Learning together to safeguard children: developing a multi-agency systems approach for case reviews

Key concepts and fundamental assumptions - Conversations


  • Understanding people’s ‘local rationality’ requires talking with them.
  • ‘Conversations’ describes these meetings better than ‘interviews’.

A formal, fact-finding interview of the pseudo-legalistic kind is not well suited to the task of trying to see what the world looked like through someone else’s eyes. Consequently, we have chosen not to use the term ‘interview’ in order to avoid the wrong connotations. Speaking instead of ‘conversations’ highlights that one of the main aims is to identify, respectfully, the approach taken by the person.

Where do children and families fit?

Jake Chapman memorably said that ‘One can “deliver” a parcel or a pizza, but not health or education’ (Chapman, 2004: 10). The same is true of safeguarding services, because achieving good outcomes requires the constructive engagement of the intended recipients. Children and young people, and their parents and carers, therefore, need to be seen as active participants within the system, not outside.

SCIE’s earlier work (Bostock et al 2005) indicated that involving young people and parents would be less problematic than practitioners might otherwise imagine. Services users in the study wanted an open approach to learning from mistakes and were happy to help prevent the same thing happening to other people even if there was no direct benefit to them. They also generally understood, and were sympathetic to, the pressures that social workers were under.

Much of the systems literature stresses the need to understand and value frontline workers’ perception of events and processes, but there is comparatively little detail relevant to facilitating the involvement of families. Practical issues remain about exactly how parents and children are best involved. Regrettably, we have not been able to develop this aspect of the model because, despite our initial intentions, we were not able to involve parents or children in either pilot case review.  This should be part of the next stage of development of the model.

Next in this section: Narrative of multi-agency perspectives