A new study published in Child Abuse Review reveals insights into the complexities surrounding safeguarding children with burn injuries. 

Burns are common in early childhood, with around 40,000 children attending emergency departments (EDs) in the UK annually, with the majority of these cases being for children aged less than 5 years old. In an estimated 9–25 per cent of cases burns can be a sign of neglect or abuse.

The study, the first of its kind to examine the decision-making and multidisciplinary collaboration with professional groups in the context of paediatric burn injuries, was led by researchers from the Division of Population Medicine at Cardiff University and the Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE). 

The study, funded by Health and Care Research Wales, explored the factors influencing professional judgments, decision-making processes, and multidisciplinary collaboration among Emergency Department clinicians, health visitors, and social workers when dealing with children presenting burn injuries in the ED.

The research identified four key themes. These themes included “perceived roles and responsibilities,” “factors influencing risk assessment and decision-making,” “information sharing,” and “barriers and facilitators to multidisciplinary collaboration.”

Key findings highlighted:

  • A limited understanding between the different professional groups regarding their respective roles. 
  • Information sharing needed more detail and context, often hindered by organisational and resource constraints.

Recommendations included:

  • Emergency department clinicians, social workers and health visitors need a better understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities in safeguarding children with burn injuries.
  • To make decisions in individual cases, professionals need to be aware of the risk factors that are known to each agency.
  • Social workers and health visitors may benefit from further training in the clinical features of abusive and neglectful burns.
  • Emergency department clinicians could improve the level of detail and context that they provide when notifying a health visitor about burn injuries in young children or making a child protection referral to a social worker.
  • All professionals could improve information sharing by providing regular feedback on individual cases and attending multidisciplinary meetings.

Dr Laura Cowley, the lead author and Research Officer/Data Scientist, Population Data Science at Swansea University (formerly affiliated with the Division of Population Medicine at Cardiff University), said: “Our research emphasises the importance of addressing poor information sharing in safeguarding young children. There is a pressing need for an enhanced understanding of professional roles and improved communication to navigate the complexities of child protection effectively. It is hoped that professional groups will take on board our findings and recommendations to help improve safeguarding for children.”

Read the full publication here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/car.2862