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New tools needed to help prevent sudden unexpected death of infants

Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel publishes review

The government needs to develop new tools to help prevent the sudden unexpected death of infants (SUDI), says a new review by the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel.

The independent panel of experts has reviewed serious child safeguarding incidents, when children have died or suffered serious harm, to learn how to improve the safeguarding system. While the overall numbers of babies dying from SUDI are decreasing, a worrying number of deaths have been notified to the panel as serious child safeguarding incidents. Between June 2018 and August 2019, the deaths of 40 babies from SUDI were reported to the panel. Most of whom died after co-sleeping in bed or on a chair or sofa, often with parents who had consumed drugs or alcohol.

The review reveals families with babies at risk of dying in this way are often struggling with several issues, such as domestic violence, poor mental health or unsuitable housing. It found that these deaths often occur when families experience disruption to their normal routines and so are unable to engage effectively with safer sleeping advice.

Due to coronavirus (Covid-19) and the associated anxieties about money, social isolation and mental health issues, disruptions that led to the deaths of these infants may be more prominent at present. To address this, the panel is calling for local areas to reduce the risk of SUDI by incorporating it into wider strategies for responding to social and economic deprivation, domestic violence and parental mental health concerns. This should be backed up by new government tools and processes to support frontline practitioners and local safeguarding partners to make these changes.

The review examines the deaths of fourteen babies from twelve local areas to understand how professionals can best support parents to ensure that safer sleep advice is heard and embedded.

The findings show that:

For the review, click here. For the response of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, click here.