent conditions of organisational configurations make good practice either more or less likely. Improvements then focus on redesigning the work environment to make it harder for professionals to safeguard poorly and easier for them to do so well (cf. Institute of Medicine 1999). In this process, a single case provides a ‘window’ on the workings of the system more generally. It requires getting a close up view of frontline work and understanding the pressures, dilemmas and resources that are brought to bear when staff attempt to do their jobs. To-date it has been used on cases that do not meet Serious Case Review (SCR) criteria.

Government agree to use of systems methodology for SCRs

The final report of the Munro Review was published at the beginning of May. Professor Munro recommended that Government require LSCBs to use a systems approach in SCRs and work with the sector to provide accredited reviewers and support this change. Government has responded stating that they agree with this recommendation and will be giving further consideration to exactly how this will work. The response states that the SCIE pilots of Learning Together will inform the transition to systems review methodology.

In this context, the LSCBs participating in the London pilots of the SCIE Learning Together model and the London Project Management Group (PMG) agreed that it would be useful to share with non-participating LSCBs something of the experience of taking part, despite the pilots having not yet quite completed.

Who is taking part?

The London LSCBs taking part in the project are:

  1. Barnet
  2. Hackney
  3. Haringey
  4. Hillingdon
  5. Southwark
  6. Tower Hamlets
  7. Wandsworth

The pilots are being supported by a project management group chaired by Kay Bell, London Safeguarding Adviser. It is made up of participating LSCB pilot leads, some non-participating LSCBs, and others representing key stakeholder groups.

The training and support programme is being run by Dr. Sheila Fish, SCIE Senior Research Analyst and Learning Together lead, and Sue Bairstow, SCIE Associate.

What cases are being used?

Use of the SCIE model in a SCR would require a change to statutory guidance. The cases used in these pilots are therefore not SCRs. Some are cases which did meet the statutory criteria requiring LSCBs to consider doing an SCR and on consideration the LSCB chairs decided instead to pursue the learning by other means.

Being clear about what we are assessing

The London pilots do not test the SCIE Learning Together model in ideal conditions akin to something like a laboratory. Instead, they are ‘real world’ test sites in which people are using the model for the first time. Necessarily and legitimately, therefore, they produce as much learning about how to train and support people to put the model into practice for the first time, as about the effectiveness of the model itself. The pilots are part of a larger programme of on-going action learning to support the continual refinement of the approach and its application.

This interim report draws primarily on verbal feedback that Lead Reviewers have provided over the course of the training. Direct quotations are provided in blue boxes. Feedback will be formally sought from all participants in the seven sites once the pilots have been completed.


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