Care experienced people and professionals warn of “serious concerns” with Care Review

Submitting responses to the Review of Children’s Social Care in England’s publication of its interim ‘Case for Change’ findings, groups and organisations representing social workers have expressed their “frustration and disappointment” with the report.

18/08/21

Care experienced people and professionals warn of “serious concerns” with Care Review

Social workers, care-experienced people and academics have outlined concerns about the direction of the Care Review in England, led by Josh MacAlister.

Submitting their response to the Review’s publication of the Case for Change, the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) say their members felt there were many misrepresentations of social work and social workers, leaving them ‘frustrated and disappointed’.

Responding to a survey from BASW, members said that despite being peppered with a few platitudes, the Case for Change explicitly mentioned social workers acting too soon, being unskilled, unknowledgeable, not understanding the "profound impact of change and loss” and having poor decision-making skills. Most of the consulted members felt that their role was undermined, which raised fears about stoking public distrust, ultimately harming children and families. It added that several members felt “unfairly scapegoated” for the sector’s failings and the impact of Government policies after a decade of austerity.

BASW said there was a ‘mixed picture’ regarding the extent to which members were aware of the Review, with some expressing clear, detailed knowledge and others less so.

“What members did know was primarily marked with concern, particularly around timescales, scope, and resources available to fund the recommendations reached by the Review,” the response said.

BASW said its members also raised concerns about a “pre-existing agenda” for the Review with "minds being made up". Other members dismissed the process as "just another cost-cutting exercise," or an opportunity for "opening the door to further privatisation".

An “overwhelming majority” of social workers responding to the survey said most of the families they work with neither knew about the Review nor were proactively engaged in contributing meaningfully to the Review. Less than a fifth of social workers themselves said they felt they could meaningfully contribute to the Review.

Last week, the Care Review Watch Alliance (CRWA), a loose collective of care-experienced people, care professionals and academics, also raised concerns about the “content and poorly evidenced approach being taken by the Care Review, and its chair Mr Josh MacAlister.”

Members of the alliance say there are “fundamental issues” with the first substantial report coming from the Care Review highlighting its lack of understanding of what is considered statutory provision for families.

They say the ‘Case for Change’ mistakenly asserts that family support services provided under the Children Act 1989 are “non-statutory”, pointing out that this suggests either “a fundamental misunderstanding of legislation or a purposeful omission”.

The group say there are a number of poorly evidenced and contradictory claims about the current regulatory landscape for children, and that there is a failure to place children’s rights as central to the review, most notably seen in the support for government legislation to omit the right to care for 16- and 17-year-old children in care.

The alliance says the Case for Change is also “largely silent” on the impact of poverty and austerity, including presenting figures in a way that purposefully underplays the impact of successive Conservative government cuts to services on the challenges faced by the children’s social care system today.

As a result, the group is calling for the replacement of the current Chair with a suitably qualified and independent chair. The alliance is also urging the Review to use its position to call on Government to reverse rising levels of child and family poverty in England.

A spokesperson for the Alliance said the content of the Case for Change suggests that the direction of travel is towards a ‘National Child Protection Agency’.

“This would involve the splitting child protection from family help/early help and would be a startlingly similar move to the ill-fated Transforming Rehabilitation privatisation and restructuring of the probation system. This was an abject failure that the sector will long be recovering from, despite now being reversed. We do not want the same for children’s social care,” the spokesperson said.

“The Care Review continues to have a lack of transparency by not being directly open about its intentions, confirming many of the worst fears that the outcomes of this review have been largely predetermined from the start.”

The Care Review team were not able to provide a comment on specific points raised, but said they had more than 300 responses from people and organisations.

“In June, we published the Case for Change – a report summarising what the #carereview has heard so far and setting out the problems in children’s social care. We did this to let people know our thinking and so they could let us know whether we'd missed or misunderstood anything,” the Review said on Twitter.

“The next stages will be about understanding the problems in more depth to develop recommendations based on evidence & feedback. In this phase we’ll also be working with several local authority areas to deepen our understanding of families experience of children’s social care.”

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