This Rapid Response Report alerts mental health organisations to the risk of harm to children by parents with mental health needs. Very serious risks may arise if their illness incorporates delusional beliefs about the child, and/or the potential to harm the child as part of a suicide plan.
The National Confidential Inquiry into Suicides and Homicides reviewed 254 homicide convictions between 1997 and 2004 in England and Wales where children were killed by their biological or step-parents.
Of these, 37% had a mental disorder including depressive illness or bipolar affective disorder, personality disorder, schizophrenia, and substance or alcohol dependence.
Actions for mental health organisations, supported by Local Safeguarding Children Boards, include:
- Using available documentation and procedures to consider whether the service-user is likely to have or resume contact with their own child or other children, and assessing the risks.
- Making referrals to children’s social care services as soon as a problem, suspicion or concern becomes apparent, or if the child’s needs are not being met. Giving staff clear guidance on making such referrals.
- Involving a consultant psychiatrist in all clinical decision-making for service-users who may pose a risk to children.
- Auditing staff training attendance, knowledge, and competency levels, and acting upon any lapses.