The LGA has responded to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care in England.
Keeping children safe and helping those in our care to enjoy their lives and fulfil their potential are some of the most important roles councils play.
The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ensure that the system to help them do this is set up, resourced and operating in the best possible way.
The review published its ‘Case for change’ in June, summarising evidence around what needs to improve and highlighting a range of issues that councils have been raising for some years.
In our response, we welcomed the work that has been carried out so far and put forward areas where we felt the review could go further.
The UK ranks among the top countries in the world for children’s health, education and protection in Save the Children’s Global Childhood Report 2021, while many children in care have very good experiences – so while challenge is vital, we must take care to retain and build on our strengths too. With that in mind, we urged the review to consider how to elevate the status of children’s social workers, who are too often undervalued and lack the public recognition that their partners in health, the police and education receive.
They keep thousands of children safe every day, and should be recognised, supported and empowered.
In suggesting that social work is too risk averse and investigates too many cases, the review fails to acknowledge the role of the inspectorate or the impact of high-profile cases, such as those of Victoria Climbié or Peter Connelly.
“One department alone cannot improve outcomes for children”
The devastating nature of these cases led to long-lasting impacts on social care and on public awareness of, and expectations around, children’s safety and wellbeing. This cannot be ignored.
‘The case for change’ asked whether a system that undertakes support for families and child protection can perform both roles well. We are confident it can and does, with many examples of excellent practice around the country.
Splitting services and creating siloes is unlikely to have the same impact as ensuring families are able to access the services they need – from mental health support to financial safety nets – when they need them.
We called on the review to consider further those factors that make teenagers vulnerable and how schools can be more inclusive. We know exclusion from school is a risk factor for young people, yet schools are still not accountable for the outcomes of children they exclude. We also called for clear links between this review and the ongoing Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Review.
The report makes welcome reference to the financial challenges facing children’s social care. This needs also to recognise that short-term funding allocations, cuts to the early intervention grant and bidding for small pots of money all impact on councils’ ability to build services around the needs of local children and families.
Bringing budgets together and allowing for longer-term planning will make a huge difference to communities.
While this is a review of children’s social care, we also noted that one department alone cannot improve outcomes for children and families.
Children’s lives are complex, and so too are the systems children’s social care operates in. Improving outcomes will need a whole-system coordinated approach – we encourage the review to embrace that challenge.