Isabel Trowler, the chief social worker for children and families in England and Josh MacAlister, the former chair of the government’s so-called independent children’s social care review are among several individuals named as experts to advise the Department for Education about how to bring about change in the children’s social care sector.

An article in the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) provided a full breakdown of the men and women selected to advise the government department’s National Implementation Board:

Chaired by children’s minister, Brendan Clarke-Smith, the board is made up of:

  • Jill Colbert OBE, the chief executive of Sunderland Children’s Services Company
  • Steve Croker OBE, the president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services
  • Sir Anthony Finkelstein, the president of City, University of London
  • Tom Riordan, chief executive at Leeds City Council
  • Dame Rachel de Souza, children’s commissioner for England
  • Amanda Spielman, Ofsted chief inspector, and Isabelle Trowler, chief social worker for children and families in England

Some of the appointees are likely to raise eyebrows in the social work sector, such as Trowler and MacAlister. Trowler is quietly criticised by vocational social workers inside the system who claim she is promotion-focused, and less dedicated to bringing lasting change for children and families in the system which requires rocking the boat rather than towing the line.

MacAlister was called out by industry insiders as the choice to chair the Children’s Social Care Review because of his failure to fully implement a nationwide training programme for social workers. The programme, through Frontline, received £45 million from the government to train up 900 social workers by 2021. The initiative was never reviewed and no report was ever released to offer an update on the programme’s progress, and whether it had managed to train 900 practitioners.

The article says the board will also recruit three more members who have direct experience of the care system. They will be appointed shortly before the board’s first official meeting in the autumn.

The update adds that MacAlister attended the first interim meeting with representatives from the children’s social care review’s experts by experience board and would attend board meetings when necessary. He has also been tasked with creating an action plan based on the findings of the care review.

“This first meeting marks an important step in the commitments we have made to improve services for vulnerable families in England, all of whom deserve the best possible support to stay together in safe environment and create loving homes for children,” Mr Clarke-Smith told the LGC. “Each one of us on the National Implementation Board shares in the government’s vision of introducing meaningful and transformational change for these families.”