Council accepts findings of review into murder of Child J

The Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board has today (24th February 2016) published a combined Serious Case Review and Domestic Homicide Review named ‘Child J’.

The report and associated documents can be accessed on the case review page.

The Joint Domestic Homicide and Serious Case Review recommended improvements to services, which are being implemented by the county council and its partner agencies. These focus on working effectively with older children in need of protection, and understanding the impact of domestic abuse within adolescent relationships.

While Child J’s death could not have been predicted, the review highlights a number of mistakes made by child protection agencies who came into contact with her, including children’s social services.

Child J was not in the care of the county council, but was supported to live with her family in the years and months before her death.

The council’s Director for Children’s Services Jim Leivers said:

“We’re deeply sorry that better support was not provided for Child J when she needed it most. As the report highlights, many professionals including social workers, police and her school tried very hard to help her.

“But we recognise that towards the end of her life we could have done more to support her and our practice was not good enough. That’s why I have apologised to the family. We fully accept the findings of the review and are already implementing its recommendations alongside our partner agencies.

“It’s impossible to say whether social workers could have done anything to turn Child J’s life around. From an early stage of her relationship, she was in the clutches of an abusive and highly controlling young man. Though she told friends and family, and professionals trying to help her that her actions were of her own free will, the reality was that she was controlled by this young man.

“The review makes it clear that the bond of control would have been incredibly difficult to break whatever the actions of social workers, other professionals, or the efforts of her family. There could be no guarantee of stopping Adult L hurting or killing her.”

Response to key themes

Key issues highlighted by the review include the challenges of working effectively with older children in need of protection, and the importance of understanding domestic abuse within adolescent relationships.

Children’s Social Care staff are now provided with additional training on domestic abuse and controlling relationships among 16 and 17 year-olds. The service is developing a new approach to provide better protection for young people who are the direct victims of this abuse. In practice, that means if a person under 18 is in an abusive peer-relationship, that is now treated as a child protection issue.

There has also been a shift towards greater intervention in social care cases, as evidenced by a significant rise in the number of children subject to Child Protection Plans and those coming permanently into care since 2013.

Mr Leivers said: “Working with young people approaching adulthood requires recognition of their vulnerability, but also respect for their increasing ability to make their own decisions.

“It’s a difficult balance which we didn’t always get right in this case, and this will always remain a huge challenge for social workers and other professionals. We are determined to continue working with our partner agencies to improve services for the protection of vulnerable children and young people within our society.”