Williamson launches review of children’s social care

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is launching an independent review of children’s social care to help make sure children and young adults get the support they need.

Delivering on a 2019 manifesto commitment that pledged to look at the care system, the review will shape how children interact with the care system, taking into account the process from referral through to becoming looked after.

The Department for Education says that 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.

As part of the review, Williamson will also announce that he has appointed Josh MacAlister to lead the review. A former teacher, MacAlister founded the social work charity Frontline in 2013. He will step down from his role as chief executive to lead the review.

In a speech to children’s charities and sector organisations, the Education Secretary will say: “We have known for some time that despite the best efforts of hardworking and dedicated social workers, the children’s social care system is not delivering a better quality of life and improved outcomes for those it is designed to help.

“This review will be bold, wide-ranging and will not shy away from exposing problems where they exist. Under Josh MacAlister’s leadership, it will benefit from his understanding of the challenges facing the system and his experience of improving outcomes for children and young people.

“It is part of the golden thread that runs through everything we are doing to level up society, especially for those who are too often forgotten or marginalised. It is going to help us raise the bar for these vulnerable children, it’s going to help us improve their life prospects and most importantly, it’s going to help give them the chance to achieve their potential and not be held back from the futures they deserve.”

Judith Blake, chair of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People Board, said: “Every child deserves a safe and happy childhood in which they are loved and supported to reach their full potential. Some children will need help from children’s social care services for that to happen, and this review gives the entire system the opportunity to make sure services work as well as they should.

“We are particularly pleased that the review intends to place the views and experiences of children, young people and the care experienced community at its heart. Proper, meaningful engagement will make clear the changes our children and young people want and deserve.

“The review will need to look at the experiences of children in the round, considering not only the work of children’s social care departments, but partners including schools and healthcare services who have a vital role to play in supporting children and their families. Demand for support has increased dramatically over the last decade, and it is important that we understand why this is and whether services are adequately resourced to give children the right help at the right time.

“Supporting and protecting vulnerable children is one of the most important roles that councils play. Councils stand ready to work closely with the review team to contribute their knowledge and expertise, and to ensure the best possible outcomes for the children they support and their families.”