A long awaited review into children’s social care promised by the Conservatives in their election manifesto has been launched today.

The Department for Education said the review would aim to “radically reform the system” and ensure that families in need of help would be able to access meaningful support. It also said children’s voices would be placed at the heart of the review.

The review will be led by Josh MacAlister, the founder of Frontline, a social work recruitment company.

Frontline was the only organisation selected by the government in 2019 to spearhead a recruitment drive for children’s social workers, and was awarded £45 million to train up 900 social workers by 2021. This site could not find any information about whether the recruitment drive had been successful.

The charity’s patrons include Labour MP Lord Adonis, and former Head of the Downing Street Policy Unit Camilla Cavendish. The grant was awarded after Frontline produced its own research suggesting that 44% of adults aged 18 – 34 were considering a change of career in 2019. The research, which took place before the Covid-19 pandemic, also claimed that a quarter of millennials would prioritise purpose over pay.

MacAlister will hold a ‘Call for Advice’ in a virtual launch taking place this afternoon, to help inform the review and invite applications for an ‘Experts by Experience’ group to advise him on how to include the voices of people with a ‘lived experience’ of the children’s social care system. Links provided on his Twitter page to engage in the review were not working at the time of publication.

The Department for Education’s press release says 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.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said, “It is part of the golden thread that runs through everything we are doing to level up society, especially for those who are too often forgotten or marginalised. It is going to help us raise the bar for these vulnerable children, it’s going to help us improve their life prospects and most importantly, it’s going to help give them the chance to achieve their potential and not be held back from the futures they deserve.”

The review will focus on the following themes and questions:

  1. 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?
  2. Strengthening families: what can be done so that children are supported to stay safely 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. 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?
  6. 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?
  7. 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?

Useful links:

Many thanks to Ed Nixon for alerting us to the launch.