Care review launches with focus on ensuring love, stability and safety for children in families and in care

The care review will focus on ensuring love, stability and safety for children, whether in their families or in care, chair Josh MacAlister has said as it started work yesterday.

An early plan for the review said it would deliver early conclusions by the summer and would focus on tackling racial disparities in care and the experiences of children with special educational needs and those in the criminal justice system.

Launching a call for evidence to inform the review, chair Josh MacAlister also said that its focus would extend up to young adulthood, to support children’s transition to independence.

MacAlister said that the review’s overarching question was how to ensure children grow up in loving, stable and safe families and, where that is not possible, care provides the same foundations.

He said the review would “listen deeply to those who have experienced children’s social care about what a childhood with love means to them and how it can be achieved”, and that stability would be considered broadly, in relation to where children lived and with whom, and where they were educated.

Safety would be considered in relation to harm from inside and outside the home. MacAlister said that children’s social care at its best could achieve all three but would often need to undertake a “balancing act” when taking action to keep children safe whilst keeping in mind love and stability.

Tackling racial disparities

MacAlister said the review would examine racial disparities, including why children from certain ethnic groups were more likely to be in care and what can be done to address this. Government figures show Black children and those from mixed backgrounds are disproportionately represented in the care system.

MacAlister said it was “critical” the review learned from care experienced adults to enable the review team to think about what support may be needed into adulthood.

Its work will start with a review of the evidence around children’s social care, which will be carried out by a team of researchers within the review team. The review has called on researchers to submit their thinking on the strength of the existing evidence base and where there are gaps.

Proposals for change by the summer

MacAlister said that the review would publish its early conclusions, setting out what needed to change in children’s social care, in the summer, a timescale that was questioned by some on social media. The whole review is expected to take 12-15 months, less than half the length of the three-year review of Scotland’s care system that reported last year.

England’s review has set up a website to provide updates on progress and how people can get involved in its work.

It also announced the members of its experts by experience group. Though there was heavy criticism from some care experienced people and sector commentators of the way they were selected, there was a positive welcome on social media for the group’s’ members (see below).

Experts by experience group members

  • Judith Denton: care experienced founder of The Transformed You, which provides intervention and mentoring for children and young people in care and care leavers.
  • Sean Geoghegan: filmmaker and founding member of the National Association of Young People in Care.
  • Chloe Robinson: a 17-year-old still in care, who has previously represented children in care through the Children in Care Council in Cumbria.
  • Helen Bell: mum of three with lived experience of Trevi – a service for women receiving support for substance misuse and their children – who has previously trained social workers.
  • Janet Kay: former social worker and lecturer, adopter and kinship carer, who has campaigned for improved adoption and kinship care support.
  • Chris Hoyle: campaigner for care experienced people who delivers corporate parent training.
  • Angela Frazer-Wicks: trustee of Family Rights Group charity and founding member of its parents panel as well as mum to two adopted children.
  • David Akinsanya: care experienced broadcaster and programme maker, who helped set up the Who Cares? magazine and was development officer for The National Association of Young People In Care.
  • Rhiannon Parkinson: care experienced person now working as a carer.
  • Esi Cathline: adoptive parent, teacher and foster carer.
  • Charmaine Orchard: has taken part in research projects that focus on children in foster care and education attainment and speaker at social worker training sessions.
  • Margaret Mulowska: care experienced children and families social worker and community organiser.
  • Asif Salarzai: care experienced member of local children in care council and recently selected ambassador for A National Voice, part of Coram Voice.
  • Chris Wild: care experienced care sector professional and former residential house manager for young people..
  • Julianne Bayford: foster carer and trustee and committee member of the Kent Foster Care Association.
  • Jerome Harvey-Agyei: Care experienced from growing up in the care system since aged four, nominated for Waltham Forest council leaders awards.

MacAlister has said that the review will publish plans in the next two to three weeks for more ways to hear voices of those with experience and get them involved and that “these would include a place for every person who wants to get involved”.

Meanwhile, Shazia Hussain has been announced as head of the team of civil servants who will support MacAlister in carrying out the review. The review is also advertising for a head of stakeholder and public engagement.