The UK Government has launched (15 January 2021) a wholesale review of children's social care in England which aims to raise the bar for vulnerable children, delivering on a 2019 manifesto commitment that pledged to look at the care system to make sure children and young adults get the support they need. It will be led by Josh MacAlister, a former teacher who founded the social work charity Frontline.
The Review will look at all aspects of the care system, and will address challenges including the increase in the numbers of looked after children, inconsistencies in children's social care practice, through to young people leaving care.
Commenting at the launch, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
"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."
Chair of the review Josh MacAlister said:
"If 2020 showed us the grit, commitment and creativity of social workers, teachers and other professionals, then 2021 is our chance to think afresh about how we support children without the safety, stability and love that many of us take for granted.
"This review will listen deeply and think boldly. That is why I am recruiting for an 'Experts by Experience' Group that will direct an ambitious effort to hear the diverse experiences of children and families who have had social workers. I also need advice and challenge as we start this review, which is why I'm launching a Call for Advice.
"Deep down I think many of those working in the children's social care system and certainly many of those who have experience of it, know that radical change is needed. My commitment is that this review will deliver a wide-ranging plan to extend the joy, growth and safety of childhood and the esteem, love and security of family life to all children."
Mr MacAlister has launched a 'Call for Advice' to help shape the early work of the review and invites applications for an 'Experts by Experience' group to advise him on how to include the voices of people with a 'lived experience' of the children's social care system.
The Department for Education published terms of reference for the review, setting out the themes and questions that will be addressed and how it will respond to the changing needs of children in care or at risk of going into care, particularly given the impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency.