October 13, 2022

The Child Death Overview Panel: What you need to know

Since 2008 there has been a legal requirement where following the death of a child under the age of 18, the death must be reviewed by a Child Death Overview Panel. The panel acts on behalf of the local Safeguarding Children Board.

What is a Child Death Overview Panel?

The Child Death Overview Panel (CDOP) is a group of multi-agency professionals who meet several times a year to carry out an independent review of deaths of children in their area. The panel is not given the names of any of the children who have died; all details are dealt with anonymously.

The panel includes representatives from public health, local child health and social care services, the police, and other professionals may also be invited to give specialist advice where required.

What is the purpose of Child Death Overview Panel?

The purpose of the Child Death Overview Panel process is to: -

  • accurately capture data regarding the cause of death in every case to enable learning to prevent future deaths;
  • identify patterns of deaths in a community so that preventable factors can be recognised and reduced;
  • improve the experience for bereaved families by ensuring that appropriate family and bereavement support is in place;
  • identify learning points for service provision in relation to the care of children.

The purpose of the panel is to learn lessons and share any findings which may help to prevent future deaths. The panel will consider and identify any issues relating to the death which may be relevant to the welfare of children in that area or to public health and safety. They will consider if action should be taken in relation to the issues identified to help try to prevent similar deaths happening again in the future.

The panel can make recommendations and report on the lessons learned to the Local Safeguarding Children Board. The board then produces an annual report which is a public document, which is published publicly for anyone to read, but it will not contain any details which could identify an individual child or their family.

The board will make sure that the recommendations made by the panel are sent to those who have responsibility for implementing them.

What can I expect from a Child Death Overview Panel?

Parents should be informed by their key worker that the review at the CDOP will take place and the purpose of the meeting should be explained.

Parents are not invited to be part of the panel but may be invited to contribute any comments or information relating to their child’s death which they believe might inform the meeting which can be submitted to the panel. Due to the anonymous nature of the CDOP review it will not be possible for parents to be given case specific feedback afterwards.

Even though parents are not able to attend the CDOP itself, they should not be made to feel excluded from a meeting that is discussing their child, it should be made clear to them that at the meeting many cases will be discussed all of which will be anonymised.

Serious Case Reviews

In a small number of cases, the board may decide that it is necessary to conduct a more detailed investigation called a Serious Case Review. Serious case reviews were established under the Children Act 2004 to review cases where a child has died from abuse or neglect, or this is suspected.

Serious case reviews can also take place when a child has come to serious harm, not necessarily death. The aim is to establish learning for agencies and professionals to improve the way they work together to safeguard children.

Questions for our bereavement specialists?

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