Children’s social care experts to lead ‘care crisis review’

The review will collate evidence on the factors behind the increase in care proceedings, and collect evidence about effective approaches to engaging with families

Photo: Olesia Bilkei/Fotolia

A group of children’s social care experts will lead a seven-month review into the “care crisis” causing record levels of care proceedings and numbers of children in care.

The review, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, will aim to identify changes that could be made to local authority and court systems, as well as national and local policies and practices to stem the increase of care cases and children in the care system.

Participants include the president of the family courts, Sir James Munby; the chief executive of Cafcass, Anthony Douglas; the president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), Alison Michalska; the children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield; and assorted academics, directors of children’s services and policy advisers.

The ‘Care Crisis Review’ will run until June 2018 and is chaired by Nigel Richardson, a former director of children’s services in Leeds, and will be facilitated by the Family Rights Group. It comes as the number of children in care has reached its highest level since 1985, and the number of care proceedings brought by local authorities has also risen year-on-year to nearly 15,000 in 2016-17.

Reducing demand

It will collate evidence on the factors behind the increase in care proceedings, scrutinise research, collect emerging evidence about effective approaches to engaging with families positively, and consult with service users.

Sector leaders, legal practitioners and social workers will also be consulted as part of the review.

A report will be produced at the end of the review recommending ways of reducing demand on the family justice and child welfare systems, as well as improving outcomes for children and families.

Cathy Ashley, chief executive of the Family Rights Group, said this review might not produce a “revelation” about the system, but added it is important for the agencies involved to reflect on what the common drivers of the crisis are, identify what is going wrong and what they need to shift.

The review being sector led would mean everyone involved could take ownership of the findings, Ashley said. She added it would be “dishonest” not to recognise the impact of funding cuts, but said “its also not the case to say that funding solves it”.

“One of the things that came through in scoping [the review] is that partnership working between the state and families, which underlies the 1989 Children Act, appears to be getting lost in the current climate. [So] if we think that partnership working is key to protecting children, what needs to shift to [realign] the system that we’re working within.”

Michalska welcomed the review and said the rise in care proceedings and children into care had put the system under “considerable strain”.

“It’s vital that wherever possible local authorities and their partners are doing all they can to support families to stay together and in many places local authorities are remodelling their services, including by refocusing resources into edge of care services, to do this but this is no easy task at a time when demand is rising and budgets have been reduced significantly.

“A review which considers changes that could be made nationally and locally to reduce the number of children coming into care safely is long overdue.”

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19 Responses to Children’s social care experts to lead ‘care crisis review’

  1. Paul November 15, 2017 at 11:40 am #

    Why no social workers to inform from a grassroots practice level. We are experts

    • s h November 15, 2017 at 3:31 pm #

      i totally agree always the same
      no social workers -a lot of the issues are due to some of the case law , changes/guidance and legislation
      these people have no working knowledge and impose impossible targets etc

    • Planet Autism November 22, 2017 at 7:10 pm #

      The single most important part of this review will be the “consult with service users”. They are the ones experiencing the actions of the social workers, they are the ones whose voices are not being heard, they are the ones who have been made into victims. And I include the children in that. High numbers of children are being traumatised by wrongful measures.

  2. Katie Politico November 15, 2017 at 11:47 am #

    It doesn’t take expensive research to understand why more children are being taken into care. Continuing austerity is placing families under unbearable stresses and continuing cuts to social work budgets means social workers do not have the time to prevent children being removed through better supporting families.

    • Amy Carroll November 18, 2017 at 4:48 pm #

      What also comes with this (and also as a separate matter) are parents with mental health illness. The intense involvement and intention to remove makes parents “mentally ill” then it’s makes for an easy case for removal. An example of this is parents with anxiety, or something such as bipolar disorder. Speaking from experience the intense intervention and lack of consideration made my anxiety worse and triggered a manic episode which was then used against me to remove my children. I agreed to four weeks respite under section 20 that was in march. I’m now waiting for a contested hearing in February. The trama my children have suffered whilst being out of my care is by far worse than any emotional (or any other) harm suffered in my care. My heart breaks for all children that have suffered and are suffing as my children have and are. And it takes massive strength for parents to become well whilst having had their children removed.

      • Planet Autism November 22, 2017 at 7:12 pm #

        Agree with you Amy, also trumped up mental health concerns and misdiagnoses against parents. It’s supposed to be about the wellbeing of the children, but it clearly isn’t.

      • Anon November 27, 2017 at 7:21 pm #

        Austerity has meant that all the support that used to be offered families (family centres homestart to name but two) has virtually disappeared. ‘We’ have become a knee jerk social care. With social workers ill equipped to cope with crisis but able to work a PC.
        I believe families should be helped to stay together as much as possible (not risking life of course) I see nothing that assists this … social care has gone backwards not forwards and children and families have suffered horrendously.

  3. LongtimeSW November 15, 2017 at 12:20 pm #

    Why aren’t frontline social workers part of the Review? ‘Consultation’? When?

    This smells of yet more apologetic excuses for the rich and powerful to justify not adequately resourcing public services whilst squirreling away their money offshore

    Can we have full financial disclosure from all these people as to what schemes they have off-shore to avoid paying tax, tax which I neither can nor want to avoid paying (though as PAYE I have no choice anyway).

    A disgrace.

  4. Les Bright November 15, 2017 at 4:14 pm #

    The participants listed are just those I would have expected if the review had been set up and funded by government. It is significantly more frustrating to see that ‘the sector’, and a highly reputable funding body, should make the mistake of putting together a collection of usual suspects – and I say this without wishing to cast aspersions on any of the named individuals.
    The crisis – the present one, or any of its many predecessors – is always likely to look and feel different dependent on which end of the telescope is used to view the landscape. And, remedies are more likely to take root and make an impact if owned by the people whose practice is now, and will be in the future, most intimately involved in the review.

    • Planet Autism November 22, 2017 at 7:13 pm #

      So you don’t see “consult with service users” as the key most important participant? Something is very wrong here. Families are the victims and must be heard.

  5. Anita Singh November 15, 2017 at 8:09 pm #

    This has got to be a cost cutting exercise to reduce the costs of the legal and care systems. First it was to scale back legal aid. Then more and more reviews. What is the point spending money on reviews to save money, when we know that the real problems is to do with the government not spending money where it is needed in the first place.

    How many more reviews? First the Munro Review and the recommendations were not followed.
    Then more money spent on blaming social work ineptitude through flawed Accreditation schemes, then heavily scaling back the flawed Accreditation but rolling out it anyway. Yet another review this time to blame social workers for number of care proceedings and looked after children.

    More money spent on finding ways to save money!

  6. Pat Elliott November 15, 2017 at 9:11 pm #

    What a terrible omission to exclude practitioners from this review and interesting at a time when Ofsted are going to be focussing on practice and less focus on plans and strategies. And is it possible to conjecture what the outcome and future focus might be from this review – yes on practice!

  7. Maggie November 15, 2017 at 9:18 pm #

    Just to echo.the above comments. Front line social workers should be consulted along with honest consideration of current cutbacks.

  8. Ian Dickson November 16, 2017 at 2:37 pm #

    Fair comment about lack of involvement by social workers. I would add there is no obvious involvement by the care experienced community, people who are in care and who may have left care. Their expertise has always been ignored, and we have never got it right. There may be a connection!

    • ms Mik Goodram November 16, 2017 at 6:20 pm #

      Care experienced people need to be consulted

    • Planet Autism November 22, 2017 at 7:23 pm #

      It does state it will “consult with service users” which are the single most important group, the victims of these processes which are so often abused.

  9. Angie B November 18, 2017 at 2:08 pm #

    As usual no one actually speaks to the people doing the job. Usual scoping exercise from ‘the great and the good’ .

  10. Fed up November 21, 2017 at 10:59 am #

    Douglas and Richardson on their way to a knighthood!

  11. Rory Witham November 27, 2017 at 7:45 am #

    What again
    I did the 2012, the issue are that changes were made and nothing happened.

    yes social workers voices were heard and yes I did mention the cuts and case loads. I also mentioned the lack of support, both to users and to staff.

    sad that people are resistant to change and that with the government its one hand not knowing the other hand and the information is NOT shared for the greater good. the government wants more for less.

    We need to fire everyone and start all over again and get rid of the problems and problem people. as bad as it sounds mal practice is happening and being told to the new social workers causing more mal practice. so the cycle keeps going.
    I wont be having much input of this as nothing will be done across the board.
    is this just public votes and a public interest move to make it look like something will be done and is being done?

    I can say there has been NO CHANGE. even with the new laws, policy and procedures, the same mistakes, the same problems are going on and as I can see by the comments, ( and I have inside views) will and do continue.