The independent review of children’s social care was published a year ago today, setting out plans to reset children’s social care in England so it delivers for all the children and families it supports. This statement updates the House on progress made in implementing the recommendations set out in that review.
Around the same time as the independent review, two further reviews were published: the National Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel’s report into the tragic deaths of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson, and the Competition and Markets Authority’s study of children’s social care. These reviews also called for urgency in bringing forward reform, specifically to ensure that the child protection system keeps children safe and the care system provides the right homes for children in the right places. Together, the three reviews provide a platform for fundamental, whole system change.
My predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Will Quince), started us on the journey towards reform a year ago. He committed in his oral statement to publish an ambitious and detailed implementation strategy setting out this Government’s plans for reform.
The Department published plans for reform in our consultation and implementation strategy, “Stable Homes, Built on Love” on 2 February 2023. We set out how we will help families overcome challenges, keep children safe, and make sure children in care have stable, loving homes, long-term loving relationships and opportunities for a good life. Alongside this strategy, we announced £200 million of investment for these reforms, which builds on an annual investment of over £10 billion in children’s social care. The “Built on Love” strategy and its funding cover phase 1 of our reforms, addressing urgent issues and laying the foundations for wider-reaching reforms.
“Built on Love” sets out six pillars with actions to transform the system. We are seeking to:
provide the right support at the right time, so that children thrive within their families and families stay together through our family help offer;
strengthen our child protection response by getting agencies to work together in a fully integrated way, led by social workers with greater skills and knowledge;
unlock the potential of kinship care so that, wherever possible, children who cannot stay with their parents are cared for by people who know and love them already;
make sure the care system has the right homes for children in the right places, and that we provide children in care and care leavers with the right support to help them thrive and achieve their potential into adulthood;
provide a valued, supported and highly-skilled social worker for every child who needs one; and
make sure the whole system continuously learns and improves and makes better use of evidence and data.
Through this statement, I am also pleased to inform colleagues of progress against day one commitments made to this House a year ago:
We committed to develop a national children’s social care framework. We have published our framework, consulted on it, and intend to issue it as statutory guidance by the end of this year.
We committed to introduce an early career framework for child and family social workers, to give them the best start in the profession. We have set out plans to invest in high-quality early career development, have begun the process of writing the framework document setting out the knowledge and skills social workers need at different stages, and recently invited local authorities to express interest in becoming early adopters of our early career framework this year to help us co-design the programme.
We committed to work with local authorities to recruit more foster carers. Through “Built on Love” we have pledged to invest over £27 million over the next two years to recruit and retain more foster carers, and are working on plans in the north-east to test targeted regional communications campaigns and invest in models that we know work.
We committed to improve data sharing between safeguarding partners. We have introduced a data and digital solutions fund to help local authorities improve delivery for children and families through technology.
We committed to set up a child protection ministerial group and establish a national implementation board. We have set up both forums to champion safeguarding at the highest levels and to receive advice, support and challenge us on the delivery of children’s social care reform.
This action is only the beginning. Just last week, consultations closed on our proposals for reform, our draft children’s social care national framework and data dashboard, and our plan for addressing the high use of agency social workers in the workforce. Thousands of people engaged and responded to the consultations—including those with personal experience of the care system, dedicated professionals providing key services, and civil society. A Government response will be published in September.
The Prime Minister set out that building a brighter future requires us to value family, in whatever form that takes, recognising the common bond is love. Reform of children’s social care is at the heart of that brighter future. I look forward to continuing to work across both Houses, and all parties, as we lay the foundations for a new system.