Care Review, England 2021
FosterWiki looks at the 2021 Care Review of children’s social care, its primary themes and questions, industry statements and comments from foster carers.
Introduction to Care Review, England 2021
On 1st March 2021, the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care was launched. The government said the intention of the review is to radically reform the system, improving the lives of England’s most vulnerable children so they experience the benefits of a stable, loving home.
The Chair of the review is Josh MacAlister, a former teacher, Mr MacAlister founded the social work charity Frontline in 2013. He stood down from his role as Chief Executive to lead the review.
The government state their intention is the review will reshape how children interact with the care system, looking at the process from referral through to becoming looked after. It will address major challenges such as the increase in numbers of looked after children, the inconsistencies in children’s social care practice, outcomes across the country, and the failure of the system to provide enough stable homes for children.
They state that running throughout the review will be the voices and experiences of children, young people or adults who have been looked after, or who have received help or support from a social worker. Their experiences will be considered and reflected sensitively and appropriately, with their views included in full in the work. The review launched a ‘Call for Advice’ to help shape the early work of the review and invited applications for ‘Experts by Experience’, a group to advise him on how to include the voices of people with a ‘lived experience’ of the children’s social care system. The review says it intends to consult widely and bring in a broad range of expertise.
The Care Review’s themes and questions
- Support: what support is needed to meet the needs of children who are referred to or involved with social care, in order to improve outcomes and make a long-term positive difference to individuals and to society?
- Strengthening families: what can be done so that children are supported to stay safe and thrive with their families, to ensure the exceptional powers that are granted to the state to support and intervene in families are consistently used responsibly, balancing the need to protect children with the right to family life, avoiding the need to enter care?
- Safety: what can be done so that children who need to be in care get there quickly, and to ensure those children feel safe and are not at risk of significant harm?
- Care: what is needed for children to have a positive experience of care that prioritises stability, providing an alternative long-term family for children who need it and support for others to return home safely?
- Delivery: what are the key enablers to implement the review and raise standards across England, such as a strong, stable and resilient workforce, system leadership and partnerships, and what is needed so that this change can be delivered?
- Sustainability: what is the most sustainable and cost-effective way of delivering services, including high-cost services, who is best placed to deliver them, and how could this be improved so that they are fit for the future?
- Accountability: what accountability arrangements are necessary to ensure that the state can act appropriately, balancing the need to protect and promote the welfare of children with the importance of parental responsibility, and what is needed to ensure proper oversight of how local areas discharge those responsibilities consistently?
The review says it will engage with children, young people, and adults with direct experience of children’s social care, in order to ensure those individuals’ views and lived experience are fully embedded in the review’s work.
The review will report to ministers and the government will publish a report and response.
What the industry says
Under Josh MacAlister’s leadership, it will benefit from his understanding of the challenges facing the system and his experience of improving outcomes for children and young people. Deep down I think many of those working in the children’s social care system and certainly many of those who have experience of it, know that radical change is needed. My commitment is that this review will deliver a wide-ranging plan to extend the joy, growth and safety of childhood and the esteem, love and
security of family life to all children”
Gavin Williamson, Education Secretary (2019-2021)
Josh MacAlister, Chair of the review
Kevin Williams, Chief Executive, The Fostering Network
That’s something we need to change for the sake of children in care hearing these messages, as well as prospective foster carers and social workers.”
Harvey Gallagher, Chief Executive, NAFP (National Association of Fostering Providers)
The Children Act 1989 is clear, wherever possible children are best brought up within their own families. Some children will always need to come into care, and we need to ensure a range of placement options, high-quality support services and a well-supported workforce are available when and where they’re needed…Care can be a positive and for some children it is transformative but the system can do better. The Care Review must deliver on a plan to support the best possible outcomes for life. Children in our care deserve nothing less.”
Jenny Coles, President ADCS (Association of Directors of children’s services)
opportunity for transformation that has been promised. Such an unrealistic timeframe, coupled with knowledge of the review chair’s previous proposals for aspects of children’s social care, has led many members and others in the sector to believe the shape of reform has already been set. This undermines the argument that the review will be both evidence-based and inclusive.”
BASW – The British Association of Social Workers
Sadly the thing that will lead to radical change is the one thing every review overlooks, disregards and whitewashes, a comprehensive overhaul of the workforce, working conditions and status of those who underpin children’s foster care, the foster carers themselves. I am doubtful this will be looked at and more evidence will be produced to support the ‘spare room and big heart’ narrative. Ironically I’m sure recruitment will be high up there on the agenda, however, if they continue to ignore the foster carers they already have and persist in trying to recruit in ways that have not been working they will continue to fail.
I hope Josh MacAlister and his team will recognise the unseen power and knowledge bank of the people who work tirelessly caring for our children twenty-four seven. We are the very definition of ‘experts by experience’ let us be a significant part of the change we so desperately want to see for our children and young people and those who care for them. If they don’t do something soon there will be no foster care to review as there will be no foster carers.”
What foster carers say
Nothing will change for Foster Carers. For real change, It needs Foster Carers to come together and speak out that enough is enough! There is an army out there and collectively they could make that difference. In my humble opinion Fostering has changed beyond recognition. Two decades now I have been fostering and really there has been no change for Foster Carers, yet we carry on caring and being that champion because we care.”
“I feel that the problem is that the chair Josh MacAllister runs/owns ‘Frontline’ a Social Worker organisation, and he’s come in from the belief that social workers are the absolute answer to it all and that’s his focus.”
However, then along comes the ‘Stocktake’ (latterly renamed the ‘Independent review into fostering’ given the amount of negative press it had from the industry saying how ‘un-Independent it was) which seemed to ignore it all and relegated us right back down to ‘foster parent’ and put us firmly back in our ‘boxes’.
This isn’t about carers choice in what they call themselves in this context, it is about how every government document was then rewritten to demote us from ‘foster carer’ to ‘foster parent’ in a transparent and cynical political move which put us back 25yrs. The Fostering Network had worked for 20yrs to get us to ‘Foster Carer’ in the hope it would begin the road to recognition of our professional role as well as our nurturing one.”
“It’s definitely Foster Carer for me. To get the recognition we deserve we need to be seen as Professional Foster Carers. We know Fostering is much more than parenting and so are the demands put on us. They know that too!”