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Child protection professionals would benefit from appreciative inquiry techniques during reviews rather than always feeling blamed or defensive.  That’s according to independent reviewer and specialist in safeguarding and domestic abuse cases Donna Ohdedar.

Donna, who created the SILP model (Significant Incident Learning Process) for reviews back in 2010, has been invited by the Association of Child Protection Professionals to host a webinar in May discussing the benefits of adopting appreciative inquiry techniques.  She said:

“Rather than focusing on blame and what causes things to go wrong, appreciative inquiry focuses on what went well and what future we should aim for.  It’s a much more collaborative and strengths-based approach to change.  It doesn’t mean the analysis needed for a statutory review is any less robust. 

“When practice falls short of what was expected, leaders are under pressure to demonstrate accountability.  This generally leads to more compliance measures and defensiveness.  It detracts from a focus on creating the conditions for workers to do what they do best.  Adding more recommendations and action plans creates overwhelm.  The learning experience a review offers can create a very different environment whilst still being thorough and robust.”

Donna, who also offers ‘SILP School’, her university-accredited SILP review course, believes that embedding appreciative inquiry techniques into reviews is in the best interests of all safeguarding professionals, increasing motivation and engagement in the review process, encouraging greater performance and enabling teams to be more effective in managing change.

Adrian Spanswick, who chairs the Practice Learning Review Special Interest Group (SIG) for the AoCPP said:

“For our first SIG of 2024 we wanted to look at how we learn lessons from a safeguarding case using a positive approach in regard to organisational leadership and system change.  Appreciative inquiry provides the framework for a strengths-based approach, considers existing strengths within a system and will facilitate learning and new initiatives. 

“Donna has wide experience working with reviewing consulting and system methodology and her understanding of safeguarding in promoting learning, utilising appreciative inquiry to promote best practice and create initiatives to support system change through robust reviews.  We look forward to an interesting presentation and interactive session.”

‘Robust Reviews Using Appreciative Inquiry Techniques’ will take place on Thursday 9th May at 12.30pm – 2pm.  There will also be an opportunity for questions.

Members of the AOCPP can access the lunch and learn for free and non-members can join for £15.  If you are interested in attending, please book your place here: https://donna-ohdedar.mykajabi.com/aocpp


For more information about Donna Ohdedar, please visit www.reviewconsulting.co.uk

The Association of Child Protection Professionals welcomes the publication of the ‘Independent assurance review of the effectiveness of multi-agency responses to child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester’. This provides an opportunity to understand ‘lessons learned’ and to consider what next for supporting practitioners working with potential victims of child sexual exploitation (CSE).

The report reminds us of the tenacity of individuals who worked tirelessly to try and identify, safeguard and support the victims. These voices, alongside those of many children, were ignored, allowing perpetrators to continue the abuse. The review findings call to mind ‘If only someone had listened’ (the Children’s Commissioners report of November 2013 into Child Sexual Exploitation in Gangs and Groups), which also provided evidence of professionals not listening to, or believing, child victims. The independent assurance review details the serious failures of Greater Manchester Police and Children’s Social Care in protecting children from the abuse they received at the hands of organised grooming gangs. There is perhaps a renewed need for all agencies (across the UK) to consider their roles in preventing sexual exploitation and to commit to hearing, believing and advocating for victims.

Although the review details the attempts of individuals to investigate allegations, to refer into appropriate safeguarding process and protect these vulnerable children, it also highlights the failure of agencies and senior leadership within them. With the familiar roll call of under resourcing and workload considerations provided as explanation there are remaining questions about the ability to respond effectively to ‘lessons learned’ if systemic factors contributing to these failures endure. The upcoming 4th part of the report, looking into whether we can have confidence in current arrangements for protecting children from sexual abuse, will perhaps provide an indication of this.

Whilst we await the publication of this, the findings of the recent report reinforce for the AoCPP the importance of multi-agency and multi-disciplinary child protection approaches to safeguard and protect vulnerable young people and adults. The review strengthens our resolve to offer multidisciplinary learning spaces for child protection professionals to come together to support this objective.

The Association of Child Protection Profesisonals and Child Abuse Review, are looking for a new Interim Co-Editor following the stepping down of a current co-Editor, Professor Lisa Bunting. The new Interim Co-Editor post will commence at a mutually agreed date, until January 2024. The successful candidate will work closely with Co-Editor Professor Kish Bhatti-Sinclair, the CAR Editorial Team and Board, as well as key contacts at the Association and the publisher.

Child Abuse Review (CAR) provides a forum for all those working in the field of child protection and safeguarding, giving them access to the latest research findings, practice developments, training initiatives and policy issues. The Journal's remit includes all forms of maltreatment, whether they occur inside or outside the family environment, and all aspects of safeguarding. Papers are written in a style appropriate for a multidisciplinary and international audience.

The Journal maintains a practice orientated focus and authors of research papers are encouraged to examine and discuss implications for practitioners. By always emphasising research/practice links, it is the Journal’s aim to promote practice-relevant research and to facilitate the use of research findings, to enhance good practice and influence policy.

The Editorial Board, in all its activities, seeks to prevent discrimination on the grounds of age, gender, racial origin, culture, religious belief, language, disability, economic status or political views. The Journal has a policy of encouraging inclusive practice and for this reason authors are asked to consider the applicability of their work to all groups.

CAR publishes six issues per year, and each issue includes a mix of refereed original research and practice papers, short reports, Continuing Professional Development articles, Training Matters articles, and book reviews. This is an exciting time to join the journal which publishes an increasing number of Open Access articles, holds an Impact Factor of 2.086, and has grown a strong social media presence and global readership.

To ensure the robust health of the journal going into the future, CAR is particularly interested in maintaining its strong special issue programme, measures to expand the internationality of the Editorial board/authorship, and new ways to increase the annual number of exceptional quality published articles.

In addition to the current co-Editors, the editorial team consists of a number of Associate Editors, and a Statistical Editor. See the full Editorial Board here.

The successful candidate for the position will be recognised as an expert in the field of child protection and have an established track record of publications and conference presentations. They will also have an extensive network of contacts, so that the profile of the Journal can continue to be developed.

A full job description of the role can be found here.

How to Apply

For an informal discussion about the post, please contact Kish Bhatti-Sinclair K.Bhatti-Sinclair@chi.ac.uk

Applicants should send a covering letter, curriculum vitae and a short assessment of the strengths and potential areas of development of Child Abuse Review to Sarah Scoffield, Journals Publishing Manager, Wiley. Email: sarah.scoffield@wiley.com

Candidates invited to interview will be asked to present their vision for the journal and their contribution to the Editor role in a short presentation. Applications are welcome from those who wish to apply as a sole Editor-in-Chief, or as co-Editors.

Deadline for expressions of interest: 6th March 2023

Interviews (via video conference): From 15th March 2023

After the Government announced their response to Josh MacAlister’s ‘Review of Children’s Social Care’, AoCPP Trustee - Dr Ciaran Murphy -speaks to BBC Radio West Midlands about the inadequacy of the response and the current state of England's children's social care system.

On the 2nd February, 2023, I was asked by the Association of Child Protection Professionals (AoCPP) (for whom I am a Trustee) to provide an interview to BBC Radio West Midlands ‘Drive’ on the ‘state of England’s children’s social care system’. The interview was timely given that Government had, that day, announced their long-awaited response to Josh MacAlister’s ‘Review of Children’s Social Care’ – with a headline announcement that £200m would be invested in improving England’s children’s social care system over the next two years.

The interviewer, Paul Franks, began the interview by drawing my attention to a comment made by Arthur Labinjo-Hughes grandfather Peter Halcrow, that when Arthur was visited by social workers before his death, they had assessed that because his house was ‘clean’, ‘there was nothing to worry about’. Of course, we now know that Arthur was being systematically abused by his father and step-mother – abuse that ended in his appalling murder in June 2020. Peter also rightly observed that if social workers had ‘lifted up [Arthur’s] shirt and seen the bruising… then they might have thought otherwise’. This led Paul Franks to ask me: ‘[Social workers] went round to the house, saw everything was clean, and so thought everything was ok – is that what people in social care do? Surely, they should be looking at the child, not the house’.

Those who listened to the interview perhaps spotted that I was quite taken aback by the question. My initial response was to express my regret at the terrible circumstances of Arthur’s death (I also retrospectively wish that I had passed on my explicit support and concern for the extended members of Arthurs family – like Peter – who, before his death, had tried desperately to raise the alarm). I then also pointed out that, despite repeated narratives to the contrary, England’s child protection system remains one of the best and most effective in the world, with thousands of success stories that we are not able to talk about (due, in the main, to important privacy and confidentiality safeguards that protect the identities of the children concerned – safeguards that they rightly deserve).

I also pointed out that the many incidents of success within the system, are despite its chronic underfunding dating back to 2010 – which can be aligned to successive Governments’ national policy of Austerity. As one example, I highlighted the case of a

Greater Manchester local authority, who, between 2010 and 2020, were compelled to cut their Children’s Services budget (notwithstanding school spending – which is ringfenced and protected by law) by an astonishing 82%. The £100m saved by this local authority (in the main by closing early help and preventative services like Sure Start Centres and the Youth Service provision) had purportedly saved them £100m over that 10-year period – a figure that I failed to point out is half the total amount that the Government has committed to ‘fix’ the Children’s Social Care System.

I went on to say that the repeated cuts to preventive and ‘early help’ services seen all around the country since 2010 (as children’s services departments try to save money under the auspices of ‘Austerity’), had driven more and more families into crisis – placing huge increased demand on an already overstretched child protection system. This, in combination with the restricted finances, has led to a massive increase in caseloads (with averages numbering more than double that which Herbert Laming, following his review into the death of Victoria Climbié, recommended should be considered a maximum ‘safe’ level).

I told Paul Franks that what this meant for frontline social workers was that they were repeatedly being spread ‘too thinly’, with feelings often shared that they ‘don’t have enough time to spend with individual children’. I also explained that in such a situation, it was inevitable that things would be missed, and that children whose unique circumstances did not fit neatly within predefined cohorts (like Arthur), would be especially susceptible to slipping through the ‘proverbial net of protection’.

Paul then asked me if in this context, the £200m committed by the Government was ‘just a drop in the ocean’, in respect to ‘what is needed’. My response was to point out that this figure is less than 8% of the minimum £2.6b identified as being required by the (Government commissioned) Review of Children’s Social Care. Moreover, it is less than 5% of the minimum amount that the Association of Directors of Children’s Services say that we need to get the system back to the place of safe operation. On this basis, I quoted a colleague at the AoCPP, whose one-word assessment also summed up my own thoughts: ‘inadequate’.

I finished the interview by asserting that until we as a country properly financially invest in the services that support children in care and in need of protection, it is inevitable that more tragedies (like that of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes) will occur, and more difficult questions will continue to be retrospectively asked of workers, service providers, and national government.

-Dr Ciaran Murphy

To listen to the full radio interview click here (interview starts at 3:08:30).

In December, Wendy Thorogood stepped down from her post as Interim Director.  Wendy has steered the Association through the challenges posed by a global pandemic.  This included moving to a new digital way of working and restructuring the office team, and going on to support the Association to survive in very turbulent times as we emerged from the pandemic.  What started off as a short-term interim position, has lasted for almost 2 years!  This is testament to Wendy’s passion and commitment to the organisation and her determination that it will not only survive, but thrive. The AoCPP Board, staff team and membership owes Wendy a huge debt of gratitude.

However, it’s not goodbye!  We are delighted that Wendy has agreed to remain with the AoCPP as part of the Board of Trustees.  The AoCPP Board is strong and active.  Much of the direction the organisation needs now comes directly from the Board, such is their level of engagement, expertise and willingness to support.  The addition of Wendy and her wealth of knowledge only serves to strengthen it further, and we look forward to many more years of working together.”

- Dr Sam Warner, Chair.

(An excerpt from our newsletter. If you want to sign up to our monthly newsletter, email hello@aocpp.org.uk)

Daniel Lavelle a Guardian journalist and author of the film, The care system failed me. What is it like for kids today? gives a moving account of his and others experiences in care, seeking to find out if the care system which failed him as a child, has changed for the better. Sadly his conclusion echo’s the sad the reality identified within recent government reviews that it has got worse.

The Independent Review of Social Care (May 2022) and the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (October 2022) both highlight the increased vulnerability of children within the care system, particularly those living in residential care and the need for change.

Young people in care are often aware that their vulnerability can be increased, but sadly feel that they have little to no control or say in their care planning decisions. Daniel talks of not being heard during his time in residential care, where he feels residential staff are ill-equipped to deal with complex emotional behaviours often resorting to restraining techniques to control outbursts of frustration by young people. Daniel highlights the need for residential staff to have appropriate training and education, to enable a trauma informed approached to caring for young people within the care system, rather than an authority and controlling approach. This view is supported through recommendations made by both the reviews, mentioned above, that all staff working in care roles in children’s residential care settings, including secure children’s homes, are subject to registration with an independent regulatory body, charged with setting and maintaining standards of training, conduct and continuing professional development, and with the power to enforce these through fitness to practise procedures.

You can watch the short film below. But if you're interested in discussing this theme more, join our Special Interest Group:

There are several themes within the film already debated by the AoCPP SIG for Children & Young People in Care and Care Experienced (C&YPiC and CE) and we are keen to take forward further debate and the sharing of good practice during our lunch time events.

The changes within government over the last six months has led to a delay in the DfE pledge to issue a response to the Care Review before the end of the year. Josh Mac Alister the lead of the review has been appointed to advise on the content of the implementation strategy and provide “ongoing challenge and scrutiny on the delivery and implementation plans” This alongside the government’s response to the recommendations published in the final report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, effecting and aiming to improve experiences and outcomes for children within the care system will help inform our SIG events going forward.

If you are working within or have an interest in safeguarding our children within the care system, we would be pleased to hear from you or join our next SIG, date to be circulated via our Events page or newsletter in the new year.

- Penny Earney

Chair of Children & Young People in Care and Care Experienced SIG

The Association of Child Protection Professionals is concerned to hear of recent reports that Shamima Begum was allegedly trafficked. Shamima was 15 years old and legally a child when she left the UK and joined ISIS in Syria following her radicalisation. She was subsequently sexually abused and experienced the loss of three of her children. Shamima’s case raises important issues about child exploitation, grooming, radicalisation, trafficking and the adultification of black and minority ethnic children.

The AoCPP believes that children who have been radicalised should be understood as victims of exploitation and that there is a need for consistency in the understanding, assessment and treatment of child exploitation victims. The process of grooming and coercion in radicalisation is similar to other forms of child exploitation and perpetrators prey on vulnerable children.

Our understanding of sexual exploitation has moved away from victim blaming, but it is still the case that too often child victims of criminal exploitation and radicalisation are viewed as being more culpable for their behaviour. The adultification of black and minority ethnic children, where unlike white children they are treated as having adult understanding and intentions, is a further concern raised by the narrative surrounding Shamima.

The AoCPP believes that there is a need for children be treated as children regardless of their beliefs, experiences, behaviours or ethnicity. Children who have been the victims of radicalisation are no less victims of exploitation than those who have been criminally or sexually exploited through similar coercive grooming processes. We believe that a child-centred, social welfare approach may be a more helpful response when children are exploited in this way.

The AoCPP offers our deepest condolences to her family, friends and all those who mourn her both in the UK and around the world.

The Queen had been the Head of State for the United Kingdom for over 70 years. She was the longest serving monarch in UK history and has been praised throughout her life for her personal qualities and dedication to public service.

We wish King Charles III well in his role as the new Head of State.

AoCPP Chair Dr Sam Warner and Director Wendy Thorogood extend their condolences:

“We are deeply saddened by the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She will be missed by many across our four nations and indeed internationally. We wish King Charles III the very best for the future."