The government has launched an independent review into the children’s social care sector in England.
It will be lead by a former teacher, Josh MacAlister, who founded the social work charity Frontline in 2013. It will “raise the bar for vulnerable children across the country”, said the Department for Education (DfE). It will look at every area of the care system, from a child’s first referral to social services to outcomes for children leaving care at 18.
Announcing the review, the department said: “It will address major challenges such as the increase in numbers of looked after children, the inconsistencies in children’s social care practice, outcomes across the country, and the failure of the system to provide enough stable homes for children.”
It will also look at the “capacity and capability of the system to support and strengthen families in order to prevent children being taken into care unnecessarily”.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the review would “not shy away from exposing problems” and committed it to prioritising the views of those with direct experience of the care system.
Coram, a charity for vulnerable children, welcomed the review and its emphasis on the views of children and young people. Dr Carol Homden, its chief executive, said:
“The review is timely as we look to build a better future for a digital generation uniquely affected by health concerns. The issues are pressing, with record numbers of children being looked after by the state and the impact of the pandemic placing strain on the services needed by so many young people and those who care for them.”
Mark Russell, chief executive of the Children’s Society, called the review a “golden opportunity” to address the problems of a “stretched” system saying:
“The shortage of local care placements increases the risk of children going missing and being targeted for criminal and sexual exploitation and we welcome the pledge to address this and ensure all young people have safe and stable homes.”
BASW highlighted that:
It is vital that the voice and experiences of children, young people, their families and the social workers who support them must be at the heart of the Independent Care Review (ICR) … BASW England is committed to ensuring that the needs, human rights and safeguarding of children, young people and their families and carers remain at the core of this review.