Children and social care review calls for urgent investment

Social care review calls for urgent investment

Major reform in social care and childrens' services is required in order to counter a 'trajectory of rising costs' according to the The Independent Review of Children and Social Care, released on Monday.

Policy recommendations include phasing out young offender institutions, recruiting more foster parents, ensuring senior staff are directly involved in frontline decision-making and new laws protecting care leavers from discrimination.

It states: 

"The children’s social care system is on a trajectory of rising costs, with more children being looked after and continually poor outcomes for too many children and families. Government has attempted to reverse these trends through disjointed targeted programmes and funding pots, but these have not managed to halt the current trajectory. The comprehensive multi-year reform programme of recommendations set out in this report can reset the system, improve outcomes and make children’s social care more sustainable in the future."

The review estimates that this would require £2.6 billion of new spending over four years, comprising £46 million in year one, £987 million in year two, £1.257 billion in year three and £233 million in year four.

Josh MacAlister, Chair of the independent review, said failure to tackle major problems in children’s services would lead to record numbers of youngsters entering care within a decade, at huge cost to families and the taxpayer.

In response, the Government plans to set up a new National Implementation Board of sector experts and people with experience of leading transformational change and the care system.

Seven areas of England will also receive funding to set up family hubs which offer early help and intervention, in recognition of the importance of strong, joined up local services as a foundation for an improved social care system.

Local authorities will also receive funding for schemes that support vulnerable children to remain engaged in their education and strengthen links between social care and education.

Welcoming the review, Childrens Minister Will Quince said the Department for Education would produce a fuller response and implementation strategy before the end of the year. It will also say more on the future of child protection on Thursday, when the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel produces its report into learning from the deaths of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson.

A former teacher, Josh MacAlister, founded the social work charity Frontline in 2013, and stepped down from his role as Chief Executive to lead the review.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said:

“There is much to support in this review, which is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform the systems we have in place not only to keep children and young people safe, but to help them thrive. 

“It reflects many longstanding calls from councils, including an increased focus on family help, more support to keep children with their families wherever possible, and making sure children in care and care leavers are well supported with loving homes and lifelong relationships.

“We are also pleased the report recognises councils are best placed to deliver these services for local families and works to build on the good practice that already exists.

“We now want to work quickly with government and partners on identifying elements of the report we can and should swiftly implement, and on planning the medium-to-long term reform process. This must include commitment from across Whitehall to tackle the issues children’s social care cannot solve alone, including access to health services and ending child poverty.

“Government should also work with councils to urgently address those issues that cannot wait for the longer-term reform outlined in this review, including workforce challenges across the sector and a lack of suitable homes for children in care with particularly complex needs. 

“As the report plainly acknowledges, reform and investment go hand in hand – one will not be effective without the other. This is why we’re calling for a White Paper within the next six months to demonstrate the Government’s commitment to reform, and truly transformational investment by the Treasury in the services that give all children the best start in life.”

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