The strategy is a result of three independent reviews which found the current social care system to be ‘fragmented, siloed, and struggling to meet the needs of children and families’.
The strategy intends to ‘fix’ children’s social care by focusing on delivering local early help, keeping families together, better supporting foster and kinship carers, care leavers and the children’s social care workforce.
Department for Education has launched a consultation on proposals around the use of agency social workers by local authorities. The consultation will run alongside two others including one seeking views about plans to implement a new Children's Social Care National Framework and Dashboard designed to “set out clear outcomes that should be achieved across all local authorities to improve the lives of children and families, raising the quality of practice across the country”. Another is being held over views on the strategy as a whole. All three consultations will close on 11 May 2023.
RCPCH President Dr Camilla Kingdon said:
Children’s Social Care supports the most vulnerable children in England, often with complex needs and requirements. These children deserve the highest standards of care, support and protection and yet so often they are unable to access the services they require. Social workers are doing their very best in increasingly difficult circumstances to meet the high demand, but staffing levels and support remain a very real concern.
This is a much-needed plan to reform Children’s Social Care in England, and we welcome the strategy’s intentions to better support the social care workforce in safeguarding children and young people. We are particularly pleased to see a focus on supporting families in accessing early help at a local level and acknowledgement of the essential work that foster and kinship carers do. However, we remain concerned about the high workloads and complex cases that social care workforce is facing.
The intentions of this report are good, but we are appalled to read that just £200m has been budgeted for this work - a far cry from the £2.6bn suggested by independent review lead Josh MacAlister as needed for this scale of reform. We owe it to the memories of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson, whose murders triggered this report, to demonstrate serious intent and fund this work properly. The Government cannot deliver these changes to essential services effectively and keep children safe without adequate funding.
We look forward to reviewing these plans in full and responding to the corresponding consultations in due course. We will continue to work closely with the government and our partners in Children’s Social Care to ensure that all children in care receive the services they require, in appropriately nurturing and supportive placements.