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Children: Methadone and Protection

Volume 508: debated on Thursday 8 April 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families with reference to the answer to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley, Meg Munn of 17 December 2008, Official Report, column 817W, on methadone, if he will take steps to enable the number of child deaths subject to serious case review which are methadone-related to be calculated. (321631)

Local authorities should notify Ofsted where a death or serious injury occurs and abuse or neglect is known or suspected to be a factor (and so may lead to the commissioning of a Serious Case Review). The precise cause and nature of death may not always be known at the time of the notification, and could change after further investigations are carried out such as a post-mortem or coroner's inquest.

Information held by the Department for Children, Schools and Families is provided by Ofsted and is based on available information at the point of notification by the local authority. Records are sometimes updated if further information is received on the cause of death but this is not undertaken systematically. We have no present plans to extend procedures or the operation of the relevant database in the way suggested. However, making use of the database and of individual anonymised SCRs the authors of the report ‘Understanding Serious Case Reviews and their Impact: A Biennial Analysis of Serious Case Reviews 2005-07', published in June 2009, suggest that:

“A small number of deaths (fewer than six) were as a result of the child ingesting their parent's drug, most often methadone.”