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Children’s Social Care Services: Reform

Volume 717: debated on Monday 4 July 2022

We will publish an ambitious implementation strategy later this year following three important pieces of work: first, the independent review of social care—the MacAlister review—and then the Competition and Markets Authority study on the children’s social care market, and the national panel review of the deaths of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson.

Many years ago, as a residential social worker, I saw the pain and despair of many children in care, alongside their talents, their ambitions and their amazing resilience. None of this has changed, and we know that the most dangerous and difficult time for a child is the transition into leaving care. Too often services are just cut off and the child is left adrift. Will the Secretary of State promise me today that he will look at what more can be done to provide care leavers with consistent, quality support during and beyond those transitions, enabling them to live with foster families into their adulthood?

As the hon. Lady will know—and as she probably remembers from when I was Children and Families Minister—we launched the care leaver covenant, which has made a significant difference to many of our young people in care as they transition out of care. There is also the work we are doing to support those 300,000 families who need that additional support. The work of MacAlister will make a huge difference. The hon. Lady knows that we have “staying put” and “staying close” to help those young people as they transition through, but I give her a pledge that we are serious about implementing the MacAlister review.

This weekend, as the Secretary of State will have seen, the Swedish Government announced a review into the profit motive in children’s education. Can he confirm, perhaps with yes or no, that the profit motive must be taken out of the care of our most vulnerable children?

I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s question. Part of why I mentioned the Competition and Markets Authority review to make sure that the system is working properly is that it is something I am concerned about. I would focus on profiteering rather than profit, because I think people will want to go into this sector to help children, and I do not have a problem with their making a profit. It is excessive profiteering that I am certainly concerned about.

Councils from across the country continue to send children and young people on out-of-area placements to Blackpool, often with good reason—to keep those children safe—but they do not notify Blackpool Council or Lancashire constabulary that these children are in the area. Often we find out when it is too late and something has gone wrong. What more can the Government do as part of their review of children’s social services to make sure that out-of-area placements made by councils are communicated to the host areas’ statutory agencies?

My hon. Friend asks an important question, and he will know that we are looking at how we help local authorities to commission and buy places much more efficiently with the regional care co-operatives. There is also the work of the MacAlister review, after which hopefully out-of-area placements will become a rarity, rather than where we are today.