Frontline chief defends his appointment to lead Government’s social care review

Chief Executive of Frontline, and soon to be Chair of the Independent Review into Children’s Social Care in England, makes plea for people to “judge me by my actions”.

Last week, the government announced a “wide-ranging review” of children’s social care in England promising to “radically reform the system”.

However, the appointment of Josh MacAlister, Founder and Chief Executive of Frontline, to lead the review has since drawn criticism, with many sceptical that the review will be completely independent from the government.

Carolyne Willow, Director of children’s rights charity Article 39’s, expressed concern that the Secretary of State has appointed a review chair who is “very close to government”.
Read here: https://article39.org.uk/2021/01/15/review-of-childrens-social-care-launched/

MacAlister took to Twitter over the weekend to respond, saying: “A few suggest that because I've secured government funding for charitable programmes I won’t be independent. By this logic, those in LAs, academia or elsewhere who secure public funding for projects would fail the independence test.”

“If that's the logic then fair enough but I ask that those who are sceptical to judge me by my actions. Helping to get children a decent and fair start in life has been the focus of my career and that’s what will drive this review.”

Fostering charity TACT voiced their support, saying “The lack of trust in any [Department for Education] commissioned review is wholly understandable given the repeated systemic failures the care experienced community have suffered. However this review is an opportunity to change things for the better.”

TACT added: “nearly all of us in the sector are [Department for Education] and government funded to some extent.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said that MacAlister will permanently step down from his role at Frontline to take up the role of independent reviewer to “ensure he is able to act independently and focus his full efforts on the review.” She also confirmed that MacAlister will be expected to comply with the Seven Principles of Public Life, in line with standard practice for senior appointments.

The process by which MacAlister was chosen to lead the review has also drawn criticism, with Social Worker and blogger Christian Kerr raising concerns about the chair’s “experience and ability” to implement and conclude this review in the given timescale of 12 months, and about the process by which he was appointed.
Read the full blog: https://socialwhatnow.medium.com/the-care-review-a-foregone-conclusion-8c40ab8b6f9d

Responding to this, the Department for Education spokesperson said: “It is common practice for independent reviewers to be directly appointed based on their expertise. Whilst the lead reviewer will ultimately make a final set of recommendations, this will be on the basis of extensive consultation with other groups and individuals whose voices should be heard.

“Josh brings a wide range of experience to this role and was chosen for his understanding of the challenges facing the system and his experience of implementing innovative solutions.

“Under his leadership we are confident this Review will be bold and benefit from his understanding of the challenges facing the system and his experience of developing and implementing innovative solutions.”

View Josh MacAlister’s full Twitter thread in response to some of the concerns here:
https://twitter.com/JoshMacAlister/status/1351065936141443072

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