June 17, 2016 2:00 pm
As the result of a serious case review which was undertaken by Bracknell Forest Local Safeguarding Children’s Board, as part of that serious case review, the ‘toxic trio’ was identified as being part of the difficulty in that case.
The ‘toxic trio’ is a combination of domestic abuse, mental ill health and substance misuse within a family. Each of these problems on their own is difficult and can have a severe impact on family life, particularly for children growing up and for other adults around them.
The combination of domestic abuse, mental ill health and substance misuse makes the situation even harder and hence the term ‘toxic trio’.
The term ‘toxic trio’ has been used for a while and in the serious case review mentioned, the agencies that were involved with the family were scrutinised by the Review Board. Following looking at the evidence and looking at what had happened to that young child within the incidents that led to the serious case review taking place, there were a number of issues that came to light.
Ultimately, where this toxic trio existed, and where it was impacting upon the families, the agencies involved with the families didn’t work together. They were each doing their own thing without having a full picture. The serious case review identified that there was an over-reliance on information from health professionals and in terms of social work involvement, they didn’t have all the information they needed in order to do full assessments of the family. In addition, the Police had information which wasn’t being dealt with and wasn’t being included as part of the assessments. So each of these agencies had information and none of the agencies shared any of the information they had.
So what are the learning points from this serious case review around the toxic trio?
If you find yourself in a similar situation and you feel you need more information or maybe that other agencies should have information that you simply don’t have, then ask for it. Don’t wait for them to share it because they may not share it. Ask them for their information.
Secondly, don’t rely on only one source of information. Often in similar cases there are multi-agency meetings happening, for example, Child Protection conferences and core group meetings. Following on from where key professionals become involved, and you might be one of those key professionals, as the person working with the child. For example, you may be a health visitor, you might be from school or the nursery and you might be the lead person. As a professional you have a responsibility to ensure that you have as much information as possible to help you safeguard that child. If information is being shared within a multi-agency setting, then listen to all the information that’s being shared to help you form your views and to help with the various assessments that you might be undertaking or you might become involved in.
Finally, it’s crucial that you keep agencies informed, even if the information you have doesn’t lead to anything. Your information might be vital in putting that last piece of the jigsaw into place. Your piece of information around a suspected parent’s drug misuse or the fact that a child may have said ‘mum wasn’t well last night’ and there are concerns around her mental health or that there are disclosures around domestic abuse that having been taking place. That piece of information could be fundamental to allow all the agencies working together.
So, if you don’t know – ask!
If you’re attending meetings, make sure you’re listening to all the information and gathering that and taking stock of all the information and essentially, keep all the agencies involved informed.