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Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel publishes National Review into murders of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson

On 26 May 2022 the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel published its National Review into the murders of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson. The national review was instigated following public outcry as to the circumstances of the deaths of these two children that became apparent during the widely reported recent murder trials.

Two important headline factors about child protection in England were identified by the review:

• Multi-agency arrangements for protecting children are more fractured and fragmented than they should be.

• There has been insufficient attention to, and investment in, securing the specialist multi-agency expertise required for undertaking investigations and responses to significant harm from abuse and neglect.

The Panel recommended a new approach to undertaking child protection work in which Multi-Agency Child Protection Units, which are integrated and co-located multi-agency teams staffed by experienced child protection professionals, are established in every local authority area.

A deeply shocking fact of both cases was that the children had appeared to be in 'plain sight' of public authorities before they died. Both children also had extended family members who were concerned about their wellbeing.

The review identified a set of issues which had hindered professionals' understanding of what was happening in the homes of Arthur and Star:

• Weaknesses in information sharing and seeking within and between agencies.

• A lack of robust critical thinking and challenge within and between agencies, compounded by a failure to trigger statutory multi-agency child protection processes at a number of key moments.

• A need for sharper specialist child protection skills and expertise, especially in relation to complex risk assessment and decision making; engaging reluctant parents; understanding the daily life of children; and domestic abuse.

• Underpinning these issues, is the need for leaders to have a powerful enabling impact on child protection practice, creating and protecting the optimum organisational conditions for undertaking this complex work.

Notably, the Panel commented that the set of issues identified above are not new issues and recur across the reviews of serious incidents seen by the Panel on a fortnightly basis.

For the full 133 page report, click here.

Julia Queen, Barrister, Coram Chambers

26.05.2022