The children’s social care review has today (23 May) published its final report, making over 70 recommendations including the axing of independent reviewing officers and the creation of around 20 new regional bodies (called Regional Care Cooperatives – RCCs) across England to run and set up new fostering services, children’s homes and secure care, as well as to commission services from the not-for-profit and profit-making sectors. The review wants the regional bodies to be given freedom to choose different staffing arrangements for fostering support teams (to be transferred from local authorities). Over time, the review anticipates local authorities passing over all of their children’s homes to the regional bodies.
In addition to these new regional structures, ‘Family Help’ multi-disciplinary neighbourhood teams are recommended to provide a wide range of support to families. The review urges government to pilot not-for-profit ‘Family Help Practices’ which have “their own budget, delegated decision making and the freedom to work with communities from the ground up to design and build services”. The local authority’s director of children’s services would delegate operational responsibility to a Family Help director for a defined geographical area. The report states: “The front door to services and child protection decisions would remain with the local authority and Family Help Practices would need to be included in inspection”. A new social worker role of ‘Expert Child Protection Practitioner’ will work alongside Family Help teams when there are concerns about children suffering significant harm. Abuse in institutional settings is not directly addressed in the report.
This ‘segmentation’ of local authority children’s social care perhaps revives the direction favoured by the LaingBuisson study conducted for the Department for Education several years ago. The LaingBuisson report, published in 2016, stated that: “We were particularly attracted to the model of ‘tiered’ segmentation applied in the recent national procurement of probation services, where independent sector providers across England have won contracts to run 21 Community Rehabilitation companies to provide support services, leaving the highest level functions only for public sector in‐house supply”. In our response to the review’s interim report, we explained: “The splitting of responsibilities according to levels of risk and function was pursued in probation from 2014 and five years later was acknowledged by government to have been a serious mistake”. We also highlighted that probation restructuring had cost £467 million more than originally planned.
Carolyne Willow, Article 39’s Director, said:
“There are thousands of children in care who are living in unregulated properties where there aren’t any carers or consistent adult supervision. Children are being sent hundreds of miles away from their communities to Scotland, and the family courts are inundated with stories of desperately vulnerable children and local authorities who have nowhere for them to go. Children who arrive in the UK on flimsy boats, without parents or carers, are being put by the Home Office into hotels because the care system has been closed to them. In every part of England, our communities have adults in them still struggling to come to terms with childhoods where they didn’t feel loved or that they mattered, and a care system which left them to fend for themselves at the earliest opportunity. The care system, like many other collective endeavours in our country, has been undermined and starved of public funds.
“Against this backdrop, it is heart-sinking that the care review’s principal recommendations are for major structural reorganisation, which will, for years, consume many millions of pounds and the hearts and minds of people who could instead be leading cultural change to put children and their rights at the heart of everything. It is depressing that, yet again, there are proposals to take away legal protections from children, and that the promise of strengthened advocacy services, which exist to make sure children are always heard and their rights defended, has been tied to the loss of other independent roles.
“The review is rightly passionate about the need for fundamental change, and sets out a powerful case for it. There are individual proposals within the review’s report which have the potential to make life hugely better for children in care, particularly for those children whose families can be properly supported to look after them well. But this will be a review remembered for the structural reorganisation of children’s social care, moving people, services, power and funding away from local authorities. At any time, this kind of major structural upheaval would be questionable. When there are children in the care of the state who are living in hotels, bedsits and caravans, it could be an unforgivable distraction.”
Child sexual abuse within families and across all parts of society, and the devastating and enduring harm this can cause, receives limited attention in the review’s report. We wanted to see far greater prominence given to recovery within our child protection system, ensuring that children (and their families and carers) can quickly access non-stigmatising therapeutic support and counselling when they need it, and for as long as they need it.
Echoing the government’s failed attempt in 2016/17 to empower individual councils and the government to trial the removal of children’s legal protections in particular areas, the review recommends that a new National Reform Board (which will include people with lived experience) has “a mechanism for local authorities to raise where they feel there are national regulatory blockers to taking a course of action that is in the best interests of children and families, with action taken to address this”. (The Schools Bill, introduced into Parliament earlier this month, similarly allows the Education Secretary to remove or modify any education legislation, with only a very small number of exceptions relating to grammar schools, collective worship and schools of a religious character).
Regional arrangements for children’s care
When individual local authorities need a home for a child, it is proposed a social worker contacts the ‘homes finder’ in the Regional Care Cooperative (the local authority will pay for the home). Although the review’s report emphasises the importance of children in care remaining “close to their community”, the obvious risk of this regionalisation is that many more children in care will be sent outside their home areas. Currently 42% of children in care live more than 20 miles from their home local authority. The Cooperatives are to be owned and run by local authorities. The review urges the government to build a “failure regime” into the regional arrangement, which suggests central oversight and intervention. Government will also select one or two local authorities to lead each Regional Care Cooperative. The main report expects conditions to be attached to local authority funding straightaway to implement this regionalisation: “To encourage the establishment of the Regional Care Cooperatives before new legislation is passed, government should link any funding for new care capacity with a need for regional cooperation in the footprint of RCCs”.
A windfall tax on the 15 largest companies running children’s homes and fostering services recommended, with a suggestion that this is based on profits made over the past five years, though no other brakes on profit-making in children’s social care are proposed.
Advocates to offer proactive help, alongside deletion of two other independent roles
Independent advocates for care experienced children and young people should become opt-out, the review urges, which means information and help would be offered to children and young people proactively rather than them having to find out about and contact the service themselves. It also wants advocates, with the consent of children, to assist children through family group decision-making and court proceedings. These are excellent proposals. But showing serious misunderstanding of the nature of these vital roles, the review recommends advocates replace some of the functions of independent reviewing officers and independent persons who visit children’s homes each month to undertake safeguarding and well-being checks (both roles to be deleted).
Children’s rights officers and advocates are specialist posts which ensure children and young people are heard and taken seriously and their rights protected. Unlike other professionals in a child’s life, their sole focus is on the child’s views, wishes and feelings. They are not there to make decisions about the child’s best interests, and they only act upon instructions from the child (though non-instructed advocacy promotes and protects the rights of children who are unable to direct the work of advocates).
The review also suggests that the Children’s Commissioner for England takes on responsibility for commissioning advocacy services, with funding responsibility remaining with local authorities. Despite their proposed increased availability to children and young people, the review’s calculations show projected £1 million ‘savings’ in expenditure on children’s advocacy services in 2025/26, and ‘savings’ each year thereafter (10-year projections are given). The discrepancy between role expansion and cuts to funding is not explained in the main report. This sounds an alarm bell that children may lose their locally-based children’s rights and advocacy services staffed by people they know and trust. The report’s section on child protection omits any discussion of the importance of advocacy for children, and ensuring their voices are heard, though positively it is included for parents. The review supports the development of revised standards for advocacy services, which the government committed to in March 2020 following a campaign led by Article 39 and others.
Removing independent reviewing officers (IROs) from all children in care is a drastic and dangerous move. IROs are experienced social workers who scrutinise local authorities’ care and decision-making in respect of individual children. They were introduced to make sure there is an experienced social worker not connected to the child’s care who holds the local authority to account.
How independent reviewing officers came about
In May 2001, the Court of Appeal held that in certain circumstances a care order could be ‘starred’ by the family court so that significant failures by the local authority to fulfil its obligations towards a child in care could activate a process whereby, if necessary, the child’s case could return to court. Lady Justice Hale (later to become President of the Supreme Court) explained: “The object is simply to seek to secure that the care system is operated in such a way as to comply with the Convention rights” – meaning the rights in the European Convention on Human Rights, which were now part of domestic law through the Human Rights Act 1998.
The House of Lords overturned the Court of Appeal’s decision the following year, because such a legal development was a matter for Parliament. However, the government acted quickly to introduce legislation which provided the independent scrutiny the Court of Appeal had signalled was necessary post the Human Rights Act 1998. The Adoption and Children Act 2022 amended the Children Act 1989 to make it a legal requirement that every child in care has an independent reviewing officer. By law, these are experienced social workers and their focus is on the child’s best interests.
This is the third serious attempt at getting rid of the IRO role in six years (alongside other moves to weaken the role). The government sought to trial the removal of IROs via the controversial exemption clauses in the Children and Social Work Bill in 2016/17 but couldn’t get the provisions through Parliament. Then a review conducted by Martin Narey and Mark Owers recommended their abolition in 2018; this was rejected by the then Children’s Minister Nadhim Zahawi (now Education Secretary) who went on to publicly affirm the importance of the role.
All children in care to receive care where they live – from 2025
Chiming with the national #KeepCaringTo18 campaign run by Article 39 and others, the review states every child in care should receive care where they live. Disappointingly, its target date for this is 2025, and the review inexplicably maintains its support for the government’s current plan to introduce care-less standards for accommodation for 16 and 17 year-olds. (The proposed standards are care-less because they deliberately omit any requirement to provide care; they are expected to be introduced in 2023).
In September 2021, new secondary legislation came into force which bans the use of unregulated accommodation for children in care aged 15 and younger, and guarantees that they always receive care where they live. We are legally challenging this because we want the same protections for 16 and 17 year-olds (we are currently awaiting news on whether our case can be heard in the Court of Appeal). Over a third of 16 and 17 year-olds in care are living in accommodation where they do not receive any care. Notwithstanding the unacceptable three-year delay to implementation proposed by the review, should government accept this care recommendation, the experiences and safety of teenagers in care should hugely improve. Twenty-nine children in care aged 16 and 17 died while living in unregulated accommodation over the past five years.
Other care system changes
Other changes recommended by the review affecting care experienced children and adults include:
- All public bodies to have community parenting responsibilities (community parenting being the replacement term for corporate parenting)
- A new set of universal care standards (though the review signals a significant diminution of current legislation and guidance)
- National foster carer recruitment campaign, with a target of 9,000 new carers by 2026
- Foster carers to have presumed power to make decisions about children (delegated authority)
- Small children’s homes to be exempted from planning regulations
- Greater use to be made of boarding schools
- Family finding support for care experienced children and adults up to the age of 25 years – helping children and adults locate, resume and build new relationships with family members and others who have mattered to them as they were growing up
- The new NHS Integrated Care Boards to publish plans for improving the mental and physical health of care experienced children and adults
- Local authorities to reimagine and reinvigorate their independent visitor schemes
- Presumption that children who are adopted maintain contact with their birth families (though it is not clear whether the review intends this to be direct, face-to-face time together)
- Leadership programme and professional registration for children’s homes managers; then professional registration for other children’s homes staff from 2025
- Care experience to become the tenth protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010, following consultation with care experienced people and the devolved administrations
- A new lifelong guardianship order available to people aged 18 and over
- Staying Put (where young people can continue living with their foster families) and Staying Close (where young people who formerly lived in children’s homes can live nearby and/or maintain a connection with the home) to be made opt out and entitlement to extend to the age of 23 years
- Virtual School Heads to champion the education of care experienced students up to age 25
- Removal of local area connection rule for housing entitlement, not applying intentionally homeless sanction to young care leavers, providing rent guarantor schemes and increasing the leaving care grant by £438 (to £2,438)
- Care leavers to be exempt from prescription charges to age 25
- Various changes are also suggested to the role of Ofsted, including having more child-centred focused inspections
Children’s social care objectives and missions
The review’s report contains objectives for children’s social care, and five missions for care experienced people, listed below. A new national programme – Relationships Protect – will drive the reforms, and central government will devise and steer a National Children’s Social Care Framework.
Proposed objectives for children’s social care (child and family objectives)
Children in need are supported to thrive within their families, through an effective, non-stigmatising Family Help offer that focuses on providing support to the whole family
Children are protected from abuse, maltreatment and exploitation, through better sharing of information, family engagement and skilled and decisive, multi-agency intervention where there is risk of significant harm
Where children cannot remain safely at home, there is a relentless focus on engaging and supporting a child’s wider family network to step forward, supporting successful reunification with a birth family or other forms of permanence that promote lifelong relationships
All children in care have a loving, high quality home that is as close as possible to a family environment and that provides stability in their local community where this is best for them
Children’s voices are heard and prioritised in decisions about what happens to them through reinvigorated advocacy
The impact of care experience is recognised and our collective efforts are focused on ensuring every young person leaving care has at least two loving relationships, a good home, access to well paid purposeful work, double the chance of attending university and a life expectancy equal to the wider population
Five missions for young people leaving care
- No young person should leave care without at least two loving relationships, by 2027.
- Double the proportion of care leavers attending university, and particularly high tariff universities, by 2026.
- Create at least 3,500 new well paid jobs and apprenticeships for care leavers each year, by2026.
- Reduce care experience homelessness now, before ending it entirely.
- To increase the life expectancy of care experienced people, by narrowing health inequalities with the wider population
“Family-led alternatives to care”
There are many teenagers who are housed by local authorities instead of being looked after in care; Just for Kids Law estimates around 2,500 a year. In the 2009 landmark ‘Southwark judgment’, the House of Lords (then the UK’s highest court) ruled that local authorities avoiding their duties this way is unlawful. The review recommends a new ‘Family Network Plan’ – “family-led alternatives to care” – which it explicitly connects to the Southwark judgment. It is silent on whether it wants the law changed so that children aged 16 and 17 can no longer request themselves to be looked after. Considerable new support – financial and otherwise – is recommended for kinship carers. The review estimates 30,000 fewer children will be in care by 2032/33 should its proposals be followed.
Youth justice policy
In a very welcome move, the review recommends that responsibility for youth justice policy be transferred from the Ministry of Justice to the Department for Education. It repeats its support for closing child prisons (which the government committed to in 2016).
More power to Whitehall
Signalling extensive new control of children’s social care by Whitehall, the review recommends the creation of three new national bodies and a National Children’s Social Care Framework which will “set the objectives, goals and values and guide underpinning practice for all those delivering children’s social care, accompanied by a balanced scorecard to measure success”.
The three proposed bodies are:
- National Reform Board – “to oversee implementation of the review’s recommendations and monitor system feedback”
- National Practice Group – “to take oversight of setting direction on questions of practice in children’s social care, including the voices of practice, evidence and lived experience”
- National Data and Technology Taskforce – “to coordinate local authority and national action to achieve progress on use of data and technology”
The review also recommends the strengthening of the national Safeguarding Children Reform Implementation Board.
The review calls for White Paper consultation within six months, and hopes that legislation will be passed by Spring 2024.
Care review recommendations
(NB there are some additional recommendations in the body of the report, we have only listed below those which are highlighted as recommendations)
- Recommendation: A new umbrella of “Family Help” should combine work currently done at targeted early help and section 17, ending handovers and bringing the flexible, non-stigmatising approach at early help to a wider group of families.
- Recommendation: Eligibility for Family Help should be set out in a sufficient level of detail nationally to give a more consistent understanding of who should receive Family Help, whilst giving enough flexibility to enable professional judgement and empower Family Help Teams to respond flexibly to families’ needs.
- Recommendation: Local Family Help Teams should be designed in a way that enables families and practitioners to have a conversation about their concerns rather than relying on mechanical referrals. If families are not eligible for Family Help, support should be available in universal and community services and the front door to Family Help should be equipped to link families to this support.
- Recommendation: Family Help should be delivered by multidisciplinary teams, embedded in neighbourhoods, harnessing the power of community assets and tailored to local needs.
- Recommendation: Government should make an investment of roughly £2 billion in supporting local authorities, alongside their partners, to implement the proposed transformation in Family Help. National government pots of funding should be mainstreamed into this funding stream and local partners should be incentivised to contribute. Once transformation is complete, the government should ring-fence funding for Family Help to ensure rebalanced investment is sustained.
- Recommendation: As part of the National Children’s Social Care Framework, the government should define outcomes, objectives, indicators of success and the most effective models for delivering help. Funding should be conditional on meeting the goals of the Framework.
- Recommendation: Alongside recommendations to strengthen multi-agency partnerships and the role of the Director of Children’s Services, government should consider legislating to put the existence of multidisciplinary Family Help Teams on a statutory footing.
- Recommendation: Ofsted inspections should reinforce a focus on families receiving high quality, evidence based help that enables children to thrive and stay safely at home.
- Recommendation: Government should ensure alignment in how the proposals in the SEND and Alternative Provision Green Paper and this review are implemented. The government should ask the Law Commission to review the current patchwork of legislation that exists to support disabled children and their families.
- Recommendation: All cases of significant harm should be co-worked by an Expert Child Protection Practitioner who is responsible for making key decisions (in the future this would be someone who has completed our proposed Early Career Framework).
- Recommendation: Working Together should set expectations on multi-agency capabilities for child protection and the National Children’s Social Care Framework should set out effective practice models for joint working.
- Investment in Family Help will provide resources for multidisciplinary responses to extra familial harms.
- Government should amend Working Together to introduce a Child Community Safety Plan to clarify where primary harm is not attributable to families, supported by practice guides and the Early Career Framework.
- There should be clearer expectations about partnership responses to extra familial harms across an area and this should be a priority area for learning.
- Recommendation: Government should integrate funding aimed at preventing individual harms into a single local response to extra familial harms, including enabling areas to integrate their Violence Reduction Unit funding and infrastructure into their local response to extra familial harms.
- Recommendation: Subject to a positive evaluation of the pilot to devolve responsibility for the National Referral Mechanism decisions for child victims to local areas, government should roll this out to all areas.
- Recommendation: Government should implement the recommendations of the Taylor Review to simplify the experiences of children in the youth justice system, and as a first step, should roll out the flexibility to all local authorities to integrate AssetPlus Assessments with children in need assessments.
- Guidance and legislation on information sharing should be strengthened and local safeguarding partners should confirm they have information sharing agreements in place and have audited practice in this area.
- Government should set a target to achieve frictionless sharing of information between local authority and partner systems and between different local authorities by 2027. To enable this they must take an imminent decision on whether to adopt the NHS number as a consistent identifier alongside work by the National Data and Technology Taskforce discussed in Chapter Eight.
- Recommendation: The National Children’s Social Care Framework practice guides should promote effective practice for engaging families. Parental representation should be offered to all families in child protection.
- Recommendation: Improve the quality and consistency of local and judicial decision making through improving the quality and transparency of data and facilitating learning at a local level.
- Recommendation: The Public Law Working Group should lead work to bring learning from the Family Drug and Alcohol Courts and other problem solving approaches into public law proceedings, to make proceedings less adversarial and improve parents’ engagement in the process.
- Recommendation: Government should introduce legislation which makes the use of family group decision making mandatory before a family reaches Public Law Outline. The features and delivery practice of effective family group decision making should also be included in the National Children’s Social Care Framework
- Recommendation: A Family Network Plan should be introduced and enabled in law to support and give oversight to family-led alternatives to care.
- Recommendation: All local authorities should make a financial allowance paid at the same rate as their fostering allowance available for special guardians and kinship carers with a Child Arrangement Order looking after children who would otherwise be in care
- Recommendation: Legal aid should be provided in a range of circumstances where special guardians and kinship carers with a Child Arrangement Order interact with the family courts.
- Recommendation: All new special guardians and kinship carers with a Child Arrangement Order (CAO) should be given kinship leave, which matches the entitlement given to adopters.
- Recommendation: As part of our recommendation to establish a National Children’s Social Care Framework in Chapter Eight, local authorities should develop peer support and training for all kinship carers.
- Recommendation: Government should develop a new legal definition of kinship care, taking a broad range of circumstances into account.
- Recommendation: Contact arrangements between birth parents, adopted children and adoptive parents should be assumed by default and modernised through the swift roll out of technology enabled methods of contact, such as Letterswap.
- Recommendation: New and ambitious care standards, applicable across all homes for children, should be introduced.
- Recommendation: Regional Care Cooperatives should be established to plan, run and commission residential care, fostering, and secure care
- Recommendation: A windfall tax on profits made by the largest private children’s home providers and independent fostering agencies should be levied to contribute to the costs of transforming the care system.
- Recommendation: Linked to recommendations in Chapter Seven, Ofsted should be given new powers to oversee and intervene in the children’s social care market
- Recommendation: The Department for Education should launch a high profile national foster carer recruitment programme to recruit 9,000 additional foster carers.
- Recommendation: Local authorities, and eventually Regional Care Cooperatives, should use family group decision making to identify important adults that are already known to a child and may be willing to foster.
- Recommendation: All foster carers should be able to access high quality training and peer support. As part of the National Children’s Social Care Framework, all local authorities should develop a model of foster carer support based on the principles of Mockingbird.
- Recommendation: Independent, opt-out, high quality advocacy for children in care and in proceedings should replace the existing Independent Reviewing Officer and Regulation 44 Visitor roles. The Children’s Commissioner for England should oversee these advocacy services, with the powers to refer children’s complaints and concerns to the court.
- Recommendation: New legislation should be passed which broadens corporate parenting responsibilities across a wider set of public bodies and organisations.
- Recommendation: Government should make care experience a protected characteristic, following consultation with care experienced people and the Devolved Administrations.
- Recommendation: National government should issue statutory guidance to local authorities setting out the priority that should be afforded to care experienced adults in accessing local services such as social housing.
- Recommendation: Local authorities should redesign their existing Independent Visitors scheme for children in care and care leavers to allow for long term relationships to be built.
- Recommendation: As part of the National Children’s Social Care Framework, all local authorities should have skilled family finding support equivalent to, or exceeding, the work of Lifelong Links in place by 2024 at the very latest.
- Recommendation: A new lifelong guardianship order should be created, allowing a care experienced person and an adult who loves them to form a lifelong legal bond.
- Recommendation: As part of our recommendations about Ofsted inspection (Chapter Eight), Virtual School Heads should be held accountable for the education attainment of children in care and care leavers up to age 25 through Ofsted’s ILACS framework. Pupil Premium funding should be focused on evidence led tutoring and mentoring programmes.
- Recommendation: Virtual School Heads should work to identify more children in care who might benefit from a place at a state or independent day or boarding school, and the Department for Education should create a new wave of state boarding capacity led by the best existing schools.
- Recommendation: As part of recommendation in Chapter Eight (improving data collection), the Office for National Statistics should collect and report data on the mortality rate of care leavers and care leaver health outcomes. Government should also launch a new cohort study which tracks the health outcomes of care experienced people and helps to gather other missing data on housing, education and employment outcomes.
- Recommendation: A nationally led programme should get social workers back to practice through: action on technology to reduce time spent case recording; a mechanism for challenging unnecessary workload drivers; requiring all registered social workers to spend time in practice; and trialling flexible working models around the lives of children and families.
- Recommendation: Introduce a five year Early Career Framework for social workers, an Expert Practitioner role and national pay scales.
- Recommendation: The government should introduce new national rules on agency usage supported by the development of not-for-profit regional staff banks to reduce costs and increase the stability and quality of relationships children and families receive.
- Recommendation: To support the development of the wider social care workforce, government should produce a Knowledge and Skills Statement for family support workers; appoint Social Work England to set standards and regulate residential children’s home managers; and fund a new leadership programme that could train up to 700 new managers in the next five years.
- Recommendation: The Department for Education should strengthen existing leadership programmes to better align them with the review’s reforms and increase the diversity of leadership.
- Recommendation: A National Children’s Social Care Framework should set the objectives and outcomes for children’s social care.
- Recommendation: The National Children’s Social Care Framework should include a balanced scorecard of indicators to support learning and improvement. To support this there should be an overhaul of what data is collected and how those collections work, so that we have more meaningful metrics and more regular data to help drive transparency and learning in the system.
- Recommendation: The National Children’s Social Care Framework should include practice guides, setting out the best evidenced approaches to achieving the objectives set out in the Framework.
- Recommendation: Data and feedback should be used to prompt local and national learning to continually improve services. At a national level this should be via a National Practice Group and a National Reform Board. The evidence and learning landscape should be strengthened through the integration of overlapping What Works Centres, starting with the integration of the Early Intervention Foundation and What Works for Children’s Social Care.
- Recommendation: The National Reform Board should establish a mechanism for local authorities to raise where they feel there are national regulatory blockers to taking a course of action that is in the best interests of children and families, with action taken to address this.
- Recommendation: The responsibilities of multi-agency safeguarding arrangements should be amended to emphasise their role as a strategic forum focused on safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, with attendance reflecting this.
- Recommendation: Working Together should be amended to set out clear joint and equal operational responsibilities for partners. The Director of Children’s Services should be the primary interface between strategic and operational leaders to facilitate effective multi-agency working.
- The role of the Director of Children’s Service should be reviewed to give clarity to the role following this review, the SEND and AP Green Paper, and the Schools White Paper, to reflect their role as a champion for children and families within their area.
- The individual contributions of partners to achieving the review’s vision should be set out clearly in Working Together and reflected in each organisations’ strategic plans.
- Recommendation: Partnerships should become more transparent, including publishing minutes of partnership meetings and the financial contributions of each partner. The Safeguarding Children Reform Implementation Board should be reviewed and strengthened to take a greater leadership role in safeguarding arrangements, including requesting and publishing critical information about partnerships.
- Recommendation: The Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel and relevant What Works Centres should take a more hands on role in promoting evidence and supporting partnerships to improve.
- Recommendation: Each agency inspectorate should review their framework to ensure there is sufficient focus on individual agency contributions to joint working. Where there are concerns about the functioning of partnerships, joint inspections, with a judgement attached, should be triggered.
- Recommendation: Schools should be made a statutory safeguarding partner and contribute to the strategic and operational delivery of multi-agency working.
- Recommendation: Government should incentivise greater partner contributions through requiring partners to publish their financial contribution and making receiving the full funding for reform contingent on partner contributions.
- Recommendation: National government should ensure it has an oversight mechanism in place to ensure policy relating to children and families is aligned in contact with children’s social care. Government programmes should be streamlined to support these reforms and youth justice policy should move to the Department for Education.
- Recommendation: Government should introduce an updated funding formula for children’s services, and take greater care to ensure that changes in government policy that impact the cost of delivering children’s social care are accompanied by additional resources for local government.
- Recommendation: Ofsted inspection should be reformed to increase transparency in how judgements are made, ensure inspection applies a rounded understanding of being ‘child focused’ and to ensure inspection supports the proposed reforms.
- Recommendation: Strengthen intervention powers and introduce Regional Improvement Commissioners to provide more robust challenge in the system. Ensure there is a clear expert improvement offer for local authorities.
- Recommendation: Government should establish a National Data and Technology Taskforce to drive progress on implementing the review’s three priority recommendations to achieve frictionless data sharing by 2027, drastically reduce the time social workers spend on case recording and improve the use and collection of data locally.
- Recommendation: The Department for Education should have a proactive strategy on making better use of data in children’s social care, including a strategy for data linking for children’s social care with other data sources that makes use of the ONS integrated data service.