Care Review announces partnership with What Works for Children’s Social Care

Josh MacAlister, Chair of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care in England, announced partnerships with two advisory ‘evidence and design groups’, but critics say the partnerships bring the Review’s independence into question.

19/04/21

Care Review announces partnership with What Works for Children’s Social Care

The so-called Independent Review of Children’s Social Care in England has announced that the Review’s evidence will be supported by the What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care.

The What Works Centre will support the review by producing and commissioning evidence summaries, rapid reviews and analysis alongside an ‘Evidence Group’, made up of academics and other experts in the field.

Critics have said the partnership brings the Review’s independence into question once again.

What Works for Children’s Social Care is part of the What Works Network set up by the Government to cover policy areas which account for more than £250 billion of public spending.

The network is said to be independent from Government, but the Centres are funded by both a combination of government and non-government sources including the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Big Lottery Fund.

Josh MacAlister, who Chairs the Review, said it was “important that the review gets advice and input to ensure our work is well evidenced and so that we design recommendations that can be successfully implemented.”

“These groups will bring together considerable experience from professionals delivering the current children’s social care system, politicians from different political backgrounds and researchers from a range of disciplines,” MacAlister wrote on the Review’s website, continuing: “These groups will provide invaluable advice to the review in the months ahead and there is more information about them below.”

MacAlister also stressed the importance of “understanding the perspectives of those currently delivering the system” when designing recommendations of the review, announcing the establishment of a ‘Design Group’, made up of individuals from across local government, policing, the judiciary, health, education and other areas.

“This group will have a very important role to play in guiding how the review designs its recommendations,” MacAlister wrote.

Both the Evidence Group and Design Group will meet for the first time before the end of April to help shape the review in its early stages.

Two members of the Experts by Experience Board, the Review’s panel of contributors with lived experience of care, will also sit on each group to ensure the perspective of lived experience runs throughout all of the discussions.

Both groups will operate in an advisory capacity, adding their own insight and views to the work of the Review.

The Design Group is chaired by Josh MacAlister and features members such as the Chief Social Worker for England (children and families) Isabelle Trowler, who is directly appointed by the Department for Education.

Ian Dickson, a retired social worker and care-experienced campaigner, said on Twitter: “How can the government's own Chief Social Worker be part of an ‘independent’ #carereview? I have feared all along that this establishment review will hide behind the Expert by Experience panel to give it credibility it doesn't deserve. I still fear so.”

The Evidence Group will be chaired by Leon Feinstein, Professor of Education and Children’s Social Care at the University of Oxford, who was this year made Director of the university’s influential Rees Centre.

The Evidence Group also features prominent members from the sector, including Research in Practice Director Dez Holmes, Nuffield Family Justice Observatory Director Lisa Harker, and Director of Policy, Research and Development at CoramBAAF John Simmonds OBE.

View the full scope and member list of the Evidence Group here: https://childrenssocialcare.independent-review.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Evidence-Group-Terms-of-Reference.pdf

View the full scope and member list of the Design Group here: https://childrenssocialcare.independent-review.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Design-Group-Terms-of-Reference.pdf

Photo credit: U.S. Embassy in London

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