Skip to main content

Children’s Social Care

Volume 742: debated on Monday 18 December 2023

The Prime Minister has been clear about the importance of family in ensuring children can thrive and this Government are determined to put families at the heart of society. I am therefore pleased to update the House on our progress to reform children’s social care to ensure that children and families get the support they need at the right time.

Earlier this year we set out bold and ambitious plans to reform children’s social care through “Stable Homes. Built on Love”. Our strategy, backed by £200 million investment, responded to reviews that provided a vision of how to do things differently—including the independent review of children’s social care and the national review into the murders of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson. These reviews were clear that we must reform services to improve the outcomes of children and families. Our strategy set a vision for a transformed children’s social care system that makes sure families get the help they need, when they need it.

We have moved a step closer to realising this vision, and honour commitments to publish:

The first ever national kinship strategy, “Championing Kinship Care” which sets out support for family networks providing loving and stable homes to children.

A new children’s social care national framework which sets out the purpose, principles and outcomes that should be achieved in children’s social care.

Updated statutory guidance, “Working Together”, which sets out how to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

•A data strategy which sets out the long-term plan for transforming data in children’s social care.

Through this statement I update the House on each publication, copies of which have been laid in the Libraries of both Houses. I am also informing Members that we will also increase our budget to deliver fostering reforms by up to £8.5 million, taking the total investment to £36 million. This is the largest ever investment in fostering in England and will support us to roll out recruitment and retention programmes to over 60% of all local authorities in England.

We want children who cannot live with their parents to be supported to live with people who are known to them and love them. Kinship carers need our support and backing to offer this care and love so that they can in turn help us achieve our aim of keeping more families together. Our kinship strategy, “Championing Kinship Care”, sets out the practical and financial support we will provide to kinship families, and is backed by £20 million investment. It details how we will provide further support for kinship carers, including launching a financial allowance pathfinder which will provide more financial stability for children growing up in kinship care and sets out our plans to champion the outcomes of children in kinship care in schools. Prioritising kinship care requires us all to champion, support and empower kinship families.

We must also deliver excellent standards of practice to improve outcomes for children, raise aspirations and ensure partnership working across all agencies, including police, health and education. We have published the children’s social care national framework as statutory guidance. It brings together the purpose, principles, enablers, and outcomes that children’s social care should achieve so children, young people and families can thrive. We want all local authorities to consider how their local offer of support makes a real difference to the lives of children, young people and their families.

Our plans for reform have always recognised the central importance of children’s welfare. Children must be kept safe, and this means we must take swift and decisive action to protect them when they are not. Our multi-agency statutory guidance, “Working Together to Safeguard Children”, has been updated and replaces a version from 2018. We want all parts of the system to embed new child protection standards for practitioners, and to use and deploy a multi-disciplinary workforce to provide co-ordinated help, support and protection.

Lastly, the data we collect about children and families and the information recorded about their lives and interactions with children’s social care is sensitive and personal. This data is held in many places, which makes bringing it together challenging. Our digital and data strategy sets out the foundations needed to embark on ambitious transformation, and the actions we will take between 2023-2025. We will also publish a children’s social care dashboard next year to understand progress towards the outcomes in the national framework.

The reviews from last year called for an urgent, fundamental and system-wide transformation of children’s social care. Today we reaffirm our commitment to reform. Transforming how we operate depends on the support and commitment of local Government leadership, leaders across children’s social care, safeguarding partners, relevant agencies and all practitioners. That is why we have also published a reform statement for local authorities and partners in the system.

Today is a time to reflect on the thousands of people who have shared their views since we embarked on reform, including children and families, kinship carers, social workers, dedicated professionals and practitioners and charities. I give my personal thanks to every individual in helping us reach this milestone in our reform journey.