This must be a turning point to overhaul children’s social care in England
The publication of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care in England in May was an important milestone for an area of social policy that is close to our hearts.
The Review has sparked important debates and has put the needs of vulnerable children firmly in the spotlight.
On Wednesday 22 June, care experienced children and young people will be holding a “Day of Action” in Parliament. As chair of the APPGs for Children and chair of the APPG for Looked After Children and Care Leavers, we encourage parliamentarians across both Houses to get involved. It will be an opportunity for young people to interact directly with this great institution and to tell us, as their representatives, exactly what they think of the review.
The problems facing children’s social care in England are well known – with children’s experiences of the system often marred by instability and distress. Too often looked after children are being regularly moved from place to place, the average being two moves every year and some more than that. This can leave them traumatised and feeling unwanted by a system that is supposed to care.
Care-experienced young people know the realities of the current system far better than any of us
Those leaving care can also experience poor treatment, they are expected to move out of where they are living and become “independent” overnight, often before they feel ready and without the guidance that every young person needs to thrive.
The system itself is fragile. Spending is skewed towards crisis at the expense of prevention.
However, surely prevention is better than letting situations escalate? We cannot ignore figures like the alarming increase in child cruelty, the NSPCC recently revealed 26,000 cases of adults neglecting, mistreating, or assaulting children in 2021/22 – an increase of 25 per cent from the previous year.
Social workers are put under huge pressures with too many cases to manage and not enough time to work alongside children and help them with the challenges in their lives.
Sadly, little of this is new, and the publication of this Review needs to mark a new chapter to fix the system and try to solve these longstanding issues. As parliamentarians, we need to think seriously about how we can implement these recommendations so that when the government brings forward its reform package, we can change the current system and provide care that works for vulnerable children.
There are big questions for us to answer. Where do parliamentarians stand on smarter commissioning so local authorities can make the most of their tight budgets to make sure children receive the most appropriate care for them and not what just happens to be available? Where do parliamentarians stand on financial support being available for special guardians and kinship carers as well as foster carers? Is the proposed shift to early intervention through family support ambitious enough? Where do parliamentarians stand on the role of “Expert Child Protection Practitioners”? What needs to happen to prevent more child death tragedies from occurring? And, are we giving young people leaving the care system the best start in adult life?
In developing our thinking, we must put care-experienced young people at the centre; they usually know the realities of the current system far better than any of us and their voices must be at the forefront of our minds. The Day of Action on 22 June will help with this and we hope as many of you will join us as possible.
We also encourage you to make contact with the organisations and services that support children and young people in the care system in your constituencies so that you can hear more from the young people you represent.
Tim Loughton is the Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham. Baroness Tyler is a Liberal Democrat peer. They are co-chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children. Steve McCabe is the Labour MP for Birmingham Selly Oak and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Looked After Children and Care Leavers.
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