Last week, the Independent Review of Children's Social Care published their first report, The Case for Change. The report summarises what the Review Team have heard so far and sets out key challenges and questions in children’s social care to guide its future work. At Become, we campaigned alongside many others for the establishment of an independent review of the children’s care system and welcome this important milestone. After consulting with care-experienced young people via our new Care Review Policy Group, we have now published our official full response.
The views of young people in care and recent care leavers inform all aspects of our work, including our responses to the Review. It is by listening and working alongside young people with recent lived experience of the care system that we aim to influence the Review and achieve a bold reimagining of care.
Our response is set out in three parts...
- We welcome the simplified version of The Case for Change which is particularly accessible to children and young people.
- Young people told us the report covered most of the issues which were reflected in their own experiences of care, including separation from their siblings, and appreciated the lack of ‘sugar coating’ in its analysis of the problems.
- We strongly support the attention paid to the ‘cliff edge’ experience of leaving care, which thousands of young people face each year – something we have been calling for since the Review was first launched in January.
- We’re pleased to see the impact of poverty and deprivation on children’s social care has been recognised and welcome a commitment that the Review’s recommendations must deliver a system that tackles these inequalities.
- We’re also pleased to see the central focus of relationships placed at the heart of a good care system.
- And we welcome the awareness of the role communities can play in celebrating and understanding their care-experienced members. This has been a key focus of the Spotlight Inquiry from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Looked After Children in Care Leavers. As secretariat for the APPG, we’re looking forward to sharing insights and recommendations from this work to inform the Review’s work in this area as it progresses.
- We’re encouraged to see that the Review has recognised that additional funding for children’s services – alongside system change – is crucial and necessary.
- Finally, the identified failure of the care system to act as a ‘pushy parent’, to ensure care-experienced young people get what they need, reflects our experiences supporting children in care and care leavers through Become’s advice and support services – although young people told us the language of ‘pushy parent’ felt awkward and potentially misleading.
- There is a lack of clarity around how the care system might change to strengthen lifelong consistent relationships.
- Whilst the link between poverty and social care intervention is noted, the report fails to place this within the context of wider government policy choices of austerity and how this has impacted children and their families.
- Young people raised with us that Chapter 4 of The Case for Change (which focuses on the care system) doesn’t focus enough on how ethnicity and cultural background impacts children’s experiences in care.
- Young people we spoke with also wanted to see more said about foster carers. As the people who can make the most significant difference in children’s lives every day, they felt this section was lacking and didn’t sufficiently capture the voice of the child.
- Children’s rights are not sufficiently considered and explored within The Case for Change report.
And the ugly:
- One of the most disappointing elements of The Case for Change comes in its misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the current challenge to the government’s proposals to introduce new national standards for unregulated accommodation for 16- and 17-year-olds. We do not support the formalisation of a two-tier system that denies crucial elements of care to large numbers of young people for whom these settings are unsuitable, as is currently proposed.
- We are also concerned about where the question “about whether children’s homes should play a role in our long-term vision for care”, as we know that young people choose to be in this kind of environment rather than in foster care.
The next steps
As the Review progresses, young people have told us they wanted to see its future publications celebrate care-experienced young people, argue for better training for foster carers and social workers, and push for support that comes without an abrupt end at age 25 or earlier.
In the coming months, we look forward to continuing to work alongside care-experienced young people – including those who are part of our Care Review Policy Group – to develop our thinking and influence the development of the Review’s next steps and future recommendations. We’d love to hear from you if you’d be interested in getting involved with this and joining a safe and comfortable space for everyone to share their views and build ideas for solutions with each other.