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  • Red Kite Fostering

The Independent Review of Children's Social Care: A Reflection

In 2019, in its Conservative election manifesto, the Government made a commitment to review the social care system to make sure children and young people get the support they need.

On 15th January 2021, the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care was announced and Josh MacAlister, a former schoolteacher who founded the social work charity Frontline, was appointed as chair. Its priority was to hear 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. This was followed by the Case for Change in June of the same year.

The final report was published in May 2022 and was accompanied by the Government’s statement on the actions it is taking to improve children’s social care and its plans to publish an implementation strategy on children’s social care before the end of 2022.

In this blog, we’ll explore the key points and recommendations from the Children’s Commissioner for England’s discussion as well as those presented by the Independent Review of Children's Social Care. We’ll conclude by sharing our response to the recommendations and reflect on what we think will be the most important changes to bring about a positive difference in the way that the care systems works and the experiences of looked after children.

A discussion by the Children’s Commissioner for England

Over the course of 2020, the Children’s Commissioner for England visited care-experienced children and young people across England to find out what they think the review needs to focus on and change. They used this information to form their own recommendations on what they wanted to see in the review of the social care system.

One suggestion was to allow looked after children to have the same freedoms as other children. This would involve finding ways around the added rules and restrictions for children in care and ways to respect the child’s privacy. Sleepovers and friend's houses have been repeatedly used as an example, where young people feel that they should have the choice to let people know if they are in care.

Stability was an issue that was raised and is a common concern amongst many people involved in the care system. Young people wanted more information and preparation before transitions and expressed that constant changes and moves were upsetting.

They also wanted more choice in their lives; to have their voice heard in meetings about them and their future. They wanted to have choice in who their social workers are and stop new unknown people from appearing in meetings about them before getting to know them.

Many more points were raised and discussed, the full discussion is available here.

We’d like to extend our gratitude to the Children’s Commissioner for giving a platform to the voices that matter most in this review.

The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care - the final report

We have briefly summarised some of the key points of the report below, but we encourage you to read the full report.

1. Reset children's social care

Care from the state should surround children with loving, stable and safe relationships so that they can flourish. Relationships and the strength of families should be recognised as an important factor for stability for children in care.

Clear objectives are needed for children’s social care which should come from national government.

2. A revolution in Family Help

Stronger relationships are needed between all parties involved in the care system and the families who are affected by it. A more positive relationship will drive greater success at reunification for families.

3. A just and decisive child protection system

Analysis has shown that the same themes are often present when children experience serious harm, and there must be a more effective system in place to prevent and monitor these risks.

4. Unlocking the potential of family networks

Growing up within a family network means retaining a strong sense of identity, culture and place, which young people have told the review is often lost or significantly diluted through care.

Kinship care and wider family networks should be considered as viable option in more cases, and legal advice and guidance for these family members should be offered.

5. Transforming care

The constant making and breaking of relationships has a deep and negative impact on children’s mental health and sense of worth.

New universal care standards should be introduced covering all types of care that provide the flexibility needed to ensure homes can meet the needs of children. Methods have been suggested to allow for a wider choice of homes for children and a bigger push for recruiting new foster carers is needed to provide these options.

They also suggest a new ‘opt-out’ legal right to advocacy for all children in care, which allows them to influence the decisions made about them, and have their voices heard.

6. The care experience

This section focused on highlighting the real-life stories of care experienced people and investigated the perceptions, barriers, relationships and expectations that they - and others- have. Large numbers of care-experienced people are isolated, become homeless, miss out on university, or are not in secure work.

However, care-experienced people have consistently told the review that these outcomes are not inevitable, that many care experienced people leave care and live happy and fulfilling lives, and that care can provide the lifeline which leads to a better life than they would have had if they remained at home.

No young person should leave care without at least two loving relationships, well paid job opportunities should be made available to care leavers, and universities should offer better financial support.

7. Realising the potential of the workforce

Professionals need the time and resources to build strong, respectful relationships with children and families. There is also a need to support the development of expertise so that these relationships can bring about change.

Action is required to reduce reliance on agency social workers and reassign new roles so that they are carrying out the work that allows them to directly interact with children and families.

8. A system that is relentlessly focused on children and families

A focus on:

  • establishing a National Children’s Social Care Framework to give national leadership and direction about what success looks like, supported by a balanced scorecard and a more coherent regulatory landscape and rulebook

  • strengthening multi-agency working to achieve joined-up services and decisions for children and families

  • addressing structural problems in how social care is funded

  • improving the role of Ofsted as a driver of accountability and intervening more effectively when services are not good enough

  • establishing a National Data and Technology Taskforce to drive improvements in priority areas such as case management systems, information sharing and use of data

9. Implementation

This final section detailed the next steps and structures in place to fulfil the recommendations set out earlier in the report. It also looked at some of the barriers to achieving the goals set in these recommendations.

Our thoughts

"First and foremost we’d like to express that we support this review and the conversations that have taken place to put the needs and thoughts of children in care at the forefront of the changes that are due to take place.

It’s been a turbulent time in Westminster with lots of change since this report was commissioned. It’s clear from The Fostering Network evaluation that carers want more delegated authority in order to make children’s lives better whilst they are in their care. We fully support that.

It's also clear that we have lost a lot of carers - during and post-pandemic - and we need new carers to replace them. It takes time to train carers and assess them and match them properly. We are seeing children placed with carers or in places where the match is poor and that’s not because we agree with that or want that for children, it's because resources are really scarce.

If the Government want to make lives better for children in care, they need to invest in carers and increase fees and allowances. How many carers at the moment can offer ‘Staying Put’ or ‘When I’m Ready’ post 18 at the current rates? The cost of living increase is going to see a loss of carers who were full-time carers but have to return to work.

At Red Kite we try to encourage carers to consider siblings; we try to make local matches so children don’t have to move school or county; we try to empower children to use their voice about choices and changes.

The proposed removal of IROs is controversial and one that Red Kite do not support. Children need advocates.

Finally, frameworks and databases are all well and good; I’ve never heard a child ask for a more efficient database. The Government need to invest in the people involved in raising and caring for children – schools, carers, social workers and truly value the role we all play in making children's lives better."

Amelia Benson

Registered Manager

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