Cameron pledges to put right care system that “shames our country”

The Prime Minister also told the Conservative party conference that failing social services should be taken over

David Cameron addressed Conservative party members today. Photo: Ray Tang/REX Shuttershock

David Cameron has said that the care system “shames our country”, and pledged to “put it right”.

In a major speech at the Conservative Party conference today, the Prime Minister singled out children in care as a group needing more support, and said the government would aim to change outcomes for them in the next five years.

“Children in care today are almost guaranteed to live in poverty. 84% leave school without five good GCSEs, 70% of prostitutes were once in care, and tragically care leavers are four times more likely to commit suicide than anyone else,” Cameron said.

He added: “These children are in our care. We, the state, are their parents and what are we setting them up for? The dole? The streets? An early grave?

“I tell you this shames our country, and we will put it right.”

In his closing remarks, Cameron said that over the next five years the party would show that deep problems were “not inevitable”, and that a “childhood in care doesn’t mean a life of struggle”.

Taking over local authorities

Cameron also used his speech to reiterate commitments to take over failing social services. He compared local authorities to schools, and said: “Just as we said to failing schools, do a better job with our children or we’ll send new leaders in, so we’ll say to poorly performing social services: improve or be taken over.”

Getting “our best and our brightest” graduates into the frontline of social work, and improving the adoption rate, were also areas mentioned by the Prime Minister.

“Let us say today in this hall to all those children desperate for a family, and all those families yearning for a child, we, the Conservatives, we are the ones who will bring you together,” he said.

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21 Responses to Cameron pledges to put right care system that “shames our country”

  1. Pearlene Webb October 7, 2015 at 6:45 pm #

    The brightest and best graduates does not make a good social worker if they don’t have empathy, compassion and good common sense. The problem with social care is they need to get rid of the business model and do more to encourage mature people with life experience to join the profession. I have been practicing for 25 years and have seen how the profession has changed for the worse and I am sick of hearing men in suits tell us how the job should be done when the problem is to do with their decision makings.

    • Barbara October 8, 2015 at 4:27 pm #

      I would like to think that as a mature student 49yrs to be exact and in my 2nd year that my life experiences and maturity along with my academic abilities are going to be what makes me a caring professional. I seem to read constantly about the change in social care and the social work degree, with the emphasis upon the brightest graduates into frontline social work is a little bit of an insult, I can say that the majority of undergraduate students on my course are passionate and dedicated to the social work profession. Maybe Mr Cameron needs to spend sometime in the average social work office and see the real pressure that social workers experience today then he might realise that the system needs help for social workers who are stretched to capacity – but keep on going.

    • Elizabeth October 8, 2015 at 10:02 pm #

      So true!

    • Melanie October 11, 2015 at 12:30 pm #

      Pearlene Webb, I completely agree with you. Social care should not be run as a business model since lives are not as prescriptive. What more do we have to do and say before the government LISTENS! Do we have to have another scandal on our hands or is the media now so fed up with such reporting that it is no longer newsworthy unless it involves ministers and high profile figures. Families can not fit into government boxes and social workers should not be judged on whether they are good or bad practitioners simply because they are the brightest graduates. A divide and rule ethos (highest achieving graduates equal good practitioners) springs to mind since everyone else is seen as ‘other’. If we are to view the profession in the same simplistic light as the government, so called good practitioners are beholden to their management structure and only recognise jargon, performance targets, timescales, monitoring and performance management. Somehow the word ‘families’, meaningful/quality intervention, family support, quality secondary support services and other work to increase knowledge, confidence and self esteem is therefore not recognised as good, proactive social work practice. This shows a lack of interest in people/parents/families and thus, making such sustainable progress in this area a meaningless, thankless exercise in the scheme of things. It is times like this that social workers need to pull together to develop a stronger voice to counteract the misinformation given to government about how life really is for the families we provide a service too (warts and all).

  2. Josh October 7, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

    Mr Cameron fails to mention how much strain has been placed on the social care sector, and the public sector as a whole, due to massive cuts in budgets and resources. In my experience, social workers are near to breaking point with a rise in caseloads and a decline in resources – common sense dictates that less money equates to a poorer service. Mr Cameron is now scapegoating the social workers in the field and inadvertently suggesting they ‘shame our country’ without putting forward any ideas of how to help children in care other than to ‘take over’ local authorities. Yes, we need to do much more for children who have been removed from their families, but without incentive and support where on earth are all of these long term foster carers or adoptive parents going to come from??

  3. Chrissie October 8, 2015 at 11:08 am #

    and not a word about the elderly…………..what a surprise.

  4. Andrew Tempest October 8, 2015 at 11:17 am #

    If the care system is having the same problems all over the country it must be because the national government is failing in it’s policies. Who will take over their responsibilities.

  5. Liz October 8, 2015 at 11:27 am #

    There are so many issues here. As a social worker with empathy, compassion, and hopefully good common sense the LA where I worked did not want these skills they actually wanted someone who can ‘write things up in a timely manner’. The SDM spoke about families she had worked with 25 years ago and they still have all the same problems………………..and surely the answer is not to keep taking children into care? As an adoptee myself I am sickened by comments that being adopted should be rushed through. Yes, for those children where there really is no other option then of course it should, but are we doing enough to support mums/dads to make changes? I don’t think we are because I don’t think there are sufficient resources to allow us to work in the way we would wish to work. I have worked with some amazing social workers who really care about the families they work with but sadly management are not enbracing of ‘going the extra mile’ or ‘thinking outside the box’. Not all families can change but I am of the view that most can with the right early intervention support. And when I stop being of this view I think it is time for me to stop working with families all together. And it is about time that the powers that be recognise that holding 48+ cases is the problem here, and when managers are telling the unions that workers only hold 20-23 at the most this is where the change needs to take place. Yes, we see serious case reviews, but these are few and far between. Most of the work undertaken is great and social workers should be supported not berated. If I can write like an academic but families do not understand what they need to change how are they going to be helped? I am disheartened and have resigned from the Council I worked with because I cannot line up with the views that are held at the moment. I have been told by managers that its not about giving families (parents) chances. So nothing will change and 25 years on we will still be seeing the same generational abuse because no one is working with families to change this. And watching mums losing their 5th, 6th, 7th, child is heartbreaking. This needs to change. And soon.

  6. Fred October 8, 2015 at 11:31 am #

    Yes Josh. It is Mr Cameron’s unswerving attacks on local authorities that shame our country. It is his attacks on their budgets and their staff.

    Cameron cuts the budgets so brutally that services are cut and staffing is reduced. Then he threatens to have remaining social workers who “fail” sent to prison. It is this that shames our country.

    It is entirely doctrinaire and has nothing at all to do with any real care about children’s wellbeing. It is back to the old “private is great – state is bad” mindless drivel. The Tories hate the public sector and want it hived off to the assett stripping hedge fund managers who of course fund the Conservative Party.

    The policy; wreck the public sector’s childcare services through cuts, blame them when the cuts take affect and services struggle , use the public sector’s struggle as an excuse to hive them off and watch your City Of London mates pocket the resulting profits. And Cameron has the cheek to accuse others of “shaming Britain” or hating Britain!

    • Lesley Hanson October 8, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

      Just said much the same. it’s a deliberate plan

  7. Jody October 8, 2015 at 11:37 am #

    No comment about Adult Social Care…? The cuts to ASC budgets?

    Only yesterday Mithran wrote how adults’ services teams are now diverting three-quarters of referrals away from social care! What is Mr Cameron going to do about that?! What about all those elderly people in their homes not receiving appropriate care because there is not enough money to fund it?

  8. Fred October 8, 2015 at 12:27 pm #

    And of course focusing purely on the “in care” part of the system shows unsurprising ignorance.

    What happens once children enter care is insignificant, in terms of their life chances, compared to the circumstances that they are brought up in, with poor housing, inadequate food and grinding poverty of massive significance.

    The policy of redistributing wealth from the poorest to the richest, exemplified by the tax cuts for the rich, the abolition of some inheritance taxes, and the massive cuts to benefits, welfare and public services will do more to damage children than anything the “care system” can offer.

    Cameron’s cynical blame of social workers and the child care system for the affects of his own policies says far more about him and his Government’s priorities than it does about the care system or the social work profession.

  9. Lesley Hanson October 8, 2015 at 1:06 pm #

    This is sounding like he’s paving the way for Privatisation via the back door.

    Clever Tory plan to manipulate the performance of public services, and gain public acceptance of the privatisation. Also known as ‘rolling back the state’.

    1.Chronically underfund public services (such as Social Care Services)
    2.Introduce legislation that sets mandatory targets that are not achievable due to lack of funding, inadequate legislation, etc etc
    3. When targets fail to be met, villify that service via the Media, and label the service as ‘failing’ and ‘a shame to our country’.
    4. Fine the services, prosecute individual practitioners….

    and finally….

    5. Herald the ‘new and improved’…private service – run along business principles. The aim of that service will be primarily to make a profit out of vulnerable people.

  10. J October 8, 2015 at 2:35 pm #

    Stop taking funding and services for families from us then. I love how politicians can criticise something that they have never experienced or gone through themselves and are oblivious to how it really is in the real world!

  11. Barry October 8, 2015 at 2:58 pm #

    Cameron has been prime minister for 5.5 years now…surely he is the problem not the solution!?!

  12. Sabine ebert_forbes October 8, 2015 at 3:17 pm #

    Really? His actions speak louder than words. To go by his record in truthfulness, the moon must be made of cheese and be edible.

  13. Yoni ejo October 8, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

    Great, now they are going to do to the care system what they have already done to adoption. Meddle, Meddle, Meddle, and choose politics over children everytime.

  14. Eostre October 9, 2015 at 3:05 pm #

    ‘Brightest and best’? Academically some graduates are top notch but do not have the attributes to be a ‘hands on’ Social Worker. Academia does not teach or take the place of common sense, compassion and empathy.
    Our illustrious leader needs to take a walk amongst his people and see for himself what lack of funding and massive resource cut-backs are doing to both childrens and adult services instead of waxing lyrically about how bad a job Social Workers are doing accompanied with threats of ‘take overs’ and jail!

  15. Jane October 16, 2015 at 7:08 am #

    Cameron DOES have a wider plan, he WILL be privatising parts of social work (if not most): these are practically facts not fantasy. The sooner that social work truly understands this, maybe the sooner we will understand that we SHOULD be running like a business….a business whose aim is to get better results for anyone who is within our remit (be they young, old, disabled etc). I have met many brilliant social workers, some with so-called life experience and some who are very young who would be classed as what? No life experience? Surely not? I have worked with social workers who are ‘old school’ qualified who work hard with each of their cases and some who, quite frankly should have been sacked. I have known ‘new school’ qualified social workers who are doing a cracking job and some who should be escorted off the premises. I have met many social workers who are highly developed practitioners who have invested in themselves to get better at undertaking their work and I have met others who collect training certificates just because it’s being provided by their organisation with no thought to actually ‘using’ said training! I have worked for managers who were excellent in expanding my thinking and practice and I have worked for managers who wouldn’t know how to manage their way out of a paper bag! If social work does not start actually taking responsibility for our own actions – the poor worker who is not fully supported to develop or get out of the profession; the worker who cannot ‘integrate’ their training into practice; the worker who cannot tell me what approach or research they are using or developing with their clients; the worker who is unable to write up intelligent notes, statements or reports; the worker who takes challenge as an affront; the worker who doesn’t really like the clients they work with and the worker who thinks they are above being managed all need to be taken off the books. THIS is running social work as a business and if we can’t do this for ourselves then we are leaving the politicians little choice but to do it for us

  16. Fred November 3, 2015 at 10:40 am #

    Jane
    you seem to be falling for old private is best state is worst propaganda of the neo cons.

    Of course everyone who has worked within local authority social services has seen the sorts of issues you identify. However I have been impressed in the last 10 years with the standards of both practice and management I have seen. Maybe all the places you have worked in are not so hot with the sort of disasters and failings you highlight being quite common. Perhaps there is a common denominator in there?

    However you seem to believe that somehow the privatization of services will suddenly mean that all inefficienicies will suddenly disappear.

    Look at the terrible state of our privatized home care services and care homes with a combination of shocking quality care/slave labour wage rates/private sector profiteering by big business. Our home care services are run like a business and look at the impact on us all, workers, public, vulernable adults. The privatized syatem of care shames us all.

    You are arguing for quality and effective management of social work. I agree we should always be aiming to achieve absolutely the very best results for the people we work for. I disagree strongly that privatization of these services is the way to achieve anything other than loads of money for share holders.

  17. Julie November 4, 2015 at 9:43 pm #

    Cameron needs to study attachment theory to understand why the children in care have some of the outcomes they do. He also needs to put money where his mouth is and support a mental health service for children that works to repair if possible the damage from their early years.