Radical reset of children’s social care ‘unavoidable’ as review urges £2.6bn injection

3 mins read

Monday 23 May 2022

Tags: social care, children's social care

A fundamental shift in children’s social care services in England is needed to better support families and vulnerable children, a government-commissioned review has found.

Josh MacAlister’s independent review of children’s social care services, the findings of which are published today, also called for an immediate injection of additional funding.

“Change is now both morally urgent and financially unavoidable. We have a stark choice: keep pouring money into a faltering system or reform and invest to improve people’s lives and make the system sustainable for the future.”

Josh MacAlister, author of the review report

“What we need is a system that provides intensive help to families in crisis, acts decisively in response to abuse, unlocks the potential of wider family networks to raise children, puts lifelong loving relationships at the heart of the care system and lays the foundations for a good life for those who have been in care,” the report said. “What we have currently is a system increasingly skewed to crisis intervention, with outcomes for children that continue to be unacceptably poor and costs that continue to rise.”

For these reasons, the review argued that a “dramatic whole-system reset” is now unavoidable.

It recommended that this be matched with a five-year funding injection £2.6 billion, including roughly £2 billion to build a new ‘Family Help’ system (replacing the existing ‘targeted early help’ and ‘child in need‘ support routes) and £253 million to ensure the country has enough skilled social workers.

Responding to the report, education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the government is ready to meet the challenge set out by the review and promised to set out plans for “bold and ambitious change” in the coming months.

DCP’s reaction to the final report

The Disabled Children’s Partnership, which Contact’s CEO Amanda Batten chairs, said: “We welcome the review’s call for a reset of the social care system and for an immediate injection of additional funding. We asked the Care Review to take on board our longstanding campaign for the Law Commission to examine the complex and patchwork legal framework for services for disabled children, in order to strengthen and simplify it. We are really pleased that they have adopted this recommendation and we call on the Government to respond.

“We are also pleased that the report recognises that the needs of disabled children and their families differ from other children and families accessing social care – and that disabled young people’s transitions into adult services need to be improved. The review highlights that more needs to be done to strategically integrate education, health and social care for disabled children.

“We were disappointed, however, that the review did not make more specific recommendations to ensure that families living with childhood disability can access the support they need from social care to be able to live a life which is as fulfilled as possible. This action is urgently needed – our research has revealed an annual funding gap of £573 million for disabled children’s social care, and 43% of families with disabled children have to wait over a year to get respite care.

“The recent Special Educational Needs Green Paper said little about social care because the government was awaiting this review. The review now puts the ball back in the court of the Green Paper programme. It is vital that, in taking forward its SEND reforms and its response to this review, the government takes concrete steps to improve the support provided to disabled children and their families.”