The care system in crisis

A review of the care system was published earlier this week which warned that 20,000 more children could end up in care in the next ten years unless it is radically overhauled, meaning 100,000 children in care by 2032.

The independent review of children’s social care explains that the current care system is increasingly skewed to crisis intervention, with outcomes for children unacceptably poor and costs continuing to rise.

The review highlights the need to break the cycle of escalating need and crisis intervention. Too often children end up in care because their families have been struggling for years. If support had been provided earlier, these families may not have reached crisis point to trigger a crisis intervention response.  

A shift is needed, from crisis management to preventative interventions

The review suggests a shift from spending money and efforts on reacting to crises and instead rebalancing resources back to supporting those who care for children and addressing problems at an earlier stage.

The review sets out a number of recommendations. These include introducing multidisciplinary ‘Family Help Teams’ made up of professionals such as family support workers, domestic abuse workers and mental health professionals.

These teams would support families alongside social workers and cut down on referrals between services. The review also recommends more being done to involve wider family members and friends before children are placed in care.

Importantly, the review also recommends more financial support for family members caring for children, often as special guardians or kinship carers.

The projected cost of the reforms is £2.6 billion over the next four years. However, the review predicts that if the system remains unchanged costs will reach over £15 billion per year (up from approximately £10 billion per year now). The review suggests a windfall tax on the profits made by the largest private children’s homes providers could help fund the reforms.

The Children’s Commissioner welcomed the review but explained that she would have liked to see more focus on the join up between the care system and services for children with mental health needs, as well as more focus on social care for disabled children.  

The British Association of Social Workers welcomed the review’s stated aims but explained that the review needs to be unequivocal in recommending that the government acts on poverty and the structural underfunding of preventative and universal services, both of which are increasing demand on social services.

The independent review of children’s social care was conducted by Josh MacAlister and can be found here.

Here to help

If you or your family need help with any aspect of social services involvement for children please contact the Russell-Cooke Children and Education Team on 020 3826 7528.