The death of a child is a devastating loss that profoundly affects all those involved. In line with Working Together to Safeguarding Children (2006), the Child Death Overview Panel (CDOP) became a statutory function from 1 April 2008. Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) were tasked with establishing a multi-disciplinary CDOP Subgroup to conduct a review into the death of all children 0-17 years of age, normally resident in their geographical area.
In October 2018, HM Government published the revised Child Death Review: Statutory and Operational Guidance (England) for Clinical Commissioning Groups and Local Authorities as Child Death Review Partners (CDR Partners). CDR Partners are identified as Local Authorities and any Clinical Commissioning Groups for the local area as set out in the Children and Social Work Act 2017. The guidance sets out the full process that follows the death of a child, who is normally resident in England and builds on the statutory requirements set out in Working Together to Safeguard Children (2018). The revised guidance clarifies how individual professionals and organisations across all sectors, involved in the child death review process, contribute to reviews in order to improve the experience of bereaved families and professionals involved in caring for children.
Under current guidance, CDR partners are required to establish a procedure to conduct a coordinated multi-agency response called a ‘Joint Agency response’ (previously referred to as a Rapid Response) This provides a framework for a comprehensive and sensitive enquiry aimed at establishing the cause of sudden unexpected deaths in infants and children. An unexpected death is defined as the death of an infant or child which was not anticipated as a significant possibility for example, 24 hours before the death; or where there was an unexpected collapse or incident leading to or precipitating the events which lead to the death (WT 2018). Or where the death of any child under 18 years of age meets the following criteria:
- is or could be due to external causes
- is sudden and there is no immediately apparent cause (including SUDI/C)
- occurs in custody, or where the child was detained under the Mental Health Act
- where the initial circumstances raise any suspicions that the death may not have been natural.
- in the case of a stillbirth where no healthcare professional was in attendance.
This immediate response is led by the Police/HM Coroner and includes information sharing and decision making with Social Care, Health and Agencies providing care immediately before and at the time of the death
The other ‘arm’ of the CDOP Process is the Joint Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Child Death Overview Panel. This meets 6 times a year to review all child deaths, identifying trends, and working together across agencies to make recommendations to help reduce the number of potentially preventable deaths in the future. The statutory basis of the CDOP’s is documented in Working Together.