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Review of Children’s Social Care in England formally launches and publishes early plans

Chair of the review of the care system in England outlines the review’s ‘big question’, while promising to set out a ‘case for change’ in the Summer.

03/03/21

Review of Children’s Social Care in England formally launches and publishes early plans

The Chair of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care has shared his early plans and “current thinking” about how the review will work, as well as promising to set out “a case for change” as early as the Summer.

Josh MacAlister, former Chief Executive of the social work training organisation Frontline and now Chair of the Review, published a document stating that the “big question” for the review should be: “How do we ensure children grow up in loving, stable and safe families and, where that is not possible, care provides the same foundations?”

The review also launched a Call for Evidence for specific research and analysis related to the review’s “big question”, focusing on where there is robust evidence, where there are gaps in knowledge or conflicting views, where evidence supports changes in practice, and if there is overlooked evidence.

Writing in the document, MacAlister said children’s social care often undertakes a “balancing act” between the three objectives of safety, stability and love by “taking action to keep children safe, whilst maintaining the glimmers of stability and loving relationships that already exist.”

“We need to do so much more to ensure that every child feels loved as they grow up,” MacAlister wrote.

Addressing concerns raised by the British Association of Social Workers and others that the broad scope of the review and its relatively short timeframe risk creating a process that is rushed or tokenistic, MacAlister said he and his team will move “at pace” and build on the “significant work that already exists”.

“It also means the review must prioritise the whole system issues that will make the greatest difference to children achieving love, stability and safety,” MacAlister said.

“The review will be comprehensive and ambitious, but that does not mean it will be able to resolve every issue that is raised. I will aim to listen deeply and be transparent as I consider the issues in the system and what should be covered.”

On the subject of safety, MacAlister said that while the review “rightly seeks safety for every child”, he agreed with Eileen Munro – who chaired the previous landmark review of child protection in 2011 – that uncertainty and risk are “features of child protection work” and that practitioners can only work to reduce the probability of harm rather than eliminate it.

MacAlister said he was “not setting any hard and fast rules” for the age of children the review will consider, looking “across childhood, adolescence and into independence”.

The early plans also show for the first time that the review will also examine racial disparities in the care system, after an open letter highlighting the issues, coordinated by Home for Good, was sent to the Secretary of State for Education.

The letter pointed out that black children are over-represented in the care system while being least likely to ever be adopted, as well as facing “disadvantage at so many points across the system”.

“My intention is that the review will look to understand this issue in more depth and consider what should be done to address it,” MacAlister said.

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