The Children’s Social Care review

What is the review?

The government’s manifesto committed to review the children’s social care system to make sure children and young people get the support they need.

Our CEO Daniel Croft recently blogged about the need for Foster Carers to be involved in the review where he said this “We cannot afford to lose a once in a generation opportunity to help inspire such a positive change to children’s lives.”

Who is leading the review?

Frontline’s founder and chief executive, Josh MacAlister is a former secondary school teacher and an alumnus of Teach First. He taught in schools across Greater Manchester where he first developed the ideas that would lead to Frontline. He was a head of department before setting up Frontline in 2013. Since then Frontline has brought hundreds of new professionals into social work, secured widespread and cross-party support and expanded to become a national charity.

Josh MacAlister will be stepping down from his role at Frontline to head up this review.

What will the care review do?

The Independent review lead by Josh Macalister will consider how the children’s social care system responds to all children who are referred to it and consider the full required need from early intervention to looked-after children. It will look at fostering, residential and kinship care. (adoption support will only be covered if the review decides to do so at this stage)

It will also be up to the review to decide whether to include care leavers, despite the DfE’s terms of reference highlighting the poorer adult outcomes experienced by people who have been through the care system as a rationale for the review.

The DfE highlighted the review as a

“A once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform systems and services”, tackling “major challenges including the sharp increase in recent years in the number of looked after children, inconsistencies in practice and outcomes, and the failure of the system to provide sufficient stable homes for children”.

Issues the report will cover include:

  1. The capacity and capability of the system to support families to prevent children being taken into care unnecessarily.
  2. The review will prioritise hearing the voices of children, young people, and adults that have received the help or support of a social worker, or who have been looked after.
  3. How partner agencies, such as health and police, interact with children’s social care, with the review recommending improvements to the way they work together.
  4. The review must be workable, leading to deliverable reforms that are evidence-based and demonstrate a measurable impact. It is vital that recommendations are made following consideration of the key questions of sustainability and how social care funding, workforce and other resources can be used most effectively to change children’s lives and represent good value for money

This review will “Listen deeply and think boldly” stated MacAllister at the review’s launch, and we deeply admire that approach and stance to be laid down at the outset.

The Martin James Foundation’s CEO Justin Rogers spoke to us saying, “This wide-reaching review has the potential to make much-needed improvements to child welfare in the UK. It is fantastic to see that the aim is to keep children and families at the centre of the review, and I think it is important that people who have direct experience of social care including foster carers can share their perspectives on ways to improve things. There are many inspirational care experienced people who have gone on to lead amazing lives, however, we know from the statistics that too many are left behind and they are overrepresented in mental health and criminal justice services and many do not fulfil their potential. Children and young people enter care through no fault of their own and it’s vital that they receive the care, support and love they need to thrive and this review offers an opportunity to bring about much-needed change and really make a difference.”

Seven themes for the care review

  1. Support: what support is needed to meet the needs of children who are referred to or involved with social care, to improve outcomes and make a long-term positive difference.
  2. Strengthening families: what can be done so that children are supported to stay safe and thrive with their families, to ensure the state’s powers to support and intervene in families are consistently used responsibly, balancing the need to protect children with the right to family life, avoiding the need to enter care?
  3. Safety: what can be done so that children who need to be in care get there quickly, and to ensure those children feel safe and are not at risk of significant harm?
  4. Care: what is needed for children to have a positive experience of care that prioritises stability, providing an alternative long-term family for children who need it and support for others to return home safely?
  5. Delivery: what are the key enablers to implement the review and raise standards across England, such as a strong, stable and resilient workforce, system leadership and partnerships, and what is needed so that this change can be delivered?
  6. Sustainability: what is the most sustainable and cost-effective way of delivering services, including high-cost services, who is best placed to deliver them, and how could this be improved so that they are fit for the future?
  7. Accountability: what accountability arrangements are necessary to ensure that the state can act appropriately, balancing the need to protect and promote the welfare of 4 children with the importance of parental responsibility, and what is needed to ensure proper oversight of how local areas discharge those responsibilities consistently?

In the last 6 years there has been various reports and surveys; from ‘state of the nation 2015’ that captured the experiences of children in and leaving care, ‘Pass the parcel: children posted around the care system 2019’ and annual stability reports that measured the stability of the lives of children in care. These reports, along with government white papers have shaped aspects of provisions for children and young people in care. highlighting issues such as post 18 support (‘staying in put’) education under attainment, unregulated placement and children in care are sent far away from loved ones to unfamiliar places around the country and moved too frequently. Although these reports have been instrumental to bring about positive change and better outcomes for children, it can be argued that not enough has been done to be responsive to meet the needs of an ever-evolving service and the children it serves.

This recent call to action will be taking a holistic look at children social care and can reshape and develop areas of the services that have historically been overlooked.

Contributing to the review

Children and families with past or present experience of the children’s social care system can contribute by joining the Experts by experience group here >

*applications close on 5th February 2021.

You can read more of CEO Daniel Croft’s blog here https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-childrens-social-care-review-needs-you-daniel-croft