Trainee Family Law solicitor John Mousicos takes a look at the the latest independent review of the children’s social care system.
It is a common claim that politicians running for office do not do what they say they will do, once they are elected. The truth is though, often they do. This Conservative Government’s 2019 Manifesto included a commitment to review the children’s social care system to make sure children and young people get the support they need.
True to its word, on 15 January 2021, the Government announced the launch of an independent review of the system, as reported by the BBC very recently at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-55677777. Most who are stakeholders in this system, whether families, lawyers, judges, social workers or court staff, will agree that it has been stretched beyond what is sensible for some time. In March 2020, 80,080 children were being looked after in the care system in England alone. This increased from 64,400, the figure in March 2010, according to DfE figures – a nearly 25% increase and rather disproportionate based on general population growth*.
Although such a radical review usually follows an epic failing of the system, this time the Government is acting first it seems. The review will be led by former schoolteacher, Josh MacAlister, who founded the social work charity Frontline and will aim to identify how the system can be reformed to improve children and young people’s lives at the earliest opportunity. As the BBC article points out, one of the aims of the review is to improve the “capacity and capability of the system to support and strengthen families in order to prevent children being taken into care unnecessarily”.
What seems to be different this time around is that the review will be supported by an Experts by Experience Group to ensure that the diverse experiences of those directly involved in the care system, are heard. The Government website explains that “the group will provide an opportunity for children, young people, adults and families with lived experience of the care system to have their say and help shape the future of children’s social care” and they are inviting people with such experience to apply to take part**. This is the first time that those most affected have been invited to contribute as experts in this way and if this is done effectively, it could lead to unprecedented findings.
Professionals working within the care system can be forgiven for treating the Government’s promises of a radical shake up with cautious interest rather than eager anticipation, but the choice of lead for the review, coupled with the progressive methods to be employed, does give some hope of meaningful reform and Wollens’ childcare team will be closely watching this space.
*England’s population in 2010 was approximately 52.5 million and in 2020 is just over 56 million. This means that the rise in number of children being looked after in the care system is just under 25% when there has only been a 6.5% increase in population size.
**If you want to apply to take part in the Experts by Experience Group, you can get further details at https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/independent-review-of-childrens-social-care .